Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Wizard and the Djinn

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Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The Wizard and the Djinn
by Larry Heyl - CC BY

Setup

The party wakes up in the morning next to a clear running creek. There is a slight chill in the air so they stir up the fire and make hot tea. They eat fruit and biscuits with their tea as they trade stories around the fire.

(DM hint: time permitting go around the table with the stories allowing the PCs to fill in their backstory and add items to their character sheet.)

They hear a noise in the woods and they all look to see what it is. When they look back there is a striking figure wearing a pointed hat and holding a staff standing next to the fire. The wizard addresses the party saying “I’m Randolph the Red and I need your help with a quest. There is a famous Djinn, Coriandor, who has disappeared. He had a spell book I need called The Pink Omnibus. He also had gold and jewels. I don’t need the treasure, you can keep that. But I need the spell book and if we find his lamp I want that too. Grab your packs and fill your water bags. You’ll need water where we’re going.”

If party members do not do as told Randolph the Red puts a compulsion on them. They do get a saving throw but he is a very powerful wizard. When they all have their water the wizard steps into the middle of the party and slams his staff on the ground. They begin spinning in a large circle like they were caught up by a tornado and then they fall from the sky to land in a desert surrounded by sand vipers, no wizard in sight.

Goals

Recover the Pink Omnibus and the lamp.
Make off with the loot.
Somehow return home (Probably with Randolph the Red’s help)
Get Even with Randolph the Red for his compulsion.

Assets

Map of the desert area where they are sent

Pregen character sheets for the party
Character sheet for Randolph the Red
Character sheet for Coriandor the Djinn
Character sheets for Coriandor’s friend and family

Stats for Sand Vipers and additional desert monsters

Map of the camp where the Coriandor’s friends and family wait for him including his tent

Map of his tent with the treasure, book, and lamp

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

24 Sci-Fi Novels You Can Read for Free

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A true classic from the Golden Age of science fiction, written by a science fiction great. The pulpy space opera tale has aliens who secretly shape humanity’s destiny, nuclear war, space travel, genetic engineering, stellar pirates, and more. This was just the first part of the Lensman series, an expansive set of books that spans billions of years.

John Wenz writing for Popular Mechanics presents a nice article about public domain science fiction including works by Samuel R. Delaney and Harry Harrison.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/culture/web/a15831/gutenberg-sci-fi-books/

Monday, November 16, 2020

Hot Java Blues

Hot Java Blues
by Larry Heyl
licensed CC BY

Joe could dig some hot java to loosen up his teeth. He’d been too long on this rig and even if he was a whole lot closer than he was just a little while ago he was still worried. If he could just get back to Europa with this rock in tow everything would be all right. More than all right. He’d be alive.

When he saw the rock he let himself get greedy. Sure it was at the upper edge of the possible but look at that ore! And just look at the size of it! He let himself talk himself into it. And that was just his first mistake.

He filled the basket and hit the side of the percolator with his wrench until it started bubbling. Joe was still worried. He couldn’t get over woulda this and coulda that with his 20 20 hindsight.

He felt better with a hot cup in his hands. Still worried but better. The coffee soothed him but it reminded him of his problem at the same time. Sure he got the rock. Sure he turned it around. He’d be at Europa in a week. Maybe eight days. But he was still worried.

He still had at least a week to go on this bucket and he only had a three day supply of coffee left.

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Photo public domain from Pixy. Click

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Milyagon Treasure Hunt

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Snowy Owl by Francois Nicolas Martinet & Georges Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon dated between 1770-1786 , public domain

Milyagon Treasure Hunt

Week One

Ari, Caper, and Tude (Ari’s wildcat) got a message from Kendrick to go see the witch at Milyagon. The witch gave them their quest, to bring back an owl’s tail feather, some squamish mushrooms, and a branch from the ancestor tree in the Wilkin Woods. She also mentioned that no one knew more about Wilken Woods than the woodcutter.

The party went and talked to the woodcutter who drew them a map and gave them sage advice about the fairies.

They entered Wilkin Woods and traveled nearly all the way across it on Woods Way. About halfway across they ventured south and found the first marked owl’s eyrie. Returning to Woods Way by traveling due north they found a landmark, a tree with a burl on it that looked a little bit like a face with knotholes for eyes.

Continuing along Woods Way they realize they must have passed the second marked eyrie. Caper leads the party back, leaving the road to the west of the eyrie which they also find. It is now evening so they eat supper and prepare to camp hoping for more luck with these owls in the night.

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The Woodcutters Map drawn by Larry Heyl CC-BY

Week Two

Ari, Tude, and Caper were joined by Bones under the owl eyrie. The party erected a large tarp using rope and Bones’ tent hoping to catch a naturally falling owl’s feather. Caper climbed a tree trying to make friends with an owl but when it started to get dark he had to come down. They attracted two owls by putting out some meat in a cook pot on a tripod.

Then Ari threw Tude’s ball under some bushes. Tude ran over and flushed a bunch of rodents and bunnies. For a few minutes there was a flurry of owls feeding. The next time Tude ran under a bush Caper shot a little bunny rabbit. Holding the dead bunny Caper called to the owls with a series of hoots. An owl landed on Capers outstretched arm and started feeding. With his other arm he slowly petted the owl. And then he had a hold on the tail feather that had been bothering this owl. Bones said we should scare the owl. Tude tried to scare it and Caper added in some cat noises and the owl flew off leaving one tail feather behind. Caper handed the feather to Ari for safekeeping.

