MONSTERS IN MY MIND: Story notes, part 43 and 44

43. What Great Darkness

Red met Wolf on her way through the forest, long before the Plague. He looked at her. Smiled, and there were fangs in the smile. Her heart fluttered, and not with fear. She had never seen anything like him before.

“Red Riding Hood shacks up with the Wolf because who needs humans anyway” is not exactly a new take, but I tried my hand at it anyway. Then, owing to the same “inner story” and “outer story” conversation that I had with A. Merc Rustad before writing Lady Blue and the Lampreys, I added Lovecraftian monsters. Why not?

“What Great Darkness” was written for an anthology of Lovecraftian fairy tales, but it didn’t get in. It’s now a MONSTERS IN MY MIND original.

Song Pairing: As mentioned, this is not a new take, so there are already several songs to choose from to complement it. I’ll go with Xandria’s “Little Red Relish,” because, again, why not. (If I can symphonic-metal a thing, I’ll symphonic-metal the thing.)

44. Daphne Without Apollo

Not running away. Not pleading
for a hiding-place – vain boy of a god,
did you think you would blot me
from the world?

There are some Greek myths that I kind of hate. Film at 11.

The theme of Issue #2 of Plunge Magazine – a short-lived genre magazine focused on queer women – was “chase”.  “Daphne Without Apollo” was written for, and appeared in, that issue.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on AmazonKobo, Indigo,  Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND: Story notes, part 41 and 42

41. Centipede Girl

Centipede Girl has hands, feet, teeth, a tummy, just like a real girl. Forgets they are there, sometimes.

This is the infamous “centipede story” – the one that my family loudly refuses to read. In their defense, it is a story about people who congenitally have centipedes crawling all over them. The core of the story is less about OH NO BUGS, and more about loneliness – but that doesn’t mean it’s a pleasant read.

I hate centipedes, actually. They might be my least favorite animal ever. (My primary partner, Dave, says that this is unfair to the centipedes – like spiders, house centipedes do good deeds by eating up all of the other bugs that would otherwise infest the home.) The story was inspired by a large centipede that crawled brazenly right out on my keyboard WHILE I WAS TYPING something or other to one of my RPG friends.

(“Brb hunting for giant centipede,” I wrote, after screaming and falling off my chair, and then losing track of where the thing had gone. The friend in question, whose changeling sorcerer had a habit of casting Summon Monster I to produce fiendish centipedes, was bemused.)

After this happened, I spent a few days hypervigilant and imagining centipedes everywhere, even falling off my body or scurrying up to help retrieve small items. At which point I decided that my bug-related misery had become outlandish enough to be worth sharing with the world. I added a poignant motivation for my centipede-y protagonist, and a weird, ungrammatical narrative voice (I blame the latter on the fact that I’d just discovered China Miéville), and I was off to the races.

“Centipede Girl” appeared in the Journal of Unlikely Entomology and was reprinted in Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing – the first of my stories ever to do so, or to achieve any similar type of critical acclaim. This only made the loud declarations of “I’LL READ ANYTHING OF YOURS EXCEPT THE CENTIPEDE STORY, EW EW EW” even funnier.

Recently, though, my father announced to me that he has put a copy of MONSTERS IN MY MIND on the end table next to his chair. On evenings when he has the spare brain cycles (my father being even more disabled than I am), he intends to sit down and, bit by bit, read the full collection.

“All The Things,” he said loyally, “even centipede girl.”

Song Pairing: As chosen by Unlikely Story’s editors during their Year of Bugmusic, the theme song for “Centipede Girl” is Dolores O’Rioran’s “Centipede Sisters”.

42. The Changeling’s Escape

A winding aisle through pillar-trees
to lie in hallowed darkness
as the summer creatures hum.

This poem was inspired by an actual episode of autistic “wandering” that happened when I was old enough to know better, but evidently still didn’t. (I just assumed it would be obvious that the dark woods were freakin’ gorgeous and I need to go into them RIGHT THEN – or, at the very least, that my family would see where I went. Oops.)

The first draft of the poem was much more defiant against parents not understanding, etc, but that aspect of it didn’t resonate with readers. The version that was eventually published – in the now-sadly-defunct Ideomancer – tells a more satisfying, and also more fictional, story. There’s more historically plausible (and unrelated-to-my-actual-life) detail given as to why the child in the story would want to leave her family – but the focus also remains firmly off them, and on the present and future.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on AmazonKobo, Indigo,  Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND: Story notes, part 38 and 40

38. Zori Server

On Zori Server you could drive a candy-colored Cadillac down a cloud into a forest of razor-leafed steel trees, then climb down a ladder into a cozy wood-paneled reading room and have your nails done by a wide-eyed robot.

