oh eff yeah


Revving up for AU week a bit early. This long one-shot was sparked by a reference to the Montgolfier brothers and is mostly just an exercise; in it, Helena isn’t intended to be THE H.G. Wells (the timing is right-ish, but I tried to make it work, and things got really complicated, so I said forget it), and the Wells family isn’t that H.G. Wells’s family. They’ve got way too much money to be those Wellses (right, duckling?). Anyway, Richard Holmes, author of the delightful Falling Upwards, says of hot-air balloons that they “are mysterious, paradoxical objects. They are both beautiful and ephemeral. They are a mixture of power and fragility in constant flux. They offer a provoking combination of tranquillity and peril; of control and helplessness; of technology and terror. They make demands.” If there is a piece of writing that more accurately describes Helena George Wells, I myself have not seen it. (Also bearing in mind that the real, historical H.G. Wells wrote The War in the Air.) The thing is, sometimes an idea is like “hey guess what you will not sleep again until this thing is done.” And I am like “You are bugging me shut up also I would like to sleep.”


London, 1895

Myka Bering, investigative reporter for the New York World, had formulated some ideas about what she would encounter upon arriving at the estate of the Wells family. She had been sent to look into sensational stories of an inventor—a woman inventor, the daughter of said Wells family—who claimed to be on the verge of a major breakthrough in flight. Specifically, balloon flight…. but balloons had been decorating the air in Europe and America for at least a century; everyone knew that. What could be done with them that had not already been done? Myka’s editors also had expressed their doubts about whether a woman, this Helena Wells, could truly be the source of such extravagant claims. Surely, they had said, some man is behind it. The woman is involved merely to attract attention. “To London you go!” Mr. Pulitzer himself had directed Myka. “Woman reporter debunks claims of woman inventor! That’s a story that’ll sell papers!” And however much Myka might have wished that could be merely “reporter” debunking “inventor,” she too had to acknowledge that Mr. Pulitzer’s formulation would be more likely to catch readers’ attention.

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