Today’s Story Time, “A Place to Begin,” was originally published in Weird Tales, back in 2001 when George H. Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer were editing. I published three stories with them and I remember that period in the magazine’s history fondly (even if they were a bit slow in response times).
Today’s Story Time is a retelling of Beowulf, specifically an account of his final battle with the Great Wurm. The old king, long past his prime, taking up his weapons one last time because it is his duty and he’s the only one who can, except for one other with more courage than sense. For some reason this part of the legend always fascinated me more than the more famous part about Grendel and his mom. Maybe when I’m old enough I’ll figure out why, but this story was me trying to sort it out. I think I got somewhat close to the heart of it.
“The Right Sort of Flea” was my second appearance in Realms of Fantasy, back in April 1997. It’s never been collected, and now I’m wondering why. My bad.
I finished a new story about five minutes ago, a story I’d begun several months earlier and put aside, mostly because I had no clue what it was about or where it was going. This time I understood it a little better, I think. This happens a fair bit; the only unusual thing about the whole thing was that the story had only stewed for a few months. I’ve had fragments that eventually morphed into workable stories after several years. Many, decades later, are still waiting.
If there’s a working writer who doesn’t produce a significant percentage of fragments (pieces of scenes, opening pages, an image or two, even partial novels) I’ve never met them. Most of us are smart enough to hang onto and cherish those fragments. Not everything turns into a finished piece, from opening page to –the End-, in a linear fashion. In fact, a great many do not. Stories die on the page. Stories do not reveal themselves, or make you think they’re about one thing or other until you realize that you simply cannot get there from where you are. This tends to happen more to those of us who do not plot everything out before we start. I sometimes envy those who can, since the way I and others I know work is not efficient by any means. Most of the time we get the job done anyway, but at other times we just leave the wreckage of stories.
That is not to say that any of it is abandoned, at least not permanently. None of it is wasted material even when, by all appearances, you’ve crashed your vehicle into a rock all you’ve left is a hot mess. Maybe that scene or character fits into something else you’re working on. Maybe there’s a theme you can salvage. Or maybe, sometimes, the wreckage can be repaired completely, transformed into something you never knew it was meant to be, which is why you wrecked it in the first place, you goofball. We’re impatient creatures; it is our nature. Fortunately for us, story is very patient. If it was in there when we started, it will wait until we’re smart enough to find it.
However long that takes.
Both Present and Coming Soon is one way to describe Beneath Ceaseless Skies Special Double Issue #250, in that part of the issue went live on April 26th, containing stories by K.J. Parker and Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam. Part 2 will go live on May 3rd (Thursday) with the balance of the issue, which is “Silence in Blue Glass” by Margaret Ronald (you gotta love that title) and “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village,” which is the longest title I’ve ever used for any story, so unlikely anyone will remember it. Just remember this coming Thursday. The link is up there.
This is the third story in the adventures of Jing, Mei Li, and Pan Bao, which officially makes it a series, by my definition, though I’m at the point of wondering where it’s going to go, as in remain short stories or eventually morphing into novels, the way Yamada did. Plus I’m wondering just how long I really should spend in 5th C BC Warring States Period of what will eventually become China. There are other things I need to write and only so many usable hours in the day. Not to mention we’ve started yet another major DIY renovation project with its own demands.
I’ll sort it out, which is just another way of saying it isn’t sorted at all, yet.