We went south looking for the fairy circle trying to get some help from the fairies finding the ancestor tree. Ari and Caper kept true south while Bones scouted east and west. Bones was about a quarter mile to the west when he found the fairy circle. He jumped right in it and started dancing but fortunately he made his saving throw and didn’t fall into Feyland.

Bones stayed near the fairy circle and after a while Ari and Caper noticed he was late. Ari asked Caper if he had anything with Bones scent on it so Tude could track Bones by scent. Caper held his rope out for Tude to smell and then they followed Tude west to Bones.

Caper found some rocks for chairs and sat down about 20 ft. from the fairy circle and played his flute. Sure enough some pretty fairies came to listen to the music and the party started up a conversation with them.

Week Three

In which we recover all the loot, branches from the ancestor tree, squamish mushrooms, and a tailfeather from an owl, and complete our quest.

Last week we left off talking to the fairies near the fairy circle. Cautious not to ask a favor and indebt ourselves to them we finally found out that the fairies remembered when the woodcutter came through here and found the ancestor tree. When the fairies pointed out the trail that the woodcutter took, Caper couldn’t see it but Ari and Bones could and Caper soon discovered that it was a game trail and he could also help follow it with his tracking skills.

After hiking for about 4 hours we found ourselves at the foot of a large hill. The trail seemed to continue up the hill but it was not distinct. We decided to climb to the top before dark even though we were already tired.

It was dusk when we got to the top so we waited for dark to see if the big tree at the top of this hill was the ancestor tree. Ari detected magic on the tree and it was magical. She detected magic on branches on the ground and they were not. So this might not be the ancestor tree but at least we were in the right vicinity.

The moon was already up in the sky when the sun set. Soon it was dark and the moon lit the treetops but we didn’t see a fey glow. Bones helped Caper up to the first branch and Caper carefully climbed to the top where he could look out over the moonlit forest. After Caper got back to the ground he said, “I think we’ve come too far. The moonlit glow is brightest to the northwest and I think the ancestor tree is back a ways in the direction we came.”

In the morning Bones suggested that Caper climb the tree again for a daytime view but it was slick with dew and Caper couldn’t do it. (I rolled a 4) So we headed back down the hill the way we came and at the bottom with the sun peeking up over the eastern horizon we searched for a path up a hill to the northwest. Soon we were climbing the next hill and were at the top well before noon.

Of course there was a big tree at the top of this hill too. Bones boosted Caper up and he was easily able to scramble up to the top. When Caper climbed back down he said, “The next hill to the northwest is even taller than this one. I’m not sure the ancestor tree is there but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the ancestor tree.” So after we ate we continued on to the northwest again. Ascending the next hill we found a huge tree. It was time for supper. After we ate we thought we would look around for squamish mushrooms just in case this was the ancestor tree. Bones found a patch of them due west and then Ari found a big patch north of them.

After the sun set the big tree glowed brighter than the moon. We went to the big patch of mushrooms and followed the moonbeams penetrating the forest canopy and shining on the ground. With half the night gone Bones finally saw the moonbeams light some mushrooms and he was able to pick five of them which barely covered the bottom of the witch’s bag.

In the morning we ate and although we were tired we decided to search for a branch from the ancestor tree before we slept. We searched here and we searched there and then Ari found a big branch just north of the tree. She detected magic on the branch and sure enough it was a branch from the ancestor tree. Caper searched again to the northeast and Bones searched around close to the tree. Bones found one but Ari couldn’t tell if it was magic or not. Caper suggested that Ari carry her branch and that Bones should carry his back to the witch to find out if it is magic.

After their naps Ari searched for medicinal plants and Caper searched for mushrooms. Ari found a fever plant and harvested leaves. Caper found two large mushrooms he knew to be edible but when Ari detected magic on them she discovered that they were magical and Caper decided not to eat the magic mushrooms until he had talked to the witch about them.

It took two more nights to find enough mushrooms. The third night we spread out a little with Bones looking at the patch to the west while Ari and Caper looked at the big patch. We had good luck toward morning. With the moon near full it didn’t set until almost sunrise. We ended up with 30 mushrooms. 20 filled the witch’s bag half full and Ari put the other ten in another bag stowing them carefully in her pack.

Although we were tired we decided to hike on back to Milyagon. We found a game trail heading east and we left the Wilken Woods in the farmlands to the west of Milyagon. Soon we were across the bridge and at the Inn having a hot dinner, something Caper really missed while they were camping.

After we ate it was a short walk to the witch’s cottage to the northeast of town and she was vary glad to see us. She kept the branch Ari was carrying saying it would do fine. She looked at the branch Bones found and said it was also from the ancestor tree and was in fact a magic quarterstaff. She told Bones to keep it and thanked him for his help. When Ari showed her the two bags of mushrooms she was delighted and said that she would teach Ari how to make the squamish salve and she could keep the extra for her medicine kit. She grinned wide when she saw the tailfeather, stuck it in her bonnet where it looked right at home, rolled her eyes three times, touched her nose, and said, “Yes, this will do nicely. My thanks to all of you.” Then Caper showed the witch his magic mushrooms found beneath the ancestor tree and the witch said, “Now these are nice. These mushrooms are not dangerous but they should be consumed in moderation. One half of one of these large mushrooms will affect three people as if they had two large tankards of ale. And, of course, the mushrooms are much easier to carry then a keg of ale. Unlike ale the mushrooms don’t slow you down in fact they do the opposite and make you slightly more dextrous for about four hours.”

