Today, we put work aside and just had fun.
As thankfully very few people know, I (it’s Arielle, I usually do the website updates) am currently writing a young adult Steampunk novel featuring a pirate protagonist named Horatio Reade. My work almost NEVER sees the light of day, and I don’t think I’ve even ever submitted it to a critique group or anything of that kind, but Thierry’s obviously read it.
Today, he decided to amuse both of us by writing a delightful little piece of “Horatio Reade fanfiction,” featuring one of the novel’s minor characters, Orlando. Orlando, an author, is the older sister of Horatio, an airship pilot, recently hired by a pirate fleet. I think that’s probably all the context you’ll need for this bit.
This is such fun that I want to share it with you.
It was the rejection slip from Bad Bladder Books that pushed Orlando Reade over the edge. The letter, received that very morning among a rush of bills, petitions, and advertisements, read in part:
Dear Miss Reade;
First, congratulations on being named after a vibrant American city. Your parents must be very wise persons and we assume you are a citizen proud of her heritage.
I am afraid your most recent submission, Love Among the Moving Spines, simply does not meet our current needs. As you may know, Bad Bladder Books specializes in cisgender skyfaring adventure romances. Your book appears to deal largely with the relationship between a celebrated stage director, a hedgehog and a number of guinea pigs. While our staff thought your dialogue among and between the human and non-human characters was brilliant, they also found the plot was somewhat lacking. The three-page-long and rather graphic description of a Frenchman eating “escargots,” which we believe to mean “snails,”, and the attendant monologue of the stage director on the evils of avocados confused our reader.
Please feel free to send future works directly to the person we have selected to review your submissions, Mr. Roger Furshiliginer, Assistant Editor to the Contributing Associate Editor in Charge of Unsolicited Manuscripts. Mr. F, as we call him, will review your work with utmost care…
Orlando sighed, dropped the letter in the bulging They Don’t Like Me file, then sighed again, this time even more meaningfully. She had now been writing for three years without success, save for a small piece in the now-defunct Bug Hater Journal. Even Orlando’s older sister, Brutus, who could hardly tell one end of a pencil from another, had been published recently—an insipid piece on the danger of a clockwork revolution in the Outer Maldibre Islands—in a somewhat popular current-affairs journal.
A notion tickled her cerebral cortex and grew. The idea germinated like a seed on fertile ground. Seafaring? They wanted skyfaring romances? Well, she had Horatio, didn’t she! Her sister, Horatio, she of the adventurous spirit! Horatio who had served as a cabin girl and, in her latest letter, had mentioned a mysterious man, a Mr.—what? Noggin? Coggle? Snuggle? No, no. But Horatio had used the word romance, Orlando was sure of it!
Admittedly, the two sisters had not seen each other in a number of years and kept in touch at best haphazardly. Orlando had a momentary misgiving. Could she write about Horatio? Was that allowed? Hmpf. She shrugged off the concern. She found the Letters From People and Family Members Who Rarely Write, Shame on Them file folder, and dumped the contents on her desk. Here was a postcard from Leander; a brief note from Brutus attached to her clockwork piece; a reminder that her furnace was due for a cleaning—what was that doing there? She dropped it into the Things that Need Cleaning file. Ah, there it was, the latest news from Horatio, dated a few months earlier.
Orlando found the mystery man’s name, Aaron Scroggs. She scanned the rest of the letter quickly and focused on the sentence she wanted, written in Horatio’s scratchy cursive hand: “I have been invited aboard a first-class pirate vessel in its prime. This is a deliciously romantic prospect…”
Aaron Scroggs would never do as the name for a romantic character. She would figure out a clever anagram, and possibly strand the two lovers on an island populated by pirates and cannibals…and man- eating goldfish, and perhaps even giant , ferocious shrimp, too.
Orlando sighed, this time contentedly, and inserted a blank sheet of paper into the ancient Royal typewriter’s platen.
The end (for now)