Blog · Writing

Three Tales in Celebration

2005-05-01 - Ireland - Dublin - St Stephen's Green - The Three Fates
Photo: http://www.cgpgrey.com, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m so glad to say that Enchanted Conversation made its fundraising goal!  As I’ve said before, it’s a publication that I love, filled with all the magic of fairy tales, and offering short story writers a place to share our work! – which is a kind of fairy tale in itself! (Really! Remember to support your local, and not-local, artists!)

In celebration, I’m sharing the three stories I’ve had published there!  I hope you’ll read the other wonderful stories and poems in each theme as well.  It’s a real delight to see how different each tale, written after the same original, ends up!

 

John Soldier was inspired by The Steadfast Tin Soldier, which is a story I didn’t like in the least!  It’s a story where everybody dies, and not even a feel-good story where everybody dies like In Bruges.  I tried several different approaches to writing that one, it was a real challenge to get inside of and reimagine, and I’m happy with where it finally ended up.

baller1

John Soldier

The following contains a personal record relating to experiments performed by an unnamed scientist believed to have been in the employ of the British army at the time of the Crimean War.  This journal was discovered among records of the 18– theater disaster in a private collection and was donated to the university library on condition of anonymity.  The other documents mentioned in this text have not been located.  Attempts made to discover the historic location of the Godwin or Goodwin Street Laboratory have thusfar been unsuccessful.

Read More

 

I had an easier time with Re-Covered, built around the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.  It’s one I’ve thought a lot about, in terms of power and fashion, and that everything in a culture – in our society – only is because we all agree on it. I’ve often thought about what would happen if society changed its mind about what it agrees to see and to allow.

Re-Covered-GAINES-Art by Amanda Bergloff

Re-Covered

The king had stood naked and vulnerable before his people. The only person who acknowledged the exposure was a small child, and he was quickly hushed. There were rumors that to directly look upon a member of the noble family would render one a fool, or blind, or unfit for service; it would cause one’s deepest shame to be revealed, would cost one’s inheritance, or render one sterile and heirless. He exposed himself to them all.

Read More

 

Most recently I’ve been so pleased to share How He Found a Wife, about Godfather Death, who has long been one of my favorite figures in story.  I wrote all about it here, so I won’t belabor the point.  Suffice it to say, I’m glad to be adding my own shades to the psychopomp, and he also appears in Snow Fell.

HowHeFound-GAINES-Amanda Bergloff

How He Found a Wife
There was heat and pain. There was nothing else. There had never been anything else.
The cool rag over her eyes, the drops of water spooned into her mouth were of Paradise. When it withdrew, she tried to call back that gift of mercy, but no sound came through the fires that baked her mortal coil.
Her vision was blurred, but she saw there, at the end of her bed, an old man, gaunt, gray-skinned, his eyes sunken so deep she could not see them, in a Benedictine robe. Last rites, she thought. She must be dying. She felt relief and sank into it.
I hope to have more to share with you soon!  I love to hear from people, so please feel free to share comments below.  And thank you for reading!
KAG
I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.
Advertisements
Writing

How He Found a Wife

Two days, rather than two weeks.  I’m happy to present my newest work below!

HowHeFound-GAINES-Amanda Bergloff

Art by Amanda Bergloff

There was heat and pain. There was nothing else. There had never been anything else.
The cool rag over her eyes, the drops of water spooned into her mouth were of Paradise. When it withdrew, she tried to call back that gift of mercy, but no sound came through the fires that baked her mortal coil.
Her vision was blurred, but she saw there, at the end of her bed, an old man, gaunt, gray-skinned, his eyes sunken so deep she could not see them, in a Benedictine robe. Last rites, she thought. She must be dying. She felt relief and sank into it.

Read More

More Stories

Blog

On Death: Anthropormorphic Personification and The Stories We Tell

1179px-Barcelona_Sagrada_Familia_sculptures_Passion_facade_2017_04
By Ad Meskens , via Wikimedia Commons

In just two weeks my new short story, How He Found a Wife, will be published in Enchanted Conversation, in the Godfather Death issue. If you’re not familiar with the story, Godfather Death presents a wonderful journey through the stages of grief at one’s own mortality. I encourage giving it a read!

The first story in which I remember reading about a personified Death, and one I still love, is The Appointment in Samarra (or Samarkand). It’s a very old tale, said to be from Mesopotamia, and is included in the Talmud and collections of Sufi wisdom, and is sometimes also called When Death Came to Baghdad. In it, a man sends his servant on a long journey to avoid Death, only to find that Death had expected him there, in that other place, all along. I remember feeling that there was a certain injustice in that – if only the man had stayed home! How unfair that the man’s fear of dying drove him to flee straight to the place of his death. Yet, how foolish to try to run away, only to spend his final days on a long journey to a distant land, far from all that he knew and loved. That is where Death brings us in the end anyway.

