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: Lord Goji’s Wedding

Today’s Story Time is “Lord Goji’s Wedding” and no, not that Goji. It’s a story  within a story, or an alleged zen parable within a story, or two stories being told at the same time, or something of the sort. It first appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #15, back in January of 2005.

As always, “Lord Goji’s Wedding” will remain online until next Wednesday, April 18th, when it will be replaced by another Story Time.

Story Time: Death, the Devil, and the Lady in White

This week’s Story Time is from the April, 2005 Realms of Fantasy magazine (later collected in Worshipping Small Gods, 2007), and is a love story…of sorts. I’ve done a few like this with a similar theme and it’s not my first brush with the infamous White Ladies of myth. The first was The Beauty of Things Unseen, way back in 1999 in Quantum SF.

Regardless, the beautiful and terrible White Ladies usually haunted streams or wells and it was death to meet one. A somewhat counter example is from Irish gaelic, the Bean Fhionn, the White Lady of Lough Gur, who claimed mortal lives, but only every seven years. Others were not so restrained. In some cases they were thought to be ghosts, in others remnants of the Tuatha De Danann, or fairie folk. Or maybe they were just ancient goddesses, angry at being forgotten, because no one likes to be forgotten.

This one is just a tad different.

Regardless, “Death, the Devil, and the Lady in White” will be online until next Wednesday, March 28th, when it will vanish into the ether and be replaced by something else.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin

October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018

I haven’t written anything about the passing of Ursula Le Guin before now because I couldn’t put two coherent thoughts together. I’m still not sure I’m ready but I’m going to try, despite the cat purring in my lap demanding all the attentions. Living creatures have their own priorities and in that sense I’m no different.

I never met her. Other people who knew her best will have the personal remembrances of the woman herself, I can only speak of her work and its effect on me. I’ve spoken at times about influences that made me whatever I am as a writer, though as I look back on it these influences were more about teaching me something I needed to know at the time I was ready to learn it. Parke Godwin? He taught me lessons about humanity. Fritz Leiber? That the limits of genre were illusory, and there was very little it could not do. Ursula Le Guin? She taught me what magic was and—just as important—what it wasn’t.

There are other lessons, of course. Some I still may not be ready for. Take her classic, The Word for World is Forest. I’m going to have to come back to that one, I hope when I’m a little stronger and wiser. At the time I needed it, however, there was The Earthsea Trilogy, which later became the Earthsea quintet with Tehanu and Tales of Earthsea. Yet in the beginning, there were three: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore. They were first marketed as “young adult,” probably because Atheneum, the original publisher, didn’t know what else to do with them, and it was true as far as it went. However, I read them in college, when I really was a young adult, or maybe just a kid trying to figure out what “adult” as in “grown up” really meant. Ged, the young wizard in Earthsea, was trying to sort out the same thing, and in the course of the three—then four—books, he does, even though all the books, especially the last few, aren’t really about him. Which makes sense—a lot of growing up isn’t about you at all, but everyone around you and your relationship with them. Some things I can see now that I couldn’t then, but that’s all right. The lesson was waiting for me.

Then there was her classic, The Left Hand of Darkness, which made me and a lot of other people think about gender and what it does and doesn’t mean. Her early collection of stories, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, which remains one of my favorite books ever.

Now Ursula Le Guin the person is gone from the world, but Ursula Le Guin the writer remains, and there is, I realize, a lot of her work that I have yet to get to, and I hope I will.

I hope I’m ready.

 

Story Time: Closing Time

Today’s Story Time is from the collection The Devil Has His Due, published in 2012. It’s a book I put together myself, and many of the stories were originals. There’s a reason for both. See, I’ve always enjoyed “deal with the devil” stories. They’re fun to write, but old-fashioned (read “cliche”) and not likely to find sympathetic editors in most conventional places these days whether the story is good or bad. But sometimes I wrote them anyway, just because. So I put them there. “Closing Time” is a bit of an exception. It is not a “DWTD” story. It’s a consequences story. The fact that it takes place in hell is incidental.

Standard Note: “Closing Time” will remain online until next Wednesday, March 21st, when it will be replaced by something else.