Slight Denouement

Caper and Bones found a bench under an oak tree and sat down to rest while Ari and the witch made the squamish salve.

They ground the squamish mushrooms into a paste with wild cherries and sage to make the salve which is good for treating carbuncles and other skin ailments and can also cure light wounds. About 2/3 of the salve filled a jar the witch had set aside so she went and got a smaller jar which she filled and gave to Ari.

With that task done Ari and the witch walked over to Caper and Bones and the witch said, “The items are for the Ogre up in the foothills Northwest of Milyagon. He has been under pressure from orcs and hobgoblins moving in. The branch makes a magic quarterstaff to fend them off and the mushrooms are the important ingredient in a salve for his carbunkles. And the feather? That’s for his hat. The Ogre has a magic hat and the owl’s feather, willingly given, is a component of the spell. He is smart for an ogre because of the hat so it is very important that the feather in his cap does not become bedraggled.”

Enlightened but still very tired the party made their way back to the inn where they ate a hearty supper and turned in early for the night glad to be sleeping on beds under a roof instead of on the ground under the stars.


This story unfolded over three nights of play on discord. Vivian played Ari and Tude, Carl played Bones, I was the DM playing Caper as an NPC. I also wrote the quest soon to be published as a minizine. The text is licensed CC-BY.

Monday, July 27, 2020

#SixWordStories

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Photo by Paul L Dineen, CC-BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/pauldineen/46318283

#SixWordStories is a thing.

Xan is an expert.

Here’s my first shot at #SixWordStories.

And then the sun went nova.

- by Larry Heyl CC-BY

There’s a website.

Six Word Stories

And a Flickr group.

https://www.flickr.com/groups/sixwordstory/

Prefaced by “Just as a reminder here is the story that started it all. For sale: baby shoes, never worn. “.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick

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From Project gutenberg - https://www.gutenberg.org/files/32154/32154-h/32154-h.htm

THE VARIABLE MAN

BY PHILIP K. DICK

ILLUSTRATED BY EBEL

He fixed things—clocks, refrigerators, vidsenders and destinies. But he had no business in the future, where the calculators could not handle him. He was Earth’s only hope—and its sure failure!

Security Commissioner Reinhart rapidly climbed the front steps and entered the Council building. Council guards stepped quickly aside and he entered the familiar place of great whirring machines. His thin face rapt, eyes alight with emotion, Reinhart gazed intently up at the central SRB computer, studying its reading.

“Straight gain for the last quarter,” observed Kaplan, the lab organizer. He grinned proudly, as if personally responsible. “Not bad, Commissioner.”

“We’re catching up to them,” Reinhart retorted. “But too damn slowly. We must finally go over—and soon.”

Kaplan was in a talkative mood. “We design new offensive weapons, they counter with improved defenses. And nothing is actually made! Continual improvement, but neither we nor Centaurus can stop designing long enough to stabilize for production.”

“It will end,” Reinhart stated coldly, “as soon as Terra turns out a weapon for which Centaurus can build no defense.”

“Every weapon has a defense. Design and discord. Immediate obsolescence. Nothing lasts long enough to—”

“What we count on is the lag,” Reinhart broke in, annoyed. His hard gray eyes bored into the lab organizer and Kaplan slunk back. “The time lag between our offensive design and their counter development. The lag varies.” He waved impatiently toward the massed banks of SRB machines. “As you well know.”

At this moment, 9:30 AM, May 7, 2136, the statistical ratio on the SRB machines stood at 21-17 on the Centauran side of the ledger. All facts considered, the odds favored a successful repulsion by Proxima Centaurus of a Terran military attack. The ratio was based on the total information known to the SRB machines, on a gestalt of the vast flow of data that poured in endlessly from all sectors of the Sol and Centaurus systems.

21-17 on the Centauran side. But a month ago it had been 24-18 in the enemy’s favor. Things were improving, slowly but steadily. Centaurus, older and less virile than Terra, was unable to match Terra’s rate of technocratic advance. Terra was pulling ahead.

“If we went to war now,” Reinhart said thoughtfully, “we would lose. We’re not far enough along to risk an overt attack.” A harsh, ruthless glow twisted across his handsome features, distorting them into a stern mask. “But the odds are moving in our favor. Our offensive designs

are gradually gaining on their defenses.”

“Let’s hope the war comes soon,” Kaplan agreed. “We’re all on edge. This damn waiting….”

The war would come soon. Reinhart knew it intuitively. The air was full of tension, the elan. He left the SRB rooms and hurried down the corridor to his own elaborately guarded office in the Security wing. It wouldn’t be long. He could practically feel the hot breath of destiny on his neck—for him a pleasant feeling. His thin lips set in a humorless smile, showing an even line of white teeth against his tanned skin. It made him feel good, all right. He’d been working at it a long time.

First contact, a hundred years earlier, had ignited instant conflict between Proxima Centauran outposts and exploring Terran raiders. Flash fights, sudden eruptions of fire and energy beams.

And then the long, dreary years of inaction between enemies where contact required years of travel, even at nearly the speed of light. The two systems were evenly matched. Screen against screen. Warship against power station. The Centauran Empire surrounded Terra, an iron ring that couldn’t be broken, rusty and corroded as it was. Radical new weapons had to be conceived, if Terra was to break out.

