Thursday, March 26, 2015

Background for a work in progress. A suggestive taster...

A timeline for the world of Charles Dickens’ Martian Notes
Charles Dickens’ life and work

Shamers claim to pre-date ‘Old Martians’.
5 million BC

Tau-martians claim to have visited Earth.
Old Martians claim to have engineered Tau, Mau and Pau Martians around this time.
Canals built by Pau-Martian labour under Tau overseers.
Mau-Martians learn ‘the deep desert’ secret – which enables them to earn status aside from Old Martian society.
1 million BC

Monorail(s) built, Dust rivers appear for first time.
Visit to Mars,
Martian Notes

1843 – 1844
Serialisation of Martin Chuzzlewit – first ‘fantastical’ book with section set on mythical American continent – a thinly disguised Mars ‘on Earth’.
At this time American Archipelago is sparcely inhabited. Dickens imagines an entire continent, about the size of Asia  located in roughly the same position as the archipelago.

1861 - 1865

Martian Civil War – North vs South, Old and Tau Martians vs Human and Pau, Mau- neutral.
Return visit to Mars feted in First-Human-Hive.

Collapse, life saved by Martian flatworm blood transfusion.

1873 - 74
Serialization of
The Life and Apotheosis of Jefferson Brick Esq. Deals with main character’s change of heart, and mode of life after a near fatal collapse, ends with reformed Jefferson facing the start of the Civil War. Reworking minor character from Martin Chuzzlewit.
(Considered beginning of 5 linked America novels).  
Novel entirely set in the ‘ficticious’


Disasterous collapse of dark-matter ether, end of era of anti-gravity space travel.
Mau-martian fleet leaves Mars in advance of collapse. Presumed 2nd Civil War between Old Martians and tau-martians on one side and human colonists and Pau-Martians on the other. Outcome unknown to Earth.

War of the Worlds
Old Martian attack on Earth defeated.
Publication of Charles Dicken’s London Under The Martians, together with H. G. Well’s account the main literary response to the events of 1895.

Knighted by Queen-Empress Victoria. Sat on the Britannic Committee To Investigate The Proposal That An Expeditionary Force Be Sent To Mars.

Publication of 1913 edition of Martian Notes
Lights seen upon Mars, rocket launch towards Earth suspected.

Death of Sir Charles Dickens – age 101.
Start of Worlds War II?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A challenge issued lightly, but still met...

“A 140 character story – counting spaces – which is also a mnenonic”

Don’t open your own unit today. Hide inside nice kitten themed hot insulating sheets.
Hell’s avatars rampage downstairs. The others die, oh!


“How to spot the invisble man”

In seeing past your weak invisibility that hides mere youthful liberty. I trap the light entering eyes. Your eyes. Betraying operating openly!


Simon BJ

Monday, March 23, 2015

DRABBLE - writing task 100 words


“Put down the gun” – the cop shouted.
As I wasn’t holding a gun, I didn’t, but I did: let go of my groceries with one hand – stooping slightly to the right so as not to break any glass.
I was moving to the left to put down my ‘in no way gun-shaped’ mobile phone, that I’d had on in my left hand, when he started firing.
The bullets, plural, hit me. One in the shoulder, and because he was dragging his hand down and to the right, one in the midrift.
It’s hard work being a cop-trainer.
Even for Superman.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Iced-Coffee Fillup

Like  I'm following a writing exercise suggestion and have got the above title from a random cocktail name generator.

Here's my story  (1,000 words: written in an hour)

