I've created another story-in-a-bottle! It is the twelfth such I have ever made and the first since Moon Over Lubyanka, which I wrote for the KGB Reading Series auction almost two years ago.
For those who weren't reading my blog back then, here's what it's all about: I write a piece of flash fiction, roll it up, and place it in a bottle. Then I sign and date the bottle with a diamond-tipped pen, and re-cork it. My wife, Marianne Porter, seals the bottle with sealing-wax.
Then I destroy every other copy of the story, both physical and electronic, so that the story inside the bottle is, in the old unspoiled sense of the word, unique. It is the only copy in existence.
The bottled story is then given away, along with a letter of provenance. Copyright is withheld. Whoever ends up owning the bottle can either read the story or own the object. It is not possible to do both.
I'm going to be guest of honor at Conquest, held in Kansas City over Memorial Day weekend, the 28th through 30th of May this year. During the convention there will be a charity auction to benefit AboutSF, a resource center for speculative literature, science fiction, and education that also coordinates volunteer efforts throughout the speculative fiction field. They asked me for a contribution and this is what I came up with.
Since the theme of Conquest 42 is Steampunk & Evil Geniuses (hmmm . . . I wonder why they chose me to be their guest?), I wrote a steampunk/evil genius story titled The Literalization of Hieronymus Bosh. As a flourish, I placed it in an emptied bottle of Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogle Blanc de Noirs (in any other country it would be called champagne; but in France it cannot, for it did not come from Champagne) with which Marianne and I and our friends (and dinosaur reconstruction artists) Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger toasted the completion of my new Darger & Surplus novel.
So this story has got provenance up the yinyang, as my old pal Jack Dann would say.
Here's how it opens:
Mad? Of course I’m mad. That I, Hieronymus Bosh, the greatest scientist ever to grace Kansas City, should find myself in such a fix! It would try the patience of a saint.Only rarely do I create these things, and roughly as often as I donate them to worthy charities, I give 'em to particular friends. So if you want one, hurry on over to Conquest and bid. You won't be getting a shot at another one anytime soon.
Quite different was my mood on the day when, having wed the power of steam to the subtlety of galvanic forces, I stood back from the gleaming brass-and-ebony workings of my newly-created Inference Engine. Here at last was a gateway between the real and written worlds, both factual and fictional. With it, I could plunge into the Russia of War and Peace, or the Rome of Gibbon’s famous history. I could discuss philosophy with Schopenhauer, stroll through Hemingway’s “movable feast” of Paris, or even (should I choose) seduce Helen of Troy.
My first requirement, however, was wealth . . .
And this is as good a time as any to note that . . .
The contest to name my novel is now officially closed. I've finished the Darger & Surplus novel, slapped a title on it, and shipped it off to my agent.
So who won? Did anybody win?
It's too early to say. The title is not the title until both writer and editor agree on it. And at this point I don't even know who the editor will be.
But rest assured that nobody here will go the bookstore one day and have the rude shock of discovering that I've ripped you off. Homey don't play that. If I end up using your title and you were the first to suggest it, you'll get the acknowledgment. And the Big Box O' Books as well.
Above: The bottled story poses amid our cat Shadowfax's dragon-hoard. Because a cat can't sleep well without extravagant wealth.