Story Time: Courting the Lady Scythe

Today’s Story Time is “Courting the Lady Scythe,” which first appeared in Ekaterina Sedia’s anthology, Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy in 2008. The anthology won a World Fantasy Award for the editor in 2009.

This story is set in the same universe as A Warrior of Dreams. Like any decent universe, there’s more that goes on beyond what you see in the main storyline. There are legends and fables and cautionary tales, and this is one of those. Which one is something you’ll need to decide for yourself.

Standard Reminder: “Courting the Lady Scythe” will be online until next Wednesday, October 25th. After that, there will be something else in its place.

 

 

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Review: Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory

Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory, Penguin Books, 2017

I picked up Tales of Falling and Flying on the recommendation of Jeffrey Ford. Since I’d also discovered the weird and wonderful Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio from the same source, I was more than inclined to give this one a try, and was definitely not disappointed, especially in the weird and wonderful department. Tales of Falling and Flying excels in both categories.

At first glance, this looks like a collection of short stories. Once you’re into it, that perception gets stretched a bit, or at least mine did. Not that the tales within ran roughshod over classic definitions of a short story. I mean, they were about something. They had a beginning, middle, and end in the sense that they started somewhere, went somewhere, ended somewhere. It’s those “somewheres” that need a bit of a mental adjustment.

Take for example, the very first piece in the book, “The Dodo.” I’m just going to quote the opening line: “Once there was a dodo, and he died with the rest, but then he suddenly got back up again.” So what does a dodo who should be dead but isn’t do? If you guessed “Get forced into an identity crisis because he’s alive but all the dodos are dead, therefore everyone says he can’t possibly be one,” then you have the idea. Or consider “The Sloth,” which features, yes, a sloth, one who decides he doesn’t really want to hang around the jungle eating leaves and decides to go to the city and get a job.  What sort of job is there for a sloth in the big city? It takes the sloth a while to find out, but the answer follows very reasonably from what the sloth discovers in his search along the way. Or “Death and the Lady” where a woman goes to church and discovers Death sitting next to her, and if you think you might know where that particular story is headed, you’re both right and very wrong. If I had to pick one, I’d likely say that was my favorite, which is silly because you don’t have to pick one. The very idea is limiting.

One thing I can confirm is that there will be tales of “falling and flying.” Along the way the reader could be forgiven for thinking she was reading a book of special kinds of stories called parables, deep into double meanings and lessons and metaphors and whatnot. But then you hit a story like “The Ostrich and the Aliens” which, in its own metafictional way, pokes fun at the very idea. So maybe they’re not parables, or perhaps they are, or some of them, and I found myself thinking about each one even while I was reading it. Normally that sort of thing kicks me right out of a story, but not in this case. The stories invite a bit of consideration. Invite? Say rather they demand it. As for classification, well, I can’t speak for other readers, but after a while I stopped worrying about that and just gladly went wherever Loory was going. Plenty of time later to think about where that was. No conclusions yet, but I’m still thinking.

Which is just about the highest compliment I have to give.

 

 

Story Time: The Trickster’s Wife

This week’s Story Time is “The Trickster’s Wife,” originally published in Realms of Fantasy Magazine back in 2001 and later included in The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups, my first ever story collection and finalist for the World Fantasy Award. In a way this piece is a meditation on the nature and limits of fate. Mostly, however, it is a simple revenge story, using inevitable fate as the weapon.

Almost everyone knows the Norse myth of Sigyn, Loki’s wife. For his many crimes  Loki is bound to a rock in a cave where a venomous serpent drips poison on him, causing him to writhe in agony. His faithful and devoted wife catches the venom in a bowl to spare him the pain, but every now and then the bowl has to be emptied, and in that time the venom hits him and his thrashing causes earthquakes. But Sigyn is always there to catch the poison again, even though, one day, she will spill the bowl and Loki will thrash until he is free of his chains, signalling Ragnarok, the end of the world.

I always thought fate handed Sigyn a very raw deal. It occurred to me that perhaps Sigyn thought so too. Which puts her activities in an entirely different light, and so the story.

 

Standard Reminder: Next Wednesday, October 11th, the Story Time will change.  Until then, I hope you enjoy “The Trickster’s Wife.”

On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts

Did I mention this already? Yes, well probably. Okay, I did. But that was before, as in it hadn’t happened yet. Now it has. Beneath Ceaseless Skies #235, Ninth Anniversary Double Issue is now live, leading off with the latest in the adventures of Pan Bao, Jing, and the snake-devil trying to be human, Mei Li. In this episode we meet a princess who has been lost for several hundred years and turns to our heroes for help. Pan Bao is either practical or greedy depending on your point of view, and ghosts—how else could she be lost for hundreds of years?—don’t carry a lot of money. Yet even ghost princesses are used to getting their way and this one, it turns out, is very persistent.

The process for writing these stories so far reminds me of the Yamada stories at least in one respect–I had to write several of them before I had a good enough grasp of the characters and the setting to attempt a novel. I think it’s going to be the same here. It’s a steep learning curve, but I think and hope the results will be worth it.

 

Standard Reminder: Since I’m now on a weekly schedule with the Story Time page, on Wednesday the 4th of October, “Another Kind of Glamour” will be replaced by something else. Read it while it’s there.

New Story Time: “Another Kind of Glamour”

As I’m writing this with Feline Assistance®, typing can be kind of tricky, so bear with me. It’s Wednesday, so as promised–or threatened–there’s a new Story Time: “Another Kind of Glamour.” This one originally appeared in the online magazine  Aeon #6, which is not the current online magazine of the same name (Publishing is often confusing, and sometimes you just have to go with it and move on).

Ahem. Where was I? Or right, Story Time. As I said about the previous entry, “Crack’d From Side to Side,” stories in one aspect are a sort of conversation with all the stories that came before it. “Another Kind of Glamour” is in direct and obvious conversation with Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” While it remains one of my favorites of Shakespeare’s plays, there was something about the dynamic of the relationship between Oberon and Titania that I always found a little, shall we say, out of balance. Or maybe there was really more at stake there than we realized.  The process of thinking about such things tends to lead to new stories, as it did here.

Lawrence Kasdan once said “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.” Absolutely true. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun, and “Another Kind of Glamour” was a fun story to write. I hope it’s as much fun to read.

Speaking of free stories, I’m reliably informed that Beneath Ceaseless Skies #235 will go live tomorrow  (Thursday, September 28) and includes “On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts,” the next adventure of Pan Bao, Jing, and the Snake-devil Mei Li. There’s an early review up at Rocket Stack Rank.