Iced-Coffee Fillup

They called him that, partly because it was his favourite drink, partly because his name really was Philip, partly because few Jamaicans were working the Ice-fields, and the ‘casual racism’ line is drawn differently on an ice-run than in the literary salons, or among gang thugs in New York for that matter.
But mainly they called him that, because no-one wanted to be the one to say ‘killer’ and find out just how inhibited he was feeling.  In the company of the Freed, the careful tongued man is King.
He’d been hauling ice from near the north pole for three years now, never an accident, never a bonus. Good solid work, for basic pay, but it was reputable and it kept him from alcohol, which apart from being one of the terms of his parole, would if ingested have set off the alarm with his probation officer.  He was one of the first generation of Freed, and the sensors in his guts and his skin probably cost as much as ten years of his prison sentence would have: but he was out, and working, and consequently a certain amount of tax was being paid, and the State was going to get some of its ten years of cash back, and his bars were – mainly – in his head.
In his head, and in the subprocessing we now know goes on - as he-men, and ex-cops and gangers always knew – in the guts.
It wasn’t that he couldn’t get angry. He had the same likes and dislikes as before, and if his responses were a bit slower – the ice-trucks had their own cabinComm autopilots. He just had some enforced patience, in terms of chemicals being nanopill released in his bloodstream, and some knowledge, that he couldn’t hit a man (or a woman) without his skin recording the scene and playing it in real time on a screen in the probation station.  In fifteen years, the grafts and the tech would die, its bio-power sources self-limited, and then...then he’d have fifteen years of habits, of good behaviour (determined by the state).  He’d be bio-rehabilitated.  Free to go. Free to do what fifteen years of Good solid work would have left him good for.
I wasn’t sure what I felt about that (it wasn’t much use asking him what he felt, he felt what the sentence permitted him to feel). I’d known him before this, when ‘killer’ was more like his right name – when we’d run guns together to the ‘Karlin Kwee, and he’d been a touchy man, and a violent man – but I’d been a violent woman, and he’d suited me. These days I guessed, and it was a guess, that any BDSM he’d do would have to be strictly M. What a waste, he still had strong hands.
So any innovation can be hacked.  I had a patch would bring him back.  All I needed to do was get close enough to slam it onto enough of his skin (his bare back would probably be best), and then – well this would be the first test run. He might just run for his Probation Officer, he might remember me, he might faint. There was a small chance it might kill him. Very small.  I’d made sure of that – it was about the risk of being killed crossing a road in New York – not negligible, but something he’d never seemed to worry about, before.
I watched him, through a hack in the ice-truck’s cabinComm.  His brown eyes focused on the ice-pack, his movements stately, considered.  If you didn’t know, you’d say he had masterful self-control, dancer’s poise, a kind of grace.
After I watched him for a day. I went back to New York. They could try their deprogramming hack on another con. I didn’t know enough about what was in his head to know if I’d be doing him a favour or not, by taking him back. I remembered his hot breath on my neck, and his hands hard at my throat, but I remembered his hands striking me, when I wasn’t up for it, too. 
That wasn’t the reason though. I’d have taken my chances. I’d intended to rescue him, before I’d heard him sing.  Sing so sweet to himself in the cabin of the ice-truck, trundling its nigh automatic journey to and from the pole – running its solar powered ‘refreezer’ over the melting ice-cap, every mile of its trip. Good solid work – but oh that voice.
“My brother did’a tell me that a man go walk, a man go walk, a man go walk...”
A Mango Walk is an orchard, and the song is about what in my childhood in the UK when it was the UK, would have been called ‘scrumping apples,’ but Philip had always sung it as if it was about freedom.
A man go walk.
A man’s got to be free.
I remembered his boiling over at an imagined offense, at the glint of a too strong light in his eyes, at a word misspoke, at nothing, at a bird in flight.  Had he been free then? Not to choose whether to be angry. Not to choose to be at peace.
And I heard him sing that he was. Free of the habits of violence, free of the history of pain. Was I right or was I wrong?  I don’t know. I don’t know.
Guess I’ll have to wait another twelve years to know. If they don’t kill me first. If they don’t kill me first.
So that’s it.  The story of Iced Coffee Fillup, on the ice-truck run, under the Polar Stars, and of me – waiting to know – if the man who comes back will want me. Will be able to choose to want me.
Will he raise his hand to me then, when I tell him – I came and looked him in the eye, in his good solid workin’ days, and that I left him to them, just ‘cause he looked and sounded happy. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Further review of Le Roi en Jaune...

by Adrian Middleton

What do you think about the cover? It's not to late to go for Klimt and/or a change in title for the 4th Edition.....

Simon BJ

Friday, March 13, 2015

The tragedy of the death of the author

It's not that we've lost a friend: after all we never knew the actual man behind the books (or the woman, though its a man whose death sets off this chain of thought), it's not even that we've lost the books - they're still there - the first few tentative, the middle run increasingly astonishing, the latter books assured and masterful, and then - although we can't quite agree where - the last few, tailing away slightly (perhaps due to illness, perhaps due to the tendancy of all aging authors to hit certain keys again in the same way) but still as good as anything else being offered up on the shelves.

