Short Works

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Moonlover and the Fountain of Blood
DAW 30th Anniversary Fantasy Anthology
DAW Books May 2002
ISBN: 0756401380


I don't remember the day I was born, but the moment of my death is seared into memory . . .

One of my better opening lines, if I do say so myself.

MoonLover was another of those last minute epiphanies. I was deep in 'NetWalkers and just not thinking short at all. However, as the deadline loomed, my desire to be included in this very special tribute to one of the great publishing companies in history overruled the Wesser's mental interference. As this was a Fantasy anthology, I wanted to write something that would tie in with the Ring books. I began to think of the Tamshi Tales and thought that it might be fun to do a series of short stories based on those.

Moonlover is a Beauty and the Beast story, though I didn't realize that connection until I was well into it. At that point, I seriously considering abandoning it, though the words were coming as fast as I could type. You see, I'm very leery about stories based on icons. However, the story begged to be finished, and in the way of things, I found my own peace with the similarity.

Tamshi Tales, like Fairy Tales are morality plays, stories designed to teach a people how to function within society and within themselves. Form follows function. Of necessity, any Tamshi Tale would, by its very nature, echo some Fairty Tale. As an underlying theme of all my books is coming to terms with yourself, it was a natural.

Besides, virtually every culture in human history has its own version of BatB.

Moonlover is, however, eminently Tamshi. It's funny in places, quite dark in others. I'm really quite fond of it, though I've gotten vitually no feedback, so I don't know how it reads to others.

Curiously, (especially if you've read my observations on viewpoint) it came out in first person.

Never say never . . .

Upstart
Gods of War

Baen Books December 1992
ISBN: 0-671-72146-1

Cover Art by Stephen Hickman copyright 1992
In the life is strange department ... I'm not a short story person. Simple, honest, straight-forward statement. While I have a great respect for those who write true short stories well, and while I do enjoy the occasional foray into the realm, short-stories are just not the direction my preferences have generally inclined. I certainly never seriously imagined myself writing them. (But then, before GROUNDTIES, I never imagined myself writing anything, so I guess that's not saying much.)

However, as I'd been asked several times over the years to read and react to friends' short stories, I'd sort of developed my own notions of what constituted the difference (in my own mind) between a short-story and a novel. It is ... an eclectic definition. (See a future Soapbox.) Once I began writing myself, and as I worked my way through the increasingly intricate plot threads of the GROUNDTIES series, I began to wonder whether or not I had the ability to meet my own definition.

Predictably, fate stepped in with a challenge. I was literally in the final days of the final edit of HARMONIES OF THE 'NET, with all the various plot threads of all three books booted up and running, trying to make sure I'd tied off everything I meant to tie off --- when I got a call from Bill Fawcett telling me about this anthology he was putting together, and how he had a spot that had come open and would I be interested, etc. etc. etc. Wicked person that I am, I let him explain all about it, make the offer, and then pointed out to him, as kindly as I could, that, (a) I was interested, and (b) I'd never written a short story, and (c) if he cared to withdraw the offer, I wouldn't hold it against him.

Loooong (understandable) silence. Do Bill credit, he let the offer stand. Translated that meant I had to put my computer where my opinions were! I had a two week deadline, but was immensely relieved to discover that miracles do happen! I made both deadline and word count. It's not the best short story ever written, (miracles have to draw the line somewhere) but it's far from the worst. More importantly, it's a piece that I had fun writing and in the process proved to myself (also to my great relief) that I could actually control content and information flow at least well enough to make a story fit my personal definition of a short story.

The basic "shared" premise revolves around a new god coming into the universal pantheon in the 20th Century who is being "shown the ropes" by observing the extant gods in action. The idea was to have a story where the ancient gods were interacting with 20th Century events/people.

"Upstart" is, in very short short, about yuppie gunrunners in Turkey in the early to mid-sixties. Mammon is busy tweaking appropriate stock markets and international greed, while Diana (in her earth-goddess aspect) is pursuing the allegiance of a young tour guide. Ultimately, the story is a study of the difference between who starts a war, what drives the participants, and at least a suggestion of who ultimately wins the war---any war.

It was an interesting project with unexpected highlights ... like the time C.J. Cherryh and I were sitting in one of those funky restaurants where the prices are too high, the tables too small and too close together, and the sandwiches too ... sprouty, talking about the blackmarket price of Uzies and relative firepower and usefulness of various arsenal-inmates. One does have to wonder what the three-piece-suiters sitting next to us, slowly inching their table away, were thinking.

Read UpStart

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Pot of Dreams

Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine
Issue #27 Spring 1995

Cover Art by David Cherry(c) 1995
"Pot of Dreams" is another panic-driven short story. It is actually a collaboration with C.J. Cherryh. CJ was to be Guest of Honor at MZB's Fantasy Worlds Convention in March of 1995, and they thought it would be nice to have a CJ story in the magazine due out at that time.

But CJ was on a tight deadline; I was co-GoH at the same convention and my deadline wasn't quite as tight. So ... to make a not very long story even shorter, I inherited another short story to add to my bibliography, and my first collaboration. (I don't count the Gate of Ivrel graphics as a collab, but as a secondary interpretation ... very different, in my mind. GoI is all CJ's idea. I actually had creative input on the story and structure of PoD.)

Anyway, CJ presented me with three GREAT ideas ... for 150,000 word novels! But PoD immediately stood out --- it had both a wonderful concept and (for me, at any rate) a readily accessible unifying theme. I can't remember exactly what she gave me; if you read it, I think it was pretty much the first two pages --- about up to the first three star line break. I do recall thinking, in a bit of a panic ... There's no dialogue! and Who is it about?!? ... And then, it just came to me what the story had to be. A little editing to focus the concept down, and the next few pages to make it a story, and we were finished.

Based on this vast experience, I think I can see at least one reason for the rising popularity of collaborative stories --- for the writers at any rate. I found myself quite delightfully scewed off down paths just different enough from my own mental biases to give me totally new things to think about. In addition, I can see where, at those moments when a story bogs down, a new perspective could step in, just that needed bit clearer-headed, and point out that "obvious" solution you just knew was there but couldn't quite see.

In this case, the problem was less plot than it was finding that singularity of focus a short story requires. I think that a writer who by nature writes novels (as CJ and I both do) has a difficult time finding a short story within a seminal idea under the best of circumstances. In those earliest moments of a concept, when the creative possibilities are endless, it's positively painful to settle on just one and let the others flit away into nothingnesss. I suspect it's easier for a collaborator to come in from outside the ... conceptual germination, so to speak, to find a single unifying focus, because their brain isn't distracted by all those pesky options. Or perhaps, they're just more ruthless!

Please note, I said "a" focus. One of the beauties of a good concept is its flexibility. CJ and I have never discussed whether or not the story we ended up with was remotely like any of the possibilities she had in mind when she handed me that concept sketch. One part of me is curious ... another isn't sure it wants the answer to that question--- PoD is what it is and (at least for me) the first line now leads inevitably to the last.

On the other hand ...

I'm quite certain the magazine is still available. It has a lovely David Cherry cover, and James Balkovek did several interior illos for the story, a couple of which are (in my opinion) well worth the price of the magazine just in themselves! The concept is fairly well contained in the opening line: Would you buy a dream? It's a story about who dreams and who doesn't, what would drive someone to sell that most private, most precious possession, and what happens when the bottom drops out of the market.

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