There’s a place somewhere around horror (but not horrific) with speculative fiction and satire admixed that I really, really enjoy as a reader. It’s an odd spot, and it’s wonderful finding a new author who writes there (like finding Paul Magrs’s Brenda and Effie series), and so I was delighted when I bumped into “Stars Swimming in the Ether” from Genevieve McCluer (which you can read online at that link). Victorian era, Lovecraftian overtones, and a healthy dose of men being dense and blind to the capabilities of the women who work with them mix together into a delightful tale of a doctor, an alien, and an opportunity.
Doctor Priscilla von Muller doesn’t want to suffer fools, but she’s working with a group of men who, well, suit that particular bill, even if some of them are somewhat decent scientists. Her reaction to being asked if she’d be willing to offer her advice on a creature the men can’t seem to figure out—“Have you tried vivisection?”—sets the tone for the rest of the piece, which is full of a dry, amused sort of humour.
But it’s when von Muller comes face-to-uh, tentacles? with the creature that things take their first real turn, and the opportunity for the doctor proves to be more than she had imagined. Victorian era scientist and being from the far beyond strike an accord that transcends species, and I delighted in the interplay between the two as they realize just how much they have in common. More, the story ends on just the right note, leaving the reader with a sense of a great deal more to come.
I was lucky enough to touch base with Genevieve McCluer, and she had this to say:
From the author:
“Stars Swimming in the Ether,” was somewhat of a Lovecraftian parody, portraying what would normally be a figment of horror in any of his stories as instead one of fascination and attraction. The main idea had just been a Victorian semi-romance starring a mad scientist, but given Lovecraft’s obsession with England, I couldn’t help but poke a bit of fun at him with the body of the story. The scientist group, however, had nothing to do with any of his stories and was instead an homage to AIM from Marvel comics. I’d always wanted to write something Victorian, so I had a lot of fun with it.