The tragedy is this: the specific circumstances and events, the experiences, and interactions, the sheer hard work as well as the luck (for all authors need luck) that made the author, That Author will never occur again - and no matter how good all other authors are (and there will be authors who do certain things better as time unrolls its vast sheets of prose) there will never be an author who does exactly what they did, who sees the world in exactly that way, and who writes that specific thing so perfectly.

Now, from this time forward there will be things that happen in the world that would be perfect to spark a thought which if they were here to have it would sing and infuse and fire another book, and those happenings will richochet around the Earth in vain, for other authors will only see some of them, or half glimpse them, or lack the perfect grasp to seize them.  Not because they are flawed and the author was perfect, for no one is, but because the author included perfect flaws - which were the perfect ones to catch certain glints in the air which now will go unsung.

And this is the tragedy of the death of any good or great writer - that a viewpoint honed to expression, has been expunged and can not be known again, and many many things will come to pass that will not be as well explained and spoken of as they might otherwise have been.  We will never have Edgar Alan Poe's Twilight Zone episodes, or H.P. Lovecraft's episode of Star Trek(1), or Borge's Great Argentinian Novel, or Terry Pratchett's novel set under the rocky skies of Ganymede, among its strangely familiar seas.

Oh there will be attempts, pastiches, and maybe even licensed continuations. Some will be good, some bad. In time some may even be as great or greater as Lovecraft to Poe (perhaps), but none will be Pratchett - any more than Lovecraft could be Poe.

(1) I know we got two of Robert Bloch's, but....just imagine......

Saturday, March 07, 2015


                              MARTIAN NOTES
                           GENERAL CIRCULATION


                           CHAPMAN & HALL, LTD.

                           I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
                          THOSE FRIENDS OF MINE
                                ON MARS
                            LEFT MY JUDGEMENT
                     THE TRUTH, WHEN IT IS TOLD GOOD
                           HUMOUREDLY, AND IN A
                               KIND SPIRIT.


IT is nearly eight years since this book was first published.  I present
it, unaltered in all but one respect, in this Cheap Edition. It is unaltered in so much that the facts the first edition presented are still as true, and such of my opinions as it expresses, are quite unaltered too.

Nevertheless - which is the one respect in which it is changed - it contains more facts than the first printing was able to present, for the inexorable forward pace of Old Father Time, has made it possible for me now to speak more openly on certain private matters which at the time the Second MARTIAN Crisis required that I pass over in silence.

My readers have opportunities of judging for themselves whether the
influences and tendencies which I distrust in Mars, have any existence
not in my imagination.  They can examine for themselves whether there has
been anything in the public career of that world during these past
eight years, or whether there is anything in its present position, at
home or abroad in the Solar System, which suggests that those influences and tendencies really do exist.  As they find the fact, they will judge me.  If they discern any evidences of wrong-going in any direction that I have
indicated, they will acknowledge that I had reason in what I wrote.  If
they discern no such thing, they will consider me altogether mistaken.

Prejudiced, I never have been otherwise than in favour of the Martian
States.  No visitor can ever have set foot on those shores, with a
stronger faith in the Republic than I had, when I landed on Mars.

I purposely abstain from extending these observations to any length.  I
have nothing to defend, or to explain away.  The truth is the truth; and
neither childish absurdities, nor unscrupulous contradictions, can make
it otherwise.  The earth would still move round the sun, though the whole
Catholic Church said No, and Martian’s and Earth-men would still be kin, though the Chapel of Vulthoom said nay.

I have many friends on MARS, and feel a grateful interest in that world
country.  To represent me as viewing it with ill-nature, animosity, or
partisanship, is merely to do a very foolish thing, which is always a
very easy one; and which I have disregarded for eight years, and could
disregard for eighty more.

LONDON, June 22, 1850.



I SHALL never forget the one-fourth serious and three-fourths comical
astonishment, with which, on the morning of the third of January
1842, I opened the door of, and put my head into, a ‘state-room’ on board the Britannia lift-packet, twelve hundred negative-tons of moored mass straining at the earth anchors that held it down, at once as insubstantial as a soap-bubble, and as hard as a school teacher’s stare, bound for New Halifax and Barsoomtown, and carrying Her Majesty’s mails in the form of message-gems, as well as manuscript letters.

