Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Beautiful Winter" - by Eugie Foster

My second story to appear in IGMS, "Beautiful Winter" is another fairy-tale re-imagining like "Beauty's Folly," this one inspired from the Russian "Morozko" tale (also known as "Father Winter" or "Jack Frost"). The parallel in titles is totally unintentional, I swear, although I now have an urge to write a story with a multiword title (longer than two, at least) that doesn't contain any variation on "beauty." Maybe something like "Dueling Ray Guns among the Unsightly Denizens of Betelgeuse V." Odds are it'd probably still end up as a fairy tale.

Jumping on the rich literary bandwagon of stories personifying winter — from Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" and C.S. Lewis's White Witch to the Japanese Yuki-onna and Norse Vetr — "Beautiful Winter" is one of several stories I've written which have as a central character winter anthropomorphized. It's a primal, visceral desire, very human, to control or otherwise understand that which is inexplicable and arbitrary: death and nature, both exemplified by winter. And I suspect my subconscious is trying to work through my unresolved issues with the cold.

I grew up in the Midwest, where the winters are long, bitter, and brutal. I moved to the South in part because I hate northern winters: the miserable, muscle-clenching stiffness; scraping windshields and shoveling driveways while blasted by subzero squalls; and hurrying over icy sidewalks, scourged between the contrary spurs of "must get inside before my face freezes off" and "must not slip on the ice, break both legs, and die of hypothermia."

But I remember one winter night as I was rushing home from the bus station, head down and shoulders hunched — both to shield myself from the gale and to watch for treacherous patches of black ice — when suddenly the wind died. I glanced up and was treated to a sight so indescribably lovely that I came to a standstill, my painfully numb fingers and toes forgotten. The park was awash in moonlight, the silver light glittering from frosted evergreen trees and spangled snow. I'm not sure how long I stood there, awestruck. And when the wind picked up and I resumed my trek home, my steps were leisurely instead of hurried. I remember craning my neck to admire icicles adorning branches like jewels and snow blanketing the world beneath a layer of soft, forgiving white.

So while I really, really hate winter, there's a part of me which is fascinated by it, in love with its cool splendor and innate dichotomy — the cruel and pitiless cold married with exquisite snowscapes, sparkling, silent, and achingly beautiful. Still, I never want to have to endure a Midwestern winter again.

For folks curious about my other winter-inspired stories:

  • "The Snow Woman's Daughter" is a retelling of the Japanese Yuki-onna snow woman folktale, originally published in the Feb. 2007 issue of Cricket, podcast in Escape Pod in Sept. 2007, and reprinted in my short story collection, Returning My Sister's Face: And Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice (Norilana Books, 2009).
  • "Honor is a Game Mortals Play" is my second treatment of the Japanese Yuki-onna folktale, originally published in the anthology Heroes in Training (DAW Books, 2007) and reprinted in my short story collection, Returning My Sister's Face. Yuki-onna is one of my favorite stories, and I didn't feel like I'd gotten it fully out of my system with "The Snow Woman's Daughter." Actually, I still don't feel like I'm done with it. Maybe a novel?
  • "The Reign of the Wintergod" was written in reaction to the Andrea Yeats case, originally published in the horror anthology The Asylum Volume 3: The Quiet Ward (Prime Books, 2003) and then podcast in Pseudopod in April, 2009.

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"Beautiful Winter" by Eugie Foster is available now in issue 13 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Command Transfer" by Darren Egget - IGMS issue 13

Once in a while a writers group I associate with holds a Weekend Warrior contest. For five weekends in a row participants are given a story seed and have Saturday and Sunday to write a piece of flash fiction that's then turned in to the group and judged. I'd completed the first three weeks of the competition, but on the fourth weekend I was booked solid. I decided the best way to deal with the stress was to just skip the contest that weekend. So when the story seeds went out that Saturday morning, I glanced over them, but didn't think much about it.

Apparently no one told my subconscious.

An hour before the contest deadline, inspiration struck. I knew exactly who the protagonist was. I knew his situation and how he would deal with it. I couldn't choke off the idea -- it demanded to be written. So I booted up the laptop and jotted off the first draft of Command Transfer.

It did surprisingly well in the competition. Some of the comments I received, however, told me that the story was too long at 750 words; if I could trim it to 500 words, they said, I might really have something.

Keeping that criticism in mind, when I sat down to write the second draft I naturally wrote a two-thousand word story instead. Yes, it was longer, but it felt tighter. Extra background and detail added a lot to the character and the setting. I was much happier with it.

I'm absolutely thrilled that this little story, the one that twice refused to stay bottled up, is now my first pro-market publication.

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"Command Transfer" by Darren Egget is available now in issue 13 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Like Diamond Tears From Emerald Eyes - by Eric James Stone

Here's the story behind the story:

Warning: Contains spoilers for the story.

I've been a member of the Codex Writers Forum since it was founded in early 2004. Codex has an annual Halloween story contest, and I've participated every year. Contestants are required to write a story based in part on a "seed" given by another contestant. Generally, the story should also have something Halloweenish about it.

Codexian Rick Novy (published in IGMS #3) gave me the following seed for the 2007 contest:
Your character must keep his or her face concealed at all times because something about the face is horribly wrong.

A friend of mine told me he might be editing a sword and sorcery anthology and suggested that I should write a sword-and-sorcery story, although he couldn't guarantee he'd accept it. Being one Stone, I decided I could kill two birds by writing a sword-and-sorcery story for the Halloween contest.

Some of the ideas for the story came from taking usual genre conventions and twisting them. So the story has a short, smart warrior and a tall, dumb wizard. The story makes fun of the adventurers hanging out in the bar, which is where all too many stories begin.

As for the seed, I thought about what might be wrong with someone's face, and thought at first about having no face at all, just an emptiness. Then I came up with the idea that the face had been stolen by a wizard. Finally, I realized the face had been switched with a jeweled replica.

I wrote the story and entered it in the contest. It took second -- which thrilled me, because I had never placed in the Halloween contest before.

I'm currently writing another story about Jerton and Larindo, so hopefully you haven't seen the last of them.

"Like Diamond Tears From Emerald Eyes" by Eric James Stone is available now in issue 13 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show