Story Time: What Power Holds

Today’s Story Time is from Dragon Magazine #209, September 1994, back when Barbara Young was fiction editor and before TSR was bought out by (ugh) Wizards of the Coast. The story itself was the first in the “Laws of Power” universe that eventually led to the novel series.

Treedle was first. The character, like Golden Bell from “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng,” was from a dream. He and Black Kath appeared, along with elements that eventually came together into the very first scene. It was all about Treedle in the beginning, but it was only when Marta showed up that the story came together and I knew it was a series. Treedle’s part was done once the first few stories became part of Black Kath’s Daughter, which, oddly enough is the second book in the series, not the first, because later I figured out that The Long Look was really the first book in the series, and Tymon the Black was in the same universe (yeah, I know. Sometimes I’m a little slow that way). “What Power Holds” remains the actual first story written in that universe.

Confused? Me too. I just go with it, and things usually work out. My subconscious is way smarter than I am.

Standard Note: “What Power Holds” will stay up until next Wednesday, April 4th. And then, not.

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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.

Story Time: How Konti Scrounged the World

When I went looking for the text of this story I thought for a while it had gone missing. I mean, sure I could recover the story from its book appearance so it wasn’t really lost, but my original file was apparently gone. Then I found it in an old format under a name I wasn’t looking for, in a font that was just weird. It took some cleaning up to get here, but today’s Story Time is “How Konti Scrounged the World, from the February 2000 issue of Realms of Fantasy. I’m including the introduction, written after the fact as all these are, so take it for what it’s worth.

“This story may be unique among all the stories I’ve written to date. Not because of its subject matter, or tone, or approach, or any of the likely culprits. No, it has to do with the way I work, and when it comes to deciding what story to write, I’m not in charge. Stories come from anything and anywhere: bits of an overheard conversation, an old legend combined with a new understanding, an image, an emotion. That’s why “where do you get your ideas” is such a silly question to ask a writer. Everyone above the mental level of an eggplant has ideas all the time, but not all of those ideas are stories. The real trick to writing is being able to recognize a story when one comes calling.

Except, of course, for “How Konti Scrounged the World.” It didn’t come calling ‑‑ I went and got it. I’ve always had a fondness for Creation Myths, and the clever and fun ways our ancestors answered the “how did we get here?” question. I mean, really. Mud? Transformed ants? Leftovers from the carcass of a slaughtered giant? A god’s dream? Nifty stuff. Anyway, we’d just moved into a new house and I was feeling a bit detached and out of place. Perhaps to bring some order out of the chaos I was feeling, I thought it would be fun to write a Creation Myth and I sat down with the conscious intention of doing just that. All I can figure is that there must have been some subconscious prep work going on, because in that instant Konti and his little sack appeared and the story, as they say, practically wrote itself. Wish I could do that more often. However, it would be nice if I didn’t have to pack every time.”

 

As always, “How Konti Scrounged the World” will be online until next Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Then it won’t be.

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.