That this state-room had been specially engaged for ‘Charles Dickens,
Esquire, and Lady,’ was rendered sufficiently clear even to my scared
intellect by a very small manuscript, announcing the fact, which was
attached by hook-fabric to a very flat quilt (which I later learned to be pneumatic and itself a mattress) spread like a surgical plaster on a most inaccessible shelf.  But that this was the state-room concerning which Charles Dickens, Esquire, and Lady, had held daily and nightly conferences for four months preceding: that this could be that snug chamber of the imagination, which Charles Dickens, Esquire, with the spirit of prophecy strong upon him, had always foretold would contain at least one little expandable sofa, and which his lady, with a modest yet most magnificent sense of its limited dimensions, had from the first opined would not hold more than two enormous portmanteaus in some odd corner out of sight (portmanteaus which could now no more be got in at the door, not to say stowed away, than a giraffe could be persuaded or forced into a flower-pot): that this utterly impracticable, thoroughly hopeless, and profoundly preposterous box, had the remotest reference to, or connection with, those chaste and pretty, not to say gorgeous chambers, sketched by a masterly hand, in the highly varnished lithographic plan hanging up in the agent’s office in the city of London: that this room of state, in short, could be anything but a pleasant fiction and cheerful jest of the
captain’s, invented and put in practice for the better relish and
enjoyment of the real state-room presently to be disclosed:—these were
truths which I really could not, for the moment, bring my mind at all to
bear upon or comprehend.  And I sat down upon a kind of plastic slab,
or perch, of which there were two within; and looked, without any
expression of countenance whatever, at some friends who had come on board
with us, and who were crushing their faces into all manner of shapes by
endeavouring to squeeze them through the small doorway.

We had experienced a pretty smart shock before coming below, which, but
that we were the most sanguine people living, might have prepared us for
the worst.  The imaginative artist to whom I have already made allusion,
has depicted in the same great work, a chamber of almost interminable
perspective, furnished, as Mr. Robins would say, in a style of more than
Jovian splendour, and filled (but not inconveniently so) with groups of
ladies and gentlemen, in the very highest state of enjoyment and
vivacity and the most fashionable of travelling garments.  Before descending into the bowels of the ship, we had passed from the deck into a long narrow apartment, not unlike a gigantic hearse with windows in the sides; having at the upper end a melancholy stove, at which three or four chilly stewards were warming their hands; while on either side, extending down its whole dreary length, was a long, long table, over each of which a rack, fixed to the low roof, and stuck full of drinking-glasses and cruet-stands, hinted dismally at meteorite showers and heavy-ether-swell.  I had not at that time seen the ideal presentment of this chamber which has since gratified me so much, but I observed that one of our friends who had made the arrangements for our voyage, turned pale on entering, retreated on the friend behind him, smote his forehead involuntarily, and said below his breath, ‘Impossible! it cannot be!’ or words to that effect.  He recovered himself however by a great effort, and after a preparatory cough or two, cried, with a ghastly smile which is still before me, looking at the same time round the walls, ‘Ha! The breakfast-room, steward—eh?’  We all foresaw what the answer must be: we knew the agony he suffered.  He had often spoken of the saloon; had taken in and lived upon the pictorial idea; had usually given us to understand, at home, that to form a just conception of it, it would be necessary to multiply the size and furniture of an ordinary drawing-room by seven, and then fall short of the reality.  When the man in reply avowed the truth; the blunt, remorseless, naked truth; ‘This is the
saloon, sir’—he actually reeled beneath the blow.

In persons who were so soon to part, and interpose between their otherwise
daily communication the formidable barrier of two hundred thousand miles of
stormy space, and who were for that reason anxious to cast no other
cloud, not even the passing shadow of a moment’s disappointment or
discomfiture, upon the happy companionship that yet remained to them, the natural transition from these surprises was obviously into peals of hearty laughter, and I can report that I, for one, being still seated upon the slab or perch before mentioned, roared outright until the vessel rang again.  Thus, in less than two minutes after coming upon it for the first time, we all by common consent agreed that this state-room was the pleasantest and most facetious and capital contrivance possible; and that to have had it one inch larger, would have been quite a disagreeable and deplorable state of things.  And with this; and with showing how,—by very nearly closing the door, and twining in and out like serpents, and by counting the little washing slab as standing-room,—we could manage to insinuate four people into it, all at one time; and entreating each other to observe how very airy it was (in dock), and how there was a beautiful Mars-glass port-hole which could be kept uncovered all day (direction of the sun permitting), and how there was quite a large bull’s-eye just over the looking-glass which would render shaving a perfectly easy and delightful process (when the ship wasn’t changing course, or clanging with the impact of the tiny rocks, that our reading of the accounts of space-mariners impressed us as likely at any moment even in Croydon Docks); we arrived, at last, at the unanimous conclusion that it was rather spacious than otherwise: though I do verily believe that, deducting the two berths, one above the other, than which nothing smaller for sleeping in was ever made except coffins, it was no bigger than one of those hackney cabriolets which have the door behind, and shoot their fares out, like sacks of coals, upon the pavement.

