In July 2020, my Gaslamp fantasy “The Golden Lion-Monkey” was published in short story anthology Leo (The Zodiac Series, #8) by Deadset Press. When not exploring myth and history, I am pursuing a PhD in human and primate evolution. When writing “The Golden Lion-Monkey”, I’ve combined my interests in history and fantasy fiction with my expertise in evolutionary Primatology.
My main character Rosanna Corrano is a wealthy heiress but in my alternate Victorian era society, she can keep her inheritance only through marriage and where the inheritance becomes the property of her her future-husband. Rosanna has long been struggling against societal confines and developed an alternate male persona, Dr Leo who as a man the Victorian society can achieve the education, respect and freedom that Rosanna cannot. Through courtship with a wealthy man, an owner of a London printing press, Rosanna begins to realise her persona as Dr Leo is not entirely fictitious, she is both Rosanna and Leo, her existence has become a duality.
In my story “The Golden Lion-Monkey”, my inspiration for a female scientist in the Victorian era was in-part drawn from the historical figure of fossil hunter Mary Anning. Like many women of her time, without money, social status and a husband, Mary Anning had few options. She was very poor and unmarried but she supported herself by selling shells on the Lyme Regis coast in Dorset county. She was also involved with providing ancient fossils she discovered on the Dorset coast to male scientists. Her expertise at fossil hunting was so good that many scientists owed careers and great discoveries to her and she was consulted for her knowledge of the anatomy in many of the giant fossil marine vertebrates she discovered. Victorian society prevented Mary from being a member of the Geological Society (women weren’t admitted until 1904) nor could she be a professional natural scientist like her male counterparts. But even in her lifetime, her significant contribution was recognised with the members from the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of London arranging payment of an annual stipend to support Mary. Despite this, she was not listed as an author on any of the scientific discoveries she contributed to. Although some women in Victorian society did have careers as authors, artists and scientists, they were few and often socially ostracised for the choice. It is certainly true that higher social status and wealth allowed more independence over the uncertainty of survival. Ada Lovelace was the daughter of English poet Lord Byron and Annabella Byron and an engineer, inventor, author and mathematician, but her individual circumstance was very rare.
In the confines of society where women were unable to support themselves without a husband or pursue a life of their own, I drew inspiration for my character of Rosanna from female historical figures who disguised themselves as men to either pursue a employment, express their sexual orientation and in some cases marry or to embrace the duality of their own gender. I was initially inspired by the historical fiction novel Goddess by Kelly Gardiner which explores some of the life of seventeenth century Frenchwoman Julie d’Aubigny.
In my story, “The Golden Lion-Monkey”, Doctor Leo describes a new species of monkey from the Brazilian jungles, refuting claims by other scientists that such a marvellous creature must be Fae in origin. The other scientists consider the tiny monkey so impossibly unique it must be Fae rather than a non-magical creature. Among the scientists, Doctor Leo considers the uniqueness of the lion-monkey as a wonder itself, beyond any magic.
The inspiration for the monkey described in my story comes from a real-life tiny primate native to the jungles of Brazil. Although I have changed the scientific name of the monkey described in my story, the tiny monkey closely resembles the highly endangered Golden Lion Tamarin found in the jungles surrounding Rio de Janero, Brazil. The plight of these tamarin monkeys is dire with latest estimates suggesting as few as 1,400 adults in the wild. This species of tamarin is not found anywhere else in South America and their numbers are decreasing.
My Gaslamp fantasy “The Golden Lion-Monkey” is published in Leo (Zodiac Series, #8) by Deadset Press alongside other great speculative fiction from Australian and New Zealand authors.