I wrote four stories this year, all in book fandoms, for Dragaera, Dragonriders of Pern, Jirel of Joiry, and Zoo City
1. My assigned story was The Sword and the Dagger
, for Steve Brust’s Dragaera. The prompt was for a story about Cawti and Norathar, a team of female assassins who go by “the Sword and Dagger of the Jhereg.” I decided to write their origin story. It isn’t spoilery for anything past Yendi
(book two). The Book of Jhereg
The Dragaera books are extremely intricate and complex, each named after and thematically exemplifying one of the 17 Great Houses to which the Dragaeran characters all belong. Each House has representative characteristics and a symbolic animal.
I echoed this by telling two stories in 17 alternating scenes, plus a prologue and epilogue framing the stories, each named after one of the 17 Houses, in their canonical order. One is the origin story of Cawti and Norathar, in which each scene features a key quality of the House it’s named after and/or a key quality of the book that House is named after. The other is a fairytale Cawti tells, in which each scene contains the animal the House is named for and/or a key quality of the House and/or its eponymous book.
Both stories contain a literal sword and dagger, and multiple parallels to each other, plus assorted other references and in-jokes, because that is very Brustian. If anyone’s interested, I can elaborate in comments. (Read the story first.)
In other words, after driving myself nearly mad with the “13 psychic duels and an orgy” story, I decided to write two related stories of 17 scenes each. NEVER AGAIN. However, giving oneself pre-set rules, such as “Scene 13 in the fairytale must contain an orca, and Scene 13 in the origin story must involve the qualities of brutality and/or mercantilism,” is helpful rather than maddening under those circumstances. Mostly.
Norathar’s characterization is based on a line of Cawti’s in which she says that Norathar used to hate everything. By the time we meet her in the books, she’s mellowed quite a bit.
I went not only to extreme lengths to write this, but to extreme lengths to conceal my identity from the recipient, with whom I chat about my assignments and who I would have normally gotten to beta this. Hopefully it was worthwhile.
2. Animal City
, for Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City
. The premise is that when someone is responsible for or possibly just feels guilty over another person's death, they get a companion animal and a psychic talent. If their animal is killed, they are swept to their death into an Undertow of nothingness.
The novel had a bunch of excerpts from newspaper articles, movie reviews, etc, dealing with this phenomenon, and this story is a collection of the same sort of thing. (The prompt was to explore the world and the premise.) The other (excellent) story for this fandom had the same structure, but was more about sociological implications, while mine was more about individual people. For people who like that sort of thing, mine contains both a parody of a pretentious academic paper (“Healing the Fat-Her Wound, Emb(race)ing the Anima-l…”) and a YA problem novel.
3. The Lord of Joiry
, for C. L. Moore’s “Jirel of Joiry,” 1930s pulp fantasy about a swordswoman having adventures in spooky otherworlds which echo her inner landscape. The prompt suggested “Jirel as a teenager.” I imitated Moore’s baroque pulp sensibility for the prose, mood, and theme. You don’t have to know the canon to read this – it’s a prequel – but some elements will have more impact if you do. I especially enjoyed writing this story since the recipient is a huge, huge C. L. Moore fan, and I have never seen any fic for any of Moore’s works.
, for Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. Mirrim gets tired of being the only woman to ride a fighting dragon and goes on Search for female candidates to Impress green dragons. Things don’t go exactly as planned.
The prompt, which I spotted on the pinch hit list, asked for a story about Mirrim and added that she also loved Menolly and female characters in general. This was completely up my alley – I too had requested Mirrim, and received a lovely story about her - so I tried to snag the pinch hit. But someone else got in ahead of me and claimed it… and re-purposed a pre-existing story about two original male characters, in which Mirrim makes a brief cameo appearance. As I suggested in the yuletide comm, the FAQ should probably clarify that unless the recipient states otherwise, requested characters should be the story’s protagonist, not merely be included. Luckily, since I’d gotten an idea when I saw the prompt, I wrote this story anyway as a treat.
The plot was inspired by the concept of categorizing people a la Divergent
(society organized by personality quizzes), the Sorting Hat, and Dragaeran Houses, and the similar issues that go with trying to match individuals to occupations and to each other. In case that sounds preachy, I don’t think categorizing and matching is evil, but rather interestingly complicated.
The candidates are all original characters. Lanner was very loosely inspired by a woman I knew from the dojo. D’wer and Trebeth are in Dragonquest
for about two pages. I’m often more interested in the rank and file than in the leaders, so I enjoyed the opportunity to showcase the blue and green riders.
Menolly’s song is sung to the tune of “
Watch-WherFroggy Went A-Courting
, aka “Old Bangum.” While I’m at it, check out this unusual version of Old Bangum
, which gives it the gravitas I remember from the version my father sang me when I was a child
This is my third story about Mirrim, Path, and Menolly. My others are The Marvels We Have Seen
, which is femmeslash, and The Ballad of Mirrim and Menolly’s Ride
, which is an epic gen adventure in which Mirrim, Menolly, and Path travel to various alternate timelines trying to undo an apocalypse. The former could work as a prequel to “Dragonsearch,” but the latter isn’t in quite the same continuity.
Feel free to discuss, spoil, or ask questions in comments.