Having settled this point to the perfect satisfaction of all parties,
concerned and unconcerned, we sat down round the glow-pit in the ladies’
cabin—just to try the effect.  It was rather dark, certainly; but
somebody said, ‘of course it would be light, in space,’ a proposition to
which we all assented; echoing ‘of course, of course;’ though it would be
exceedingly difficult to say why we thought so.  I remember, too, when we
had discovered and exhausted another topic of consolation in the
circumstance of this ladies’ cabin adjoining our state-room, and the
consequently immense feasibility of sitting there at all times and
seasons, and had fallen into a momentary silence, leaning our faces on
our hands and looking at the glow, one of our party said, with the solemn
air of a man who had made a discovery, ‘What a relish a bulb of mulled claret will have down here!’ which appeared to strike us all most forcibly; as though there were something spicy and high-flavoured in cabins, which
essentially improved that composition, and rendered it quite incapable of
perfection anywhere else.

There was a stewardess, too, actively engaged in producing clean sheets
and table-cloths from the very entrails of the sofas, and from unexpected
lockers, of such artful mechanism, that it made one’s head ache to see
them opened one after another, and rendered it quite a distracting
circumstance to follow her proceedings, and to find that every nook and
corner and individual piece of furniture was something else besides what
it pretended to be, and was a mere trap and deception and place of secret
stowage, whose ostensible purpose was its least useful one.

God bless that stewardess for her automatically pious and fraudulent account of January voyages!  God bless her for her memory-wire recollection of the companion passage of last year, when nobody was ill, and everybody dancing from morning to night, and it was ‘a run’ of a whole month, and a piece of the purest frolic, and delight, and jollity!  All happiness be with the woman on whom they had been modelled her for her bright face and her pleasant Scotch tongue, which had sounds of old Home in it for my fellow-traveller; and with her for her predictions of smooth lift
and fine ether (all wrong, or I shouldn’t be half so fond of her); and
for the ten thousand small fragments of genuine womanly tact (patched by her gears elaborately together as a tailor from stock, into shape and form and case and pointed application) to plainly show that all young mothers on one side of the spacial gulfs were near and close at hand to their little children left upon the other; and that what seemed to the uninitiated a serious journey, was, to those who were in the secret, a mere frolic, to be sung about and whistled at!  Light be her ‘lectric-heart, and gay her merry glass eyes, for years!

The state-room had grown pretty fast; but by this time it had expanded
into something quite bulky, and almost boasted a bay-window to view the
stars from.  So we went upon deck again in high spirits, under the crystal sails; and there, everything was in such a state of bustle and active preparation, that the blood quickened its pace, and whirled through one’s veins on that clear frosty morning with involuntary mirthfulness.  For the gallant ship was riding slowly up and down, so neatly did its anti-mass reject that of the earth, and we knew, for had we not been informed of it at every hand, that were it not for the strong strong cables, and the great anchors, the ship would float away in its own orbit, not around the sun, but around that great dark star of anti-matter that is the Sun’s bashful neighbour, positioned midway between it and the bright hopeful light of Alpha Centauri where men may one day go, and knots of people stood upon the broad white dockside, gazing with a kind of ‘dread delight’ on the far-famed fast MARTIAN packet; and one party of men were ‘taking in the milk,’ or, in other words, getting the cow on board; and another were filling the icehouses to the very throat with fresh provisions; with butchers’-meat and garden-stuff, pale sucking-pigs, calves’ heads in scores, beef, veal, and pork, and poultry out of all proportion; and others were coiling ropes and busy with oakum yarns; and others were lowering heavy packages into the hold; and the purser’s head was barely visible as it loomed in a state, of exquisite perplexity from the midst of a vast pile of passengers’ luggage; and there seemed to be nothing going on anywhere, or uppermost in the mind of anybody, but preparations for this mighty voyage.  This, with the bright
cold sun, the bracing air, the crisply-curling crystal sails, the thin white crust of morning ice upon the decks which crackled with a sharp and
cheerful sound beneath the lightest tread, was irresistible.  And when,
again upon the dock, we turned and saw from the vessel’s side her name
signalled in semaphore-arms of joyous colours, and painted on her side the
beautiful MARTIAN banner with its Red Globe and Stars — the long two hundred thousand miles, and, longer still, the whole seven months of
absence, so dwindled and faded, that the ship had gone out and come home
again, and it was broad spring already in the Croydon Dock at London.

