Yes, a skeptical novel, my first of what I hope will be at least three novels, assuming I live long enough. They take a long time to write.
It is science fiction/alternative history. Or is that complementary and alternative history? It would be on the hard sci-fi end of the spectrum, i.e. lots of exposition on topics is part of the deal. I tried not to be too preachy.
Every Saturday will be half a chapter until complete; if it was good enough for Dickens, it’s good enough for me. Spoiler: Little Nell dies of Cholera.
Enjoy. And if you don’t like it, I don’t want to hear about it. It would be worse than criticizing my wife or children.
Skeptics in the Pub: Cholera
Cast of Characters
The Atwoods. Cholera victims.
Babbage-Ada Universal Knowledge Machine: a computer.
Becker, Kerri: OMSH nurse.
Blogg, Amy: an Illustrator for the River Weekly
Bonham, John: ‘volunteer’ from Columbia County Health.
Bosworth, Joseph: Commissioner of the Oregon Ministry for Social Hygiene, and Bruno’s immediate boss.
Boyles, Darin: Skeptic, Consumptive, knowledgeable about Empire history.
Bruno, Jordan: head of the Multnomah County division of the Oregon Ministry for Social Hygiene.
Colvin, Blair: River Weekly reported.
Cramond, Elizabeth: head of the Humourist Society.
Cunningham, Cody: member of Skeptics in the Pub.
Davies, Agnes: bartender and the eldest daughter of the owner of the Lying Husband.
Finnegan, Helen: OMSH nurse.
Ford, Grace and Allison. Non-identical twins, Mathematics professor, owners of a Babbage-Ada Universal Knowledge Machine
Fraternal Order of Archelaus aka Skeptics in the Pub: focused on understanding the sources and validity of knowledge.
Galloway Sherman: Collegiate in the OMSH.
Greaves, Leo: OMSH support staff.
Howitt, Isabel. Editor and publisher of the River Weekly.
Kelliher, Eleanor: head of the Eastern Medicine Society.
Lying Husband: Pub where the Skeptics meet.
Mallinson Faith: member of Skeptics in the Pub.
Nutella-Aziz, Gloria: sub-Master of the Portland Eastern Philosophic Society.
Oregon Ministry for Social Hygiene (OMSH): the Royal Ministry in charge of public health and outbreaks.
Pender Jarod: Times reporter
Pettenkofer, Maxwell: Master of the Royal Homeopathic Society
Redmond, Tristan: Master of Society of Naturopaths,
Smith, Travis: member of Skeptics in the Pub
Turney, Susan: OMSH nurse
Varadkar, Jasmine: head of the Clackamas County Ministry in Lake Oswego
Walker, Mary: the only female surgeon in the city. Head of the Skeptics in the Pub.
Watkinson, Tobin: head of the Chiropractic Society.
Webster, George: OMSH support staff.
Wherton, Cassandra: a Collegiates at the OMSH.
Of experiments intended to illustrate a preconceived truth and
convince people of its validity: a most venomous thing in the
making of sciences; for whoever has fixed on his cause, before he
has Experimented, can hardly avoid fitting his Experiment to his
cause, rather than the cause to the truth of the Experiment itself.
Thomas Spratt, History of the Royal Society
The headline jumped out at me as I climbed off the train and on to the station platform.
The Flux Returns
The paper was dated 18 June 2017. Today.
“Crap,” I thought. “The Cholera.”
I tossed a shilling on the newsstand and picked up the Oregon Journal.
I tucked the paper under my arm, picked up my carpet-bag and my wooden box, and continued out of the train station. Luck was with me, and the cable car and I simultaneously arrived at the stop. I climbed on, settled into a seat as the cable jerked the car into motion, and unfolded the paper to catch up with the news of the day. I was tired from the five-day cross-country journey from New York to Portland.
I wanted a shower and a quick nap before the evening’s meeting of Skeptics in the Pub—the last thing I needed was the Cholera. But the Cholera had no interest in what I wanted and had returned to Portland after an eighteen-year hiatus. It was going to hit the fan. That meant for the foreseeable future work would be busy busy busy—no easing into the job after time away. I started to read the paper.
