This Short Story About Death and Bees Is the Strangest, Most Beautiful Thing in Ages

Illustration for article titled This Short Story About Death and Bees Is the Strangest, Most Beautiful Thing in Ages

I was blown away by “Telling the Bees” by T. Kingfisher, newly published in Strange Horizons. To the point where I was kind of amazed that I’d never heard of the author before, until I realized it was a pseudonym for Ursula Vernon.

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We already praised Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives,” and her comics work is also phenomenal. But “Telling the Bees”—which is a very short piece, and a pretty quick read—is something else entirely. Here’s how it begins:

There was a girl who died every morning, and it would not have been a problem except that she kept bees.

When her heart had shuddered back to life and she had clawed her way back from the lands beneath, she sat up and drew a long sucking breath into the silent caverns of her lungs. Her first breath was always very loud in the little cottage, but there was no one there to hear it.

She wrapped her robe around her. It was a dressing gown in the morning and winding sheet at night. Then she swung her feet over onto the floor and the cold tiles were no colder than the palms of the newly dead.

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Go read the rest over at Strange Horizons. It’s worth it!

Top image: dasWebweib/Flickr.


Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, coming in January from Tor Books. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.

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DISCUSSION

Beautiful.

I found this on the web, appears that there are constellations named after bees. At least this one:

http://www.ianridpath.com/startales/musc…

This abandoned constellation, which lay in the northern part of present-day Aries, has a confusing history. It was introduced on a globe of 1612 by the Dutchman Petrus Plancius under the name Apes, the Bee. He created it from four of Ptolemy’s unformed stars (informata), which were described in theAlmagest as lying “over the rump” of Aries. The German astronomer Jacob Bartsch altered its name to Vespa, the Wasp, on his map of 1624.

Johannes Hevelius changed the type of insect altogether when he renamed it Musca, the fly, on his Firmamentum Sobiescianum atlas of 1690. He did not list it as a separate constellation in his catalogue, but retained its four stars under Aries. We now know them as 33, 35, 39 and 41 Arietis. Bode showed Musca on his Uranographia atlas, but within the borders of Aries (below).

The constellation later became known as Musca Borealis, the northern fly, to distinguish it from the equivalent insect that already existed in the southern sky. This longer name seems to have first appeared on Alexander Jamieson’sCelestial Atlas of 1822 (Plate 13). Eventually, the northern fly was swatted by astronomers, although the southern Musca remains.

To add to the confusion, the same stars were used by the Frenchman Ignace-Gaston Pardies (1636–73) to form Lilium, the fleur-de-lis of France (see lower illustration). This appeared in an atlas entitled Globi coelestis in tabulas planas redacti descriptio published in 1674, the year after his death (with a second edition in 1693), but was a very short-lived addition to the sky.