L. Timmel Duchamp is the founder and publisher of Aqueduct Press. Her work has been on the Otherwise Honor list multiple times and a finalist for the Sturgeon, Nebula, Homer, and Sidewise awards. In addition to her fiction, she has published a good deal of nonfiction including both collections of her own essays and edited anthologies.

The Silences of Ararat by L. Timmel Duchamp

L. Timmel Duchamp was a Guest of Honor at WisCon 2008. The five-volume Marq'ssan Cycle won a special Otherwise Award in 2009 and in 2009-2010 she was awarded the Neil Clark Special Achievement Award. In 2015 she was the Editor Guest at Armadillocon. She has been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award twice, for her work as a publisher and editor.

It's an old, old story: the King loses what passes for his mind and accuses his perfect trophy wife of adultery and prepares to have her put to death. Temporary insanity, right? Often in such cases, there's collateral damage, and that's the case in this story. But who, in a monarchy like Ararat, can oppose the King? Enter, Paulina, stage left, a sculptor with a hidden talent, a dea ex machina with her own ideas about how this story should end.



  • "Out of all the Conversation Pieces by Aqueduct Press that I have read, THE SILENCES OF ARARAT is definitely in the top five strongest installments…. The narrative is strong and tight, with little fat and solid character development. The author spends enough time developing Hermione and the king that, when the inevitable betrayal occurs, it is both expected but still heart wrenching. The slow build up to the revenge, coupled with the romance arc, made the book a quick, delightful read.


    "For a fun dystopian with a satisfying revenge plot, you can join up with Paulina and Hermione to take down the king by buying the book here."

    – J.S. Field, author of Queen
  • "Duchamp tells the story in straightforward style, using a setting only slightly removed from the here-and-now and characters many of us will recognize as drawn from some of our neighbors. The magical component, while crucial to the plot, doesn't divert attention from the relevance of the story to the world we see on the nightly TV news. Not always a comfortable read—nor is it meant to be—but well worth tracking down."

    – Asimov’s On Books by Peter Heck
  • "This novella is rather out of the ordinary. The king is quite obviously insane, dangerously so. The queen was more of a political accommodation than anything else and whatever affection might have existed between them is swamped by his madness and paranoia. He decides that she has been unfaithful to him and sentences her to be executed. Ordinarily, that would have been the end of it. But there is a sculptor in the castle who has decided to [bring] about a happier ending. The story is mostly about the sculptor, her history and interactions, as she quietly sets about change the course of events. Understated and non-melodramatic, which makes a nice change. One could make the argument that this is not even really fantastic. It is certainly a welcome change of pace."

    – Don D'Ammassa, Critical Mass




You've often asked me why I've stayed in Ararat, against, as you say, all reason. That's a question that has twice in my life here occurred to me, but that I almost reflexively brushed aside. It's funny, in a way, because you'd think that from Ararat's founding on, leaving must have been a no-brainer, while in my own mind, it was staying here that was the no-brainer, in the sense that it has always seemed too obvious for me even to think about. But probably my biggest obstacle in finding a simple answer to your question is the difficulty I've acquired, living here, of putting forbidden thoughts and ideas into words. So much of the story involves forbidden things, which is why I haven't tried to tell you any of this face to face, on your rare visits here.

I have a feeling you're likely to say, after reading this memoir, that while I've given you a long, complicated answer to what you probably assumed was a simple question, I've dodged other important questions that my account raises in your mind. And you would probably be right. But maybe that's an index of the difference your living in Philadelphia and my living in Ararat has made to our respective lives.

I intend to give this to you to take back to Philadelphia with you on your next visit here. I am counting on you not to let anyone else see it for as long as I'm alive, and to keep it safely concealed. Yes, I'll be putting a spell on it to make it invisible to whomever lays eyes on the physical manuscript. But who knows how long such spells even last?

May you be as responsible as you need to be.



In memory, that summer of crisis is suffused with thick golden light, tinting everybody and everything as though in an old, cheaply-developed still photograph. In the natural world, light that golden belongs not to late July and August, but to late December and January, when the sun barely budges above the horizon; and such winter light is always, of course, thin and without warmth, not thick and sweltering. That summer glows in my memory because that was the summer I really saw Hermione, really took in more than the façade created by her branding, and began to feel more for her than casual, detached affection. And because, toward the end, it finished off for good what remained of my sense of wholeness.

That summer, Hermione had it all. Everyone in Ararat, including Hermione herself, said so. Her husband adored her, and her husband's subjects idolized her. Her son enjoyed the best of health, excelled in everything princes were expected to do, and was so handsome, the women at Court liked to say, that he looked "good enough to eat." To top that off, she had just landed a small speaking part in a professional production of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. And last but not least, she was pregnant with a second child — by choice.