I have not inquired among my medical acquaintance, whether Turtle, and
cold Punch, with Hock, Champagne, and Claret, and all the slight et
cetera usually included in an unlimited order for a good
dinner—especially when it is left to the liberal construction of my
faultless friend, Mr. Radley of the Starfarer’s Rest — are peculiarly
calculated to suffer an ether-change; or whether a plain mutton-chop, and a
glass or two of sherry, would be less likely of conversion into foreign
and disconcerting material.  My own opinion is, that whether one is
discreet or indiscreet in these particulars, on the eve of a voyage,
is a matter of little consequence; and that, to use a common phrase, ‘it
comes to very much the same thing in the end.’   Be this as it may, I
know that the dinner of that day was undeniably perfect; that it
comprehended all these items, and a great many more; and that we all did
ample justice to it.  And I know too, that, bating a certain tacit
avoidance of any allusion to to-morrow; such as may be supposed to
prevail between delicate-minded turnkeys, and a sensitive prisoner who is
to be hanged next morning; we got on very well, and, all things
considered, were merry enough.

When the morning — the morning — came, and we met at breakfast, it was
curious to see how eager we all were to prevent a moment’s pause in the
conversation, and how astoundingly gay everybody was: the forced spirits
of each member of the little party having as much likeness to his natural
mirth, as hot-house peas at five guineas the quart, resemble in flavour
the growth of the dews, and air, and rain of Heaven.  But as one o’clock,
the hour for going aboard, drew near, this volubility dwindled away by
little and little, despite the most persevering efforts to the contrary,
until at last, the matter being now quite desperate, we threw off all
disguise; openly speculated upon where we should be this time to-morrow,
this time next day, and so forth; and entrusted a vast number of messages
to those who intended returning to town that night, which were to be
delivered at home and elsewhere without fail, within the very shortest
possible space of time after the arrival of the railway train at Victoria Earth-Terminus.  And commissions and remembrances do so crowd upon one at such a time, that we were still busied with this employment when we found
ourselves fused, as it were, into a dense conglomeration of passengers
and passengers’ friends and passengers’ luggage, all jumbled together on
the dock, with the snorting steam-handlers of MARTIAN design, seizing on the latter for stowing, and only narrowly avoiding seizing on the former parties comprising the animate portion of the conglomerate.

For there lay the packet in moored down by her holding nets in the great grey egg-cup of the dock, with its white walkway soldiers of best bread coloured marble, pointing at it and around it! All eyes are turned to where she lies, dimly discernible through the gathering fog of the early winter afternoon; every finger is pointed in the same direction; and murmurs of interest and admiration—as ‘How beautiful she looks!’ ‘How trim she is!’—are heard on every side.  Even the lazy gentleman with his hat on one side and his hands in his pockets, who has dispensed so much consolation by inquiring with a yawn of another gentleman whether he is ‘going up’—as if it were a lift-ladder — even he condescends to look that way, and nod his head, as who should say, ‘No mistake about that:’ and not even the sage Lord Burleigh in his nod, included half so much as this lazy gentleman of
might who has made the passage (as everybody on board has found out
already; it’s impossible to say how) thirteen times without a single
accident – aside from the metal braces on his knees to assist with the greater pull of the mother world!  There is another passenger very much wrapped-up, who has been frowned down by the rest, and morally trampled upon and crushed, for presuming to inquire with a timid interest how long it is since the poor Autarch was broached by a meteor.  He is standing close to the lazy gentleman, and says with a faint smile that he believes She is a very strong Ship; to which the lazy gentleman, looking first in his questioner’s eye and then very hard at the sky, answers unexpectedly and ominously, that She need be.  Upon this the lazy gentleman instantly falls very low in the popular estimation, and the passengers, with looks of defiance, whisper to each other that he is an ass, and an impostor, and clearly don’t know anything at all about it.

