The Heavenly Fox – Discarnate Edition

Heavenly Fox - eBook1Okay, one more and I promise I’m done, at least for a little bit. To our left is a picture of the ebook edition of The Heavenly Fox, my PS Publishing novella that was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award in 2012. The unsigned edition is still available from PS, though the signed edition has long since sold out. Regardless, for anyone who’d like a reading copy but don’t want to lay out limited edition hardcover prices, this is the way to go. The Kindle edition is already up. I should have the Nook/Kobo version ready in a few days.

Here’s the synopsis from the hc edition:

“A fox who reaches the age of fifty gains the ability to transform into a human woman. A fox who reaches the age of one hundred can transform into either a beautiful young girl or a handsome young man at will and can sense the world around them to a distance of over four hundred leagues. A fox who reaches the age of one thousand years, however, becomes a Heavenly Fox, an Immortal of great power, able to commune with the gods themselves.”

—From the Hsuan-Chang-Chi of Kuo P’u

The fox vixen Springshadow has reached the age of nine-hundred and ninety-nine by taking the form of a beautiful girl and stealing the chi, the life force, of mortal men. She prides herself on having done so without permanently harming any of them, but when, just before her one-thousandth birthday, her mortal lover, Zou Xiaofan, inadvertently forces her to choose between his life or her immortality, she chooses immortality without a moment’s hesitation. As a fox, and thus completely devoid of a conscience, for Springshadow this was no choice at all.

Or so she thought. Springshadow soon discovers what a trap immortality can be. Even more serious—and very annoying—is her discovery that her new state of being includes a new emotion, one that feels very much like regret. She knows from there it is only one small step to developing an actual conscience. Intolerable! Yet what can she do to prevent this? When the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Shi Yin, brings her a message from the shade of her former lover, Springshadow believes she’s found her answer. Accompanied by a reprobate Daoist immortal named Wildeye, the Heavenly Fox undertakes a quest through the courts of Heaven and the terrors of Hell to redeem the soul of Zou Xiaofan. Maybe then she can get on with the rest of eternity without regret. Or that pesky conscience thing.

Worry, Worry, and Wasting Time

Idle musings while waiting for the storm bands of Isaac to swirl by overhead, and triggered by a question on another board. A writer (a new one, I hope) was fretting about his work having aspects of more than one genre, and how did he tell which category it fell into? Oh, the confusion! What was he to do?

My short, seemingly flippant but honest answer was “That’s not your problem. If a horror mag publishes it, it’s horror. If a fantasy mag, it’s fantasy.” Yes, I know that genre has taxonomic uses but as it is currently implemented, and as a strictly practical matter, genre is primarily a collection of marketing categories. When I was writing “Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge” I knew very well that it had as much claim to being a mystery story as a fantasy. Didn’t care. I was reasonably sure that Shawna would buy it, and she did. But if she hadn’t, I might very well have sold it to a mystery magazine. Would that have changed the story in any way? The audience, perhaps, and perception, but the story? It is what it is, and when the time comes to market, then it’s “place your bets” time. Not before.

For another example—way back when Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine was being published, I submitted what I considered very appropriate fantasy stories to that magazine on a regular basis, and on an equally regular basis Marion Zimmer Bradley rejected each and every one of them. Now, I know very well that any given writer is not always going to connect with any given editor and I’ve talked about that before, but it was the reason she gave for rejecting those stories that caused me such bewilderment.

She said they were all horror.

This was something of a surprise to me, but for a reality check, no other editor ever thought so, at least for stories I hadn’t pegged as horror myself. And, even though I sold enough stories of the sort to qualify for membership in the Horror Writers Association, nobody ever labeled me a horror writer…except for MZB, and MZBFM didn’t accept horror. And there we were–the editor thought my fantasy stories were really horror stories (not to be confused with horrible stories, which is another problem altogether). I thought they were not horror, and frankly never understood how she was reading them that way, but the point remains that it was of course the editor’s opinion that decided the fate of those stories. (And, for the record, I never did manage to break into MZBFM.) In short, how your stories are classified is, for the most part, completely out of your hands. It’s a somewhat different story for novels, where your career plan and your publisher’s requirements both may dictate that you stick with work that can at least be reasonably classified in the same general area, which is one reason writers usually change bylines if they’re writing both, say, urban fantasy and space opera. For short stories, not so much. 

So as a general rule, wasting time worrying about what category your work falls in is, well, a waste of time.

SF vs Fantasy, or “Do I Really Care How Many Angels Can Dance on a Bar?”

 Every so often, you know it’s going to happen. Like a dormant virus, it waits until conditions are right and then there’s the sudden outbreak, often triggered by a particular novel or story—“Is Deadbeat Downbelow really sf? I mean, its tone is very sfnal, but where’s the speculation?” or “Magic Wind Fairies reads like sf, I mean, everything’s very logical and thought out.” I follow the conversations with interest (it’s nearly always interesting when intelligent people discuss matters near and dear to them) but I don’t really have much to contribute. Maybe there really is a line, maybe there isn’t. Yet even those who agree that you can draw a line and say, “This side fantasy, this side sf” are never going to agree on where that line is going to be drawn. Continue reading