Through the windows of his office, Reinhart could see endless buildings and streets, Terrans hurrying back and forth. Bright specks that were commute ships, little eggs that carried businessmen and white-collar workers around. The huge transport tubes that shot masses of workmen to factories and labor camps from their housing units. All these people, waiting to break out. Waiting for the day.

Reinhart snapped on his vidscreen, the confidential channel. “Give me Military Designs,” he ordered sharply.

He sat tense, his wiry body taut, as the vidscreen warmed into life. Abruptly he was facing the hulking image of Peter Sherikov, director of the vast network of labs under the Ural Mountains.

Sherikov’s great bearded features hardened as he recognized Reinhart. His bushy black eyebrows pulled up in a sullen line. “What do you want? You know I’m busy. We have too much work to do, as it is. Without being bothered by—politicians.”

“I’m dropping over your way,” Reinhart answered lazily. He adjusted the cuff of his immaculate gray cloak. “I want a full description of your work

and whatever progress you’ve made.”

“You’ll find a regular departmental report plate filed in the usual way, around your office someplace. If you’ll refer to that you’ll know exactly what we—”

“I’m not interested in that. I want to see what you’re doing. And I expect you to be prepared to describe your work fully. I’ll be there shortly. Half an hour.”

Reinhart cut the circuit. Sherikov’s heavy features dwindled and faded. Reinhart relaxed, letting his breath out. Too bad he had to work with Sherikov. He had never liked the man. The big Polish scientist was an individualist, refusing to integrate himself with society. Independent, atomistic in outlook. He held concepts of the individual as an end, diametrically contrary to the accepted organic state Weltansicht.

But Sherikov was the leading research scientist, in charge of the Military Designs Department. And on Designs the whole future of Terra depended. Victory over Centaurus—or more waiting, bottled up in the Sol System, surrounded by a rotting, hostile Empire, now sinking into ruin and decay, yet still strong.

Reinhart got quickly to his feet and left the office. He hurried down the hall and out of the Council building.

A few minutes later he was heading across the mid-morning sky in his highspeed cruiser, toward the Asiatic land-mass, the vast Ural mountain range. Toward the Military Designs labs.

[Read more…]

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Incorruptible

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Peter Watts receiving the 2010 Hugo

Incorruptible
by Peter Watts
Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Read more Peter Watts here

“Despotism may be the only organisational alternative
to the political structure that we observe.”
—James Buchanan, 1975

This is the moment Malika Rydman first realizes that something is seriously out of whack: when the airport cop doesn’t threaten her.

It wasn’t that flickering sense of discontinuity over the Pacific. It wasn’t the odd absence of flight attendants during descent, or the unprecedented fact that she could watch the whole pulse-pounding climax of My Dinner With Andre without some canned voice breaking in to remind her about seat tables and chairs in upright positions. It wasn’t even the strangeness glimpsed through the window on final approach: that conga-line of headlights down on the ground, the way those tiny cars formed little trains that braided and intertwined without ever colliding. That skyscraper off to the east, facades seething in dark glittery motion as though being devoured by a carpet of beetles. The very street lights, tiny bright interstices of the SanFran wireframe: somehow both whiter and brighter than a week ago. Different approach angle, Malika thought vaguely. Trick of the light. Street art installation.

Even when ANA008 bumped onto the ground and dragged itself to a halt and just sat there at the end of the runway, Malika shrugged it off. Probably some other plane hogging the gate. You’d think there’d be an announcement.

It’s not until the man in the strange uniform appears at her side and leans just so, letting the flap of his jacket fall away to reveal the gun on his hip; not until he says “Dr. Malika Rydman? Would you come with me, please?”—that she is truly taken aback.

There’s no implied threat in his voice. He doesn’t seem to be itching for an excuse to escalate (not that Malika would ever be stupid enough to give him one— then again, sometimes they just make shit up after the fact). The words don’t even carry the tone of a command exactly, more like a— a request.

“It’s very important,” he adds.

He seems nervous. Maybe even a little frightened.

“What’s this about? Am I in some kind of trouble?”

“It’s nothing like that.” The airport cop— whatever he is— shakes his head. “There’s a, a patient in need of assistance.”

Ah. Someone must have noticed the MD next to her name, jumped to conclusions. “I don’t practice. I’m a computational psychiatrist, I’ve been pure research since 2012.” Curiosity gets the better of her anyway. “What sort of patient?”

“I honestly don’t know any more than that, Dr. Rydman. Please.”

She looks around the cabin— all eyes studiously downcast, all voices stilled— and unbuckles her seat belt. “You’re being awfully deferential for a white boy with a gun,” she grumbles. “Did the Resistance finally pay off?”

He swallows. “Which one?”

[Read more…]

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Yon Rogar’s Hat

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Illustration from The Violet Fairy Book, public domain

Yon Rogar’s Hat
by Larry Heyl

It was late afternoon and Yon Rogar eyed his woodpile. There was no way that tiny little bit of wood was going to get him through fair day, tomorrow. The woodcutter was late with his delivery, probably carving on one of those statues of his. Yon decided to go after some wood himself. He threw his ax in his barrow and pushed it across the bridge to the Wilken Woods.

