Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dec. 25th, 1837

"On Christmas day in 1837, the Africans and Native Americans who formed Florida’s Seminole Nation defeated a vastly superior U.S. invading army bent on cracking this early rainbow coalition and returning the Africans to slavery. The Seminole victory stands as a milestone in the march of American liberty."

(click on the link to learn more about these bad-ass Freedom Fighters!) 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Part the Third (in which we learn more of Kennia's backstory)

Kennia knew that she had only a few minutes to complete her search of the room and then exit the building.  Even if no one knew that the man was in this particular office, some must have seen him enter the building. She quickly tossed the room, no longer trying to be subtle.  She pulled drawers completely out of the cabinets and flung their contents to the floor when they proved to be of no value to her. Finally, there was only the locked cabinet remaining.

Kennia glared at the old man who was still squirming about on the floor. Rifle his pockets or pick the lock? Either way, time was running out! She figured he must have the keys to this office since he seemed used to coming and going there, so she opted for searching him.  The first chain she found held only his watch but the chain held exactly what she needed: keys! His keychain was heavy with keys but only a few were the small sort that would fit into a cabinet door-lock. Kennia quickly tried each in turn with the third one being the one to open the door. Yes! Here were the sorts of plans and schematics that could be the object of her search. Some of the plans were for a new type of boat, one designed to move under the water rather than over it. Fortunately the dossier was only about an inch thick so it wouldn’t be too difficult to pack. She wrapped it in the oilskin she’s brought for just this purpose and slipped it into her bucket under some of the damp cleaning rags.  Now it was time to escape!

She carefully closed and locked the cabinet door; hopefully, anyone who found the old man would think that a scuffle had taken place rather than industrial espionage. If she was really lucky, the man himself would be too embarrassed to admit to the night’s events and would try to keep the entire incident a secret. She turned to where he was still glaring daggers at her from his position on the floor.

Kennia dropped her working-class dialect as she addressed him. “Like I said earlier, it might be awfully hard to explain how you came to be in this position. You might seriously consider keeping your mouth closed on the matter.  Unless you like looking like a fool.” She turned and headed for the door. The entire episode had taken just over an hour. If she tried to leave the building now someone might notice and ask why she was leaving early. On the other hand, she didn’t dare risk that one of the other cleaners might chance upon her captive lying on the floor. Then she had an idea. She went out of the office and into the hallway and grabbed a bucket of water that the cleaning crew used to rinse their dirty rags and mops. She tucked the oilskin package in its covering safely out of the way and then upended the bucket of dirty water over her skirt. Damn it stunk! But now she has an excuse if anyone asked why she was leaving early.

Sure enough, the foreman gave her the stink-eye as she was going out the side door to the building.  “Where ya goin’ gal? It ain’t quittin’ time and I know that you ain’t finished yer cleanin’.”
“Yeah, boss, I spilled dirty water all over myself and now I need to go home and get clean.”
“Ya leave now, then don’t bother comin’ back. And don’t even think about askin’ fer pay. Ya can’t have worked hardly two hours.”
“No suh, I surely ain’t comin’ back.” Kennia shook her head. She felt herself starting to shake from the strain of her act. She breathed deeply to calm herself.
“Don’t ya start cryin’ now, “ warned the foreman. “If yer leavin’ on account of that someone tried to mess wit ya, maybe I can help ya get on someplace else. There’s heaps of these offices that need cleanin’ around here.”
Kennia was touched by the unexpected kindness in his voice. “No suh, I reckon I got to get me some other kinda work is all. But thank you fer askin’ anyways.”
“Suit yerself” he shrugged and turned away. Now that was a lucky break!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Looks what's up

at  Paper Thin Personas !!! Beauty in Bloomers: A Steampunk Paper Doll inspired by Amelia Bloomer

Rachel Cohen, the artist behind Paperthinpersons, writes:
"Erin Winslow proposed a steampunk set based on Amelia Bloomer’s women’s dress reform movement costume. My first thought was, “No Way!”"

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Jamaica calls for Britain to pay billions of pounds in reparations for slavery:

"Sir Hilary Beckles, chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission , has led calls for Cameron to start talks on making amends for slavery and referenced the prime minister’s ancestral links to the trade in the 1700s through his cousin six times removed, General Sir James Duff.

In an open letter in the Jamaica Observer, the academic wrote: “You are a grandson of the Jamaican soil who has been privileged and enriched by your forebears’ sins of the enslavement of our ancestors ... You are, Sir, a prized product of this land and the bonanza benefits reaped by your family and inherited by you continue to bind us together like birds of a feather.

