Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

April 3, 2018

New Story @ Kaleidotrope!

Lapis Lazuli by marijeberting

We all have stories that are hard to sell. It’s not that they aren’t good, it’s that they don’t fit well into boxes. Is it science fiction? Fantasy? Historical? Urban? Will American audiences understand it, and is it appropriate for The Youths? You know what I’m talking about. The easiest stories to sell are the boring ones. The fun stuff? God help you.

‘Gog and Magog’ is one of the first short stories I ever wrote, back when I was a firecracker of pure, unrefined genius (or so I thought) and could write 2000 words a day in between research sessions. I had been reading The Alexiad, a chronicle written by Princess Anna Komnene around 1150, and was falling down rabbit hole after rabbit hole learning about the incredibly awesome women of the 12th century Byzantine world.  Queen Tamar of GeorgiaMelisende, Queen of Jerusalem! I mean, come on, Eleanor of Aquitaine!

I knew I wanted to make something of Queen Tamar’s badass daughter-in-law, unnamed by history. All we know about her was that she was a commoner and the priests hated her, but the king, George IV, was completely under her spell and married her anyway. This wasn’t a case of misogyny: after all, George succeeded his mother, and when he died prematurely at the age of 31, his sister, Rusudan took the throne. No, George’s wife was just a pain in the butt, someone who spat in the face of convention of authority. Whoever she was.

The first draft of ‘Gog and Magog’ was written almost entirely without punctuation, in the train-of-thought style of someone telling a story aloud. I wanted to capture that vernacular, archaic and oral, and have some fun with it. Well, you can guess how that went with editors. “There are spelling and grammar mistakes throughout….” I dialed it back a bit and started adding a caveat to my cover letters, but it was a tough sell. People don’t like unconventional styles, and the writer is not always there to say “Hey, guys, just relax and let it happen. Just read. It’s okay, I swear.” The readers will do what the reader will do.

But I wanted that voice. Maybe not the flatly incoherent one of the first draft – but reminiscent of a chronicle’s cadence and oral feel. Eventually, I trunked the story because I wasn’t willing to rewrite it conventionally. I might be a shill, but I have my pet projects. I loved that ridiculous first draft. I wasn’t giving it up entirely.

I shined it up for Kaleidotrope. If anyone would “get it,” it would be Fred Coppersmith. He has always taken chances on the weird stuff, and every issue is a well-curated set of matching weirds with spectacular art and presentation. An offer from Kaleidotrope is the kind of compliment that means something specific. I genuinely love being one of his authors.

So I am very pleased to say that my beloved ‘Gog and Magog’ is now up in the Spring 2018 issue of Kaleidotrope!

Drop me a line and let me know what you think! And as always, your support via coffee (e.g. booze) is always appreciated. 😀

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