The Unexpected, and a Confession

Apropos of last week, I finished the rough draft of the new Lord Yamada story yesterday. I am honestly surprised. I have to blame the Flash Fiction group, since I was looking at the trigger word for that week’s assignment and thought to myself…that’s a Yamada story.

No way.

Yes, way.

So first I wrote the flash, then went on to expand it to (to me) proper story length. It’s still short for a Yamada piece. Most of those were in the 5-7k range and many went to novelette, even excluding the actual novels. This one’s only about 3000 words. May get a little longer (or shorter) in the rewrite. We’ll see. If and when it’s published, I’ll be sure to let everyone who’s interested know. And even those who aren’t. Blogging is like that.

Now the confession, triggered by a twitter exchange I saw a few days ago. A writer I know was confessing to writing fan-fic when she was starting out. Several others chimed in to, sharing their confessions. Some were still writing it, long after they turned pro.

I found this all a bit fascinating, so herein is my confession: I have never written fan-fic.

For the one or two of you out there who don’t know what fan-fic is, it’s simply writing your own stories using someone else’s characters and set in their universe. Just for fun. Or because you think you could handle certain things better than they did.

But wait, Straw Man says. I know for a fact you’ve written stories featuring Beowulf, and Oedipus, Hera, and Eris, Goddess of Discord.  You didn’t invent them! Very true. And I will concede that, legendary or not, someone made them up at some point. Unless Eris or Hera takes offense at that categorization and I therefore humbly withdraw it. I don’t want either one mad at me. Regardless, in my mind there’s a very fine but definite distinction between writing a story based on legend and writing, say, a Harry Potter story. That distinction is the author.

That, to me, is the difference. Writing a story based on a legend and supplying my own slant on the story is being part of a conversation that we, as human beings, have been having with ourselves for a long time, and one that deserves to continue. Writing in a known author’s universe, otoh, is me playing in their sandbox, and I do not belong there. It’s not even about copyright, for the most part, since most fan-fic writers only publish in closed groups and aren’t trying to usurp the original author’s prerogative. Even in cases where the copyright has expired, I still can’t do it.

It’s not a moral position. I know other people don’t have this problem, and if you can do something interesting with a public domain work, go for it.

There have been times when I’ve wanted to, mind you. A few years ago someone was putting together a Fritz Leiber tribute anthology. At that point, Fafhrd and the Mouser were fair game, and  since Leiber was one of my favorite writers ever, I wanted in.

I couldn’t do it. I tried, but every word I put down on paper echoed in my head as the same word: wrong. And no matter what I told myself, or what I wrote, that word never changed.

I’ll always regret not having my work in that book. But I’ll never regret why.

 

An Overdue Update

I just got back from the Little Falls Library (Literally, like half an hour ago) where I recorded five flash fiction pieces for a local podcast series. It appears to be a very cool project with a lot of talented people and I’ll post specifics for availability and whatnot once everything is sorted. It should be available next month.

Next, a very surprising but pleasing bit of news from David Stokes at Guardbridge Books. My story from Tales of the Sunrise Lands: Anthology of Fantasy Japan, “The Cat of Five Virtues,” is a finalist for the Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award. It is always an honor just to be nominated, and thus I am honored. The winner will be announce at Capclave next month.  Here’s the full list of finalists:

“A Vague Inclination to Please,” by Brandon Daubs in All Hail Our Robot Conquerers, ed. by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, published by Zombies Need Brains LLC, (September 2017);

“The Cat of Five Virtues,” by Richard Parks in Tales of the Sunrise Lands: Anthology of Fantasy Japan, ed. by David Stokes, published by Guardbridge Books (July 2017);

“Floaters Can’t Float,” by Pip Coen, published in Compelling Science Fiction, ed. by Joe Stech, (April 2017);

“Oba Oyinbo,” by Jonathan Edelstein, published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, ed. by Scott Roberts, (October 2017);

“The Oracle and the Warlord,” by Karina Sumner-Smith in The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound, ed. by Lucas K. Law & Susan Forest, published by Laksa Media, (September 2017);

“Probably Still the Chosen One,” by Kelly Barnhill, published in Lightspeed Magazine, ed. by John Joseph Adams, (February 2017);

“The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, ed. by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace, (September 2017);

“Through Milkweed and Gloom,” by Wendy Nikel in Submerged, ed. by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, published by Zombies Need Brains LLC, (September 2017).

You can read more about the award (and the organization) at  WSFA.

Story Time: Knacker Man

Today’s Story Time is “Knacker Man,” first published in Robert Bloch’s Psychos back in 1998. As you can probably guess from the subject matter of that anthology, it wasn’t exactly sweetness and light. In fact, it was my one and only Jack the Ripper story. Why? Because one day I heard an interesting word that I’d never heard before. I looked it up, and the story came with it. That’s the way it works, sometimes.

“Knacker Man” will stay online until next Wednesday, August 1st, then something else will go up.

There Are Five Lines

As I’ve mentioned before, not terribly long after I moved north I joined a local writer’s group. I’ve belonged to a few before, and while the experience hasn’t always been a complete success, usually the presence of other writers and the sharing of works supplies a boost of motivation to get my own work done, and that’s something we all need now and again. The difference this time is that this group specializes in flash fiction, which is new(ish) for me and under the aegis of the local library, with links to the wider community.

In short, the library and a local theater group leader are collaborating to turn some of the work from the flash fiction group into podcasts. There are grants involved and other official stuff, but mostly it will involve the members reading their own work, either as part of audio anthologies or even single author audio collections. A lot of this hasn’t been worked out yet, but it appears promising. In preparation we were asked to list some of our favorite lines from the flash pieces we’d done within group.

I mean, sure, I’m doing it, but I have to admit these sort of listings make me a little uncomfortable. First, in any unified (I hope) work, a single sentence out of context loses…well, context. Some of my favorite sentences make absolutely no sense if separated from the sentences around them, so I had to take that into account. Then again, I’m reminded of Damon Knight’s opinion of “killer” first lines, in that the problem with those is that you spend the rest of the time trying to justify the line rather than just telling the F%%%#G STORY. So my openings tend not to be so killer, just, I hope, grabbing enough to get you to the next line, and the next, and so on until the end. So I couldn’t just pull out opening lines…except sometimes. Hey, no one’s perfect.

Regardless, and with all the caveats listed or implied above, here are the five lines I’ve chosen:

Sentence 1:

“There’s a crow’s nest in the crow’s nest, sir.”

Sentence 2:

“I wasn’t sure what a secret was, but apparently it was some sort of dangerous animal that needed confining.”

Sentence 3:

“I’m going to tell you three stories, only two of which are true.”

Sentence 4:

“Everyone dances…sooner or later.”

Sentence 5:

“Right, of course it was—all I had to do was tell the Queen of bloody Elfland to sod off and everything would have been jolly.”

 

 

Story Time: Keeping Lalande Station

Today’s Story Time is something a little different–an actual science fiction story, “Keeping Lalande Station,” originally published in Future Orbits #2, back in 2001. I wish I had something relative to say about the story. I remember the process of writing it, but the genesis? No clue. Then again, it’s a story about illusion and reality, so whatever I think about it might not be relevant. I wrote it, I know that much. After that, it all gets a little fuzzy, not unlike my protagonist’s mental state.

 

Standard Note: “Keeping Lalande Station” will stay online until next Wednesday, February 28th, when it will be replaced by…something.