“We ask not for handouts or any such acts of indecent submission. We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation and move to contribute in a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal. The continuing suffering of our people, Sir, is as much your nation’s duty to alleviate as it is ours to resolve in steadfast acts of self-responsibility.”

(click on the headline link to see the entire article)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Part the Second (in which we learn more of Kennia's backstory)

This office appeared to be the right one for finding plans and blueprints. In fact there were far too many of them and the search was taking too much time. Yes! Here was pay dirt in plenty! She quickly flipped through files and notebooks, hunting for the elusive “doomsday machine” blueprints. And then, just as her eye caught a likely looking file folder, Kennia heard a noise out in the corridor. She quickly grabbed her soapy cleaning rag and started scrubbing at a spot on the surface of the large, mahogany desk. “Oh, no! Don’t let me get caught this close to success,” she worried. Her fear made her scrub all the harder and she almost didn’t notice when the door opened and a wrinkly old white man came into the room.  He was dressed in full plantation finery, complete with a string tie and straw hat to top-off his linen suit.
“Come here, gal, and let me get a look at ya,” said the old man.
Kennia played meek and dumb for all she was worth.
“Do you mean me, sir? I’m just doin’ the cleanin’, sir. It gets powerful dirty here sometimes. It surely does.”
“Never mind that. I told you to come over here where I can see ya. Stand by that lamp.” The old man pointed at the one he meant.
“Yes sir. Just as soon as I get done cleanin’ sir.” Kennia answered. She was so nervous at this point that she almost wasn’t acting the tremor in her voice. She was not about to let him get a good look at her face. Kennia knew that her best asset was the fact that poor women aren’t noticed much. She was just a pair of hands and a scrub brush to most of the people she’d encountered while in disguise.
The old man became more and more insistent and his tone turned from cajoling to spiteful.
“Now look here, colored gal. I just told you to come over by this lamp. Are you feeble-minded? When you get an order, you obey it!”
“Yes sir. I’ve got my cleanin’ to do, sir. Please just let me go about my business.” Kennia tried to circle round the fellow so that she could exit from the only door.  Unfortunately, he was prepared and stepped between her and the door. He took another step towards her and reached for her arm. She quickly jumped out of his reach which made him even angrier.
“Now I won’t be sassed by some uppity colored gal, do ya hear me?”
“Just let me be sir and I’ll just get goin’ on my way. I don’t want no trouble or nuthin’” She made one last attempt to reach the door but Kennia could see that playing dumb wasn’t working.  She smiled grimly yet the old man was too enraged to notice.
The old man took one more step towards her only to find himself being spun about and his right arm twisted behind his back. Kennia wrapped her right arm around his throat, allowing him barely enough air to keep him conscious.
“I ain’t no “colored gal” and I sure as hell ain’t no plaything!” she hissed.  The man gave a surprised grunt in response. “I expect you have a habit of wandering around here, sneaking up on the good-looking gals and seeing what you can get away with.  I don’t play that nonsense. Now I expect that you will not be cooperative so I’m just gonna tie you up for safe-keeping. I expect someone will find you tomorrow morning and let you loose.  But you might not want to tell them how you got this way. Might sound kinda embarrassing in fact.” As she spoke, Kennia deftly slipped a bit of cord around the right wrist and then the left.  His face was red from rage even though he still couldn’t manage to shout for help.  Kennia took some of her cleaning rags and stuffed them into his mouth, being sure to tie one around his head to hold the others in place. Then she tied his ankles as well. As soon as she released her grip on him, the old man sank to the floor, completely helpless although still angry enough to struggle.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Part the First (in which we learn some of Kennia's backstory)

Gentle Readers (at least I hope there is more than one of you!), for this month’s story chapter we will go back in a time a few weeks and then back even further.

Kennia looked at the assembled Coquettes. Outwardly she was still laughing but the experience had not been nearly as carefree as she made out to her audience. She still replayed the events of that evening in her head as she lay in bed at night. . .

She was up north on a mission, out by herself, and trying to be discrete.  Her plan was to pretend to be a charwoman sent by an agency to clean offices. She figured this would give her an opportunity to peek into drawers and filing cabinets undetected. Cleaning crews weren’t well paid for their hard work and so people often quit on short notice and were replaced so no one would think it was odd to see a strange woman appear one evening. Kennia was dressed in a well-worn old woolen frock that would be typical for a working-class woman coming to the big city to look for employment. She had successfully carried out this plan on several other occasions. In fact this engineering firm was the last place left on her list and she was becoming increasingly worried that she would not find what she was after: plans, or at least a detailed description, of a rumored doomsday weapon.

