About this story: The story idea occurred to me partially formed somewhere around early October 2004. It was finished on 5-15-05. The premise for it was me wondering, 'What would happen if women ruled the world? What would happen if there was a world where women were in charge? What would it look like? What would happen?' And so this story was born. I didn't know what to call it, so this novel was originally titled 'Woman's World', and created a fan following on Fictionpress under that name. It has since been renamed to 'Antebellum', which means 'before the war'.
In December 2008 I signed with the Bradford Literary Agency, and as of August 2009 we are officially done with edits and attempting to sell this book to a publishing house. As such, I can only disclose the prologue and first chapter. You can keep up with the publishing status of this book on my website, which can be found on my user profile.
To new readers: Most of my new readers now come on recommendations from my old readers, and I'm sorry you won't be able to read this story in full until publication, but I want to thank you for your interest. I invite you to visit my website, which can be found on my user profile, to keep up with the publishing status of this book and get information on some other fun things going on (sometimes I have prizes or guest blogs from other published authors).
To old readers (you know who you are): Thank you so much to everyone who has been a faithful reader all these years. You brought me this far, and now I'm going forward on my own to make this dream a reality. I miss you guys; I wish I could still ask your opinion on every rewritten chapter and change to the original plot. Please check in every now and then to say hello. :-)
ANTEBELLUM (WOMAN'S WORLD) Prologue
One day no one will remember this, and I can't decide if that's a comfort.
Our lives are not so amazing that their moments of joy or hatred are kept forever. No one's love, no matter how powerful, will surface in the hearts of our great-descendants. History tends to create flawless caricatures of our leaders, smoothing out their earthly wrinkles and mistakes while elevating them for superhuman deeds. It neglects to show the humanity: moles on faces and backs, dusty corners in bedrooms, passive-aggressiveness folded among the awkward laughter at anonymous parties, messy drafts of 'immortal' speeches, torn shirts, mispronounced words, and mistaken impressions. All these things are left behind, not so much considered and rejected by the recorders of the past, but never even known.
Rarely is an account written that explores all the tripped-up, tangled ties between people in their small world. Even more obscure is the lucky person that views defining moments in the world from the front row, at times acting on the very stage. This is my account, and my gift to your children.
This account is creative. Of course it is partly romanticized, smoothed-over, filled-in, elaborated, and abstracted; how could it not be? Creating impressions of people, things, places, and time is what I do, and underneath the propaganda and false fronts, what I am. It is impossible for anyone to write an exact replication of my life, and I cannot present each person in it primly packaged and analyzed, with glossaries and footnotes detailing every minute facet of their inner selves. No one could do that.
What I can give is how I saw and loved them, what I believed they did and why, what our lives were vaguely like, and how we interacted in my memory of our settings. I elaborate on the way I shall write my account so that it will be understood this is my personal confession and contains my personal bias. It is not a document to be revered and taken as absolute truth. I want to show future generations, if there are any, that the leaders whose lives they will study and analyze were not demi-gods, but people. Just hard-working women and men. Perhaps this account will reveal that humanity. Many of the following conversations were never skillfully spun, many of these thoughts were never dredged from my subconscious in that moment, many sights, sounds, and touches are summarized and abridged, because if I explained all the cycles of everyday life -the pencils sharpened, the windows opened and shut, the eyes that saw and kept quiet- what we were would be misconstrued and lost in the developing.
No. I will show you light through wet glass, smothered voices from down the hall, aftertastes, and refractions. It is the best I can do.
There are many days left to travel before I arrive at the home I no longer belong to. The going is monotonous; the landscape ekes by, gradually changing to a background I know. For the first time in several years I have no people to serve other than myself and my daughter. The other passengers of this slow wagon, particularly my traveling companion, care enough for her to allow me some peace. If they know who I am they do not show or speak of it. We sit mostly in silence, rocking to and fro, braced down and yanked up hills, valleys, mountains…
I could go on, describing the train we took, then the automotive vehicle, then the primitive wooden wagons I grew up marveling, but I will not. I could begin at the very beginning, with earth and man and God, or the more recent beginning, namely my birth, or perhaps the day the government realized our threat and put our names on the list of enemies of the state, but none would satisfy you greedy historians, or preserve enough of my privacy, or share the story accurately with no chaff. And so, I will begin with his beginning: He was born, silenced, ruined, and enslaved. None but the last were my fault, and in his lucky case it was that same cursed slavery that led to freedom.
I did not want a slave, but I felt isolated from my fellow women, and since it was my job to sympathize with them, I was gently urged by my patron -she who managed my economic life in exchange for artistic work- to begin cultivating a genuine household. I was many years overdue for this maturity -already nineteen, and childless, fast losing domestic respect within my own Hall. The details and paperwork of the transaction were most likely handled by my patron's assistants, or perhaps some lowly clerk designated to caring for the Artists of her royal choosing. They processed the legal documents on my behalf, arranged the first appointment with the matchmakers of the North Hall, and alerted me as to when and where to show up. I took the tests that would supposedly determine which slaves would be the best match for me, and then scheduled another time to return and begin the courting process.
Did he wonder, in the weeks that the matchmakers whittled away the list of appropriate slaves in my honor, who it was coming to look at him, and if they would choose him out of all the others, or merely let him alone, thankfully and damningly, as had been done so many times before? I never asked him. The double-edged sword that cursed him from the beginning was his saving grace in those days, I suppose. At the least it kept him from other women until God -or His overlooked, random chance- could bring us together.
The morning my selection began I woke in complete solitude for the last time, stumbling through my house in the wet and beautiful region of the north and west, and preparing to walk the country roads that deposited me at the North Hall. It was functional and beautiful, everything one would expect from a world dominated by the female gender for years uncountable until the lingering myths of a time before were, as it is with all people and ages, discarded, leaving only modernism and the present in its wake.
The wonders of our time were the Halls themselves, all four erected as mammoth testaments to the community culture of our nation and gender; North in the northwest, West in the southwest, East in the northeast, and South in the southeast. The quarry-birthed stones of my native North had sunk roots into earth muddy from frequent rain. Towers and chambers decorated the high walls, grand and majestic like castles in the old tales, and indeed the four Halls of the world were our castles, and we the princesses, queens, nearly deities in some respects. The glorious mysteries of our bodies were worshipped, our temperaments celebrated, and our minds honed. Generations were spent proving biologically and philosophically how we excelled in every aspect, unanimously acclaimed (except in dark conversations and whispered rumors of heretics) to be superior, and even the natural greater physical capability of males was written off as further proof of their destiny as laborers.
Of course, I did not question until afterwards why so much time and effort was put into proving feminine superiority. The government channeled its firm propaganda through my own pen, though I didn't know any better. It may perhaps be the clarity of hindsight, or the egotistical subconscious glossing over of any prior false perception on my part, but I believe that in the back of our minds we always knew the truth, and our paranoia stemmed from the stubborn refusal to accept the guilt that would be present if we had acknowledged our brutal mistake. How could we face them, the slaves, if we had to tell them we had been wrong?
We were afraid of them, I think. That was what made the Rebellion so hard to control and calculatingly spread. It was fear, the fear of any master over their enslaved: Fear of an uprising, fear of equality, fear of reparations. If Mistress and slave were made equal, would women fall to their level, or would they rise to ours? Which was more unbearable?
I suppose it is the way of things, but I say them because if this has taught me anything, it is how important accounts like mine are to future generations. Perhaps one day someone will need this story to liberate the world again. It is for this reason I am writing, though I feel disillusioned and internally full, a page so scribbled on that it has become black. There is no more room in me for anything.
Anything, except for this.