fiction, research

Fragment of a Regency-era SF story

Doing primary source research sometimes leads to spectacular (or, at least, deeply interesting) finds. In this case, I was looking through an 1809 volume of The lady’s magazine: or entertaining companion for the fair sex, appropriated solely to their use and amusement, as one does, searching for a description of a particular royal estate, and instead I came across… well, a science fiction story.

“Fragment of a Letter to an Inhabitant of a Planet, Remote from the Earth, of a Superior Race of Beings” is purported to be written by a “Eusebia”, who had the idea for it after seeing the funeral procession of Admiral Nelson. The story is from the POV of an alien from another planet who is visiting Earth, unknown to anyone except a local guide. It’s implied that the aliens know about Earth because an angel told them about us weirdo humans, who are mortal and seem to revel in death. (Apparently, despite being aliens, they believe and are affected by Christianity. Oh, 1800s England.)

Reading through the text, it appears that the aliens are immortal and live on a planet that has no death, to the point where they don’t experience seasons, are apparently vegetarian, and don’t sleep. Our unnamed alien narrator — who also has a “subtle vehicle” that lets them go through walls and observe us invisibly — comes to the conclusion that God has made it so that humans have to sleep so as to prepare us for the inevitable horror of permanent death through repetitious mini-deaths… which has unfortunate consequences for our entire understanding of life.

It’s an interesting story, though more for seeing the author do a neat bit of negative-space worldbuilding (telling us about their species/planet through what their narration chooses to highlight and/or be confused by) than for any real plot or message. But… it’s an SF story in a women’s magazine, under a female pseud, during the Regency period. It’s pretty likely that Jane Austen read The Lady’s Magazine — how great is it to imagine Jane sitting around and discussing distant planets with her sister Cassandra, making jokes about what they’d do with their own “subtle vehicles”, wondering what other things would look weird to an alien observer?

If you’d like to read the story yourself, here’s the direct link to the scan, here’s a downloadable PDF of the original printed story, or you can click the “Continue Reading” below for a transcription. It’s a neat bit of SF history that I haven’t seen referenced elsewhere, but let me know if you’ve seen otherwise, or if you know of other Regency SF that could use a light shined on them. Enjoy!

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fiction, news

New short story: “They’re Made Out of Corn”

In the middle of everything, it’s strange to give good news, but: I have a new short story out, the first since before some Big Life Shit that went down a few years ago. Enjoy “They’re Made Out of Corn“, out today from Daily Science Fiction, a continuation/pastiche of Terry Bisson‘s “They’re Made Out of Meat.”

Read more…

fiction

like fine print, so hard to read

by Anna Katherine

Originally published on The Anna Katherine Co-op of Evil, April, 2012. “Anna Katherine” is the pseudonym of Anna Genoese and Katherine Crighton; this story is a prequel to the Door-world book SALT AND SILVER, 2009.

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Rian Corveau is fifteen years old. He lives about twenty minutes north of the border, speaks French better than he reads it (and he only does around his Quebecois family, anyway), loves hunting better than fishing, and has just had sex for the first time.

Michelle is six months older than him, and lives in town, and is so beautiful he doesn’t know words in enough languages for it. Her skin is the color of milk. Her lips are wide and thin around her mouth. Her laugh is rough and catches in the air when he tries to kiss along her skin like he’s seen in movies. She smells like spice and snow.

Everything, everything in the world, is amazing.

Continue reading “like fine print, so hard to read”
fiction

The Invasion

by Katherine Crighton

Originally published on tumblr, April 2, 2015

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It began on a Tuesday. Aliens arrived, in swirling disco-ball orbs that were very shiny, and started laying waste to everything in sight and more than a few things in important bunkers. Munitions were destroyed; surrender was denied; the destruction of the world was both imminent and inevitable.

The cats of the Eastern seaboard decided, in a group vote, that the humans had finally proven themselves useless.

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fiction

The Words Are the Breath

by Katherine Crighton

Originally published on tumblr, March 13, 2015. Written for whitesheepcbd​. Warnings: offensive treatment of developmentally disabled children/adults, referenced child abuse, referenced filicide, blasphemy. I tried to be respectful of the developmentally disabled community and their concerns – any errors of fact or misrepresentations of their experience are entirely my fault and, at any rate, I should not be seen as any sort of source for more information (there are many self-advocating groups/blogs both on tumblr and on the web in general that are much better spokespeople/resources than me — start with the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and go on from there).

