Story Time: The Swan Troika

Today’s Story Time is “The Swan Troika,” first published in the February 2011 issue of Realms of Fantasy, and the last story I ever published there as the magazine folded not too long after (October 2011). Almost every writer I know is convinced that there is at least one magazine they are personally responsible for killing, as they published a story in that magazine’s final issue. Yes, we all have big egos, why do you ask? Regardless, that wasn’t its last issue, and RoF published so many of my stories that, if I was the problem, it wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. Magazines, especially print ones, come and go no matter what we do. Most die unmourned, but not all. And some, like Weird Tales and Amazing SF never stay dead forever. Part of me still expects Realms of Fantasy to be resurrected some day, but I won’t hold my breath even as I hope for it to happen. All that aside, I’m pretty sure I’m not responsible. “The Swan Troika” remains one of my favorite stories (accompanied in the original by Ruth Sanderson’s superb illustration), and I’d love to do more like it, if there’s ever a home for them again.

I’d like to give a belated shout out to Ekaterina Sedia for helping me with the Russian naming conventions in this story, which I would have made a complete mess of without her.

Standard Note: “The Swan Troika will remain online until next Wednesday, June 13th. Until then, enjoy.

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Story Time: The Right Sort of Flea

Today’s Story Time is a retelling of Beowulf, specifically an account of his final battle with the Great Wurm. The old king, long past his prime, taking up his weapons one last time because it is his duty and he’s the only one who can, except for one other with more courage than sense. For some reason this part of the legend always fascinated me more than the more famous part about Grendel and his mom. Maybe when I’m old enough I’ll figure out why, but this story was me trying to sort it out. I think I got somewhat close to the heart of it.

“The Right Sort of Flea” was my second appearance in Realms of Fantasy, back in April 1997. It’s never been collected, and now I’m wondering why. My bad.

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: Judgment Day

In my old neighborhood there were many tree-shadowed streets, perfect for an evening walk. Besides the health aspect, those walks were really good for letting the mind go free as one does given half a chance. On one particular walk I was considering the theological question of man’s relationship with the infinite (as one does) and found myself wondering, “What if we’ve got everything exactly backwards?” I mean, we’re human. We tend to do that. Thus “Judgment Day.”

It was originally published in Realms of Fantasy back in 2000, and a more knowledgeable friend pointed out that it was a very Gnostic story, and I could see that she was right. This is the sort of thing the writer has pointed out to them after the work is done, usually, if at all. It’s not like we understand what we’re doing at the time, at least most of the time.

Today’s Story Time is “Judgment Day.”

 

 

Standard Disclaimer: “Judgment Day” will remain available until next Wednesday, February 7th. As for what replaces it, right now your guess is as good as mine.

Story Time: Take a Long Step

Have you ever noticed, lying along the road, one sad, discarded shoe? Or maybe a boot? Now and then a cap, or work glove, but most often shoes. Rather, one shoe. I think I have seen an actual pair of shoes, once in my life. Mostly, just the one. There are a lot of theories about why this tends to happen, though we probably don’t need any other than simple human carelessness. We lose things. It’s our nature. For instance, First Reader asked me about this story just a few days ago (Didn’t you write a story about the missing shoe?) and I thought it would make a good Wednesday story. Then I couldn’t find it, and thought I had lost the file, until I remembered that I wasn’t working in MS Weird at the time, and expanded my search to include the extension of the word processor I used back then. Still miss that one, but I digress.

Story Time for this week is “Take a Long Step,” and it first appeared in Realms of Fantasy for April, 1999. This was my attempt to give at least one alternative explanation for the case of the missing shoe. Or the found shoe. It’s all a matter of perspective.

“Take a Long Step” will be available until next Wednesday, November 22nd. Then it’s something else. You know the drill.