Fiction in 2019 #1 – Much Obliged, Stephen


I was in a right pickle. Not one of those pickles someone says before telling you they’re stuck between choosing two lovers, one a busty maiden perkier than Everest and the other some Adonis bathed in the remaining olive oil reserves. That’s not being caught in a pickle as so much as being trapped in a light French pastry. No, I was well and truly swimming in the vinegar, hurtling toward the Sun in a single-seater ship with a lick of power, no plan, and no hope. You could spread me over a sandwich I was in that much of a pickle.

Honestly, I suppose I should bally-well row back a bit and explain exactly how I got into this mess, but it seemed important to establish the rumblings of the train heading toward me. It’d be a bit like introducing the kids to the stray tomcat you’re about to beat over the back of the head with a shovel because it won’t leave the prized-winning tomatoes alone. I’m the tomcat and the shovel is the Sun. Don’t grow too attached.


And with such a start, it should be immediately obvious if Much Obliged, Stephen might be a story you are interested in. Published in Issue #10 of MYTHIC, Much Obliged, Stephen is essentially a love letter to the style of P.G Wodehouse. But in space.

I’m aware I’m not the first person to try this. Charlie Stross’s Trunk and Disorderly is another short story that takes a Wodehousian sensibility to science fiction. I enjoyed his spin on things, but I wanted to write something that was even more of a Wodehouse send-up. I took all the major trappings of Jeeves & Wooster, from a helpful butler, a semi-hopeless aristocrat, a convoluted scheme and a troublesome aunt, and then gave them sci-fi makeovers. The butler is now an AI, the aunt is a post-local entity, and the convoluted scheme involves space racing.

Personally, I love this story. I think it is very funny, while still retaining an interesting plot. I recognise, though, that this might not be for everyone. This is Wodehouse through and through. It is about trying to find the perfect comical description for every moment. It is for witty asides. It has an unexpected discussion of Jeremy Bentham’s view of utilitarianism. If you like your sci-fi with a whole lot of funny, or you really wished someone was willing to send Jeeves up to space, then please check out Much Obliged, Stephen. I think you will love it.

And if you read that introduction and thought that you wanted to stab yourself with a fork, well, I’m sure I’ll have another story that might be a better fit for you instead. Let’s find out over the next week.

You can buy MYTHIC #10 and Much Obliged, Stephen in both ebook and print form here:

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