The Uncial Letter ~ April 2018

Inspiration comes in many guises: daydreams, something overheard, a particular scene, a memory… For Mary Patterson Thornburg, it came from wondering what happened after “The End.”

~*~

I’m by nature a slow reader. If I’m interested in a book I can’t skim, because I keep slowing down. If I’m not interested, unless somebody’s holding a gun or a grading pen to my head, I stop reading. So one of the stupidest of many foolish things I’ve done over the years was signing up to take two courses called 18th Century Novel and Gothic Novel during the same semester of grad school.

Those books were all miles long, written to be read over many months by people who didn’t have a lot else to do with their time. Naturally, on the “dessert first, because life is short” principle, I started with the thinnest one, Frankenstein, figuring that because I’d seen the movie I already knew the story. Turns out I didn’t. Victor Frankenstein was not a doctor at all, just another grad student, richer than me but just as foolish. His story was told to a fictional Arctic explorer I’d never heard of, Robert Walton, who reported it in a long letter to his sister in London. And the “monster,” who in the movie couldn’t talk in complete sentences but was in the book a faster and more ambitious reader than I, told his own story in the center of Walton’s letter and Victor’s narrative, in perfect, educated English.

About halfway through the book, it struck me that, although this was a horror story about a monster, it was also a story about gender roles, and the way society enforced its rules about how people should believe and behave, and the suffering–and, yes, horror–that ensued. Mary Shelley, the daughter of a radical feminist writer, was no dummy. In fact she was a lot sneakier about getting her point across than I (and the directors of most of the Frankenstein movies) would have guessed a nineteen-year-old woman could be. I ended up writing a dissertation about all that, which took me years to finish and just about drove me crazy in the process.

And, more years later, it occurred to me that while Frankenstein’s creature hadn’t been done in by a mob of villagers with torches, he also hadn’t been killed off by the Arctic cold, as the end of Mary Shelley’s book seems to imply. Seems was the operative word here. The creature, sad about Victor’s death and in despair about his own life, does wander off “into darkness and distance,” but when the book ends he’s far from dead.

What if he didn’t die? What if somebody found him and rescued him? I thought he deserved a chance to live, since none of the horrible things that happened in the book were his fault, really. So one day, when my computer was down, I sat down to write (in longhand, like Mary Shelley) a story that was much shorter than hers. The title of my story is “Into a Distant Light,” and Uncial Press is publishing it this month. I invite you to check it out.

~*~

His first voyage of exploration had almost killed him. Now, despite his wife’s prayers, he was going back. When he returned, of course, she would share in his fame, glory, and wealth. But he didn’t come back, and Lizzie Walton faced poverty, illness, and heart-breaking loss. And yet, eventually, when word came of his fate, it was carried by an unlikely–and compassionate–messenger. Into a Distant Light, a by Mary Patterson Thornburg, now at your favorite ebookseller. (ISBN 978-1-60174-237-7; $2.99)

 

The Psy Squad is still recruiting. In May it’s two for one, when Nathan and Shiloh get together in search of a ring–and find a future. Linda Palmer writes another exciting psychic adventure in The Hurt Handler (Psy Squad #4), coming in May.

On a tight budget, but dying to read something we publish? Our ebooks are available to libraries. Ask yours to add Uncial Press titles to their catalogue. It’s a great way to save money and to become acquainted with new authors.

Live well, laugh well, read well,

Star & Jude

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