Story Time: Doing Time in the Wild Hunt

Today’s Story Time is “Doing Time in the Wild Hunt.”  It was originally sold to an anthology to be titled Splatterfaires from the first incarnation of Pulphouse Publishing, which went under before the book was published. From there it found its way into my first collection, The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups.

Here’s what I wrote about the story for the afterwards in the second (Kindle) Edition. I don’t think I have anything to add now.

 

“Happily Ever After” is the most difficult and dangerous part of the story, and yet it’s the part you almost never hear about. There’s a reason for that — marriage is complicated. Slaying a dragon by comparison is simple. Not easy, mind, but simple. Consider: A dragon is between you and your Fated One and you’re a hero/heroine in love. What do you do? Duh. Now cut to this scene after the fairytale wedding, because sooner or later it’s going to happen. Your love is pensive, unhappy. You ask what’s wrong and they say, “Nothing.” When pressed they will explain: “If you don’t know what you did, I’m not going to tell you!”

What’s the plan now, hero?

I was driving to work one morning in 1994 and saw a white doe in the woods near the Natchez Trace. Far from blending into the trees and brush nearby, the deer was about as hidden as a neon sign. It seemed odd to me how it had managed to survive so long against all the odds but here it was standing there, watching me drive by. A miracle. Or maybe the deer was just doing what it had to do and, with a little luck and care, getting along. Maybe that’s the miracle. I don’t know. I just wrote this story because, once upon a time at the beginning of my ordinary day, I saw a white doe. My wife told me that, of all the stories I’ve ever done, this was the only one that made her cry. Discarding the other possible explanations, I take that as a sign I got the story right.

Take that, dragon.

 

Usual Disclaimer: “Doing Time in the Wild Hunt” will stay up until next Wednesday, February 14. At which time I might be too preoccupied to take it down, but don’t count on it.

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Story Time: The White Bone Fan

Today’s Story Time is “The White Bone Fan,” Originally published in Japanese Dreams: Fantasies, Fictions,& Fairytales, Lethe Press, 2009. The story is a stand-alone excerpt from what eventually became the novel  All the Gates of Hell published in 2013. This is the kind of thing I was working on when I was also working on the Yamada series. One sort of fed into the other, and vice versa.

As always, “The White Bone Fan” will remain online only until Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018. Next year.

Story Time: Crows

Today’s Story Time is “Crows,” originally published in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination in Summer, 2000, and later collected in Our Lady of 47 Ursae Majoris and Other Stories in 2011. It’s not exactly an optimistic story, depending on your point of view, but…well, there aren’t really any “buts.”

Sometimes you just have to let the Dark Side out to play.

In Praise of: Katherine Briggs

Yes, I’m late. Between a doctor’s appointment and errands on Monday, I didn’t get started on a blog post until late yesterday…where I promptly fell asleep at the keyboard. If I was putting myself to sleep I can only imagine what I would be doing to anyone else. So today is a fresh day, fresh start, and I am here, not to do a book review as such, but rather  to sing the praises of  Katherine Briggs, D. Litt from Oxford.  Specifically, her work An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures. (the first edition title was a little easier to handle: A Dictionary of Fairies) I have the later 1978 edition, long out of print but still available here and there. Probably $35+ minimum, and well worth it to the right people to track down.

The reason in my case is pretty simple. One of my favorite things to write has always been new riffs on old folklore, taking a basic theme or seed, if you will, from older stories and running with it. Doing the old “what if” and Asking the Next Question, as Theodore Sturgeon used to say. Or Looking at it “slantwise,” to paraphrase Mark Twain. Regardless, they were both talking about process, but everything has to start somewhere. An image, a character, a situation, whatever triggers the process, and that varies from day to day and story to story. Everyone uses references of one sort or another because everything you know, love, or follow is a reference, and which ones are going to vary depending on the person’s own interests and resonating themes. I’ve spoken about the references I used for the Yamada series here before, and more than once. This time I’m concentrating on what led to some of my favorite short stories, and this book by a past president of the British Folklore Society has to be near the top of the list. It’s not alone, surely, and there are others: A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack is a jewel, as is A Field Guide to the Little People by Nancy Arrowsmith and George Moorse. Or In Search of the Supernatural by Kenneth DeWoskin and J.I. Crump, Jr. (translation of the Sou-Shen Chi, also known as The Account of Seeking Spirits, 4th C CE by Kan Pao). Yet it is the Briggs I keep coming back to time and again.

For instance, as appropriate to something that started life as a dictionary of sorts, all entries are in alphabetical order. One day I was browsing and came across the entry for Fairy Funerals, an event said to be witnessed by mortals on more than one occasion. Which had me thinking. “Given that fairies are immortal, why would they need funerals?” One theory was that they were doing it to imitate or mock mortal customs, but that didn’t  satisfy me. So what could the real reason be? Out of that came “The Beauty of Things Unseen,” first published in Quantum SF and later collected in The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups .

Then there was “My Lord Teaser,” triggered by an article on teaser stallions plus accounts of the Wild Hunt found in Briggs. The two notions combined to make another favorite. Or “Death, the Devil, and the Lady in White” (White Ladies and no, not that kind) or “Conversation in the Tomb of an Unknown King” (Tomb Wights).

Then there was…well, you get the idea. The book has paid for itself many times over, and is currently helping me on a new novel project. Every time I’ve moved house, this book has come with me. When I’m gone, it’ll likely still be here. Maybe someone with sense will be at the estate sale to grab it.

Awards and Local News

This year’s World Fantasy Convention just wrapped up in San Antonio, TX. I wasn’t there this year but I do remember San Antonio from the 55th World Science Fiction Convention I attended back in 1997. I remember the Riverwalk and I remember (yes) the Alamo. It’s a beautiful, diverse city and I’m a little bummed I couldn’t make it this year, even if my convention going has been less than sporadic lately. The World Fantasy Awards were given out on Sunday and congratulations to all the winners. I do want to give a special shout-out to Kij Johnson for her win for best long story, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe and to Jeffrey Ford, winner for best collection, A Natural History of Hell, which I reviewed last November here.

On the local front, on Sunday, even as the awards were being given out, I finished the submission draft of the third story in my Daoist series, “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village,” which is the longest title I’ve ever used, beating out the previous record by two whole  words. Once I have a publication date and venue I’ll post it here. In the meantime you could do a lot worse than checking out the works  and writers above.