No matter what I end up writing about, it's a chance to do some fine-tuned research of the kind that uncovers story ideas. Many of the articles focus on a period of history that fascinates me: late nineteenth century
I discovered Jumbo as the result of one such assignment, for an encyclopedia of historical events: a brief essay on the acquisition of the Ringling Brothers Circus by Barnum & Bailey. The more I researched circus history, the more interesting the stories became, until one in particular pushed at me to become fiction as well. The majority of the details are modeled from the oddities of real life history: Jumbo's end is true to life, as well as the details of what happened afterward. Barnum's telegram is taken in its entirety from one he sent, and Matthew Scott did raise the elephant from the sickly infant he rescued from a Parisian zoo. The original title was taken from Barnum's billing for Jumbo: "the towering monarch of his race, whose like the world will never see again," which Edmund made me cut in half.
Feelings about the rights of circus animals cover a wide range, and I tend to fall on the liberal side of the fence, but here I've presented Jumbo as one of the characters because the story is primarily his. At the time I wrote it, I didn't think that writing from an elephant's pov was particularly daring – I'd just seen a friend's story from the pov of an intelligent weapon published and received well. I make no pretense of knowing how an elephant thinks, but research for the elephant part included