Monday, 22 July 2013

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE IN SPACE: Take Your Pick


Friends, it has long been in my mind to write a book around the concept "Pride and Prejudice in Space". As I embark upon the journey it has come to my attention that there are varying ways to tackle such an endeavour. Therefore, I have completed the first chapter in two different manners, and present them here for your perusal. Please help me make the decision as to which I should pursue farther...I await your comments!

     (A) MORE OR LESS CLASSIC

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good spaceship, must be in want of a first mate.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering the planetary atmosphere, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
"My dear Mr. Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you heard that the luxury bunker over in Mining Sector 8E is let at last?"
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
"But it is," returned she; "for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it."
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
"Do you not want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife impatiently.
"You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."
This was invitation enough.
"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that the bunker is taken by a young man of large fortune from Avenir station; that he came down from space last fiveday summer in a private shuttle to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before the Festival of Founding, and some of his cyborgs are to be in the house by the end of next week."
"What is his name?"
"Bingley."
"Is he married or single?"
"Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year from nanofactory ownership. What a fine thing for our girls!"
"How so? How can it affect them?"
"My dear Mr. Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them."
"Is that his design in settling here?"
"Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes."
"I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley may like you the best of the party."
"My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty."
"In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of."
"But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood."
"It is more than I engage for, I assure you."
"But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Foreman William Lucas and his wife are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him if you do not. You are far more gifted in making our beetle pull the carriage."
"You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy."
"I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference."
"They have none of them much to recommend them," replied he; "they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters."
"Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves. I think I may be getting ash lung."
"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least."
"Ah, you do not know what I suffer."
"But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood."
"It will be no use to us, if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them."
"Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will visit them all."

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of nineteen Foundings had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous or dying of ash lung. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.

(B) A LITTLE BIT WILDER

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady in possession of a good spaceship, who comes down from heaven to hunt beetles, must become a magnet to the males for miles around—sight unseen, of course. 
Not that Karlita Tower was ugly. It was more the case that people, upon seeing her, would say things like “Oh,” and think things like is this really the Avenir heiress being chased by half the colony? But then, money always talked louder than looks, especially in the arid wastes of Eclectia.
Karlita’s own feelings and views were little known upon her arrival in Mining Sector 8, yet her practical desirability was already so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding inhabitants that she was considered the rightful property or indeed a sugar mama of one or more of their sons.
The Benedict family was no exception. “Knute!” said Adlade on coming home that day, leaning her spear in the corner and tossing a bag of larvae onto the table. “Knute, do you remember that fancy bunker the aristos fitted out five Foundings ago?”
Knute emerged from the kitchen, wisps of grey hair floating up from his pate. “Shut that door, will you? Don’t want any more ash in here than we already have…That luxury place over in 8E? Yeah, I remember.”
“It’s lived in finally. For a while at least. And you won’t believe who it is.” Adlade slammed the door against the gritty wind, still twitching and bouncing on the balls of her feet.
Knute sighed. “I see you want to tell me, so go ahead and spill it.”
“Karlita Tower! The aristo said to be inheriting half of Avenir.”
“Bah. A mass of metal out in space—who wants to inherit that?”
Adlade frowned at her husband. “Only a madman would say Avenir isn’t important.”
“Then, my dear, you must have married a madman.” 
Her stomach rumbled and she reached for the bag again, but Knute stopped her. “Nuh-uh. Let me cook them first.” He looked inside and withdrew a fist-sized wriggler. “Good haul today. These’ll go great with beetle meat—if the boys managed to trade for some.”
She followed him through the mud-brick doorway and watched as he plopped the larvae into a pot, then dipped herself a little of the brackish water from the barrel. “They’ll be home soon. I can’t wait to tell them.”
“Why would they possibly be interested?” 
Adlade tipped her head back and groaned at the ceiling. “You are the most impossible man on this planet. Can you honestly not see the potential of a rich girl living in our vicinity?”
Knute nodded at the pot. “Will she buy your creepies for eatin’? Or the rocks we mine? Maybe that’s it. Rich folks like diamonds, right?”
“Impossible, I tell you!” She emptied the cup and slammed it down. “Don’t you realise—she’s single!”
“Ahhh!” Knute’s eyes widened in mock disbelief. “You want her to develop an attachment to a local boy?”
“She can have all of ours if she wants. Whale knows we need them taken off our hands.” Adlade waved her hands at Knute’s downcast look. “Oh, don’t be such a sod. Sure, you could have handled your finances better, but the past’s the past and we have to provide for them some other way.”
“I suppose she’ll be throwing parties and suchlike.”
“Knute, you couldn’t show less enthusiasm if you tried. We have to at least meet her and get her introduced to our three.”
“Don’t wanna,” he growled.
“Then some other young men will sweep her off her feet. It’s all about being proactive, dear.”
“Let the boys be proactive on their own behalf, then. I weary of these politics.”
“You signed up for a lifetime of politics when you sold your land to your cousin.”
The water came to a boil and Knute stirred the larvae with a stick. “The woman speaks truth. I have nothing left for my own progeny.”
He fell silent and Adlade began to feel badly for pestering him so. She retreated to the tattered cassock in the front room, where she listened for the sounds of her sons’ return from the mines. But all she heard was the rumbling of her stomach and the howling of the gale.

Adlade awoke to the smell of food and the clumping of boots. She opened her eyes and smiled at her sons, who carried several interesting-looking packages. “Did you get any meat?”
“A little,” said Reilly, the middle one. He hefted one of his sacks. 
Zane looked apologetic. “I still have today’s diamonds. I should be able to trade them tomorrow.”
Adlade turned to the youngest, but Lantan only frowned. “I told you I’m no good at mining. Send me to Adagio, or better yet, Zirconia or Avenir, and I’ll make myself useful. But not here.”
“Did you even try?” Knute ran a finger over the shiny clean tools clipped to Lantan’s pack.
“Stood around watching, more like.” Zane glared at him.
“His first time, give him a break.” Reilly handed the meat sack to his father, who went to add its contents to the meal. 

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