November 30th, 2007

there!, Hello

RE: Fiction Appearance: a Samurai in a hellish world!

So, once upon a time, I set out to write a simple tale of swords and sorcery. A man rides a circular shaped vessel into the underworld, on a quest to find a woman who has been haunting his dreams... I called it "Heed the Hell-Bound". Sword and sorcery is a wee bit of a difficult thing to sell, but I enjoy reading it (well some of it, anyway). So, I wrote my story, and even though I have a nonexistent publishing history for straight fantasy fiction, I sent it out. It sat on a slush pile for a while, and the magazine it was waiting for (had sort of been written for, actually) went under. Ah well. Time to shop it around, then. I considered the markets, tinkered with the story a bit and sent it to several other places. It got rejected each and every time. This business takes patience. Patience to write, patience to edit, patience to place, and patience for publication.

Well, after enough rejections, I sat down to look at the story, once more. It was then I realized the flaw: The story suffered the problem of being too generic. This was me trying to sound like Robert E. Howard or Fritz Leiber or CL Moore. Major no-no, that.

So, I rewrote it. Added some things that interested me. Gave it an eastern flavor, replacing the hackneyed sword swinging warrior with a (little deeper, perhaps) ronin type. I sent it off to a relatively new magazine at the time and got an interesting response. The editor liked the piece. Really liked it. But wanted me to add words. Fill it out to about 5000, if possible. At the time, it was 1200 words long (At the time of writing/rewriting I'd thought, well, I'm branching out into different territory, here. Maybe editors will be more open to something new so long as it's short). Of course, I replied to the editor, "Yes, I'll expand the story." So, I set about doing just that.

I called upon some weird elements. Sure, the main character had an eastern feel, but I wanted the otherworld to feel different. Alien. I write these things, you see, to amuse myself first. If I don't have fun with my fiction, how can anyone else?

So, as well as Japanese, I drew upon some Greek mythology. Some images from Hindi mythology. Some weird stuff that doesn't fit into any of these. 5000 words reached (and, well, passed). But I realized one awful thing: the story was lost.

In trying to expand, I had buried the real story I was trying to tell. So, I started paring. Not erasing forever, merely removing for now. The bits I pulled, I figured, could be turned into other tales. Continuing stories for this character or other characters in this setting.

The final story I turned in was about 4100 words. I wrote a letter to the publisher, explaining myself. He, quite kindly, accepted my piece for Blazing Adventures Magazine. "Heed the Hell-Bound" has been published, even more kindly, as the Story of the Month for that magazine.

Oddly enough, the .pdf edition features a curious typo not found in my original manuscript... The first line should read thus:

In the gray stone ruins north of Ohryu City, Kairyon's Vessel -- an unadorned, wooden disk six feet in diameter -- waited to carry Haiyu to Hell.

Will the future hold more adventures from this ronin Haiyu and the strange worlds he occupies? Only time will tell...

-- D