This is going to be a cheat of a post, for I have little time to work up a more in depth one. Originally I was going to write on the subject of the First One Publishing’s contest, which has been skewered around the internet, but there is little I can add to the discussion with the time I have, and anyway the contest page looks quite different now than before the hubub began. Instead, I turn to a birthday.
Today in 1809 Edgar Allan Poe was born.
It’s popular on his birthday to link to various of his famous works. The Raven, the Fall of the House of Usher, the Tell-tale Heart. But one of my favorites from Poe was perhaps one of his little known pieces: Raising the Wind or Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences. In it, Poe departs from gothic horror, science fiction, or detective work and instead writes an oddly humorous little piece about grifting (“diddling” as he calls it). I have no reason to believe that he invented any of the cons represented in the piece, but included are some common grifts that are still pulled. The second example concerns confusing people with change counting. One even has some of the hallmarks of what has now become the infamous Nigerian Scheme, though taking place with smaller stakes on the side of a river.
What draws me to the piece? Simply the fact that it’s not a Poe piece, at least it’s not something anyone would think of as a Poe piece. The man was more multidimensional as an author than his reputation has become to modern readers. So I just wanted to take a moment to remind people that the man was not all about death and gloom. Occasionally he was just about petty theft and grifting.