The fabric of the old frock she was wearing was scratchy and she periodically stopped to adjust it, hoping for more comfort. She had a wooden bucket filled with soap and rags hung over her arm. And in the bottom of the bucket was a bit of oilskin in which to wrap any finds that she might make. Kennia sighed, straightened her bonnet for the fourth or fifth time, and walked up to the office building. The women from the regular cleaning crews were already waiting in the alley behind the building. One of them was the contact that had tipped Kennia about the likelihood of the plans being there but she couldn’t read very well and wasn’t sure which papers, if any, were useful. Kennia was careful not to show that she recognized the woman but just followed her and the others into the building.

The woman, Mary, turned to Kennia, “New gal, I gotta show ya what ya gotta clean,” and led her up several flights of stairs to the fourth floor.
“Here. I reckon this is a good place for you to start workin’. But first get ya some water in that bucket and get your soap and rags all lathered up  just fine.”
Kennia smiled. “Thank ya, kindly. I’ll just get to work now.”
The other woman grimaced. “Be careful now.” As she hurried down the corridor towards the stairs, she looked over her shoulder one last time and gave a little wave to Kennia.

The entire fourth floor of the building was occupied by an engineering firm, McMasters and Tate, but much of the space was used as laboratories. After fetching some water, Kennia took the first office on the right and began pretending to dust. Although there were locks on the desk drawers, none of them actually were locked.  She rifled through them and through the filing cabinet without hitting pay dirt. Kennia sighed.  Another dead end. She proceeded to the second office, one that was large and contained several filing cabinets and cupboards as well as a massive, mahogany desk. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Charleston 2015

I see that I had a number of visitors on Juneteenth, and they probably expected a blog post about Juneteenth. I'd made all my usual preparations, stocked-up on Black-eye Peas, rice, etc and had told all my Swedish friends within hearing about the holiday and its significance. But then, I did not write anything because I was in tears over the Charleston shooting. This shooting was aimed at the heart of the Black community:  Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Denmark Vesey's church. If you are not familiar with these names (or even if you are and want to learn more), please read The Charleston Massacre and the Cunning of White Supremacy. Dylann Roof is not some random maniac and his choice of location and victims were not accidental.

A Confederate war memorial in Charleston, SC.

If you look to the right-hand column, you can see a new category: Historical Works about SC. There is a link to the #CharlestonSyllabus, a crowdsourced,  annotated bibliography: 

#Charlestonsyllabus is more than a list. It is a community of people committed to critical thinking, truth telling and social transformation.”– Chad Williams

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A matter of definitions

Back at the Charleston airship docks, the Captain tried to rally his crew's enthusiasm for their new crew mate.
“Told y’all this one was different!” he smirked.
“She’s, she’s white” said Kennia.
Tira’s expression was a study in consternation. “White folks been known to fall offa this ship. Just sayin’.”
“Now, now,” said the Captain. “Harry is white, too.”
“Naw,” said Kennia. “He’s Irish. Everybody knows that they aren’t really white even though they’ve got really pasty skins. Just look how they were treated in their own country by the English. The Irish were “just trash” same as well as brown-skinned folks are here and in Africa.”
Tira frowned in disapproval.
“This gal has a French last name and you know what that means. She’s some kinda Euro-trash no doubt.”
“She’s got red hair,” answered the Captain. “Maybe she’s got some Irish in her. Anyway, she’s our new workin’ partner an’ that’s that. ‘Sides, she’s only here for one mission so Tira, please make sure she doesn’t fall offa the ship.”
“At least not until after we don’t need her anymore” added Kennia.
“At least y’all have got another woman aboard. I’m the one who’s outnumbered by all y’all gals. And its not like you miss Harry, either. I don’t remember either one of y’all bein’ too fond of him.”
Tira just pressed her lips together while Kennia busied herself with checking her carpetbag and its contents.
“I can see this is gonna be a long trip,” muttered the Captain to himself.


I've been wrestling (or wrastlin' as our airship crew would say) with this chapter for at least 2 weeks. I am trying to figure-out how to show the ugliness of racism while avoiding being ugly or using hurtful language, even in an example. I will NEVER use the "n-word" here at any time no matter what point I am trying to make. On the other hand racism is real and it is ugly and one of my motivations for writing this story is to fight racism by showing that it was not "inevitable."