Not much to say about this one. It’s a pretty standard tale of a teenager who runs into faeries – the nasty, deadly, tricksy kind – in a VR world. After all, if we can jack in, maybe other things can, too.

Song Pairing: This one is tricky, because most songs I know about VR worlds are the ominous, “technology is scary and controls you” kind. Or else they’re about online love/sex, which is fine, but is not what this story is about. Or maybe that’s just me not listening to genres that have nuance. In “Zori Server,” the VR community is mostly a positive thing, as long as you are aware of the dangers.

I guess I’m just gonna go with Star One’s “Down the Rabbit Hole,” which is vaguely Matrix-y but doesn’t mess it up with words.

40. Sage and Coco

But looking at her, even at her worst, gives me this sharp assurance, stronger than any magic I’ve ever done. Whatever good I can give her, I will.

“Sage and Coco” is a story about witches! Witches who are raising an adorable baby together and have to protect her from some sort of demon thing. I’ve been told that the witches in the story are more like real-life witches than standard urban fantasy witches. I did do research, both online and by quizzing actual witches with whom I was acquainted at the time, but I also took many artistic liberties. It’s still a work of fantasy, not realism, magical or otherwise.

I have always really enjoyed writing characters with limited speech and seeing how much meaning I can still convey. Sage, being a fairly typical toddler, gave me lots to play with in this regard.

“Sage and Coco” was published on the Kazka Press website, which appears to be defunct now. Readers should be warned that there is a sexual assault in a character’s backstory in this one, though it is not shown on the page.

Song Pairing: The song I associate with this one, thanks to the protective mommy protagonist, is Alanis Morissette’s “Guardian“.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on AmazonKobo, Indigo,  Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND: Story notes, part 35 and 36

35. An Operatic Tour of New Jersey, With Raptors

The Apocalypse begins when Diego sings Count Almaviva in “The Barber of Seville” in Dover, New Jersey. He doesn’t notice anything wrong until after the curtain call, when he steps out of the Baker Theater onto West Blackwell Street, struggling to balance the three bouquets of roses in his arms, and walks into a horde of running, screaming people, pursued by a Tyrannosaurus.

I wrote most of this story in a single day in the spring of 2013. I loved the concept so much that, once I had enough to write the title down, the rest of the draft just flowed. (Which is not to say it didn’t need edits – it very much did!)

I can’t take credit for the idea. Someone on Twitter – I no longer remember who – wrote that they were tired of zombie apocalypses and wanted a velociraptor apocalypse. I wrote one. (With paleontologically accurate velociraptors – small, feathered, etc. And a lot of other dinosaurs to boot.) The protagonist is an opera singer who, following the apocalypse, sets out to sing in every opera house that he can.

The protagonist of “An Operatic Tour of New Jersey, With Raptors” is named Diego – and his unfortunately deceased fiancé, Juan – after the Peruvian bel canto tenor Juan Diego Flórez.

It was published in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review in August 2013, though I don’t think it’s back up on their refurbished site yet. I have, on one occasion, read this story to a live audience and actually sung the sung bits. It was fun.

Song Pairing: Given how a variety of songs from The Barber of Seville pop up all over this story, the obvious song choice is “Largo al Factotum” – sung here by Flórez’s castmate at the Met, Peter Mattei.

36. Under the Clear Bright Waters

She dove into this water expecting to die, after all. She never expected  someone was waiting for her underneath.

“Under the Clear Bright Waters” is the only work of outright erotica I’ve ever published. (There’s also “The Giantess’s Dream,” but that’s poetry, and the boundaries with poetry are more fluid.) It’s a lesbian story with a very mild BDSM element, set in ancient Greece, loosely inspired by the myth of Hylas and the water nymphs.

This story was written because of a writing group I used to be part of, along with A. Merc Rustad, Krista D. Ball, and others. Like many close-knit writing groups, we began to fantasize about the idea of publishing our own little anthology. Except that the group contained people who wrote in several very different genres – SFF, romance/erotica, litfic, and other things. We decided that the best compromise between all of these genres was an anthology of fantasy erotic romance, themed around Fae.

Because of struggles in people’s personal lives, disputes within the group, and the other factors that typically hamper such projects, the anthology was never made. But “Under the Clear Bright Waters” was, and now it’s in Monsters In My Mind for your reading pleasure.

Song Pairing: I’m probably just trolling myself at this point, but “Under the Clear Bright Waters” makes reference to an ancient Greek theory in which all bodies of water were connected through a series of underground caverns. So its companion music is now John Williams’ “Passage Through the Planet Core“, from a movie with a very different planet full of underground seas. The soft and mysterious watery atmosphere fits with the story’s tone, I think.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on AmazonKobo, Indigo,  Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND: Story notes, parts 29 and 31

29. Nightmare I

the night becomes a game of not looking

This is what it says on the can – a poem about a nightmare. It’s meant to be the first in a series. Fortunately, the occasions on which I have a nightmare so weird and surreal that I need to write it down upon waking are quite rare, so I don’t know that the series will ever be finished. 😀

31. Blue Fever

She always worried that one day she would have nothing new to say about the single word, glass, no remaining way to satisfy the court’s morbid tastes. But that day had not yet come.