As usual it was slim pickings with very little deadwood on the ground. Yon picked up a few pieces and then pushed his barrow deeper into the woods. This was more like it, he picked up a few more pieces and then eyed a dead branch, about to fall off an old oak tree. That one branch would fill his barrow, he thought, so he reached up and gave it a tug. It was still well stuck to the tree and Yon couldn’t pull it loose. So he reached up with his ax and gave it a good chop. That did it. The branch fell at his feet.

It was then that he heard the moaning, deeper than a person or an animal would make and more substantial than the wind. He looked around but he didn’t see anything moaning. The wind was picking up, blowing through the leaves with a whooshing sound and the moaning was getting louder. The branches started to thrash about but not like they should in a wind. They were like the arms of a giant, moving with purpose.

One of the branches knocked the ax out of his hand. One slapped at his face and when he ducked it took his hat off. Yon was frightened. He threw the ax and the dead limb into his barrow and he ran for the bridge, leaving his hat behind.

The branch didn’t really fit in the barrow and everywhere it hung out it was getting caught on scrub and bushes. Yon just bulled through never even slowing down until he was out of Wilken’s Woods.

He threw the dead limb on the ground and made short work of it with the ax cutting it into pieces small enough to fit in the barrow. He worked up a sweat and wiped his brow noticing his hat was missing. “I’ll go after it later.” he thought as he loaded the wood into the barrow and pushed it across the bridge.

After he had stacked the wood he was still hot so he went to the Inn for a pint. “I’ll have a story to tell tonight, that’s for sure.” he thought.

He never did go back after his hat.

Epilogue

About a month later Yon Rogar was at the woodcutter’s cabin bringing payment for some wood left at his forge and making another order. After they were done with business Yon looked around and right there, on one of those ax hewn wood statues, was his hat, sitting on that wood head just like it belonged there.

Thinking the woodcutter had found his hat in the woods Jon said, “That fellow there is wearing my hat.”

The woodcutter said, “Well, it was your hat, but I see you’ve got another one now.”

“Still, I liked that hat better. I think I’ll just take it home and clean it up.”

“Best not,” said the woodcutter, “You lost your hat to the woods and it’s yours no more. Ain’t no use in stirring up trouble or that fellow with your hat might come a visiting, looking for it.”

So Yon thought better of retrieving the hat and on the walk home he near convinced himself that he liked the new hat better. It did leave him wondering though, how the woodcutter knew he had lost his hat in a fight with the woods.

“Yon Rogar’s Hat” by Larry Heyl is licensed CC BY. There is more about Milyagon including Mini Zine Quests at minizines.cc.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

SNEGOROTCHKA by Edmund Dulac

SNEGOROTCHKA
by Edmund Dulac

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A RUSSIAN FAIRY TALE

The old wife sang merrily as she sat in the inglenook stirring the soup, for she had never felt so sad. Many, many years had come and gone, leaving the weight of their winters on her shoulders and the touch of snow on her hair without ever bringing her a little child. This made her and her dear old husband very sad, for there were many children outside, playing in the snow. It seemed hard that not even one among them was their very own. But alas! there was no hope for such a blessing now. Never would they see a little fur cap hanging on the corner of the mantelpiece, nor two little shoes drying by the fire.

The old husband brought in a bundle of wood and set it down. Then, as he heard the children laughing and clapping their hands outside, he looked out at the window. There they were, dancing with glee round a snow man they had made. He smiled as he saw that it was evidently meant to look like the Mayor of the village, it was so fat and pompous.

‘Look, Marushal’ he cried to the old wile. ‘Come and see the snow man they’ve made.’

As they stood together at the window, they laughed to see what fun the children got out of it. Suddenly the old man turned to her with a bright idea.

‘Let’s go out and see if we can’t make a little snow man.’

But Marusha laughed at him. ‘What would the neighbours say? They would poke fun at us; it’d be the joke of the village. Besides, we’re too old to play like children.’

‘But only a little one, Marusha; only a teeny-weeny little snow man, and I’11 manage it that nobody sees us.”

‘Well, well,’ she said, laughing; ‘have your own way, as you always did, Youshko.’

With this she took the pot from the fire, put on her bonnet, and they went out together. As they passed the children, they stopped to play with them a while, for they now felt almost like children themselves. Then they trudged on through the snow till they came to a clump of trees, and, behind this, where the snow was nice and white, and nobody could see them, they set to work to make their little man.

The old husband insisted that it must be very small, and the old wife agreed that it should be almost as small as a new-born babe. Kneeling down in the snow, they fashioned the little body in next to no time. Now there remained only the head to finish. Two fat handfuls of snow for the cheeks and face, and a big one on top for the head. Then they put on a wee dab for the nose and poked two holes, one on each side, for the eyes.

It was soon done, and they were already standing back looking at it, and laughing and clapping their hands like children. Then suddenly they stopped. What had happened? A very strange thing indeed. Out of the two holes they saw looking at them two wistful blue eyes. Then the face of the little snow man was no longer white. The cheeks became rounded and smooth and radiant, and two rosy lips began to smile up at them. A breath of wind brushed the snow from the head, and it all fell down round the shoulders in flaxen ringlets escaping from a white fur cap. At the same time some snow, loosened from the little body, fell down and took the shape of a pretty white garment. Then, suddenly, before they could open and shut their mouths, their snow mannikin was gone, and in his place stood the daintiest, prettiest little maiden they had ever seen.

