The Life in Papers of Sofie K. is based on the life of Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya. It’s basically a literary/fantasy bio, maths meets magical realism. The premise comes from events in Sofie’s childhood – the poor kid had the most terrible Nanny. This cheerful woman apparently had a bent for macabre tales, and Sofie had life-long screaming nightmares about witches and werewolves and the Black Death. Now, I’m not a parent but I dare say if I had a small child I wouldn’t be tucking them into bed with stories about how people infected with bubonic plague were nailed inside houses that were subsequently set alight.
I mean, come on! Nanny dearest makes the Brothers Grimm look like fluffy bunnykins.
In my novella, Nanny’s nightmares come to life: Sofie is shadowed by a monster that is all her nightmares combined. But it’s not an enemy – it’s her shadow-self, sort of daemon and direwolf and Patronus, following Sofie through the universities of Europe. Because Sofie herself is also monstrous – or perceived as being so, with her enormous mathematical talent that allows her to break out of traditional gender roles and make her own way.
My last two novellas have been published by Masque Books, and Masque’s great. But this is too short for them, and I’ve been curious about self-publishing for a while now. I’ve a few more short novellas nearly ready to go that will probably end up the same way but Sofie K. is the first. Here’s a brief taster:
Sofie wants to study at the university at Berlin. This is not an easy thing: she lacks the parts preferred to do so, and the monster is no help. The professors do not want it in their libraries and their lecture rooms, with its thick soft paws and teeth that are too crescent for them, too light and lunar for comfort. Sofie cannot argue that they take the one without the other, cannot leave the monster at home. It is bound to her and will not leave, and she does not try to make it. If it were lost she would lose herself, so while she stops it from burying its teeth in those that thwart her, keeps it from poison and breaking and hammers, she does not leash or muzzle it.
Despite this, there is yet an avenue open to her: an appeal to the senate, a plea for scholarship. A chance for talent to rise above, to compensate for monstrosity. Sofie knows that she will need to sell herself, to walk the line between sty and nightmare, to look the part of a serious student. She holds herself as her father does, stiff-spined. She must appear more pig than monster, a curiosity in place of threat. Her shoes are sensible, rubbed clean of mud with thin lines of delicacy and they make a subdued clatter when she walks. An ugly bonnet makes her look older than she is. It shadows her mouth, and if Sofie ever had a tendency to simper then the bonnet does away with it, because she saw herself in mirrors before she came and this is not a hat to simper in. She does not wish to appear ridiculous.
(She knows some people will see her so anyway.)
The senate is unmoved. Talent is not enough for them–nor ability, nor enthusiasm. Even in clattery shoes she walks too lightly for them, has too much the whiff of monster. An aberration: something to be kept out with spells and salt and silver. They see only the bonnet (not how ugly it is, or the careful preparation behind it) and their fixed idea of women says that Sofie would be happier if she left maths well alone and circled millinery instead.
Anyway. If you want to read more you can find Sofie and her monster on Amazon. Check it out if it sounds like you!