Before the Crystal Broke: The Inspiration Behind “Broken Crystal.”
By Rie Sheridan Rose
I have been a fan of Victoriana since I was old enough to know it existed, and that was far too many years ago. I fell in love with the fashion, the architecture, the society in general. So, when I saw the call for Dark Divinations, I wanted desperately to earn a spot in it.
I had written a story about the spiritualism of the period before, but it was humorous, and that wasn’t the sort of story I wanted to tell this time. When it came time to choose a focal point for the divination type I wished to feature, the crystal ball was really the only option that resonated.
Crystal balls have been associated with divination as far back as the first century CE, when Pliny the Elder wrote of “crystallum orbis” used by soothsayers. What gypsy fortuneteller worth their salt is without one? For my story, I wanted the spiritualist to be the real thing—able to see the future and communicate with the dead. She doesn’t like to monetize her gifts, but her mother insists.
Researching the story was fascinating. A brief history of Victorian spiritualism in general (Turning the Table by Bekah June) came my way several years ago by way of a convention panel. It provides an interesting, if brief, overview of the spiritualism scene in the period.
But it wasn’t until I found an article titled “How to Use a Crystal Ball” on themoonlightshop.com that several key elements of the story came together. Using the information in that article, I was able to give some “verisimilitude” to what Madame Rose saw in her crystal ball.
One final thing of interest to the reader, perhaps, is the story was originally written in third person. One of my beta readers asked me if I had considered putting it in first person, and the rest—as they say—is history. I feel what makes it most haunting is that it is told by Molly herself.
Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including On Fire, Hides the Dark Tower, and Killing It Softly Vol. 1 and 2. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs.