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Conversation Pieces

Vol. 79 — The Silences of Ararat

by L. Timmel Duchamp

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Read a sample from the book.

It’s an old, old story: the King loses what passes for his mind and accuses his perfect trophy wife of adultery and prepares to have her put to death. Temporary insanity, right? Often in such cases, there’s collateral damage, and that’s the case in this story. But who, in a monarchy like Ararat, can oppose the King? Enter, Paulina, stage left, a sculptor with a hidden talent, a dea ex machina with her own ideas about how this story should end.

A Few Thoughts on Writing The Silences of Ararat


This novella is rather out of the ordinary. The king is quite obviously insane, dangerously so. The queen was more of a political accommodation than anything else and whatever affection might have existed between them is swamped by his madness and paranoia. He decides that she has been unfaithful to him and sentences her to be executed. Ordinarily, that would have been the end of it. But there is a sculptor in the castle who has decided to [bring] about a happier ending. The story is mostly about the sculptor, her history and interactions, as she quietly sets about change the course of events. Understated and non-melodramatic, which makes a nice change. One could make the argument that this is not even really fantastic. It is certainly a welcome change of pace. 
  —Critical Mass, Don D;Ammassa, 4/18/21

Duchamp postulates a future in which the U.S. has, after a second Civil War, broken into several smaller nations, divided largely between democracies and religiously based kingdoms. Ararat, where the first person narrator Paulina lives, is one of the latter.

Paulina, a sculptor who uses magical illusions to enhance her work, is married to one of King Leo’s senior staff members, and is thereby closely involved in the court’s doings and intrigues. So when the king accuses his younger brother Paul of being the father of Queen Hermione’s unborn child, the implications hit close to home. Eventually, her husband is ordered to remove the newborn child to a neighboring kingdom—where he is killed in a car crash. Not surprisingly, Paulina blames the king—and begins to think of ways to make him pay for the death of her husband.

So when the king puts the queen on trial for adultery, Paulina uses her magic to put herself in the position of defense counsel. The trial itself is a series of stunning twists, concluding with the queen’s apparent death—an illusion engineered by Paulina, who spirits the queen away to a secluded hiding place. There she sets out to gain her revenge on the king, in a long-term plan drawing on both her talents as a sculptor and her magical skill.

Duchamp tells the story in straightforward style, using a setting only slightly removed from the here-and-now and characters many of us will recognize as drawn from some of our neighbors. The magical component, while crucial to the plot, doesn’t divert attention from the relevance of the story to the world we see on the nightly TV news. Not always a comfortable read—nor is it meant to be—but well worth tracking down.- 
  —Asimov's SF, Peter Heck, July/August 2022

ISBN: 978-1-61976-208-4 (13 digit)
Publication Date: Mar 2021
paperback 118 pages