This Is the Moment, Or One of Them

My latest short story, “This Is the Moment, Or One of Them,” is now up at Apex.

Writing this story was….quite something. I began writing it in April 2020, which was for a number of reasons – not just Covid – not the best time to start writing anything. Midway through, I realized the story was going to feature Covid –

And that was a problem.

Because midway through was also about when a number of short fiction editors started issuing warnings that they were getting flooded with Covid stories and would be rejecting most of them. And here I was, writing two – a fantasy story and an SF story. Worse, the fantasy story (eventually picked up by Departure Mirror) was written in an academic style, making it a hard sale even without the mention of Covid, and the SF one was non linear – again, making it a hard sale without the mention of Covid.

What am I doing to myself, I asked myself and a few other writing friends. Why am I not focusing on stories that, you know, could actually sell? Especially since Covid was only one element of an SF story that was really about something else.

And yet, those were the two stories I could focus on – with the fantasy story focusing on the disability aspects of Covid, and the SF one focusing on, well, other things. So I did, adding various local elements to make the SF story – I hoped – feel more real, and then grimly watching the rejections pile up – until late October, when Apex let me know that I hadn’t wasted my time after all. (Departure Mirror told me the same in November.).

The story has been out in ebook format for a week now, and online for a day or so. It is, as warned, a Covid story. It is, also, for all its speculative elements, very much a story drawn from real life – almost everything in the flashback portions (the pottery classes, the cafes) exists in real life – and survived the pandemic.

You can read it here.

Enjoy!

Stepsister

In many versions of the Cinderella story, including the retelling by Charles Perrault, Cinderella finds husbands for her stepsisters. As Perrault puts it:

Cinderella, who was no less good than beautiful, gave her two sisters lodgings in the palace, and that very same day matched them with two great lords of the court.

Uh huh. Now, sure, these sisters were wellborn enough to be invited to the prince’s ball in the first place – something that the film Ever After makes a point of noting – but Perrault’s tale makes their status absolutely clear: they are the daughters of gentlemen, not the daughters of nobles. The same exact status held by Cinderella at birth. A status that failed to protect her from becoming a servant – a highly abused servant.

Charles Perrault witnessed several relationships, both sanctioned and unsanctioned, between those of unequal birth at the Court of Louis XIV at Versailles. He may even have known about Louis XIV’s secret, second marriage to a woman considerably beneath him in birth. (She was of noble birth on her father’s side, and quasi-noble birth on her mother’s side, but hardly of high rank, and came from an impoverished background.) He also was a direct witness to several arranged marriages that ended up as disasters for both parties.

His intent here is pretty clear, as it is in other stories: an argument that social climbing was absolutely possible in the court of Louis XIV (something his fellow French salon fairy tale writers often disputed). Not just possible – something to be applauded and encouraged, even as in another tale, Little Red Riding Hood, he warned young women away from predatory men. The same sorts of young women who were – presumably – hoping to follow the example of Cinderella and her sisters.

So, yeah, this all fits with Charles Perrault’s worldview. But does it fit with the rest of the story that he told? I would argue not. Sure, Perrault also tells us that the younger stepsister was less rude and uncivil than the older one – but that’s only a matter of degree.

And, of course, what of the great lords suddenly matched to women of lower birth?

I couldn’t explore all of this. But I explored some of it in my latest little fairy tale, Stepsister, out from Daily Science Fiction.

Enjoy!

The Heron-Girl

For all of its many, many environmental issues (it’s the most polluted lake in Florida, which is really saying something) I love Lake Apopka, that shallow but wide lake haunted by alligators and birds, usually nearly empty of anything but fish and wind. (It’s too shallow for most boats, and too polluted for many people.) So it’s probably not at all surprising that it works its way into many of my stories….along with blue herons, possibly my favorite bird.

(Well, my favorite bird if you ignore the little tricolored herons and bright red cardinals and the stubborn little kingfishers and common gallinules – I just love their little red beaks – and….this is going to get long, so I’ll stop now.)

Here’s the latest of those stories, a flash piece about The Heron-Girl, now available from Baffling Mag for free. Enjoy!

Coffee and the Fox

I have occasionally – occasionally – been accused of having an obsession with coffee. Most unfair, especially these days, when for health reasons I have to be a bit cautious with my caffeine intake, while simultaneously using caffeine to help treat migraines.

Bodies, am I right?

But I digress. All of this is to say that the focus of my latest little story, “Coffee and the Fox,” should not be overly surprising to anyone. You can read it for free in Zooscape here.

Enjoy!

Resistance and Transformation: On Fairy Tales

It’s finally out – my collection of fourteen essays about the French salon fairy tale writers, from Aqueduct Press!

The book can be purchased directly from Aqueduct Press, or from Amazon and other booksellers. From a financial perspective, it doesn’t matter to me who you buy it from or which format you buy. But buying directly from Aqueduct is a bit better for them, so if you can buy directly from Aqueduct, I’d recommend buying from them.

For want of a dryad

So what looks to be a very busy month ahead for me kicks off with the publication of my very tiny tale, For Want of a Dryad, in Cafe Irreal.

Sometimes I’m not entirely sure what inspired a particular story. In this case, however, I can say quite definitely that this entire story came from working in the yard, and trying to make out what, precisely, the trees were whispering in the sun and breeze.