This was written for (and published in) Ryan North’s “This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death”. The “Machine of Death” premise, for those who don’t know, is that there’s a sort of vending machine that can give you an accurate prediction of how you will die, but the prediction is always some really vague word (the ones in Blue Fever include “GLASS” and “GRAPES”, as well as the disease in the title).

I wondered how to write an original story about a Machine of Death given that there had already been a whole other anthology written about it. (I was a younger writer then.) The guidelines said to bring something into the story that you had a personal experience with. I picked singing; I used to be a semi-professional, classically trained soprano. And by “semi-professional” I mean “I made a couple hundred dollars a month singing lead in a church choir while I was an undergrad” but that TOTALLY COUNTS, right?

I ended up with a story about a decadent noble court in which singers are commissioned to sing about various people’s predicted deaths. It’s one of the few outright fantasy stories in “This Is How You Die” and I’m still very fond of it.

Song Pairing: You will have to use your imagination here. “Blue Fever” happens to have the partial lyrics of several deathsongs already contained inside it, and I couldn’t possibly choose a real-life song that will compare. 😀

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on AmazonKobo, Indigo,  Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND: Story notes, part 26 and 27

26. The Parable of the Supervillain

At four in the morning with the baby biting me,
I watched you call the President of Australia
from his velvet bed
and feed him to the army ants.

This poem appeared in Apex Magazine, in March 2014. Its inspiration was a moment I had with a then-close friend who was visiting me. I had a meltdown triggered by something, and yelled in awful ways – I very rarely yell during meltdowns, I’m usually more inclined to just freeze up and cry, but this one was really bad. Afterwards I was full of shame. I’ve had people who always yelled that way when I was growing up, I know how damaging it is, and I felt like a monster because I couldn’t stop myself. And my friend just came to me where I was sitting there crying and wordlessly put her arms around me.

I don’t want this post to turn into some kind of weird, “and therefore it’s okay to yell at people” apologia. Obviously, it’s not okay to yell, and it is damaging, and I’ve been actively working on training myself into alternate strategies so that I don’t damage the people on whom I rely for support. But in the moment, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my friend’s forgiveness, and I decided to write about that feeling.

Back when I was more conventionally religious, the Parable of the Prodigal Son was a story that had immense meaning for me. It still kind of does. And you don’t have to know me all that well to know that I appreciate fabulous villains. Once those two elements were in place, with the emotional core to back them up, the rest of it was easy.

27. The Company of Heaven

She couldn’t say why the angels frightened her. They swelled with too much light, but so did the sun, and she didn’t cower away from that. Maybe it was the way they said her name. Like another thing that knew her. Another that wouldn’t leave her alone.

“The Company of Heaven” is an older piece that never quite found a home before MONSTERS IN MY MIND. It’s named after a little-known work by Benjamin Britten, which I chanced to see performed live back in, oh, it must have been 2010 or even earlier. I was struck by this particular part of the text, a quote from John Ruskin, which is spoken aloud during the sixth movement:

…suppose that over Ludgate Hill the sky had indeed suddenly become blue instead of black; and that a flight of twelve angels, ‘covered with silver wings, and their feathers with gold,’ had alighted on the cornice of the railroad bridge, as the doves alight on the cornices of St. Mark’s at Venice; and had invited the eager men of business below, in the centre of a city confessedly the most prosperous in the world, to join them for five minutes in singing the first five verses of such a psalm as the 103rd – ‘Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is with me,’ (the opportunity now being given for the expression of their most hidden feelings) ‘all that is within me, bless his holy name, and forget not all His benefits.’ Do you not even thus, in mere suggestion, feel shocked at the thought, and as if my now reading the words were profane? And cannot you fancy that the sensation of the crowd at so violent and strange an interruption of traffic, might be somewhat akin to… the feeling attributed by Goethe to Mephistopheles at the song of the angels: ‘Discord I hear, and intolerable jingling?’

I knew immediately that I wanted to write about this scenario, about someone being directly confronted by Actual Angels – angels who didn’t appear to want anything of them, except that they consider joining in a song – and being completely unable to appreciate or accept the experience.

