The Wreck of the „Charles Dexter Ward“ • 2012 • novelette by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette


Cover for Drabblecast 254, The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward, by Bo Kaier

Dr. Cynthia Feuerwerker got laid off from her former position as medician on a liveship due to unethical research. This is the main topic of the story: Where is the line between valuable knowledge and forbidden knowledge? I thought of Leonardo DaVinci’s anatomy studies which were quite crictical at their time or of all those fantasy necromancers claiming to be only scientists, and of course all those roaming zombies.

This space opera employs lots of fantastical elements without falling into cliché, like the already mentioned zombies, ghosts, space monsters, necromancy etc. and embeds it in a believable futuristic, scientific world. It is not a Star Trek space opera with clean steel, tight uniforms and lasers. Instead, the largest ship are bioengineered „liveships“ with mouths, tentacles and a cloaca.

Cynthia is on an away team foraging the deceased liveship „Charles Dexter Ward“ – in short Charlie. Which is reanimated. As a zombie. There you have it.

Although it refers to Lovecraft’s excellent novella „The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward“, it is not exactly horrific, only slightly touches Lovecraft’s style. It’s got a perfect tension arc, lots of action, good dialogues, and a thoughtful epilogue. What else would you want from a novelette?


Meta: ISFDB. First published in The Drabblecast. I’ve read it in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection.  Set in the Boojum Series.


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