Concerning Your Recent Creation of Sentient Horse-things on the Next Planet Over

E-mails between Dr Henrietta Higglebottem and Dr Hsieng “Jack” Xao, forwarded by Dr Higglebottem to Stewart C Baker
Art by Liz Argall

Dear Dr. Higglebottem,

The board has received troubling reports from a group of hyper-dolphins about your recent activities on Tau Ceti f.

These reports claim:

  1. that you have created sentient horse-things;
  2. that said horse-things have created a society wherein success is measured by the amount of hay stockpiled and consumed;
  3. that said horse-things have razed forests, drained swamps, re-routed rivers, and otherwise wrecked the planet’s eco-system in order to grow as much hay as possible;
  4. that said horse-things have, additionally, instilled a species of small dog-things with high intelligence but no free will (in direct disregard of the Academy’s charter, which flatly disallows the creation of intelligent beings for the sole purpose of servitude); and
  5. that said dog-things have begun work on interstellar travel for said horse-things.

We would like to remind you that all upliftings need to be cleared for safety and sociability before any work can begin. (Remember Dr. White’s planet-eating mega-whales? We’re still paying that one off.)

We have not received any paperwork from you, which I’m sure is an oversight, so I have attached the requisite forms to this netsend. Please fill them out and return them–along with clarifications regarding the horse-things–at your earliest convenience.

Yours with respect and tradition,

Dr. Hsieng “Jack” Xao
Executive Chair, Administrative Board
Ancient Academy of the Right Honourable Uplifters

42 Brin St.
New New New London
Tau Ceti e



I don’t appreciate your spies snooping on me, and I must confess I’m surprised to hear you compare me to the infamous Dr. White.

Did what we had together really mean that little to you? Even now, I sometimes think fondly on the time we used to spend in the orchard behind the academy, listening to bird-song and each other’s whispered promises. But I suppose all you ever really wanted was the executive chairship.

Anyway, I’ve attached the forms here.



(P.S. My creations call themselves “Equans” and “Lupans,” respectively. Please do not belittle them with your “horse-things” stuff.)

(P.P.S. How is the orchard these days?)

Art for "Concerning your Recent Creation of Sentient Horse-things on the Next Planet Over"

P.S. My creations call themselves “Equans” and “Lupans,” respectively. Please do not belittle them with your “horse-things” stuff.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2018 collection.

Henrietta Higglebottem is a peripatetic uplifter and free spirit. She enjoys short walks on long beaches, hilarious and unlikely anthropomorphizations, apple fritters, and TERRIBLE BLOODY REVENGE. Higglebottem has no fixed abode, but don’t worry–if she thinks you’re looking for her, she’ll find you, one way or another.

Stewart C Baker is an academic librarian, speculative fiction writer, and occasional haikuist. His fiction has appeared in Writers of the Future, Nature, and Flash Fiction Online, among other places. Stewart was born in England, has lived in South Carolina, Japan, and California (in that order), and currently resides in Oregon with his family­­–although if anyone asks, he’ll say he’s from the Internet.

Liz Argall is a speculative fiction author and creator of the all ages webcomics series, Things Without Arms and Without Legs, a comic about creatures who are kind She lives in Seattle, but her heart misses the big silly birds of Australia.

“Concerning Your Recent Creation of Sentient Horse-things on the Next Planet Over” is © 2015 Stewart C Baker
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Liz Argall

This story first appeared in Flash Fiction Online in August 2015.

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