Azie D. does a good job explaining the "Irish thing" in her video:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Susie King Taylor

Susie King Taylor (August 6, 1848 - October 6, 1912) was the first Black Army nurse. She tended to an all Black army troop named the First South Carolina Volunteers, 33rd Regiment, where her husband served, for four years during the Civil War. Despite her service, like many African American nurses, she was never paid for her work.[1] As the author of Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops, Late 1st S.C. Volunteers, she was the only African American woman to publish a memoir of her wartime experiences. You can read it online for free: REMINISCENCES OF MY LIFE IN CAMP WITH THE 33D UNITED STATES COLORED TROOPS LATE 1ST S. C. VOLUNTEERS

  Susie King Taylor

Thursday, April 30, 2015


At the Trading Post, now known by the appellation Grumbley’s General Store:

0utside the store a heavy-set man was standing on an upturned barrel and waving a hammer. He turned to the group standing behind him and asked “This look straight, y’all?”
“Naw, raise up the left side a bit, just an inch or so.”
“You just had me raise-up the right side.”
“And ya raised it too much” was the answer.
“An yer a half-blind old coot, so maybe ya can’t see if the dang thing is even or not!”
“Aw, just nail it up and be done with it. I’m gettin’ a chill and my mug is empty.” He held his tin mug upside down to demonstrate.
Nate Grumbley laughed and pounded one last nail into place. He climbed down from the barrel and surveyed his handiwork with satisfaction. A newly painted sign stated that the building housed Grumbley’s General Store. Personally, he would have preferred to call it an emporium. That sounded so much finer and like a big city department store in one of the modern, tall buildings in Baltimore or New York. Some of them were 10 stories tall! He’d even heard tell of a newfangled contraption called an elevator invented by a fellow by the name of Elisha Otis.
“That’ll do. My arms are fixin’ to fall off my shoulders. I’ll put a fresh pot of coffee to cook and Jed there can add some of his secret ingredient.”
“What makes ya think I got enough to share?” demanded Jed.
“Don’t ya usually? I’m tired of standing out here in this cold mountain air. I am goin’ inside!” and he did just that.


At the Great Council House of the Shawnee Nation:
Several of the elders warmed themselves at the fire and discussed a matter that was causing them increasing concern.

“Perhaps this is larger than a simple incursion. I think that we should confer with our friends to the east.”
“That is agreeable to me as well.”
A third man turned to an ancient man sitting a small distance apart from the others.
“What do you think, Grandfather? We need your guidance. I know that you do not approve of consulting outsiders about our affairs but perhaps it is necessary.”
The others nodded differentially. Although extremely old, the elder still had a sharp mind and his advice, though rarely given, had great weight with his people.

“Yes,” answered Tecumseh. “We must meet with our friends and see what they know of this situation. Years ago I fought the white man so that we would be able to live freely and without interference with our traditional ways. Many times I nearly died in battle fighting side by side with my brothers from other nations. Now we must meet and talk together yet again and see if we face a new threat to our sovereignty.”


OBS!!! Yes, I know that Tecumseh died at the Battle of the Thames fighting alongside the British against the United States in 1813 in our timeline. But in the CFS timeline the coalition led by him won many battles and established the Shawnee Nation as a political power as well as a military power to contend with.

I also apologize for taking so long to add the second bit of this chapter! Mea culpa!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hot Air Balloons

Dear Reader, for this month's non-story post, I offer for your delection 1780s-1790s France to Britain to Early American - Hot Air Balloons.

In addition to which I offer a late 19th century view of personal transport in the year 2000 A.D. (according to European reckoning):

As well as Public Service in the year 2000 A.D. (according to European reckoning):

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Cat is Still Dancin'

