“The Shocking Affair of the Dutch Steamship Friesland” — Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of several short stories, including “Evil Robot Monkey,” which is a current finalist for the Hugo Award. Her short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Cosmos, and Escape Pod, and in the anthologies Twenty Epics, The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction Vol. 2, and Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her first novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, is forthcoming from Tor Books. Kowal was also the 2008 winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and when not writing she works as a professional puppeteer.

Men are notoriously reluctant to get married, and when you look at the history of weddings, who can blame them? After all, weddings are pretty dangerous places. The marriage of Claudius and Gertrude in Hamlet ends in what can only be termed tragedy. Good night, sweet prince. In fact, good night just about everybody. In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a misinformed Sir Lancelot rampages through a wedding party, slaying many, including the best man. And these are small potatoes compared to truly disastrous affairs such as the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572, in which a controversial Catholic-Protestant marriage touched off a wave of violence that eventually claimed as many as thirty-thousand lives. Is it any wonder that men stay away? It’s simple prudence, really. In Conan Doyle’s story “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder,” Watson mentions in passing the “shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland, which so nearly cost us both our lives.” Our next story imagines what this evocatively titled case might have entailed—it involves a naive young woman, a royal couple, a glassblower, and the darker side of Italian politics. And oh yes, also a wedding.