My Best Unknown Story

by Mike Resnick (for Argentus)

Colonel Teddy Roosevelt

Rough Rider (later President) Col. Teddy Roosevelt

I’ve written a number of alternate history stories about Theodore Roosevelt. Some were Hugo nominees; one was a Nebula nominee; one was read professionally by William Windom; one was optioned by Hollywood; all but one have been resold many times.

So naturally the one with no awards, no award nominations, no movie options, and no resales is the one that I think is the best of them, and perhaps the best un-nominated story I’ve written to date.

Theodore Roosevelt married his childhood sweetheart, and was totally devoted to her. She was weak and sickly, and she died in childbirth in the same house and on the same day that his mother died. Roosevelt was devastated, never allowed her name to be mentioned in his presence again, and went out West to forget it all, leaving behind his budding political career (he was the youngest-ever minority leader of the New York State Assembly), his writing, everything.

Well, of course he came back to live what I think is the most accomplished life in American in history – Police Commissioner of New York City, Governor of New York, bestselling author, naturalist and ornithologist of worldwide renown, Undersecretary of the Navy, organizer and leader of the Rough Riders, President of the United States, trust buster, Nobel Prize winner, head of the first African safari, Brazilian explorer, and the list goes on and on.

But he did that with a robust, healthy, self-sufficient wife whom he could and did leave alone (or with his children) for months at a time. I thought it might be interesting to see what turns his life might have taken if Alice, his first wife, had lived – a woman whose frailty required all the time and concentration that Roosevelt devoted to his other pursuits.

So I wrote “The Light That Blinds, The Claws That Catch”, and sold it to Gardner Dozois at Asimov’s. I thought – and still think – that it was a beautiful and sensitive story, the best of my many Roosevelt stories…and it sank like a stone. If it ever got a review – good, bad or otherwise – I am not aware of it. It is the only Roosevelt story that was never resold (well, until I collected them all in 2008 in The Other Teddy Roosevelts and I don’t think that counts.) It was never podcast.

In brief, it remains to this day my very best totally unknown story.

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