45. Miss Sprocket Tinkers
Round and round they went on the big brass wheel, up and down the ladders, in and out of little hidey holes. Sprocket wanted those mice.
This is a steampunk story from the point of view of a clever cat who gets a little too involved in her owner’s inventions. It appeared the first issue of the now-defunct magazine Comets and Criminals.
I hesitated to add this one to the collection. At a formative phase in my writing career, I heard people talking derisively about cat stories – as kitsch, or something; it wasn’t clear – and I felt ashamed of having written one. But I’ve also had people – especially people who don’t always like my darker, weirder fare – tell me it’s one of their favorites. So… shrug! I guess I have to remind myself that Ellen Datlow once edited an anthology of cat stories, so that gives them some pedigree. So to speak.
46. The Tooth Fairy Throws In the Towel
I was there when a fish invented teeth,
that was a real ornery fish believe you me
At some point in 2012, I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and my recovery was miserable and slow. No complications – it just hurt a lot for longer than it was supposed to (my dental surgeon didn’t believe in anything stronger than Advil) and I kept trying to tough it out and chew things I wasn’t ready for and just making it worse.
During this annoyingly long time, I couldn’t concentrate enough to write anything. I knew I was finally starting to recover properly when my creative words came back. The first thing I wrote was an intentionally absurd, badly spelled free-writing exercise as a present for A. Merc Rustad. (They’d asked for more Lovecraftian fairy tales, after “What Great Darkness.” I wrote something ridiculous about Ariel the Little Mermaid crossed with Elric of Melniboné.) The second was this poem, which is, appropriately, about a frustrating experience involving teeth. (And fairies. And Cthulhu… Maybe I wasn’t too far from Merc’s writing prompt, after all.)
“The Tooth Fairy Throws In the Towel” is one of the only intentionally humorous poems I’ve written. It appeared in Mythic Delirium 29, along with “The Siren of Mayberry Crescent” and one other poem.
49. The Chartreuse Monster
“That book saved my life,” said Indrani.
MONSTERS IN MY MIND comes full circle at the end with the very first short story I ever published for money. “The Chartreuse Monster,” published in Expanded Horizons in July 2010, is the story of a hyperempathic convention attendee who finds out their favorite author is dying.
“The Chartreuse Monster” is also the only story I ever successfully wrote based on a randomly generated prompt. I was a tiny baby writer and I was very aware, when I started the story, that my skill at creating settings needed work. I wanted to write something set at one of the only places I’d been in real life that I thought was “interesting enough” – a science fiction convention. But that didn’t give me a plot. So I rolled randomly on a table of George Polti’s 37 Dramatic Situations and ended up with element 1A3: “Appeals for a refuge in which to die.”
But who would want to spend their last days at a science fiction convention? I asked myself. And this story appeared, with all of its gentle overtones about grief and legacy and what books mean to people. I was as surprised as anyone. (Now that I am a slightly-less-tiny baby writer, there are some things about the premise that I’d approach differently – but I decided not to meddle.)
The editor of Expanded Horizons also said that the protagonist of this story reads as autistic to them, even though I wasn’t consciously thinking about that at the time. We agreed it was ok to tag the story with “autism” – which makes this, unwittingly, also my first #ownvoices autism story. And makes an even better bookend to the collection, which now starts and ends with two very different stories about autistic girls and women at conventions. “You Have to Follow the Rules” is the tale of discovering a world for the first time. “The Chartreuse Monster,” at last, lets it go.
Song Pairing: The song for this one is In This Moment’s “Into the Light“.