July’s FEATURED AUTHOR: D.B. Jackson’s “Miss Sephira Pryce Holds Forth on Modern Technologies”…

D.B. Jackson (also known as David Coe) is July’s Featured Author, and because he’s a repeat Feature, we’re doing a little something different this time ’round. Last week we had Ethan Kaille sharing his 1769 Boston. Today, we have Ethan’s nemesis, Sephira Pryce, sharing her impressions opinions of our technologies. Read on!

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“Miss Sephira Pryce Holds Forth on Modern Technologies,” by D.B. Jackson

>>Today, we are pleased to welcome Sephira Pryce. Miss Pryce has joined us from Boston of the 1760s, where she is a thieftaker of great renown and a–

Stop!

>>Uh . . . Miss Pryce, I’m in the middle of your introduction.

Yes, and you’re fouling it up. “A thieftaker of great renown . . .” Dear Lord, what could you be thinking?

>>Well–

I am the only thieftaker in Boston who matters. I am the Empress of the South End, quite possibly the most renowned personage in the entire city. And you make it sound as though I’m little more than a rival to Ethan Kaille. I was thieftaking in Boston while Kaille was still toiling away as a prisoner on that Caribbean sugar plantation. He is the neophyte, not I. And he is hardly worthy of the word “rival.”

>>My apologies. I can–

No, you’re done. I shall see to this matter myself. [Clears throat, smiles.] I am Sephira Pryce, and I am all of those things I mentioned a moment before, and a good deal more. I come to you today, a visitor from another time, to speak to you of the wondrous and strange devices that I have seen since venturing to this future in which you live. I refer, of course, to your “technologies,” though even the word itself is new to me. I have been asked to choose ten of these new developments of which I am particularly enamored, and so I shall. I have no doubt that you will find my opinions of them fascinating and noteworthy for their perspicacity.

To be honest, I hardly know where to begin; so much has changed in the intervening years. But I believe that of all that I have seen, one invention stands out above the rest.

1. The telephone. It may not be the most dramatic of your advancements, but for a business woman such as myself, it would be like a boon from heaven. Imagine being able to speak to someone who lives on the other side of Boston without having to summon that person to my home, and without having to rely on foolish messengers. And as I understand it, these “phones” work beyond the confines of a city — I could, I have been told, have a conversation with someone in New York, or in London, or even in Paris (though I can’t imagine what I would have to say to the French). Remarkable!

I understand that now you have “smart phones.” I’m not sure what that means. They all seem uncommonly clever to me. I understand that these newer gadgets can help one remember engagements, and keep track of one’s finances. They can even offer entertainment. But I have men working for me who do all of that. I just want to call London. I would dearly love to speak with the king!

2. The refrigerator. Oh, to be able to store food for more than a single day without it spoiling, even in the summer! I know of many in Boston, innkeepers especially, who might actually kill for one of these grand ice boxes. Personally, I would pay a king’s ransom for one if it meant that I could have iced cream any time I wanted it.

3. Modern plumbing. Something else (like your phones and your refrigerators) that you who live in your time take for granted. But one need only spend a summer in Boston to know how rank a city can grow without the conveniences associated with your plumbing. Toilets, readily available bath water, readily available dish and cooking water. You have no idea how fortunate you are. And to be able to draw hot water for a bath in the middle of winter without having to heat it over a fire. Such bliss.

4. The automobile. To be honest, I am partial to horses, and the carriages they pull. And I find the noxious fumes emanating from your automobiles to be terribly unpleasant. But I can see the advantage of being able to travel great distances without having to feed and water the beast. And it’s not as though horse dung smells like a bouquet of lilacs. The speed and endurance of your vehicles would be most helpful, and would enable me to do business with like-minded colleagues in Providence and Newport, perhaps even New York and Philadelphia. I would find the opportunity most profitable.

5. The locomotive. Perhaps not as useful for an individual as the automobile, but a stunning achievement in its own right. I have been told that it can carry a person clear across this vast country, and the passenger need do nothing more than sit and enjoy the scenery, or perhaps dine, or even sleep. I should very much like to see the mighty Pacific, of which I have only heard tales.

On the other hand, I must say that I find your aeroplanes to be the height of folly. It’s as if someone took a single car from one of your trains, attached wings to it, and threw it up in the air expecting those wings to begin flapping. Madness! I can’t imagine how anyone could be so insane as to think that such a thing would work. I’ll pass, thank you.

6. The computer. I will admit that I am not certain how this works. It’s a box that can talk to other boxes? A repository for your thoughts that you can access again and again? It sounds almost as impossible as the aeroplane, and yet I have heard tales of people spending literally hours before one of them, and I am, I will admit, intrigued. I would very much like to learn more about them.

7. The television. This device is also quite odd. I find the radio to be far easier to comprehend, but no one seems to use the radio anymore, except perhaps in his or her automobile. This window to another place, on the other hand, is ubiquitous, and I will admit that it is most impressive. Some of what I have seen on it strikes me as quite fascinating. Not all, of course; a great deal of it seems to be utter nonsense. But I like some of it very much. There was one dramatic production in particular — I believe it was called “Firefly.” I would have liked to have seen more of that . . .

8. Motion pictures. I believe you call them “movies.” How quaint. Despite the silly name, I must say that I love them even more than I do the dramas I see on your televisions. Such spectacle! I even like the popped corn, which is strange, because I usually don’t eat it at all. But it tastes better at the movies . . .

9. The camera. As you might expect, a woman of my singular beauty finds particular appeal in this device. An artist’s rendering, even one by the most talented of portraitists, cannot do justice to my appearance. But these cameras of yours are so cunning! They can reproduce my visage in all its glory. I must bring one back with me!

10. Musical reproduction. I hardly even know what to call this. You call them “stereos” I believe, though I don’t know why. The point is though, it would be lovely to have access to music without having to hire and feed musicians all the time. They tend to eat a lot, and they can be very testy about the conditions under which they play. With your stereos — which seem to have gotten smaller and smaller over the years, until now they can fit in the palm of one’s hand! — you can listen whenever you like, without having to interact with those who made the music in the first place. I like that. On the other hand, I have to say that I abhor most of the cacophonous noise that passes for music these days. But that is another matter.

There are other advancements I could discuss, I am sure. You moderners are quite enamored of your technologies. But these are the ones that have most impressed me. And, of course, my opinion carries great weight. At least it does in Boston, in the 1760s.

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Well, thank you so much, Miss Pryce. Now, what about y’all? What’s your absolute must-have, favorite-st, technological advancement to date? Comment and share, then fill out the form below to win a copy of A Plunder of Souls!

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About D.B. Jackson

D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of more than a dozen fantasy novels. Specializing in historical fantasy, D.B. is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, published by Tor Books.

D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

14 comments

  1. Gunpowder. Largely not a fan of the repercussions of this… advance but no denying it’s impact.

  2. Thanks so much for the great suggestions, all. I love these. I have to say that you’re all probably right: Sephira would love a mobile phone, even more than a telephone.

  3. Oh man, I am SO glad I can read about the time and that you can weave magic into the story, but I am SOOOO glad I live in an age I can pop a tart into the wax melter to mask bad smells.

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