A Fictional Sell-Out

An essay by L. Gordonsby-Wilkes, as provided by Soren James
Art by Luke Spooner


Dedicated to people for whom the world has been tricked from them:

In Victorian England, it was common practice for an upper-class gentleman, when dressing for formal occasions, to enter a room with a low ceiling and to there perform a small jump, thus ensuring his hat was on properly. This practice began to die out in the 1880s due to a substantial number of neck injuries.

It was due to one of these neck injuries that a certain Lord “Dippy” Swanson was forced to give up rhinoceros hunting. Lord Swanson’s frustration and ensuing boredom resulted in him attaining the job of minister for education to the British Empire. It was in this post that he had his most notable historical influence: altering the apparatus of the education system to include the red pen.

Having always found the blunders of youth repugnant, he was often anxious to highlight these mistakes. So in his new position in charge of the education system, he chose to underscore these errors in the most confrontational and aggressive colour available, believing that if the pen were to be truly mightier than the sword, then the pen, too, should be coated in blood.

A less historically observed fact about Lord Swanson was his surreptitious control of the means-of-production of red pens, which led to a gross disparity in working conditions. Almost single-handedly, he promoted the idea that red pen manufacture was a specialised process, requiring specialist workers. It was through these manipulations of perception that he managed to ensure lucrative business investments, and comfortable jobs, for many of his wealthy friends.

A Fictional Sell Out

One day, I had the opportunity to approach Lord Swanson regarding these issues, but when I put the facts before him, he gruffly sought to dismiss me by saying, “Ridiculous! I have not been lining the pockets of wealthy friends, and clearly there is no difference in the manufacture of black or red pens. You’re off your head, sir!” He then made to leave the gentleman’s club, only to be prevented by two doormen who were sympathetic to my argument.


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2016 collection.


L. Gordonsby-Wilkes (born Luke Gordon) was raised in the Northern English town of Rustingwart. His childhood was spent in dire poverty, of which he would later claim that the only toy he owned during these difficult years was piece of wood he’d named “Imposter.”

As an adult, Gordonsby-Wilkes became a factory owner, eventually gaining a knighthood for his invention of the felt-tip pen. In 1901, he took over Felching Manor in the Surrey countryside, where he became increasingly reclusive until his suicide in 1914 (leaving a note that stated simply, “Imposter”).


Soren James is a writer and visual artist who recreates himself on a daily basis from the materials at his disposal, continuing to do so in an upbeat manner until one day he will sumptuously throw his drained materials aside and resume stillness without asking why. More of his work can be seen here: http://sorenjames.moonfruit.com/writing/4585140878


Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.

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