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.”

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Fairy Gold

FairyGreenHair

“She pulled a white shirt out of her basket. Or rather, it had once been white, I judged. Now it was covered in blood.

You might be wondering, about now, why I didn’t very quickly slip out of the 4th Street Laundry and call the cops. Seems obvious, right? She’s killed someone, probably a boyfriend or girlfriend, and is cleaning up the evidence. That’s what anyone would think, but then I’m not anyone. She saw me, and very few people can. That proved she wasn’t just anyone, either. The final proof came when she produced gold coins when it came time to feed the machines. Large, antique-looking coins that should never have fit in those dinky quarter slots, and yet somehow became whatever the machine, in its low-level mechanical understanding, expected.

Fairy gold.”

 

I just finished a new story. I would be prouder of this if it hadn’t taken almost three months, which for its length is about two and half months longer than it should have. There are reasons, of course, not even counting the medical incident. There are always reasons to keep you from getting your work done, and few aside from your own will and drive to counter them. So I’m not especially proud of myself. I could have done better sooner. However, at least I did get the story done. In rough, but that’s more than half the battle. Rewriting/editing is merely painful by comparison.

So, what to do with it? Haven’t a clue at the moment. It’s the sort of thing Shawna McCarthy might have bought for ROF (or will be, once I get it cleaned up properly), but that’s in the past, so there’s no point looking there. I’m just not sure where the future is at the moment. I can only hope that there is one. I have to find it, though. It’s the kind of thing we all have to do, at some point. The path that was clear suddenly isn’t. A hope gets dashed, or you simply get turned away from one direction toward another. Life always intervenes and plans gang oft agley. Just ask the mouse. Doesn’t matter. All you can do is keep working.

Regardless, as has been said in many other contexts—you can’t win if you don’t play.

This is a Conversation, Not a Speech

Rusalka by Ruth Sanderson

Notice the lovely painting to the left, “Rusalka,” by the amazing artist, Ruth Sanderson. I was reminded of it by a FB post by the writer Theodora Goss, said post being about a different matter altogether (we can discuss serendipity on another day). But I recognized the painting she’d referenced immediately. Partly because I’m fond of Sanderson’s work, but mostly because that very painting was the original illustration for “The Swan Troika,” (Realms of Fantasy, February 2011) my final story in that much missed magazine (Seriously. Show me a current fantasy magazine with the same ecumenical spirit toward the genre that ROF had).  If you’ll look in the left background, the guy in the funny-looking sleigh is Pyotr on his way to his fateful meeting with the rusalka in question.

Ahem. Yes, I’m getting off of the subject. Of which there is one, implied in the blog title. Ursula Le Guin once said something to the effect that a story is just marks on wood pulp (or pixels on a screen) until someone reads it. That reading is an act of creation itself and the story isn’t complete until it’s read. I have no argument with that. We want people to read our work, complete it, create their own inner vision to echo the one in our own heads. It won’t be the same vision, but that’s kind of the point. There aren’t just two sides to every story, there are as many sides as there are readers for that story, and the more the merrier.

Sometimes, though, it goes even beyond that. “Rusalka” exists because I wrote a story and the editors at ROF commissioned an illustration of it. You cannot fathom how pleased I was when I saw its original appearance in ROF. After all, I’m no artist. I could never have created my vision of that scene the way Sanderson did. Instead, she showed me hers. I was and am thrilled.

I will now contrast that with an incident from a writer’s group I was involved with. The Heavenly Fox had just been published and another writer in the group really liked it. So much so, that he announced that he was going to write a Springshadow story of his own, at which point I was forced to stand on his head until the impulse passed. Okay, not literally. But you get the idea. I was not thrilled. A little flattered, sure. But not thrilled.

So why the difference? Well, one is an act of re-creation. The other was copyright infringement. As in any conversation, you know when one party has crossed the line. Granted, it’s a fine line. Or rather a tightrope that we all walk when it comes to what happens to a story once it’s out in the world. In a sense, to send a story out into the world is to cede control of it. Legally it may belong to you, but practically? Things will happen that you didn’t count on. My own opinion goes beyond legalities though. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t care who has the right to continue the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. So far as I’m concerned, that series ended when Douglas Adams died. Sure, I know that’s unrealistic. Knowing that doesn’t change the way I feel.

Yes, reading is a creative act in itself, and stories were designed to be read. That’s kind of the point of them, but another thing they are is a conversation between the writer and reader. It’s an act of communication that, in the right context, creates something grander than the sum of its parts, witness that painting. Experience that a few times and you won’t wonder why we get cranky when someone tries to turn the conversation into a monologue.

New Story Time

TrunkThe new Story Time (see link on the right) is “How Konti Scrounged the World,” which first appeared in Realms of Fantasy back in February, 2000, and reprinted in THE OGRE’S WIFE in 2002. I’m including the story note I wrote for the ebook edition of the collection, with the understanding that the note was written long after the fact, and might have no more to do with the story than something anyone else might say about it. Continue reading

Surfing for Survival

FoxMaybe not literally, but as far as visibility and career are concerned. I’ve been thinking about the question of career survival because it finally occurred to me that I’ve been shifting gears a bit lately when it comes to my own writing, in that I’m doing more novels these days, and fewer short stories. Now, for many cases that’s just considered par for the course, and was once considered the only course—you started off writing short stories, with the intention of getting good enough to sell them to the major magazines, of which there were several. If you were planning any sort of career, then part of the plan was to build up your name recognition through short fiction and then use that visibility to transition to novels. Short stories were never considered to be an end in themselves in that scenario. Sure there were probably as many exceptions as not, and writers who started with novels from day one and were either barely or sometimes not at all aware that the magazines even existed. I wasn’t one of those. I discovered the magazines at about the same time that I started to write in the first place, and I began with short stories, and the first novel I ever wrote I thought was going to be another short story, until an editor took pity on me and informed me that what I had submitted was not a short story, but the opening chapter to a novel, and so it later proved. Regardless, the short story was my go-to form. Continue reading