Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Universal Fruitcake Theory

During the Victorian era of the New World, several scientists tried to create a theory to explain and understand the universe using the analogy of cake. The most promising and widely accepted of these was Universal Fruitcake Theory, because it adhered most closely to the rule of Occam’s Slice, which states that the theory which gives one the same comfortable satisfaction as a large slice of Victoria sponge is usually the most correct.

Universal Fruitcake Theory was first proposed in a fictional children’s book written in 1835 by the scholar and mathematician, Dodge Charleston, titled Sallis In Plunderland. The story tells of a group of street urchins who are adopted by an elderly but destitute baker, who teaches them to make cakes and sell them on street corners and in Tiffin Dens, whilst skilfully avoiding capture by The Good Folk and The Watchers. The orphans accidentally manage to create a new universe in their large copper cake cauldron and are immediately sucked into a world where logic and reason appear not to exist.

Queen Victoria was so outraged by the book that she ordered every copy to be confiscated and burned. Needless to say, this made Sallis In Plunderland many times more popular than it would have been without the queen’s stamp of disapproval and bibliophiles and young men wanting to impress their sweethearts would go to any lengths to procure one of the few copies which had survived the flames. Enthusiastic fans of Dodge even went so far as to make hand-written copies of the book and sell them for exorbitant sums of cash, but, sadly, Dodge never saw a penny of the profits and, although his social calendar overflowed with invitations to dine in the student quarters of various universities he had never heard of, or give speeches at various Tiffin Dens where the clientele were always so reluctant to let him leave that he had taken to carrying a Nock’s Sugar-Bowl Revolver, his finances did not reflect the popularity of his work.

The Theory…

Universal Fruitcake Theory states that the universe is like a fruitcake and first formed when the All-Mother added all the necessary universal ingredients to her enormous cauldron and stirred it all together with a big wooden spoon. The ingredients came together in places and formed matter, which Dodge likened to the sponge parts of a fruitcake. This formation of matter left holes in other places which were immediately filled by high-energy, pan-dimensional currants. Lastly, and this was perhaps what made the theory so comfortably satisfying, Dodge suggested that aether was like the half teacup of Earl Grey topped up with one part cherry brandy and one part ruby port, and poured over the top of the cake, thus soaking through the entire universe and pervading everything.

Later Developments…

One dark evening in November 1837, General Practitioner, and amateur kitchen scientist, Dirc Appaul, whilst making a batch of mincemeat to send to his grandmother, was struck by a sudden epiphany. He noticed that, in the jars of mincemeat which were left over from the year before, some of the sugar had congealed into long sticky strands, binding currents and other ingredients together. Enthused by this sudden burst of inspiration, he cried “Blow This!” and “Hang baking!” and raced out of the front door of his Lichfield town house and down to Madame Sukie’s Tiffin Den, where he knew Dodge would be holding court that evening.

Dodge and the Tea Fiends welcomed him warmly and were eager to hear all about his new revelations. By the following morning they had drunk the establishment dry, Madame Sukie and her daughter Bess were tearing their hair out, Eightcups Max had been crowned undisputed eternal champion of Parlour Affairs, Christina Biscotti had completed five new books of poetry, seven gentlemen and two ladies had all married the same cat, one man had died in a pool of his own sonnet, and a new addition had been made to Universal Fruitcake Theory.

This new addition stated that the universe contains two types of aether; aether-sugars and aether-salts. Sometimes, the aether-sugars congeal into long sticky energy strands, creating tangible connections between matter. So for example, people or places may become connected to each other by these aether-sugar strands and if that were the case (at this point Appaul had leapt onto the lid of the upright piano in order to make himself heard above the enthusiastic riot) it must be possible to manipulate these strands to form (or sever) these connections.

Appaul suspected that these strands of aether-sugars were in some way linked to fate and fortune and Dodge suspected he was correct. Both Bess and Christina suspected that Max was about to propose to them and Max suspected they were both correct. The Pianist suspected his fingers may be broken and Appaul suspected he was correct and apologised profusely. And Madame Sukie suspected that not one of her customers was able to pay their bill that evening and turned them all out into the street with a kick up the back side and a cheery “Come again, my dears – when you’ve got some dough, I ain’t runnin’ a bloody charity!”

