Welcome to the latest in our series of audio adventures, Tales for Our Time. This month's pick is our summer entertainment - my variation on a theme from H G Wells.
Yesterday, Glen Flint, a First Fortnight Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Nebraska, suggested that the Victorian time-traveller might actually be yours truly, indulging not in some dystopian science-fiction but merely tying up a few autobiographical loose ends. Veronica in Auckland warmed to his theme:
Mark has often stated that he is "137 years old" which would place his birth circa the 1880s, nicely coinciding not only with the zenith of "19th Century Imperialism" but also, weirdly and perhaps tellingly, making him a young man when The Time Machine was first published... to follow your theory Glen, is it feasible that the youthful Mark Steyn (possibly not his real name), a promising schoolboy cricketer and member of a prominent literary family acquainted with HG Wells, got hold of the real time machine, journeyed into futurity a few decades, and then became marooned here at some point?
It would explain a lot of things, not just his great love of the music, literature and manners (including proper dress and deportment) of the 19th century, but also his prodigious recall of old songs and songwriters, absolutely beyond the scope of most people, plus his talent for writing obits for long-faded stars: Mark's knowledge of those subjects is based not on learning but on memories, especially intense from the 1920s -1960s when he was at the height of his time jumping, and then tailing off when the Time Machine eventually broke down and he couldn't get parts for it, I'd say circa 1985. It all fits, when you think about it...
PS. Please let us know if you find any examples of 'backmasking' in the previous episodes :)
Ah-ha! Now it all makes sense. From JB, a Steyn Clubber in Montana:
It's all fitting together. And another clue, which Mark unwittingly gave away when he jokes about the hospital being torn down where he was born (Wellesley?), is that any birth records there are lost. How convenient!
And one more piece of the puzzle from Glen Flint again:
Why does Mark still refer to the Trucial States? They disbanded when he was only 12 years old.
Or was he there when they formed?
Now all we need is Mark's denial to turn our hypothesis into a theory. Science!
In tonight's episode, President Neverbend bristles when the visiting English cricket team decline to treat him as a foreigner:
To be sure, in our own time, there are port cities such as Alexandria where one might find Englishman and Greek, Moslem and Jew, rubbing along as best they can. But I had never before found myself in a city where everyone appears to be from everywhere but that city.
I tried to account for it. As you know, Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee is looming, and representative subjects from all the Queen's many lands will be travelling to the imperial metropolis. Suppose they were to remain in London, and grow into distinct communities...
But that did not begin to explain all the Slavic persons I had seen: Was it Metternich who said that the Balkans begin in the Landstrasse? In this new London, the Balkans and the Baltic begin in the Whitechapel Road.
If you have friends who might appreciate The Island of Dr Moreau, Northanger Abbey, Nineteen Eighty-Four or our other tales, we have a special Steyn Club Gift Membership that lets them in on that and on all the other fun in The Mark Steyn Club.
If you've only joined the Steyn Club in recent days and missed our earlier serials (Conan Doyle's The Tragedy of the Korosko, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel, Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, plus Kipling, Kafka, Dickens, Gogol, Louisa May Alcott, P G Wodehouse, Jack London, Scott Fitzgerald and more), you can find them all on our easy-to-access Netflix-style Tales for Our Time home page. Indeed, it's so easy to access that we've introduced a similar format for The Mark Steyn Show.
The Mark Steyn Club is now in its sixth birthday, and helps keep all our regular content - whether in print, audio or video - out there in the world for everyone. In return, membership confers, aside from Tales for Our Time, a few other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
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~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show and our other video content;
~My video series of classic poetry, which returns in September;
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~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world, assuming any such things ever take place again;
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~and the opportunity to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and please join me tomorrow for Part Eleven of Out of Time.