Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Magaret* or {Magaret* + Margaret*} (for Margaret*)

Spoiler alert: Don't read the hotlinks if you don't want to know how it ends...

"Little is known," says Wikipedia, about the author Gregory Casparian, but what is known is frankly astonishing. A Turkish officer who fought in the Armenian army, emigrated to the United States in 1877 with a "price on his head," and eventually settled in Brooklyn, New York, where he became an artist, painter, photoengraver, husband, and father—Casparian also wrote, illustrated, and self-published what has been called the "first lesbian science fiction novel" in 1906. (Which is not a typo.) Set in the year 1960, more than half a century after the time it was written, An Anglo-American Alliance: A Serio-Comic Romance and Forecast of the Future is the author's only published work, and as such deals with two rather outrĂ© topics, according to an article by Jess Nevins on the blog io9. Firstly, it's got such scientific gains as prenatal sex determination and suspended animation; the discovery of "vegetation and moving objects" on Mars and Venus; an astronomical "ice lens" leading to a race of furry, telepathic, electric-wheel-riding aliens; and a "germicide" to cure laziness, something, the author adds, that would be beneficial to "the negroes of the Southern States." (Which, as one reader of the blog comments, it probably would be, seeing as how then maybe white people would have to start doing their own chores.) And secondly ... it's got lesbians. Our two heroines, the blonde and British Aurora Cunningham and the dark-haired American, Margaret MacDonald, meet while attending the Diana Young Ladies' Seminary in Cornwall, situated on the Hudson River. Their homosexual romance takes off from there. In a remarkably sensitive and accurate portrait of the real deal, it even anticipates certain modern advances only dreamt of by a few Victorian women with "passionate friendships" or "Boston marriages." Some may say the story is marred by Margaret's surprising turn at the end; others, however, will see it as liberating. We found 80 examples of today's typo in OhioLINK (17 when also combined with the correct spelling) and "too many records found for your search" (or 712 for the two words together) in WorldCat.

(Aurora and Margaret, An Anglo-American Alliance, from Wikimedia Commons. Click here to peruse a digital copy.)

Carol Reid

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