They gave each other a look out of the corners of their eyes, and scratched their heads in wonderment. But it was as true as true. There stood the little girl, all pink and white before them. She was really alive, for she ran to them; and, when they stooped down to lift her up, she put one arm round the old wife’s neck and the other round the old man’s, and gave them each a hug and a kiss. They laughed and cried for joy; then, suddenly remembering how real some dreams can seem, they pinched each other in turn. Still they were not sure, for the pinches might have been a part of the dream. So, in fear lest they might wake and spoil the whole thing, they wrapped the little girl up quickly and hastened back home.

On the way they met the children, still playing round their snow man; and the snowballs with which they pelted them in the back were very real; but there again, the snowballs might have belonged to the dream. But when they were inside the house, and saw the inglenook, with the soup in the pot by the fire and the bundle of wood near by, and everything just as they had left it, they looked at each other with tears in their eyes and no longer feared that it was all a dream. In another minute there was a little white fur cap hanging on the corner of the mantelpiece and two little shoes drying by the fire, while the old wife took the little girl on her lap and crooned a lullaby over her.

The old man put his hand on his wife’s shoulder and she looked up.

‘Marusha’

‘Youshko’

‘At last we have a little girl! We made her out of the snow, so we will call her Snegorotchka.’

The old wife nodded her head, and then they kissed each other. When they had all had supper, they went to bed, the old husband and wife feeling sure that they would wake early in the morning to find the child still with them. And they were not disappointed. There she was, sitting up between them, prattling and laughing. But she had grown bigger, and her hair was now twice as long as at first. When she called them ‘Little Father’ and ‘Little Mother’ they were so delighted that they felt like dancing as nimbly as they had in their young days. But, instead of dancing, they just kissed each other, and wept for joy.

That day they held a big feast. The old wife was busy all the morning cooking all kinds of dainties, while the old man went round the village and collected the fiddlers. All the boys and girls of the village were invited, and they ate and sang and danced and had a merry time till daybreak. As they went home, the girls all talked at once about how much they had enjoyed themselves, but the boys were very silent ; they were thinking of the beautiful Snegorotchka with the blue eyes and the golden hair.

Every day after that Snegorotchka played with the other children, and taught them how to make castles and palaces of snow, with marble halls and thrones and beautiful fountains. The snow seemed to let her do whatever she liked with it, and to build itself up under her tiny fingers as if it knew exactly what shape it was to take. They were all greatly delighted with the wonderful things she made; but when she showed them how to dance as the snowflakes do, first in a brisk whirl, and then softly and lightly, they could think of nothing else but Snegorotchka. She was the little fairy queen of the children, the delight of the older people, and the very breath of life to old Marusha and Youshko.

And now the winter months moved on. With slow and steady stride they went from mountain top to mountain top, around the circle of the sky-line. The earth began to clothe itself in green. The great trees, holding out their naked arms like huge babies waiting to be dressed, were getting greener and greener, and last year’s birds sat in their branches singing this year’s songs. The early flowers shed their perfume on the breeze, and now and then a waft of warm air, straying from its summer haunts, caressed the cheek and breathed a glowing promise in the ear. The forests and the fields were stirring. A beautiful spirit brooded over the face of nature; spring was trembling on the leash and tugging to be free.

One afternoon Marusha was sitting in the inglenook stirring the soup and singing a mournful song, because she had never felt so full of joy. The old man Youshko had just brought in a bundle of wood and laid it on the hearth. It seemed just the same as on that winter’s afternoon when they saw the children dancing round their snow man; but what made all the difference was Snegorotchka, the apple of their eye, who now sat by the window, gazing out at the green grass and the budding trees.

Youshko had been looking at her; he had noticed that her face was pale and her eyes a shade less blue than usual. He grew anxious about her.

‘Are you not feeling well, Snegorotchka?’ he asked.

‘No, Little Father,’ she replied sadly. ‘I miss the white snow, oh! so much; the green grass is not half as beautiful. I wish the snow would come again.’

‘Oh! yes; the snow will come again,’ replied the old man. ‘But don’t you like the leaves on the trees and the blossoms and the flowers, my darling?’

‘They are not so beautiful as the pure, white snow.’ And Snegorotchka shuddered.

The next day she looked so pale and sad that they were alarmed, and glanced at one another anxiously.

‘What ails the child?’ said Marusha.

Youshko shook his head and looked from Snegorotchka to the fire, and then back again.

‘My child,’ he said at last, ‘why don’t you go out and play with the others? They are all enjoying themselves among the flowers in the forest; but I’ve noticed you never play with them now. Why is it, my darling?’

‘I don’t know, Little Father, but my heart seems to turn to water when the soft warm wind brings the scent of the blossoms.’

‘But we will come with you, my child,’ said the old man.’ I will put my arm about you and shield you from the wind. Come, we will show you all the pretty flowers in the grass, and tell you their names, and you will just love them, all of them.’

So Marusha took the pot off the fire and then they all went out together, Youshko with his arm round Snegorotchka to shield her from the wind. But they had not gone far when the warm perfume of the flowers was wafted to them on the breeze, and the child trembled like a leaf. They both comforted her and kissed her, and then they went on towards the spot where the flowers grew thickly in the grass. But, as they passed a clump of big trees, a bright ray of sunlight struck through like a dart and Snegorotchka put her hand over her eyes and gave a cry of pain.

They stood still and looked at her. For a moment, as she drooped upon the old man’s arm, her eyes met theirs; and on her upturned face were swiftly running tears which sparkled in the sunlight as they fell. Then, as they watched her, she grew smaller and smaller, until, at last, all that was left of Snegorotchka was a little patch of dew shining on the grass. One tear-drop had fallen into the cup of a flower. Youshko gathered that flower very gently and handed it to Marusha without a word.

