Today in Literary History

It’s the birthday of Mark Twain, (books by this author) born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835. When he was young, his family moved to Hannibal, a Missouri town along the banks of the Mississippi and a frequent stop for steamboats. And in fact, after a few years working as a printer, he became a steamboat captain, which is where he got his pseudonym: “mark twain” is the call when the water is two fathoms deep — about 12 feet — which is deep enough for a boat to navigate safely.
One of the worst (IMO) depictions of Mark Twain as a character occurred in the Star Trek The Next Generation 2-part episode: “Time’s Arrow”. While the idea was cool and seems to work from a logical time travel sort of sense, the depiction of Mark Twain broke the historical character for me. And while I admire their steadfastness in not using a reset button and having the memory of the 24th century erased from Clemens, I can’t help but think that someone like Mark Twain would have tried to make use of his knowledge, however subtly, once the Enterprise crew left.
At least when Doctor Who met Charles Dickens in an analogous manner, it was just before his death and changes to the timeline were going to be minimal. Here, Clemens would have over a decade after the meeting with the Enterprise crew.
When I read Silverlock for the first time: When the characters find a raft on the great river and start sailing it, it took me a minute and a few paragraphs to realize just what they found, I was gobsmacked. “Huck Finn’s raft!”
Mark Twain was born exactly two weeks after Halley Comet’s perihelion. In his biography, he said, “I came in with Halley’s comet in 1835. It’s coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. The Almighty has said no doubt, ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ ” Twain died on April 21, 1910, the day following the comet’s subsequent perihelion.

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