January 30th – The Festival of Celestial Science and Travel

At the centre of Dimitri’s Park of Bathing is a huge, incongruous sculpture of a space rocket. It’s once gleaming silver has now been overgrown with climbing plants, the metal burnished and lichen-mottled. The figures inside the large spherical glass sphere at the head of the rocket stare upwards into the night’s sky, as if they would be moved there by force of will alone.

The monument was built in 1889 by a joint committee of Litanchan and Buentoillitant ‘scientists’ as a statement of ambition and intent, a rallying cry to spur on the forward-facing Buentoillitant to great feats of engineering and heroism; the dawn of a new age of science and exploration. Besides today’s festival, the sculpture is the only lasting legacy of this ‘dawn’ that never turned to day.

The festival mainly consists of a small gathering of science-fiction enthusiasts and naive misguided scientists, in the glass dome of on the top floor of Senevich house, overlooking the park. Whilst the original Madame Senevich is long dead, her daughter, Stella, still keeps the house open for the festival today, primarily out of respect for her memory. Whilst the colourful gems, which once slowly made their way around the sky as the dome rotated, have now been sold by the family to pay Madame Senevich’s enormous debts, the space is still beautiful and impressive. In each festival there is at least one person who has only attended to view the dome from inside.

Many of the attendees will come in the clothes of famous fictional celestionauts, as popularised by books like The Sky Opens Wide by famous science fiction writers like Quillian Sarkovyth. They wear brightly coloured lycra suits and gas masks, the sigils of fictional space faring empires pinned to them. Beneath the dome a symposium will be held, with many presenting their space travel theories and rocket blueprints. Whilst is is certain that if one were to sift through the nonsense, a few genuinely sound ideas and plans could be selected, none will ever come to fruition; there simply isn’t the appetite for, or interest in space travel in Buentoilliçan society. In fact, the whole subject is, for many, a sore point.

The 1889 joint committee was headed up by three Litanchan businesspeople: Daniel Starmier, Agentine Velasquith and Firantine Kethiel; they came to Buentoille with reams of plans for spaceships and rockets, with stories of successful launches in Litancha, and of the beauty of outer space. They claimed that the Litanchan government was not interested in funding them, however, as it didn’t feel that their plans would make any money; they extolled the focus on culture rather than capital in Buentoille, and offered up their plans and ‘proven’ science to the City, a cultural boon for all time, in return for funding.

Whilst it’s obvious to many of us today that these supposed celestionauts were in fact con artists, Buentoillitants of the day were captivated by the picture they painted of exploring the vast beauty above them. Many sank huge fortunes into the project (which was initially planned to launch a small rocket from the roof of the Buentoilliçan Institute of Science), but the works never progressed past publicity stunts, beautiful pamphlets, and blueprints, and the three con artists soon disappeared along with the investments.

On another night you might go outside, into the park, and see the rocket monument catch the moonlight reflected up from the surrounding bathing pools. It would play across the glass sphere’s surface, occasionally illuminating the celestionauts inside; an otherworldly scene. But tonight there will only be the faintest sliver of a moon, and it will probably be hidden by the clouds.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Untimely Deaths

  • The Actually Historically Accurate Festival of Untimely Deaths