In many old stories, Death is portrayed as a neutral, or even benevolent figure. Not frightening or evil, but someone who is just doing a job. These stories represent a way for us to make peace with mortality. Not to say that we shouldn’t cling to the beauty and joy and connection presented by a life well lived, or mourn the finality of separation from our loved ones. Rather Death represents everything that is unknown, and our complete inability to return to what was before – that is to say, death, (with a little ‘d’) in a very literal sense, or any process of change or transition. Not bad, and maybe not good, but inevitable just the same.

Another favorite personification (and where the title of this blog comes from) is Terry Pratchett’s Death. His attempts to understand, and compassion for humanity are endearing, and his matter-of-fact dealings with the business of an ended life, often comical. I’m sorry that we won’t have any new stories of that particular character, yet the stories we have told, and those told about us, also present a kind of continued connection with those we leave behind. I am already eagerly looking forward to my annual viewing of The Hogfather, with a dinner of pork pies and sherry, on the eve of the winter solstice! I like to think that when Sir Terry Pratchett left, Death greeted him as a friend. May we all be so lucky!

Death in The Tale of the Three Brothers, of the Harry Potter stories, always reminds me of Death in both the Appointment in Samarra, and in the Discworld. The story of
The Three Brothers is beautifully rendered in the movie. I especially love that the art is reminiscent of the sculpture and reliefs on the Passion facade of Sagrada Familia, seen throughout this post. Death will not be thwarted by pride, or swayed by love, but must ultimately be accepted, and even – just maybe – welcomed after a long and good life.

There’s something about passing into the dark time of the year that makes us look back on those who came before us, and reflect on what it means to lead a life well-lived. In September, the Japanese festival of Obon was celebrated. It’s a time when the ancestors are believed to return and visit their living relatives. Graves are visited and cleaned, offerings are made, and at the end of three days, beautiful paper lanterns are set afloat on a river to lead the dead back to the other world.

At the end of this month and early November, of course, western tradition holds to much the same idea. We come together as a community, we tell stories of our people, general and specific, and celebrate with our loved ones. This time of year is known by people around the world and throughout history for the “thinning of the veil” between our everyday world and other world, and annually this is a time to reconnect, and to remember our dead – to tell their stories.

Interestingly, it wasn’t the ghosts of relatives that the ancients feared on these days, but the other things that would come across with them! Following the winter the solstice, at the end of the dark half of the year and the beginning of the return to light, the Alpine demigod Perchta would hunt down all the beasties that came across throughout the fall and winter months and drag them back from whence they came, in order to make way for the coming spring.

Death with a little ‘d’ is always scary and terrible, and no matter how old a person is, always feels like an injustice. Because no matter how long we have to prepare, we never feel ready for it. So we tell stories about a person in a cloak who can help guide us through; so we comfort ourselves that our loved ones are not alone on that journey, and neither will we be.

Much of human history has been a story about death, about those impossible transitions from one place of existence into another, about travel from one land into the next; and because we are a uniquely and irrationally hopeful species, also about new life and new beginnings. Terry Pratchett in the Hogfather says, the very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood. I think that’s true, but blood, in our old stories, is always about death, and our first stories were. We have evidence of very early burials where bodies were covered in flowers. Putting flowers over bodies is not innate behavior to humans. What mattered, of course, were not the flowers, but the reason behind the flowers – the story being told about what had happened to those people, and what it meant.

Our stories are how we make sense of the world. When throughout so much of our history, life was brutal and short, and if we made it through the year, many of our loved ones would likely not, our stories were how we made it bearable; how we gave meaning to our experiences, and how we made sense of those things that are impossible to understand, like death.

 

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.

Writing

The Complications of Rule

Below, find my newest short story, written especially for The Grimm Reaper on Medium.  It’s been called “a wonderfully subversive tale.” I hope you enjoy it!

Burn this when you’re finished reading it…

My dearest,

Inequity. I was thinking about inequities when I submitted my piece to the prince’s contest of arts. I know you said I should let it be, that I should work at my craft and keep my head down, but I had a hope, I suppose, of shaming him.

Anyway, I want you to know that to be the Royal Clockmaker doesn’t go without certain benefits.

I put all my savings into the clockwork box I submitted to the competition. The tiny chorus sang beautifully once the gears were set in motion, and I think that is what won it for me.

Now I’ve been summoned to the palace, and I will not forget why I began this venture.

Burn this letter, and any others I may send to you, as soon as you have read it.

Read More

More Stories

Blog

New Story Coming Soon!

death-2548491_640
Photo: Daja Gellerova

I’ll have a new story out for you at the end of this month in Enchanted Conversation! This is the Godfather Death issue, and I can’t wait to read the new stories!

Read the original story here.

Watch for How He Found A Wife in just a few weeks!

 

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.