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Six.

Sunday school was one of the things that Sam was supposed to pay attention to. His mama walked him to the door every time, which didn’t match what the other parents did; it bothered him. He dragged his feet, trying to get her to stop and go back to her pew, but she thought it was because he didn’t want to go, and just kept moving. It was backward. She was getting it wrong and he couldn’t tell her and she wouldn’t listen anyway.

He stood in the door once she pushed him inside, like he always did, and waited there, watching, until she went back to her pew and the sermon started up again. He checked the church – everybody was matching again. Good. Now he could go into Miss Sarah’s class and sit in circle time for today’s lesson.

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fiction

Honey, I’m the Best Time You’ll Never Have

by Katherine Crighton

Originally published on tumblr, February 10, 2015. Written for schatze-loco-pola. Warnings: Early 20th century American-level offensive and racist language/epithets, violence.

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There was a guy in a suit, big and fancy, a round silver piece on his watch chain that had to be worth at least five dollars all by itself just hanging there like it was nobody’s business, and he was walking along Minnie’s piece of street like there was nothing to worry about on such a fine, fine Manhattan morning. 

Minnie was short, sure, and kept herself to herself, but she had fingers like her old auntie’s tweezers and nobody looked twice at newsboys walking with no papers. She slipped up to the guy and started walking behind him, just a little to the left, waiting for the moment when the crowd would shift and she could shift her hand right into his pocket and across his waistcoat and get that watch for herself.

The crowd shifted, sure, lady and her fella falling behind, businessman with his briefcase cutting right, light and easy, she wasn’t even a spit away, and–

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fiction

Fifty Silver Bells and Nine

by Katherine Crighton

Originally published on tumblr, February 2, 2015. Written for laurlovescookies.

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It was one of the house-party days, the ones when Alex pretended he had a grand salon, a modern-day Algonquin Round Table with himself firmly in the role of Dorothy Parker. Becca had come by, and Sadie, and a few of the old crowd from college and the new crowd from the gallery, before Alex had had to quit. Thom’s role on days like this was, generally, to keep the food coming and provide the occasional set-up lines for Alex’s wit. 

Not so officially, and not so anyone would notice, Thom kept a careful eye on Alex, watching for when he was starting to flag so that guests could be directed gently out while the feeling of triumph was still high, before the exhaustion of the illness crept back in.

The ability to dismiss guests with aplomb was one of Thom’s more minor talents, compared to some of the other things he could do.

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fiction

Après nous le déluge

by Katherine Crighton

Originally published on tumblr, January 26, 2015

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it starts

“I feel like a stupid American,” Ben says, staring up at the glass pyramid in front of the entrance to the Louvre.

“That’s because you are a stupid American,” says Alyssa, or at least that’s what he thinks she says, because she says it in perfect French and while beating some insane level of Candy Crush on her phone, which is completely unfair, she’s not even looking at what even he knows is kind of a big deal in terms of art, okay, Ben is not the philistine here. 

The rest of the Albert Finch Memorial High School language club is scattered around the wide courtyard along with the other tourists, snapping pictures on their phones (except Lucas, with the DSLR), running their hands through the shallow water in the fountain that surrounds the pyramid. The sun is high overhead, though some clouds are in the distance, sweeping closer, and it’s summer-warm. The light, though, is still somehow brighter than the light they had in New Hampshire – which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because it’s the same sun, isn’t it? Then again, Paris smells weird, too, like Boston stink and the perfume Alyssa likes to wear, all at the same time.

Ben looks around, at the too wide, too Rococo buildings, and the sudden breath of modernity the glass pyramid represents. He isn’t really here for France, when it comes down to it. His French is limited to bonjour, merci, and combien? Which, so far, has been good enough.

Ben studies Spanish. He’s saving his phone’s available memory for the Sagrada Família.

“I’m going to get my revenge when we hit Pamplona,” he says mildly. He scratches his fingertips over Alyssa’s screen, messing up her level. She looks up and scowls at him. “I’m going to order squid for you and tell you it’s chicken.”

“They are related languages, Ben, it’s not as if I can’t–” She stops, suddenly, her mostly put-on annoyance dropping from her face as she looks over her shoulder. “Ben,” she says. “What the hell is that?”

He’s been fooled by her before – distraction is a well-worn tactic – so he sidesteps her before he turns to look.

It’s–

The sky is boiling.

Continue reading “Après nous le déluge”