The gutter proved an excellent spot to continue talking about salt. Aether-salts, they decided, must be the opposite of aether-sugars and, like real salt, probably crystallized in vast pools at various points in the universe. Whereas aether-sugars were likely to be responsible for conducting the creative and productive forces in the universe, aether-salts must be responsible for conducting the negative or destructive ones. (As Dodge pointed out, “Sugar tastes nice, doesn’t it? Eh? Not like salt… you wouldn’t put salt in your chai now, would you?”) They saw at once that both types of aether must be necessary for the continuing function of the universe but concluded that if large amounts of aether-salts became deposited in one area, that area would be extremely destructive – possibly having the ability to destroy any matter that entered it.

The Tea Fiends (many of whom were members of The Garish Theatre Regulars) started singing about revolution and wondering would it be possible to build an aether bomb by combining the salt with the sugar? Eventually they moved off to find another den in which to continue their plans. Dodge and Appaul stayed in the gutter outside Madam Sukie’s for three months, after which time they had completed the manuscript for a new book: ‘Through The Cooking Class: An Analogous Approach To Understanding The Universe.’

The rise of Theremythium…

Whilst Dodge and Appaul sat in the gutter outside Madame Sukie’s Tiffin Den, diligently committing to parchment the finer details of their amendments to Universal Fruitcake Theory, Theodore Theremyth, and the rest of the Tea Fiends, trundled off into the lamp-lit ambience of the reluctantly awakening dawn, talking excitedly about the possibilities of aether bombs and eventually put down roots in Bertha Byron’s Tiffin Den in the Venetian quarter of Little Whirling.

By the end of the following day, Christina Biscotti had written twelve more books of Mostly Awful Poetry, Charlie Wainright, Johnny Moonstruck and Joyce Jameson had composed a Song Which Cannot Be Named For Legal Reasons* and The Most Decadent Cake Fight In The World Ever had ended with them all being hurled out into the street.

In the midst of the row, Miss Kerrigan fainted and was lost from sight beneath a large lace tablecloth for quite some time. When she came to, she discovered that Theo Theremyth and Joyce Jameson had taken refuge with her, in an attempt to avoid being struck by flying cream products. Joyce was busily ridiculing Wainright, who was cowering behind Moonstruck screaming, “Very Quiet Gentlemen ought not to assault their friends with trifles, Max!” and Theo was just expressing his ire that Christina had taken to using his second best walking cane as a cricket bat.

Miss Kerrigan decided then and there that her Tiffin Den days were over and she rose in state from beneath the table, only to be struck suddenly in the face by Max’s trifle, on the one hand, and Moonstruck’s chocolate log on the other. At that very same moment, Theo was struck by a jam tart. And then by something far more interesting – an idea.

All these flying tarts and air-borne sponges colliding above their heads in explosions of jam and cream had taken him back to their earlier conversations about Universal Fruitcake Theory. If Dodge and Appaul were right, if there really were these aether sugars and aether salts which, when in contact with each other, would release their stored up energy in massive explosions, similar to those he was witnessing now, then why weren’t they all seeing these explosions all the time?

The more he looked at the colliding cakes, the more he began to realise that there must, in fact, be a third type of aether (a more stable, neutral aether) which acted as a buffer, most of the time, between these sugars and salts. “Ha!” he said to himself, “Yes, that must be it. Well, no need to let Dodge and Appaul in on this revelation just yet, they’ve enough to be getting on with, scribbling amendments to Fruitloop Theory, but if I’m correct…” He hastily excused himself from the cackling Joyce and commando-crawled across the slushy, cream-slick floor as pink frosted missiles soared above his head. Within seconds, he was out in the street again and hurrying back to his workshop, carving an easy path through the Saturday theatre hoards and ignoring their indignant ejaculations at his pompous cries of, “Mind the grease!…er, sorry, rather, Mind the cream!”

Three months later, Theo had published his theory, naming this third aether ‘Theremythium.’

*This appalling song is so audaciously plagiaristic and potentially offensive we have not yet acquired the necessary permissions to print it.




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