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!

Continue reading “Fragment of a Regency-era SF story”
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

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

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”