PORTLAND— The Cholera claimed another victim today. Doug Baker, age 5, became ill early this morning with fevers followed by an unrelenting flux and passed shortly before noon. He had been preceded in death by his sister Amy, age 7, and his father, Albert, age 26, both having passed the day before. He is survived by his mother, Laurie Baker.
This brings to 15 the number of deaths in Portland since the epidemic began on 13 June. All 15 deaths, including young Master Baker, have been in the Kenton neighborhood. At least 31 others have been stricken with the disease.
Why the Cholera is concentrated in the Kenton neighborhood, and other sections of the city are spared, remains a mystery. The Oregon Ministry for Social Hygiene (OMSH) issued a statement noting that the Crown is aware of the outbreak and are doing all that is within their power to bring the epidemic under control, but that the cause of the Cholera and how it is transmitted remains uncertain.
The Multnomah County Division of the OMHS will continue to monitor cases and place the Cholera victims in quarantine to help control the outbreak.
As of tomorrow morning, the Cholera would be my responsibility. I needed information on the Cholera, and I needed it today. I looked up to see where how far the cable car had gone. I still had several stops until home, so I continued reading.
“It is important for the community to remain calm and be assured that we are doing everything in our power to identify and control the cause of the Cholera,” said Joseph Bosworth, Commissioner of the Ministry for Social Hygiene.
“We do not want a repeat of the 1999 epidemic, and we will work with the Medical Societies to apply the lessons learned in that tragedy to limit the spread of the Cholera.”
“The 1999 outbreak of the Cholera was thought to be spread by the air in hot, humid, and crowded environments, explaining why the disease was concentrated in working-class neighborhoods and rookeries, who lack the proper fresh air. If possible, the public should avoid these conditions.”
“The last epidemic was halted by a cold snap in mid-October, so being June, we may be in for a prolonged siege by the Cholera.”
“The Royal Medical Societies and Guilds have yet to offer an opinion as to the causes and treatments for this outbreak of the Cholera,” said Maxwell Pettenkofer, Master of the Royal Homeopathic Society.
“To date, no consensus has been reached by the Royal Medical Societies as to either the cause of the Cholera or the best ways to treat or prevent its spread. The idea that the Cholera is due to bad air is perhaps erroneous, although the Cholera is due to an acute miasma amenable to homeopathic treatment.”
“The Medical Societies will continue to meet, share information, and investigate approaches to the Cholera. In the meantime, Homeopathy has the only proven record of treating the Cholera. Practitioners of the Homeopathic Philosophy are available throughout the Pacific Northwest for consultation.”
The Portland Cholera outbreak of 1999 killed 2431 men, women, and children. It lasted six months and stopped after an early October frost. If history repeats itself, it may be many months before the Cholera will again be arrested by cold weather, which, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, is not due until November 29.
Continue reading page 12.
I folded the paper, set it down on my lap, and sighed.
I glanced at my watch —3 p.m. I had 16 hours all to myself before I reported to work.
The cable car reached my stop. I got off and walked the three blocks to my apartment. On the way, I stopped to send a brief telegram to several members of Skeptics in the Pub.
“NEED AS MUCH INFORMATION TONIGHT ON THE CHOLERA AS POSSIBLE. SORRY SHORT NOTICE.”
That should, I hoped, help get me started.
It was good to be home. I tossed my carpet-bag in the corner and placed the wooden box carefully in a closet. I took a quick shower, set the alarm for two hours, and dozed off. I wanted to be rested for the meeting later tonight.
The clang of an alarm clock is never the best way to awake from sleep. Too abrupt. Especially when you are train-lagged. Traveling east to west always discombobulates my sleep cycle. My body thinks it is midnight and moving, but the clock says it is 8 p.m. and I am still. I have long wondered if there were a faster way to travel cross-country, say in under a day, if train-lag would be less of an issue. Eh. Probably not.
It was time to head over to the Skeptics in the Pub and see if I could learn something about the Cholera.
To be continued here