It started on Twitter.
To which I responded by saying that “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” would make a great short story title.
Sylvia was kind enough to let me have it, and I came up with a family-run magical pawn shop (loosely inspired by the History Channel’s Pawn Stars), and named the protagonist Sylvia, as a thank-you to my friend for inspiring the idea.
The resulting story was one of the funniest I have written, and I was very proud that it became my first short story to be published in IGMS (you can read it in issue #33). This story has since gone on to receive some great reviews, and was even included in Tangent Online’s Recommended Reading List for 2013, with the maximum possible rating of three stars.
I had so much fun playing in the magic pawn shop sandbox, that I knew I would have to come back to this setting and characters, again and again. In the first story, Cthulhu trapped in a snowglobe-like pocket dimension was brought into the pawn shop. So I got to thinking, what other interesting items might show up at its doorstep? Excalibur? Holy Grail? A mint Alf action figure, still in original packaging? The Pandora’s Box was definitely on the short list, and that’s what I went with.
Of course, I wanted the title to be as over-the-top as “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma,” which is how I came up with “High-Tech Fairies and the Pandora Perplexity.” It sounds like an episode of the Big Bang Theory which, to my mind, is a good thing. I was especially pleased with the play on words – in addition to its popular meaning (bewilderment), perplexity is also a mathematical term, dealing with the probability of distribution. Which sort of makes sense for this story – you’ll know why once you read it.
I intend to keep writing funny magic pawn shop stories, so this hopefully will not be the last you’ve heard of Sylvia.