Author’s Notes: Bearing the Flame

What fantasy stories might you find inside a photocopied ‘zine handed to you on the streets of Constantinople by a like-minded time traveler? (Don’t forget to give him credit for making an additional trip to type it up on an electric typewriter, draw the cover with a Sharpie, and have it photocopied in the late twentieth century.)

I was trying to come up with story ideas from a medieval imagination, and the cliché magical ability of conjuring fire seems to have an obvious employer when setting things on fire is part of the daily routine at church. But imagining fire as a liturgical art requires facing the fact that some of us who like church and like art are not as good at it as we think we are. Fellow listeners of the Lord of Spirits podcast will recognize the idea of an idol as a trap, and fellow Orthodox will recognize a pale shadow of the early morning hours of Pascha.

Scratching at these ideas in a story that was intended to be fantasy, not theologically or historically accurate for our world, meant that this particular work fit one publication best: Mysterion, and I am beyond delighted that it was accepted there because I admire it so much. I would like to specifically thank the editors, Donald S. Crankshaw and Kristin Janz, for their suggestions on how to improve it.

It can be read early on the Enigmatic Mirror Press Patreon page, and I hope to meet you all in imaginary Constantinople.

Author’s Notes: Pinecones

Image by bigdan, licensed via depositphotos.

Pinecones appears in Fell Beasts and Fair: A Noblebright Fantasy Anthology, published by Spring Song Press.

I like the term “noblebright” that editor C.J. Brightley coined as a response to the “grimdark” trend that boiled across fantasy. I believe that we need stories about larger-than-life moral strength just as we need stories about larger-than-life physical strength, and that readers need signals to help them find the flavor of fantasy they like.

This year I’m consciously exploring Tolkien’s idea of eucatastrophe in my short stories: that an apparent defeat is the mechanism of victory. Some pinecones only open and release their seeds during forest fires. Horrific disaster is part of their process. They came to mind immediately as an item to use.

I had some half-formed ideas about dryads and a related magic system and had been reading mythology, so adding pinecones as a central element gave me the fire-starting satyr with his thyrsus staff as my antagonist.

All artwork becomes a record of where you were at the time, and I hope that the hard work I’ve been putting in since Pinecones will show as growth in my next publication. The prose feels a bit too cautious and stilted to me, and I think that’s a direct result of over-reliance on automated editing software, a topic that I plan to write more about.