Blog · Reading

Keep Enchanted Conversation Going

As you know, I love Enchanted Conversation!

This publication is full of wonderful stories and poems – twists on all your old familiar favorites that surprise and delight! EC also provides a place for new, and not so new, writers to share their work and be paid for it, which many publications are not able to do.

My first published piece appeared on its pages back in March, and when the second one appeared in August, it gave me the encouragement I needed to launch my blog and pursue my writing with greater focus! Now they are trying to expand the number of such opportunities they can offer with each issue, and increase the amount their writers are paid.

If you have enjoyed my stories, or the others published there, and if you can, I hope you’ll consider supporting them, and continue putting magic into the world, which desperately needs it right now!

KAG

 

Hi All:The campaign to raise funds to keep EC going has officially started! Amanda Bergloff (contributing editor and art director) and I have worked hard to make this campaign as easy and rewarding as we possibly can, so we hope you’ll donate. The fundraiser is open until October 24.The donations are one-time, and they start…

via EC Fundrazr Campaign Kicks Off! Please Donate! — Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine

Blog

What We Mean When We Talk About Fairy Tales

I thought I would talk about some of my favorite stories, but in considering fairy tales and other fantastical things, it’s useful to have some definitions.

angel-2785146_640
Photo: Jonny Lindner

 

Fairy Tales

Broadly when we talk about fairy tales, we mean stories that come out of a common folklore tradition associated with a general geographic region. The region does not matter in the stories, but the stories themselves will tend to be told within a relatively defined space – we can speak broadly about European, Central American, or East Asian folkloric traditions, for example, which will have relatively discreet fairy tales within them. Within fairy tale stories specifically, though, the specifics don’t matter! Though fairy tales within a given tradition tend to be associated with defined geographic region (there are some that seem to transcend geography, but that’s another blog post), fairy tales never happen in a specific place. They are never in a town that appears on any map; most often our heroes and villains simply live in “the village,” or “the castle,” and have their adventures in “the kingdom” or “the forest.”

Similarly, fairy tales tend to be set, more or less, “once upon a time,” or “long ago,” and not, “five years ago,” or “in the 1700s,” or “around the time of William the Conqueror.” One of the defining characteristics of fairy tales is that they are told as happening out of time.

Lastly, fairy tale heroes are unnamed. Think of your favorite fairy tale – Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Princess and the Pea – the characters are called by what they do, or what they are; or occasionally, they will have very common “everyman” names, such as Jack and the Bean Stalk, or Hansel and Gretel. But, importantly, fairy tales don’t happen to a person anyone knows, or that anyone has ever heard of. Rather, they are stories about anyone – a princess, a merchant, a farmboy – and so, they are stories about everyone within the community where they are told.

 

Legends

What about King Arthur, or Robin Hood?

These stories fall into the realm of legend. The characters all reside in a more or less specific, named place – Camelot, Sherwood Forest. The happenings of these stories are also time-bound – the Dark Ages, or Norman England. And finally, the reason we’re told these stories is, ostensibly, that they are true – or at least, could be! These things happened to arguably real people in arguably real place at a more or less specific time in history – we’re told! The defining quality of a legend is, instead, the extraordinary actions of the heroes, and that it all could have happened just like the story says it did.

 

Myths

Mythology has to do with the doings of gods. While fairy tales may tell us that anyone can be a hero, and legends will regale us with the stories of those who were heroes, mythology gives us our back story. It answers questions about how did the world come to be, who were the first people, why are we farmers instead of herdsman (or vice versa), where do animals come from, why do disasters happen, and what happens when we die. Mythology also tends to be geographically contained, and while the heroes are named, everything happens outside of time.

 

Folklore

Folklore is the big category that all of these, and other things like music and dance and weaving – and all the other ways that humans have come up with to tell stories – fall into. Our folklore is the way we think about our world, our place in it, and what it all means.

So what do fairies have to do with any of it?

Fairy tales can include fairies, or magic, but it isn’t required. The word “fairy” comes to us from the same root as the word “fate.” In mythology, the Fates guide or determine the course of each individual’s life; so fairy tales are those stories about how the paths of our lives are determined.

Or (and maybe, also), in Middle English, faerie refers not to a creature but to a place – a country out of common time and space where strange creatures and happenings exist – and so a fairy tale is a story that, by having no defined place or time, is tied to that other mysterious land.

I identified Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town as a fairy tale because, although a good portion of the book does take place in Toronto, a significant portion – including much of the driving action of the story – takes place in unspecific other spaces; and although the characters are called by different names, I argue that, in that lack of specificity, they essentially remain unnamed. Also, although the portion of the story set on Toronto takes place sometime in the early-2000s, in much of the story, time in also unspecified – things take place sort of in our modern era, but we don’t really know when, and placement in time is not at all important to the story.

 

So that’s what I mean when I throw these words around! If you have other definitions, I’d love to hear them!

 

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.