Solstice makes people a little wild, doesn’t it? Which came to you first, the creature or the crime?
It does! In this case, the creature came first. I blame authors Phoebe Barton and Derek Künsken. One day on Twitter, they were discussing the various irregularities in English plurals: mouses in houses, oxen in boxen, and hooves on the rooves.
With that phrase—hooves on the rooves—I caught the feel of the story all at once. Brilliantly cold midwinter, a deer stalking the night. I’m not sure why. It’s possible that hooves on the rooves made me think of reindeer and my subconscious took a Yuletide leap from there. The crime emerged as that initial feeling got tangled up with elements from other fairy tales, chiefly, “Brother and Sister” and “The Juniper Tree.”
I like taking disparate bones and fitting them together into something new.
Tell me more about ephemera! How are you managing the logistical challenges? If someone would like to read there, what should they do?
Ephemera is the monthly reading series I co-chair with editor Jen R. Albert. Funded by the Ontario Arts Council (and recently nominated for an Aurora Award!), ephemera celebrates diverse SF/F.
In the Before-Times, our home was at the Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto, the world’s oldest queer bookstore. However, like many organizations, we’ve moved to virtual programming during the pandemic. (You can still shop Glad Day’s books online, though; they have a wonderful selection of queer spec-fic.) After considerable discussion, we’ve opted to stream readings live to YouTube—so far, that seems to have worked well. One silver lining is that with geography no longer a barrier, we can invite readers from across Canada—and the world!
COVID-19 upended our schedule a bit, but we’re always keen to hear from people interested in reading. Our mandate is to support creatives at all stages of their careers. You can get in touch with us on Twitter @ephemeraseries.
The oat cake made me think of “The Soldier and Death,” and the way one shares food as a horoscope if not outright foreshadowing. What would you like readers to take away from this story?
That’s such an interesting connection! You’re right, food forms the basis a lot of moral tests in fairy tales, doesn’t it? The character who shares their food is rewarded for their virtue in the end; the selfish character gets only comeuppance.
In this case, the hunger is more emotional. It’s something not yet resolved, something not yet satisfied and put to rights. In some ways, I think this story looks at trauma and what happens when we try to bury it.
There’s a self-aware, meta dimension to your short fiction here that I noticed in “The Path of Pins, the Path of Needles” and “The Love It Bears Fair Maidens.” It’s almost like you’ve torn off a piece of folktale to bat around with the reader. Which stories or elements are you planning to tackle next? Which stories would you be happy to never hear from again?
As I said above, I like mixing and matching old bones. Sometimes I like to crack them open, spin them around to see new angles, poke them . . . If I were another person, I might be writing critical analyses of fairy tales—but I’m me, so I’m writing fairy tales about fairy tales.
I’ve been preoccupied with Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer lately—fairy lover stories. But then, I’ve also been noodling about the Snow Queen, who’s cut from similar cloth. The Snow Queen interests me; the magic mirror and prelude with Satan almost seem stitched on from another story all together, and I want to dig deeper into her bees.
If I name a story I’d like never to hear from again, inevitably I’ll run into a brilliant rendition that makes me eat my words.
What can we look forward to next from you?
And also, I recently finished a novella which has many fairy tale elements and a giant wooden whale. I’m excited to see what becomes of it!
Spread the word!