The Lincoln Train
|"The Lincoln Train"|
|Author||Maureen F. McHugh|
|Published in||The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction|
Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction
|Publication date||April 1995|
"The Lincoln Train" is an alternate history short story published by Maureen F. McHugh, published in April 1995. It is collected in volume 31 of the Nebula Awards anthologies, in Alternate Tyrants (1997), and in Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction (2005).
The story follows Clara Corbett, a teen-aged girl from Mississippi who is being forcibly removed from her home following the end of the American Civil War. As she and her neighbors board the train that takes them to St. Louis, they begin to realize that perhaps everything will not turn out as the government claims.
The point of divergence occurs on April 14, 1865, when John Wilkes Booth's bullet fails to kill Abraham Lincoln, but renders him a vegetable, and incapable of governing the nation. Secretary of State William H. Seward is widely believed to be the true national policy maker. Seward instigates a harsh policy of removing all Southerners who had owned slaves to the western territories in a neo-Trail of Tears, where many of them are left to die of starvation and disease. The brevity of the story, and the limit of its narrative viewpoint to one young girl in a remote province, do not allow this alternate history to be examined in any great depth.
In her letter accompanying the story in volume 31 of the Nebula Awards collection, Maureen McHugh states that she originally intended to write a story from Lincoln's perspective, but after reading his speeches and letters, felt incapable of "capturing the man on paper," and so kept him "offstage."
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