Her husband's PR machine went absolutely nuts with this second pregnancy, branding her a veritable blonde Madonna. (In Ararat, no Madonna could ever be holy, but this one came as close as one could get.) Well, why wouldn't Leo's PR machine go all out? Consider: she suffered not a moment's morning sickness (in contrast to her first pregnancy, when she'd puked several times a day for six of the nine months), and she radiated Madonna-­like beauty and health, making pregnancy look like a champagne and strawberry picnic. Inspired by the images of her plastering all social media sites, many of her husband's subjects themselves deliberately conceived, imagining that pregnancy would make them bloom, too. (Ararat actually had a mini baby-boom, for a few months putting a blip on years of population decline.) When one pundit remarked of the Queen, "Now there's an example of true womanliness," the rest of the pack adopted the comment and applied it to the Queen whenever her name or the fact of her presence at a royal event appeared in a news report. "Womanliness" in Ararat usually indicated weakness and irrationality. Thanks to Leo's PR machine, for one brief moment, it became a label to be cherished.

Hermione flung herself into the rebranding with abandon. Dropping her trademark crisp, trim look, the Queen favored flowing gowns foaming with white lace that complimented the peaches-and-cream lusciousness of her skin, revealing her pregnancy as a discreet but palpable roundness that made everyone who saw her long to press their hands against. Ararat's public discourse privileged the expression of both proprietary and proud sentiments, and thousands of people emailed her messages of support and suggestions for diet and exercise and what music it would be best for the royal fetus to hear. Although the Queen read none of the public's emails herself, every time she spoke into a microphone she offered general thanks to all those who sent them for their wonderful support.

I have to admit, the branding of her image, combining "white" purity with womanly fecundity, revolted me. In person, though, I barely noticed it, distracted by the glimpses I began to see of an intensity I'd never before noticed. Those glimpses intrigued me. Maybe, I thought, there was something below the surface of wifely perfection composed of expensive grooming and constant deference to her husband and his most trusted advisers. Hermione was, after all, an actor. It was just possible she was consciously playing the role of the young third trophy wife and not merely following the script without noticing she was doing so.

It was such an old, tired script.

I kept reminding myself that the very idea that her conformity was conscious was so attractive to me that it was likely wishful thinking. Needless to say, I kept my speculations to myself.


A lot was going on that summer besides the usual deaths from the brutal summer heat and wildfire smoke that hung over most of the continent like a pall that the news media serving all the member states of the Congress of Christian American States were careful not to report. The King's mother, Lady Elena, and his brother Paul, the Prince of New Canaan, were on an extended visit to the Court, and because of that, the royal couple hosted large parties every night at dinner. Certain topics were always beaten to death at these dinners (or at least at the ones I attended). The Minister of Trade continually urged the King to wage war against the (putatively) godless Republic of Cascadia for its health and safety regulations, which barred many of Ararat's products from being sold there. Worst of all, members of the Moral Purity party, including most of the King's ministers, campaigned hard to persuade the King to criminalize sexual relations (defined loosely as "involving any genital contact") outside of marriage. This drove me nuts, particularly since the King often ranted about the need for female chastity. Whenever I heard such rants, I had to bite my tongue, because I kept wanting to ask him if he thought all the women he'd had relations with outside of marriage should be shamed and jailed. When I asked Andrew, my husband, about it, he shook his head at me and put his finger over his lips. We were in bed, so this surprised me. Did he think the King's men had bugged our bedroom? When I raised my eyebrows at him, he said into my ear, "Do you really think he'd care?" We never, of course, spoke of it again.

Although no one at Court ever talked about it, another hot topic that summer was Steven Arundel's production of Measure for Measure, scheduled to debut on September 10. Many people thought that Steven had given the role of Juliet to the Queen as insurance against the backlash that performing Measure for Measure anywhere in Ararat would likely provoke. More than one preacher asserted that possibility as fact and called for the King to save his Queen from being used as the pawn of the (putatively) godless entertainment industry. I knew Steven well at that time, but he brushed me off every time I tried to discuss the political implications of the production with him. The Queen had been a professional actor before her marriage. She had taken a long leave from the theater when she married and had only recently begun to play small, roles. Although Steven claimed he paid no attention to politics and routinely displayed ingenuous surprise when one of his productions stirred up controversy, I had long seen through his pose. Steven knew exactly how and when to push his audience's buttons: and he delighted in doing so.

When I asked him pointblank if he hoped that the Queen would preserve the production from pickets or even bombs, he said, "She makes a beautiful Juliet, don't you think? And how much better a real pregnancy is than a cushion strapped to the stomach." Reading between the lines, I understood him to be saying not only that the audience would allow themselves to feel sympathetic to the pregnant-out-of-wedlock Juliet, but also that the Moral Purity people would be deterred from offering even the slightest threat of violence to Ararat's own purest-of-pure Madonna.

Steven was right, of course. The Moral Purity party never did turn against her. They, like the rest of the nation, were in love with her image — even when their infatuation required pretending ignorance of the subject matter of a play the preachers told them was an abomination to the Lord. I've no doubt that if tragedy hadn't struck the royal family, the play would have been a runaway success, and the Moral Purity party would have backed down in the face of the Queen's involvement in the play.

No, only one person in Ararat ever turned against the Queen. And he was the last person any of us at Court imagined doing so.