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

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