They both understood now. Their darling was just a little girl made of snow, and she had melted away in the warmth of the sunlight.

Published in 1916 this story from “Edmund Dulac’s Fairy Book” is public domain.

https://archive.org/ … dulacsfair00dularich

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

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Welcome to the Third Edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls (emeritus) and Graham Sleight (managing). All the more than 17,600 entries are free to read online; a few samples appear below. Click here for the Introduction and more on the text; here for Frequently Asked Questions; here for Advice to Students on citations. Find entries via the search box above (more on searching here) or browse the menu categories to the right of the SFE logo.

- Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

This is an amazing resource for stundents, academics, and fans. They even teach students how to make correct citations.

Plus Extras!

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Monday, February 4, 2019

The Blazing World

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THE
DESCRIPTION
OF A NEW
WORLD
CALLED
The Blazing-World.
WRITTEN
By The Thrice Noble, Illustrious, and Excellent
PRINCESSE
THE
Duchess of Newcastle
Printed by A. Maxwell, in the Year M.DC.LX.VIII.

Public Domain

A very early Science Fiction/Fantasy story by Margaret Cavendish published in 1666.

The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World.

A Merchant travelling into a foreign Country, fell extreamly in Love with a young Lady; but being a stranger in that Nation, and beneath her, both in Birth and Wealth, he could have but little hopes of obtaining his desire; however his Love growing more and more vehement upon him, even to the slighting of all difficulties, he resolved at last to Steal her away; which he had the better opportunity to do, because her Father’s house was not far from the Sea, and she often using to gather shells upon the shore accompanied not with above two to three of her servants it encouraged him the more to execute his design. Thus coming one time with a little leight Vessel, not unlike a Packet-boat, mann’d with some few Sea-men, and well victualled, for fear of some accidents, which might perhaps retard their journey, to the place where she used to repair; he forced her away: But when he fancied himself the happiest man of the World, he proved to be the most unfortunate; for Heaven frowning at his Theft, raised such a Tempest, as they knew not what to do, or whither to steer their course; so that the Vessel, both by its own leightness, and the violent motion of the Wind, was carried as swift as an Arrow out of a Bow, towards the North-pole, and in a short time reached the Icy Sea, where the wind forced it amongst huge pieces of Ice; but being little, and leight, it did by the assistance and favour of the gods to this virtuous Lady, so turn and wind through those precipices, as if it had been guided by some experienced Pilot, and skilful Mariner: But alas! Those few men which were in it, not knowing whither they went, nor what was to be done in so strange an Adventure, and not being provided for so cold a Voyage, were all frozen to death; the young Lady onely, by the light of her Beauty, the heat of her Youth, and Protection of the Gods, remaining alive: Neither was it a wonder that the men did freeze to death; for they were not onely driven to the very end or point of the Pole of that World, but even to another Pole of another World, which joined close to it; so that the cold having a double strength at the conjunction of those two Poles, was insupportable: At last, the Boat still passing on, was forced into another World; for it is impossible to round this Worlds Globe from Pole to Pole, so as we do from East to West; because the Poles of the other World, joining to the Poles of this, do not allow any further passage to surround the World that way; but if any one arrives to either of these Poles, he is either forced to return, or to enter into another World: and lest you should scruple at it, and think, if it were thus, those that live at the Poles would either see two Suns at one time, or else they would never want the Sun’s light for six months together, as it is commonly believed: You must know, that each of these Worlds having its own Sun to enlighten it, they move each one in their peculiar Circles; which motion is so just and exact, that neither can hinder or obstruct the other; for they do not exceed their Tropicks: and although they should meet, yet we in this World cannot so well perceive them, by reason of the brightness of our Sun, which being nearer to us, obstructs the splendor of the Sun of the other World, they being too far off to be discerned by our optick perception, except we use very good Telescopes; by which, skilful Astronomers have often observed two or three Suns at once. But to return to the wandering Boat, and the distressed Lady; she seeing all the Men dead, found small comfort in life; their Bodies which were preserved all that while from putrefaction and stench, by the extremity of cold, began now to thaw, and corrupt; whereupon she having not strength enough to fling them over-board, was forced to remove out of her small Cabine, upon the deck, to avoid the nauseous smell; and finding the Boat swim between two plains of Ice, as a stream that runs betwixt two shores, at last perceived land, but covered all with Snow: from which came, walking upon the Ice, strange Creatures, in shape like Bears, only they went upright as men; those Creatures coming near the Boat, catched hold of it with their Paws, that served them instead of hands; some two or three of them entred first; and when they came out, the rest went in one after another; at last having viewed and observed all that was in the Boat, they spake to each other in a language which the Lady did not understand; and having carried her out of the Boat, sunk it, together with the dead men.

