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The Annals of ‘Calamity’ Jane

Oh, you’ve heard of ‘Calamity’ Jane Austin. She was a native of Texas when it was a republic, a noted women’s author in the early 19th Century. She even has a web page, summarizing her colorful life and extensive body of literary works. Surely you have heard of her Northanger Abilene, or Fence and Fencibility. And Winchester Park is undeniably a classic. Click here for her bibliography!

No? Well, perhaps you have never been a high school student with an English paper due tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m., desperately trawling the internet for stuff to rip off.  About fifteen years ago several evil-minded authors, including Jo Walton, Lois McMaster Bujold, and yours truly, decided to lay a trap for these unwary midnight researchers, their fingers inaccurately fumbling over the keyboard and misspelling authors’ surnames. I even drew a sketch of the famous author, depicting her in bonnet, high-waisted gown, cowboy boots, and a long rifle. Alas it is now lost to the mists of time. But Richard Harter seems to have saved the best of Miss Austin’s work, recounting the hoax and gathering bibliography and biography all at this one handy link. ! I am thrilled and amazed that the page gets numerous hits a month, and I trust and hope that English teachers everywhere look at the resulting papers, and enjoy a well-deserved laugh.


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