“Bones Placed in Apposition”

My short story “Bones Placed in Apposition” is available in the Summer issue of Underland Arcana. It’s free to read online, or you can buy it as an ebook or softcover. Issue 7 also includes stories by Scott Edelman, W. T. Paterson, Ben Curl, Mike Robinson, Eric Witchey, D. Thea Baldrick, and Mattia Ravasi.

Cover of Underland Arcana Issue 7
Cover image by thanawong

Some years ago I spent a fair amount of time with the correspondence of nineteenth century scientists. Among them was Isaac Hays, an ophthalmologist who also had a strong interest in natural science, including the study of fossils. (This was not an uncommon hobby among a group of Philadelphia physicians categorized as “extremely quarrelsome” by scholar Keith Thomson.) Hays and G. W. Featherstonehaugh, an English geologist, found themselves on opposite sides of an argument about the classification of one particular set of fossils. Battles were fought in papers and lecture halls, late friends were defended and honor assailed.

Drawing of fragments of a mastodon skull, including tusks and notes indicating dimensions.
A Titian Peale illustration of the fossil in question, from John D. Godman’s “Description of a New Genus and New Species of Extinct Mammiferous Quadruped,” posthumously published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society in 1830.

If you appreciate passive-aggressive sniping—or, for that matter, aggressive sniping—then I really do recommend perusing the primary sources. I obviously find the entire controversy delightful; and, more seriously, it serves to illustrate some of the practical and philosophical issues involved with scientific study in the United States, as well as the country’s negotiation of its relationship with Europe. Nationalism intertwined with the interpretation of the past, invented species roaming a prehistorical landscape. The small fantastical aspect of my story is less a feat of imagination than conjuring an elephant from a few shards of bone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.