(reading time: 1 hour, 24 minutes)
Roasting over an Open Fire
For the longest leg of their return journey Wallace was stuck in bed below decks, recovering from his injured shoulder. His inability to sit still had forced the nurse onboard to re-stitch the wound three separate times. She swore it was like he was trying to leave a trail of blood from Europe to America and that Tycho, whose arm was in a splint while the fractures healed, was a much better patient. Whenever she worked Wallace simply grunted along with whatever she said. His mind was on other things, like the surprising bedside attendance of Rosamin and the others. They were there like cousins whenever he was awake, ready to talk about whatever was happening on the boat. He wondered if they were simply in his life now, like hairs on a mole. If they tagged along wherever he went he would have to explain to his family why all these pale people kept following him around. Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 9 minutes)
The Warclaw Variable
There were stumps and logs all across the clearing, the latter of which were quickly being separated and made into firewood for the campsite. A large bundle of wires drooped across the middle of the clearing, its main support tree having been toppled. How badly everyone in camp wanted to cut those wires, to shred them, to chop them with butcher knives like rat tails. The wires buzzed constantly, like bees that never tired. They had to show discipline. If the wires were cut too early the academy of science would lose part of its power and they would lose the element of surprise. Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 15 minutes)
The Next Chapter
Four days had passed since their escape from Potter’s Plot. Proserpine Hollow was now behind them and fresh open air filled their lungs like soda bubbles. They didn’t realize how much the green light of Proserpine had drained them until they squinted in true sunlight. With nowhere to go in particular, Goadphil, Mardin, and Valencia were still traveling with the scientists. Goady and Mardin both had taken trips outside the hollow, but Valencia had spent every second of her life within that cavern. Her first rays of true sun painted a look of divine revelation over every inch of her. Bill took it upon himself to explain to her all the glory of an atmosphere so vast you couldn’t see its sides. Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 9 minutes)
The Automatic Love Letter
Erin stared at the World’s Fair Hotel. It used to be called that anyway; the sign was taken down a few days ago. A construction crew was busy tearing apart the ground floor, coming and going out of the door like ants, carrying boards of pale new wood that she could smell from across the street.
What might they call it, she wondered. Baked Babes? Ireland on the Grill? Roasted Rabble? Perhaps they thought alliteration was below them. No, they would pick a French name to try and hide it. What was the French word? Enfants? They would all know anyway. Everybody already knew, those bastards. Just like everyone would know if she…
(reading time: 1 hour, 27 minutes)
The Ecto Express pulled into a tiny train station with only two sets of tracks, one coming and one going. When the four scientists and the sasquatch disembarked they were able to see it in its full glory. Huge trees threatened to crowd the tracks out of existence; there was evidence of hastily chopped stumps under the slats of each set of tracks. Branches crawled over the roof of the station. Drooping, lumpy, gray willows lined the sides, shouldering each other so closely that they resembled moist cavern walls. Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 23 minutes)
The discussions in Lucille’s office weren’t as private as they had believed. A man, perched outside, beneath the windowsill, listened in. He had a metal funnel pressed up against the wall to amplify their words. If he’d been the one to chase down Rosamin instead of the two inept belt buckles Dilcourt had sent, things never would’ve gotten this far. The future ambassador to Transylvania would be dead and her research would have mysteriously vanished. Instead Dilcourt had decided his most talented agent should gather information and report back to him. Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 29 minutes)
A City’s Trance
Simon Nikolaus Nielson, who had grown fonder of all three of his names the more he saw them written in the papers, was not initially pleased to receive the invitation to the exclusive golfer’s club. He’d never cared for the sport because he’d never cared for places that banned women. How was anyone supposed to have any fun with scrawny boys chasing after their swings instead of a good woman? Even when Simon did share an intimate moment with men it was only with the slimmest palest men who reminded him of a childhood friend that had died of consumption.
He checked his silver pocket watch and wondered how many holes he’d be expected to play before he could slip out. He worried that a manageable nine, with one nonchalant comment, could turn into eighteen. He’d already cancelled three hypnosis sessions to make room for those who had invited him. Continue reading
Mankind has always had a lot of wrong ideas about science before stumbling to the truth, but there’s a place where many of the first guesses just happened to be right. Welcome to an alternate early twentieth century where the Earth is flat, eyes see by emitting beams, caloric is the very stuff of heat, and bigfoot is our closest relative.
A plague of spontaneous human combustion has struck Two York City, and it’s up to an eclectic band of experienced scientists to find the cure and claim the glory before the charlatans and hucksters get to it first.
Join Rosamin the microscopist, Bill the meteorologist, Wallace the geo-engineer, and Janet the primatologist on their disastrous stumble through a hollow in the Earth, a backward swollen town of watermelon seed swallowers, and Transylvania: the technological capitol of the world.
There’s even more at stake than their fair city, for there’s a certain Modest Proposal that isn’t so satirical in this world of living pseudoscience.
(reading time: 1 hour, 17 minutes) (reading time for entire novel: 10 hours, 33 minutes)
The Caloric Kiss
A Pseudoscience Tryst
The Mechanical Vanian
Sparks popped and flew as raindrops touched the experimental wires. Workers in wool shirts and suspenders struggled to throw blankets over the exposed sections of the cables, but backed off as if each spark was the swing of a lion’s paw. Most of them hadn’t seen such complex electrical machinery in their lives. The temporary system of wires and bulbs was commissioned specifically to light the World’s Fair and demonstrate the American bottling of lightning to the world. Though the best meteorological authority in Second York had insisted there would be no rain during the first week of the fair, the thick oozing clouds overhead brought hours of evening drizzle anyway. The fondness of the city pigeons for pecking tiny holes in the casing of the wires was not predicted either. On a nearby brick wall a poster slowly dissolved in the rain.
Welcome to the 1903 Two York World’s Fair! Incredible new science including the life-saving braking elevator and the mechanical Vanian! New marvelous foods! Have you tried spun sugar? Festivities will continue into the night thanks to our stupendous electrical lighting with the power of alternating current! Continue reading
(reading time: 36 minutes)
A House-boat on the Styx
A protest raged outside the home of Bill Smithers. A hundred boots stomped up and down on the sidewalk in rhythm. Bottles, eggs, and fruit sailed over the hedges. The crowd would’ve preferred rotten fruit, but when there’s an apple or a pear on your page it usually came out looking ready to sit in a bowl for a portrait instead of mushy and covered in maggots. Cardboard signs waved in the air or hung around the neck by rope, their messages written sloppily in big splotchy swipes, which made it impossible to tell if they were written in haste or written with the ink from an open wound. Everyone shouted the same sorts of things on the signs. Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 3 minutes)
The Ticking Tunnel
Tick tock tick tuck tick teck tick tick tick tick tack. Every other tick sounded a little bit different. She was starting to hear variation in something mechanically identical and she knew it probably wasn’t the best sign for her sanity. Tai Chen forced her eyes open. She still couldn’t see anything. Tickticktickticktickticktickticktick. She hopped to her feet, banging her knees on a groaning pipe in the process. Something fluttered against her nose. She smacked herself in the face to stop it and came away with a note written on lined paper. Continue reading