“The barges to ship the ore will be waiting downstream soon. But ve must be getting the ore to the barges quietly. Ve cannot haf the vildingar getting the suspicions, no? If they attack then ve must shoot them and that is not good.”
“Herr, um, sir, I think what we are doing is not right. We are telling lies and sneaking about. It is not honest.”
“Hans, you are a good fellow but you do not see the big picture. And you worry too much. All the time worrying about the men, about the weather, about the work. Relax. The vildingar are simple people. I know this. I haf studied about them at the university before I come here. They are busy with their primitive rituals, these nature folk. They have not evolved as we have and do not have the rational thinking abilities that we have. That is why they have no great monuments and universities.”
“Herr Doktor” said Hans. “I know that you are an educated man and that you are smarter than me. But I think you are wrong in your opinion of these peoples.”
“Indeed.” The Geologist’s good humour suddenly evaporated. “So little Hans knows better now, hum? Perhaps you think that you should be in charge? Since you know so much better than educated scientists? How much schooling have you, Hans?”
Hans blushed. His lack of formal education had always been an embarrassment to him, especially when in the company of academics such as the professor.
“No sir. I do not think I know best. But I think even educated men make mistakes sometimes. They sit in universities and libraries but they do not go and live among the folk they write about.” Hans was surprised at his own audacity in responding to the professor’s condescension.
“Even smart men can be wrong sometimes. They are only human, isn’t that so, sir?”
“Yes it is!” snapped the professor. “All the same I do not need advice from an ignorant little peasant such as yourself. You should not be setting yourself up above your betters.”
Hans stared down at his shoes. The conversation had clearly taken a turn for the worse.
“Well?” asked the Geologist. “Have you anything more to say?”
“I just think that these people are not dumb as you think they are. And we are not doing what we said we would. You told the Shawnee leader that we were just some farmers. But here we are stealing copper ore from under their grounds. We do not have their leave to do this. It is wrong.”
“That is enough of your babbling, Hans! It is your job to oversee the men. You do not make the decisions here. Now do your job.”
The professor turned back to his desk and looked pointedly at the papers spread upon it. Hans sighed. He was genuinely surprised at himself. He usually deferred to the geologist both because of the man’s greater age and his higher level of education. That was the way of things in Hans’ little village when he was growing up. The fine folk made decisions and the ordinary folk followed their instructions.
“But maybe that isn’t the only way to live.” thought Hans. “Maybe in this different land there were different ways of doing things.”

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cat on a Hot Copper Roof

Hans sat on the crudely made wooden bench outside of the mining crew cabin. The air was almost warm now that early summer had arrived and he was glad to indulge in a few minutes of sun-bathing after all the spring rain-storms.
“Somebody is a wee bit hung-over now.”
Hans looked-up at the miner. “No, I am just tired and maybe a little bit sick.”
“Sick and tired of this place I’ll bet!” the man laughed, not unkindly.
“I thought everything would be good when we found the copper veins. The men would be busy working but instead they are more unhappy than before.”
“Don’t worry. We are just bored. There’s next to nothing to do here. No saloons, no brothels, not even a general store nearby. It’s not so strange that a few of the men have been wandering off. Let them have  their bit of fun where they can.”
“What kind of fun is this?”asked Hans. “You just now said that there is nothing to do here.”
“Oh, ya know. Just a bit of slap-and-tickle with some local gals.”
Hans squinted. “There aren’t any local gals in this area. Just us. That’s one reason why the professor picked it, to be discrete.”
The other man laughed, “Ya know what I mean! Some of these redskin gals are hot stuff.”
Now Hans was becoming concerned. “Do not tell me that there are native women sneaking into this camp. That is not possible when it is so crowded here. I would see them.”
“Naw, some of the fellas just sorta run across them in the woods. They run wild here, ya know, just like the deer. They ain’t even half-civilized or nuthin’, just runnin’ wild.
“That is not good,” responded Hans. “Not good at all. It is a shame that these men do not have wives and families to keep them happy when they are not working. But it is not good to run wild in the woods like an animal.”
He sighed. What sort of mischief were they up to now? Back in Amsterdam he had signed-up for an adventure or so he thought at the time. This job had all the earmarks of a nightmare.
He excused himself to his companion and headed up the path to the professor’s tent. As usual he waited at the entrance until invited to enter.
“Herr Doktor? I mean, sir? There are some things we must talk about. About the mining and how long it is taking.”
Fortunately the geologist was in a good humour. He even waved his hand towards the coffee pot simmering on the stove and invited Hans to take a cup.
“So vat shall ve talk about today, Hans? Are the men behaving badly again?”
“No sir, they are working hard. I just wonder sometimes what to do with them when they are not working. It is good for them to be busy and not fighting or getting into trouble.”
“I vould tink they would be all tired, no? After working hard all day?”
“I thought so as well. And most of them are but now I think I must look more closely.” Hans sighed yet again.
“And you thought this vould be an adventure where you vould travel and see ze wilderness, ja?”
Hans nodded sheepishly.
“You are a young man. There is plenty of time for adventures. Now ve mine the copper, now ve make ze money, ja? Later ve have ze fun.”