I’ve been working on a short story I’d promised the Grifty Shades of Fey anthology, which is somewhat associated with Fyrecon, and has had a fundraiser which funded. If you think I sound confused, I do, since this was all coming at me during the Spring-and-Summer of travel and weddings.
I finished it last night, and though I have another short story due, I think I’m going to concentrate on finishing a short novel, so I can finish the long one, so I can have stuff out and earning in the next month, as it’s already very, very late.
I’ll work on the short story this evening, because most of these shorts are just “it sounds fun to do” but most aren’t going to make me a ton of money.
This one might prove to be an exception, maybe, judging from first reception of them:
The concept of it is interesting, as first told to us, at least — the description is not “quite” the same. It was supposed to be based on what our ideal concept of a hero is. Possibly to show the various differences.
Faced with this, I had a problem, since this is my concept of a hero, as I sent in to them (though for whatever reason, the little notes they asked us to write won’t be included in the anthology. No, I’m not being snerky. I don’t know why. I’m sure the reason is perfectly valid, though.)
So, below is the snippet I originally sent them:
This was a difficult story to write, because my favorite hero is the one that Heinlein describes in Stranger in a Strange land when talking about the Fallen Caryatid, by Rodin:
“But she’s more than good art denouncing bad art; she’s a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy. But not alone women—this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude, until they crumpled under their loads. It’s courage, […] and victory.” …… “Victory in defeat; there is none higher. She didn’t give up[…]; she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her. She’s a father working while cancer eats away his insides, to bring home one more pay check. She’s a twelve-year old trying to mother her brothers and sisters because Mama had to go to Heaven. She’s a switchboard operator sticking to her post while smoke chokes her and fire cuts off her escape. She’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.”
Not only is this the type of people I try to write my characters to be, it is also the type of person I try to be. Someone who keeps towards the goal, even though he/she knows it’s impossible to do it and survive.
It’s very difficult, of course, to write a short story specifically about this kind of hero, (instead of letting it shine through over the course of many stories and novels) since most of it is “uncomplaining fortitude” which is not something that translates well to fiction.
And then I remembered “Stella D’Or” and “Nick Rhodes which have been haunting my mind for some time and I realized she (and he, but in a different way) fit the bill.
As it turns out, this will probably also become many stories and novels whether the anthology does well or not.
And here we hit upon the problem I currently have with doing short stories — besides the fact most of them nowadays are not pay-upfront (not exactly a complaint. I could get that by submitting to magazines, but I haven’t bothered in years. Also, to be fair, all my on-spec, because I like the people who ask, stories have paid. Some more, some less, some amazingly well. It’s just… not upfront.)
These days short stories tend to infect me with whole words, which happened again with the Grifty Shades of Fey short story.
Not their fault, of course. I think it’s an effect of how my brain is working.
So what is the problem? You’ll ask. Well… The problem is that because I’ve been ill for a long time, and stories arrived ALL THROUGH that time, I have a massive accumulation of novels and series that demand to be written. I don’t know how many of these it takes to drive a person mad, though I’m fairly sure it’s easier to drive a writer mad than a normal person.
So I need to concentrate on whittling down the noise behind the eyes before I come up with new ones.
The plan right now is to do a long novel (normal size, around 100 to 120k words) and a light novel (30 to 60k words, the size pulp novels used to be) interspersed, to start getting stuff up there and earning (yes, we still have a 10k hole from Norwegian Airlines and the fiasco it turned into, so there will also be writing workshops, but being sick for most of July delayed my getting those up to buy-into.)
Anyway, I need to go work, but I leave you with the opening of the story for Grifty Shades of Fey, which, as you can see, is obviously yet another world:
Purr, My Lovely
Sarah A. Hoyt
When the dame came into my office, she was all legs.
No, really, from my vantage point, low to the ground in front of my desk, all I could see was her legs, going up to a colored triangle under her tent-like skirt.
I twitched my whiskers. Most humans were all legs to us cats. We saw them in other ways. In this case, to my senses, she smelled young and scared and tired: very, very tired.
“What’s up, Toots?” I told her.
Only I didn’t really tell her. Look, I don’t know what the chances are of a crazy 30s experiment trying to create tamable cats who could act as scouts for the army ending up, instead, with … in early twenty first century terms, uplifted cats, with human intelligence. But I know the chances of changing a cat’s mouth so it can pronounce human words are even lower than that.
So, even if the first happened and produced my ancestors, the second was unlikely.
In a pinch, when our other form of communication failed utterly, we, the Protectors, could talk. Sort of. For a limited form of speech. Sometimes our efforts ended up in the humans social media, and our nonsense words were made much fun of.
Only they were never nonsense. It’s just that humans are sadly limited creatures. They don’t know what’s out there. They don’t even know what’s all around them, on Earth. They’re deaf, dumb, blind and think themselves masters of the universe.
If they weren’t so cute, it would be kinder to put them out of their misery. It’s just that we Protectors owe them a debt of sorts. Without them, we’d never have been what we are, never able to do the things we do. Oh, and yeah, they are cute.
So, we do what we can.
To me, what I could was be a PI, with an office in downtown Goldport, Colorado. Into which this young human female had come.
And I was speaking to her the way we speak to most humans. In their minds. Telepathy? I don’t know. I’m not even sure how they define that these days. I do know that cats were always able to reach into human minds and play with their feelings, their emotions, and perhaps their thoughts. We, Protectors, did the same only more so.
So what I’d thought in the girl’s general direction was a “greeting suitable for a young female and circumstances.” What she heard was “What’s up, Toots.” Probably because we were in my second floor office, in a 1930s building, with a pizza parlor on the bottom. And I was a PI.
Okay, that explanation above is almost complete nonsense. It’s not that there weren’t words in what I thought at her. It’s more that our concept of words—
Never mind. There are things I can’t tell across species. From here on out, I’ll pretend I just talked to her, in words, as humans do. I am assured by my human pets that this is how they experience it. I’m assured, also, that I have a deep and masculine voice, with a slightly flippant, irreverent tone.
Which explains why she took a step backward, startled, and looked around wildly.
“Down here,” I said, and as her eyes came to focus on me, I twitched my moustaches and did my best “imitation of human smile” look. Then I jumped on the desk, and said, “I believe this will be more comfortable for you. Mithra Tamuras de Shangrila, at your service.”
She stayed quiet for a while, opening and closing her mouth like a newly landed fish. “Oh,” she said at last, and it seemed like it took her entire concentration to say that. “You are a cat.”
I am, to be exact, a very handsome orange tabby – my pets tell me – with an apple head and clear golden eyes. Not that it matters to other cats, or even other Protectors. We evaluate each other in different ways. But it was good to know that the humans considered me beautiful. It helped.
Yes, it also helped – and many of the other Protectors, in other towns and even in this one, working in other capacities, did it – to have a human act as a front for you, so that you spoke through him and such. There are many such partnerships. A lot of scientists, composers and writers are really just fronts for their cats. Reading Shakespeare, I’ve often wondered– But of course, it’s nonsense, unless our descendants invent time travel.
I’d considered it, but dispensed with it. Sure, one of my pets could stand in for me, but what I did was already so unbelievable and unlikely, it was easier to deal with the clients if they accepted me as I was.
“Well, yes. Mostly,” I said. “Or perhaps ancestrally would be more accurate.”