The Lady now finding her self in so strange a place, and amongst such wonderful kind of Creatures, was extreamly strucken with fear, and could entertain no other Thoughts, but that every moment her life was to be a sacrifice to their cruelty; but those Bear-like Creatures, how terrible soever they appear’d to her sight, yet were they so far from exercising any cruelty upon her, that rather they shewed her all civility and kindness imaginable; for she being not able to go upon the Ice, by reason of its slipperiness, they took her up in their rough arms, and carried her into their City, where instead of Houses, they had Caves under ground; and as soon as they enter’d the City, both Males and Females, young and old, flockt together to see this Lady, holding up their Paws in admiration; at last having brought her into a certain large and spacious Cave, which they intended for her reception, they left her to the custody of the Females, who entertained her with all kindness and respect, and gave her such victuals as they used to eat; but seeing her Constitution neither agreed with the temper of that Climate, nor their Diet, they were resolved to carry her into another Island of a warmer temper; in which were men like Foxes, onely walking in an upright shape, who received their neighbours the Bear-men with great civility and Courtship, very much admiring this beauteous Lady; and having discoursed some while together, agreed at last to make her a Present to the Emperor of their World; to which end, after she had made some short stay in the same place, they brought her cross that Island to a large River, whose stream run smooth and clear, like Chrystal; in which were numerous Boats, much like our Fox-traps; in one whereof she was carried, some of the Bear- and Fox-men waiting on her; and as soon as they had crossed the River, they came into an Island where there were Men which had heads, beaks and feathers, like wild-Geese, onely they went in an upright shape, like the Bear-men and Fox-men: their rumps they carried between their legs, their wings were of the same length with their Bodies, and their tails of an indifferent size, trailing after them like a Ladie’s Garment; and after the Bear- and Fox-men had declared their intention and design to their Neighbours, the Geese- or Bird-men, some of them joined to the rest, and attended the Lady through that Island, till they came to another great and large River, where there was a preparation made of many Boats, much like Birds nests, onely of a bigger size; and having crost that River, they arrived into another Island, which was of a pleasant and mild temper, full of Woods and the Inhabitants thereof were Satyrs, who received both the Bear- Fox- and Bird men, with all respect and civility; and after some conferences (for they all understood each others language) some chief of the Satyrs joining to them, accompanied the Lady out of that Island to another River, wherein were many handsome and commodious Barges; and having crost that River, they entered into a large and spacious Kingdom, the men whereof were of a Grass-Green Complexion, who entertained them very kindly, and provided all conveniences for their further voyage: hitherto they had onely crost Rivers, but now they could not avoid the open Seas any longer; wherefore they made their Ships and tacklings ready to sail over into the Island, where the Emperor of the Blazing- world (for so it was call’d) kept his residence. Very good Navigators they were; and though they had no knowledg of the Load-stone, or Needle or pendulous Watches, yet (which was as serviceable to them) they had subtile observations, and great practice; in so much that they could not onely tell the depth of the Sea in every place, but where there were shelves of Sand, Rocks, and other obstructions to be avoided by skilful and experienced Sea-men: Besides, they were excellent Augurers, which skill they counted more necessary and beneficial then the use of Compasses, Cards, Watches, and the like; but, above the rest, they had an extraordinary Art, much to be taken notice of by Experimental Philosophers, and that was a certain Engin, which would draw in a great quantity of Air, and shoot forth Wind with a great force; this Engine in a calm, they placed behind their Ships, and in a storm, before; for it served against the raging waves, like Cannons against an hostile Army, or besieged Town; it would batter and beat the waves in pieces, were they as high as Steeples; and as soon as a breach was made, they forced their passage through, in spight even of the most furious wind, using two of those Engins at every Ship, one before, to beat off the waves, and another behind to drive it on; so that the artificial wind had the better of the natural; for, it had a greater advantage of the waves, then the natural of the Ships: the natural being above the face of the Water, could not without a down right motion enter or press into the Ships; whereas the artificial with a sideward-motion, did pierce into the bowels of the Waves: Moreover, it is to be observed, that in a great Tempest they would join their Ships in battel-aray: and when they feared Wind and Waves would be too strong for them, if they divided their Ships; they joined as many together as the compass or advantage of the places of the Liquid Element would give them leave. For, their Ships were so ingeniously contrived, that they could fasten them together as close as a Honey-comb, without waste of place; and being thus united, no Wind nor Waves were able to separate them. The Emperor’s Ships, were all of Gold; but the Merchants and Skippers, of Leather; the Golden Ships were not much heavier then ours of Wood, by reason they were neatly made, and required not such thickness, neither were they troubled with Pitch, Tar, Pumps, Guns, and the like, which make our Woodden-Ships very heavy; for though they were not all of a piece, yet they were so well sodder’d, that there was no fear of Leaks, Chinks, or Clefts; and as for Guns, there was no use of them, because they had no other enemies but the Winds: But the Leather Ships were not altogether so sure, although much leighter; besides, they were pitched to keep out Water.

Continued on Project Gutenberg

Here’s an essay about this work by Emily Lord Fransee on the Public Domain Review.

Mistress of a New World: Early Science Fiction in Europe’s “Age of Discovery”

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Space Beagle - Lift Off

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First Edition

E. Grosvenor log entry t-1
The Space Beagle is departing in the morning.
Although the rest of the crew seems competent I am the only
Nexialist aboard.
I am getting used to sideways looks.
They don’t seem to know what to think of me.
They are mostly old space hands.
But none of us has done anything like this before.
If all goes well we may return before we die.
The more I explain the odds against everything going well
the less they want to talk to me.
I did the math, I know I’m right.
That doesn’t make me popular.
The next time I make a log entry we’ll all be in space.
I’m as excited as a podcaster.

This is my first log entry on my Cosmic Voyage. I have decided to play off of the A.E. VanVogt novel, Voyage Of The Space Beagle.

My text is CC-BY