But we are allowed to enter the packet now, through the huge red ether-port with its gleaming locks to hold in the air, and whose burnished metal shines bravely, giving rich promise of serious intentions. Packing-cases, portmanteaus, carpet-bags, and boxes, are thrown from metal claw to claw, and hauled on board with breathless rapidity.  The officers, smartly dressed, are at the portway seeing the passengers in, and hurrying the man controlling the nine steam-handlers.  In five minutes’ time, the inner dock is utterly deserted, and the packet is beset and over-run by its
late freight, who instantly pervade the whole ship, and are to be met
with by the dozen in every nook and corner: swarming down below in search of their own baggage, and stumbling over other people’s; disposing
themselves comfortably in wrong cabins, and creating a most horrible
confusion by having to turn out again; madly bent upon opening locked
doors, and on forcing a passage into all kinds of out-of-the-way places
where there is no thoroughfare; sending wild stewards, with elfin hair,
to and fro upon the breezy decks on unintelligible errands, impossible of
execution: and in short, creating the most extraordinary and bewildering
tumult.  In the midst of all this, the lazy gentleman, who seems to have
no luggage of any kind—not so much as a friend, even—lounges up and down
the observation deck, coolly puffing a cigar; and, as this unconcerned
demeanour again exalts him in the opinion of those who have leisure to
observe his proceedings, every time he looks up at the ether-sails through the glass shield, or down at the decks, or out of a view-port, they look there too, as wondering whether he sees anything wrong anywhere, and hoping that, in case he should, he will have the goodness to mention it.

What have we here?  The captain himself. Now, by all our hopes and wishes, the very man he ought to be!  A well-made, tight-built, dapper little fellow; with a ruddy face, which is a letter of invitation to shake him by both hands at once; and with a clear, blue honest eye, that it does one good to see one’s sparkling image in.  Like all native MARTIANS’ eyes, the single orb, possesses two eyebrows like a letter O over-endowed with accents by an ambitious type-setter, which twitch and move independently for emphasis.

‘Ring the bell!’  ‘Ding, ding, ding!’ the very bell is in a
hurry.  ‘Now for the shore—who’s for the shore?’—‘These gentlemen, I am
sorry to say.’   They are away, and never said, Good b’ye.  Ah now they
wave it from the outer dock.  ‘Good b’ye! Good b’ye!’  Three cheers from
them; three more from us; three more from them: and they are gone, down behind the safety walls.

To and fro, to and fro, to and fro again a hundred times!  This waiting
for the latest mail-bags is worse than all.  If we could have gone off in
the midst of that last burst, we should have started triumphantly: but to
lie here, two hours and more in the damp fog, neither staying at home nor
going abroad, is letting one gradually down into the very depths of
dulness and low spirits.  A speck in the mist, at last!  That’s
something.  It is the air-boat we wait for!  That’s more to the purpose.  The captain appears on the bridge with his speaking trumpet; the officers
take their stations; all hands are on the alert; the flagging hopes of
the passengers revive; the cooks pause in their savoury work, and look
out with faces full of interest.  The boat comes aloft-side; the bags are
dropped in anyhow through an upper hatch, and flung down for the moment anywhere.  Three cheers more: and as the first one rings upon our ears, the vessel throbs like a strong giant that has just received the breath of life; the two great gyroscopic wheels turn fiercely round for the first time; and the noble ship, with its cabling rewinding like tethered serpants, breaks away from the Earth, toward the call of its own strange star, against which pull, the sails deployed correctly will tack us to a safe landing upon the Red Planet – Mars!

After we have left the ground, I shut down my Lady, and opened the panel under her petticoats. Within the clockwork artifice the items I have concealed from the shipping clerks and my friends alike, but which I will not at this latter date conceal from my readers, gleamed and sparkled. Message-gems of my own, or rather of the Government of the Brittanic Earth’s Circumlocution Office, intended for the loyalists of Mars. Such material was secret then, and secret it still in part remains, but I will write of my mission and its consequences with such clarity as my loyalty to the Crown allows. I checked the gems’ packaging to ensure they had not been dislodged by buffets from the crowd, or the streams of the upper atmosphere: it would not do for my mock-wife to clatter, at the captain’s table. I smiled fondly at the thought of the knocking together of the gems spoiling the streams of chatter my wife had recorded for this her eidiolon.