All of these pieces came out of the COURSERA-based MOOC "Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World" I took in the summer of 2012.
Alice in COURSERA-Land (after Lewis Carroll)
Letter from Van Helsing to Mina Harker (after Bram Stoker)
Owen Warland’s Last Project (homage to Nathaniel Hawthorne)
National Anthem of Herland (in reference to Charlotte Perkins Gilman)
(cf. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)
Among the papers discovered after Lewis Carroll’s death there was the following scene, which never made it into Alice in Wonderland:
Alice found herself in a classroom that was empty except for the Queen of Hearts, which was pinned up on the back wall. Presently Alice heard little steps. The White Rabbit appeared and handed Alice a piece of paper.
"Write your assignment!" he said.
"But I haven’t learned anything yet!" cried Alice.
"It doesn’t matter." said the Rabbit. "Learning comes after the assignment."
"What topic should I write on?" asked Alice.
"Anything you want."
Alice started to write about Dinah, her cat, about which she knew quite a lot. But whenever she reached a certain line on her page, the words disappeared.
"What happens to my words?" cried Alice.
"Whenever you reach that line, you have used 320 words, and you are not allowed to use more."
Alice started to cry, and when a tear fell on her paper, it disappeared.
"What happened to my assignment?" she asked the White Rabbit.
"It will now be evaluated." replied the Rabbit.
"By whom?" asked Alice (You see, Alice had learned when to use "whom.")
"I don’t know." said the rabbit.
"Does I-don’t-know know anything about Dinah?”" Alice continued. "No!" was the short reply.
Alice was astonished. "But how does he evaluate my assignment?"
"That’s easy. He gives it a 1, or a 2, or a 3." said the Rabbit.
"Off with his head!" cried the Queen.
As Alice looked up, she saw that the professor had entered the room and begun his lecture. The Dormouse was sitting on a table in front of him.
Alice raised her hand. "Professor! What does menstruation mean?"
The professor paid no attention to her and continued with his lecture.
"He can’t hear you." whispered the Rabbit into her ear.
"Why not?" asked Alice.
"The lecture was recorded yesterday." said the Rabbit.
The Dormouse had fallen asleep. "It seems to me," Alice said after a while, "that he is using more than 320 words."
"Off with his head!" cried the Queen. The Dormouse woke up with a startled look on its face…
(this letter was unknown to Bram Stoker and therefore could not be included in his novel Dracula)
My dear Madam Mina:
When we make ash of the King-Vampire and gather around ourselve to say our fare-byes, I not have opportunities of private speak with you. So I write this letter to express my most deep thinkings.
Our poor Miss Lucy only know how look pretty and how say the suitors yes or no. You, on the other side, know more—you can short-hand, you can type-write . And oh! Your braveness! When you hear Mr. Harker be ill in Budapesth, you not hesitate! You travel, all by your selves, to the land of wild Magyars and bring home Jonathan—and make also husband!
When you hear the Un-Dead be inside of London, again you not hesitate. You open type-writer and type diary in wholeness, and in triplication!, in one hour—I still not know how you do it—and become partner of our deliberates.
Some of times we men be not the most bright stick on candle. So, we think Madam Mina are weaker sex and go visit tomb of poor Miss Lucy without of her. Thencetofore you be alone, and the Un-Dead come, and suck neck of you, and leave red hicky. But you not panic—you keep ears stiff; fear not grip you in his vices; and you fight, fight, fight!
I never have see you cry, but I have see men, big men, make wet your shoulder with tears of theirs. Howeverso we exclude you out again almost from voyage to the Transsylvania. But you put down your feet and say no! And we must accept and make partner from you in fullness. Thank to God! Under hypnosation you can tell the about-wheres of the Count and, at the last, not hesitate accompany with me to his forbid castle—what steel of nerves!
When I see you, Madam Mina, I see new woman, nay, I see my she-hero!
Abraham Van Helsing
(Homage to Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Artist of the Beautiful")
A new ending for the story:
Six months after Owen Warland’s last visit to the Danforth house, his body was found slumped on a chair in his workshop. A silver arrow of exquisite manufacture had pierced him through the heart, shot apparently from the bow held by a delicately-crafted putto sitting on a high shelf on the opposite wall. On Owen’s desk the following note was found:
All my life, I have worked to create a perfect work of beauty, man-made, but possessed by the same spirit one gleans from nature’s most beautiful creations, an object immensely valuable precisely because it had no use. Six months ago, I had succeeded. I showed my butterfly to those who had most doubted me, and when I saw it rise in front of their incredulous eyes, I experienced a moment of intense happiness, made even greater by the onlookers’ lack of true appreciation. Any sign of understanding would have sullied my work because it would have become part of their dull world. Was I disappointed when little Danforth destroyed the magical mechanism? Not at all! Happiness cannot last, lest it cease to be an exception, and I left the house more at peace with myself than I had ever been in my life.
All night, I pondered what to do next. It was pointless to recreate what had been destroyed—the happiness it might bring me could not be greater than the one I had experienced. I could not go back to my trade—I knew it would bore me. I could not seek consolation in alcohol again—I knew it would disgust me. And I could not play the fool again—that would not be me. The next morning, I commenced with a new, my last, project, an angel able to follow me with his eyes; to know at any moment where my heart was; to aim an arrow at it; and to release it on my command.
You have found my body and know that I succeeded. Know also that from the confines of my humble body and the world in which it moved, the angel’s arrow has released another butterfly, my soul, soaring into a world of pure spirit.
The following article strongly influenced the interpretation underlying my piece: Wilfred M. McClay, "A Far Other Butterfly," The New Atlantis (Fall 2011) 111-124
Another strong influence has been Hemingway’s short story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber."
(cf. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland)
To be sung to the melody of Woody Guthrie’s "This land is your land, this land is my land"
This land is her land, this land is my land,
Between high mountains we are an island,
A land of gardens, without male wardens.
This land was made for her and she.
A land of mothers, a land of sisters,
We need no brothers, we need no misters.
Parthénogenésis is our thesis.
This land was made for her and she.
If ever men came, we will not blame them.
We’ll keep them locked up, and train and tame them.
To mate with reason, only in season.
This land was made for her and she.
Last change made to this page: 5 February, 2013
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