Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thomas Covert, Letter #6

Sixth in a series of letters my great-great-great-grandfather wrote home from the American Civil War, exactly 150 years ago.

Camp Dennison, Jan. 24th, 1862

It is with pleasure that I now take this opportunity to write you a few lines in answer to your kind letter which I received yesterday. I was very glad to hear that you were all well. I am well and getting along well. The sun is shining and it is quite warm here today. I believe it is the first pleasant day we have had since we have been here, if not it is so long since we have had one that I have forgot it. I never found those cookies till yesterday that you put in my satchel. I was looking for Edies likeness, you forgot to put that in. I wish you would send it by Jim if you get this before he leaves and if not send it by Blood. As for our being disbanded, we know nothing about it yet. The Colonial has got back from Columbus but said he could not tell any thing more about it than he could before he went. I should wonder if we were armed and put in the field after awhile. Nothing more at present.

I remain as ever,

T. M. Covert.

I had not time to write more or I would. I have to go and drill.

Those are some pretty old cookies, right?

Do you think the likeness is a photograph? A drawing? A painted portrait (in a frame)?

Covert often makes some kind of distinction between "being well" and "getting along well". Perhaps one refers to physical health, the other to mood and psychology?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things Exist By Imitation of Numbers

A new story of mine, "Things Exist By Imitation of Numbers", is up at Daily Science Fiction.

It's the fruit of the Numbers Quartet project I mentioned earlier, with Stephen Gaskell,
Aliette de Bodard, and Nancy Fulda.

Let me know what you think...

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Thomas Covert, Letter #5

Fifth in a series of letters my great-great-great-grandfather wrote home from the American Civil War, exactly 150 years ago. The first part is dated the 14th, but it was sent on the 15th, so that's when I'm posting it.

Camp Dennison, Jan. 14th, 1862

My Dear Wife:

I now take this opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know that I am as well & getting along as well as could be expected. I was on gard last night & feel somewhat sleepy. The last time I wrote to you I told you that I liked this ground a good deal better than I did the ground at Warren but it is a week since than and it is the damdest muddy place I ever saw. It was all mud last night but is froze up this morning. Charles Babbock has got the measles but is getting better. He has been pretty sick. We have done away with the card playing in the Barricks. It was done by a vote of the Company. Almost every man voted to do away with it. We voted to do away with all profane language and to have dancing once a week. There is a great deal of talk about our being discharged here in camp but we do not know anything about it. The talk is that we will have to be discharged or go into the Infantry. I shall go as Cavalry or go home and not all in camp think the same way, but I dont think there is any truth in the talk of our being discharged. I have been vaccinated for the small pox and it is working well. I hardly think there is any small pox in camp, still there may be. I wrote you a letter last Monday but have not received any letter yet but have been looking for one for three or four days but it will be along before long. We are expecting our pay before long & than I will send you a letter that will make you glad & I hope it will be one or two weeks. Tell Edie I will fetch her something nice when I come home. Nothing more at present, But I remain as ever,

Thos. M. Covert

Jan 15th
I had this letter sealed up when I received your letter. I was very glad to hear from you & to hear that you were well. You must do as you think best about those shoes, for Edie forgot about it at Warren. You had better not make any payment on the place out of the first money I send you for we do not know how things will turn out yet.

Direct your letters To:

T. M. Covert
6th O.V. Cavalry,
Camp Dennison, Oh.
Care Capt. Bingham

I guess card playing and profane language are from the Devil, but dancing is divine. I wonder what kind of dancing they're going to do?

His daughter Edie is not very old at this time, I get the impression from later letters that she's no more than five or six; so the remark that she forgot about the shoes is curious. Did she go visit him at camp in Warren by herself, with a message about the shoes, which she forgot? If so, I hope it wasn't a big deal; it seems a lot to entrust a six-year-old with. Does it have anything to do with the lasts, inspets, bristles & peg flats in the first letter, the ones the Hack Driver was supposed to bring him?

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In Which I am Overtaken By History

Attentive readers may recall that I finished the first draft of a novel (once called Resilience, now currently known as The Unravelling) last May; readers with even longer memories will know that it took a while.

So the part I've gotten up to now, is the part where various events have led to a kind of decentralized, self-directed uprising by a lot of people, which is growing exponentially and leading to a breakdown in the planet's financial system.

I wrote this part probably some time in 2007.

Do you see the problem, gentle readers?

It is pretty much impossible to read these pages in 2012 as anything other than a reimagining of the world financial crisis, the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street. As I read it I am imagining people discussing what I am trying to say by inverting the order of events.

After all, in the real world, first the economy collapsed; and in response to the callous and rapacious way in which elites responded, there was an emergent, well-coordinated uprising across many parts of the world. By inverting the order -- by making the uprising at fault for the collapse -- Rosenbaum paints a reactionary caricature of recent history.

Sometimes we deceive ourselves that our writing is composed of what we wrote -- but this is, of course, terribly naive. Our writing is constituted when it is read. To my discomfiture, while I was working on other parts of the book, History has been rewriting this one.

This, people, is why you need to write books fast.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Thomas Covert, Letter #4

Fourth in a series of letters my great-great-great-grandfather wrote home from the American Civil War, exactly 150 years ago.

Camp Dennison, Jan. 6th, 1862

My Dear Wife:

It is with pleasure that I now take this opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know that we have safely arrived here. We started out Saturday morning at 8 O'clock and got here about 8 Sunday. Our quarters here are a great deal better than they were at Warren. We have barricks here and two large stoves in them. The building is about one hundred feet long and about 25 or 30 wide, with a stove in each end of them. They say that there is a few cases of the Small Pox in one of the Hospitals about one mile from here. There is as near as I can find out about Seven Thousand Five Hundred men in camp now and I tell you we have got a nice camp here.

There was two deaths in camp today, I do not know what Regement they belong to. One died with the measles & the other got poisend by drinking whiskee.. I lost my cap that you liked so well out of the car window yesterday. I went to look out of the window and my cap fell off just as it was always doing. The 2nd Ohio Cavalry leave here next week for Fort Leavenworth, Cansas. They are the Regement that was at Cleveland. I sent you five dollars by Mr. Barnard the morning. We left Warren I drew Eight dollars. I tried to get it fixed so that you could draw a part of my wages before we left Warren. I spoke to the Captain about it but he said that the Colonial was so busy that he could not do it then but I could have it fixed just as well when we got here. So I will get fixed as soon as we get straightened around. The Artillery were shooting at a target from one hill to another the other day when there was a man got in the range of the cannon and had his shoulder shot off. He died of the wound. And there was one of the Zouves went to steal sheep & the farmer see him and shot him through the heart, so I guess he wont steal any more sheep. The Zouves are real thieves any way. I have not got any shirts yet but will get some before long. It was as cold this morning here as it was at Warren when we left and I think colder but it is warmer now.

Jim stayed at Warren to take care the sick. Nothing more at present, but I remain,

As Ever

Thos. M. Covert

Direct your letters to:

Thos M. C.,
Camp Dennison,
6th O.V. Cavalry Regt.,
Care of Capt. Bing.

If you see Binghams Boys tell them to fetch you 2 bushells of Apples.

Write Soon.

Along with his grumbling, Covert has flashes of wit; I like the story of the cap -- presumably riding in a railroad car was novel enough that Covert wasn't prepared for the consequences of it falling off "as it was always doing" -- and of the Zouave who won't steal any more sheep -- and they illustrate two kinds of yarns Covert likes to tell -- ones where he's made a fool of, and ones where he can make wry pokes at the expense of those who offend his moral sensibilities.

Why are his letters sent care of Captain Bingham? Is it the officer's responsibility to distribute mail to his men? Is he the same Bingham whose Boys should fetch Phoebe two bushels of apples? Is he "the Captain" in his official capacity, but "Bingham" when it comes to matters back at home?

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Numbers Quartet

Aliette de Bodard, Nancy Fulda, Stephen Gaskell, and I have written a series of short-shorts that will come out every Wednesday over the next few months at Daily Science Fiction. My first one gets sent to subscribers on January 11th, and should be web-visible a week later.

All the stories are based on mathematical or physical constants -- this was Stephen's excellent idea -- and they will come out in the order in which those constants were, historically, defined or quantitatively determined. There are twelve stories total, three from each of us...

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