At first – being much more conventionally religious, back in 2010, than I am now – my view of what such a person would be like was very negative, and the story was going to be one of these unpleasant, self-critical, character study kinds of stories. But that version of the story never quite gelled, and I could never quite bring myself to write it down. Eventually I realized that Cassie, the story’s protagonist, needed to be much more sympathetic. She needed to have reasons for being uneasy around angels that parallelled my own – she is busy, yes, but she’s also queer and traumatized, acutely afraid of being called crazy, and suspicious that the social value systems that go along with believing in angels will also harm her in multiple ways. I needed to own those things as valid and relatable feelings, and write them accordingly. And I needed to give her, not a judgmental, downer ending, but a hopeful one.

So the story eventually happened that way, and was finished in 2012. It never sold, and I wonder if that’s due to the weird combination of both being queer and having heavy Christian overtones – who would buy that? I don’t know. I probably wouldn’t even buy that. It could also be that this is an earlier work, and maybe my craft just wasn’t quite there. But it’s a story I love, so I put it into MONSTERS IN MY MIND, and now you can read it, too.

By the way, all the words sung by the angels in this story are actual hymns, except for “Heaven is here, and the angels of heav’n,” which is from the Britten piece.

Song Pairing: Britten’s “The Company of Heaven” is difficult to track down in recorded form, but if you’d like to hear it for yourself, there appear to be several versions on YouTube.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on AmazonKobo, Indigo,  Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND: Story notes, part 24 and 25

24. Synchronicity

I dreamed of a woman made of glass, like this.

A poem that’s barely even speculative – I used to have an RPG/writing partner who could intuit some of my ideas almost this easily. It was my first sale to Through the Gate, in May 2013.

25. How My Best Friend Rania Crashed a Party and Saved the World

Rania snorted and shoved me. “That’s not a date with me. That’s a date with Suman Bachchan’s cheekbones.”

“Rania” is a YA that grew out of a very specific frustration of mine – polarized discussions about social media. Either millennials are using it to ruin the world and destroy everyone’s privacy, or it’s the wonderful wave of the future where everyone should always be connected and you didn’t need that privacy anyway. After walking out of yet another of these discussions, it struck me that neither side seemed to have much nuance – and that both sides seemed to be missing the ways that people actually adapt to social change, whether good, bad, or ambivalent.

So, I decided to write a not!dystopia. A world in which some Internet stuff had been taken to its logical conclusion, and was ridiculous and problematic in certain ways, and people adapted and went on with their lives – subverting what they could, when they needed to, but also using it to their advantage.

“Rania” is only barely science fiction, as it’s barely in the future. Almost all of it is completely doable with current technology, including the central conceit of an Infallible Cloud that sorts people’s personalities into categories. (Marketing companies already do this, just not publicly.) And the Kinect-like video game system, and the robot camel, etc. The only part I’m not sure you could currently do is some window dressing with holograms at a party, and even then, I’m not sure. The story came out in February 2014 in The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography, but a couple of years later, China announced that it would be using machine learning to give its citizens trustworthiness scores similar to a credit rating. So now this story is even less speculative than it was. 😛

Song Pairing: I struggled to pick a song for this one, but given the YA vibe and the focus on surveillance and privacy, I think I’m going to go with Miley Cyrus’s “Fly on the Wall”.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on AmazonKobo, Indigo,  Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND: story notes, part 20, 23, 30, 37, and 47

20. Taylan

She expected me to dance with her. Innocently, like we had when we were two little girls in the fourth grade.

“Taylan” is a micro-story – under 200 words – that I wrote as an experiment, for a microfiction magazine called Leodegraunce. The theme of the issue was “Elegance”. I managed to write a quasi-love triangle (one of the loves being, probably, platonic) in that length and make it work, and Leodegraunce bought it.

This led to a short burst of wanting to write ALL OF THE MICROFICTION, as you can see below.

23. Feasting Alone

The chewing, smacking sounds. The smell. Someone had taken pity on the man and given him a program to conjure up the virtual ghost of food. He squatted on the floor, guzzling obscenities: salt pork, chocolate, rigatoni, grapes.

“Feasting Alone” was written for the Leodegraunce theme, “Seven Deadly Sins”. I noticed that, out of the seven, people didn’t usually have much to say about Gluttony, and that when they did, it was usually facile fat-shaming. Or, occasionally, a critique of modern food corporations; but that wasn’t where I wanted to go with the story, either. I wanted to write about food, and an excess of food, and why characters might be disturbed by this, in a way that had nothing to do with anybody’s body shape or supposed health.

I ended up with a tale of a virtual world in which people couldn’t remember the appeal of food anymore, or why anyone had bothered to put up with the chewing sounds and other potentially overloading byproducts of eating in the past. (Yes, I have been overloaded by people’s chewing sounds before. And scrapey cutlery sounds, UGGGH. It is one of the things that is usually under control when I take my meds, but it is a thing.) Despite all this, learning to live with food again might be the only way to understand a lonely and overwhelmed stranger. (Comfort eating, for me, is very much also a thing.)

It wasn’t a very good story at 200 words, and Leodegraunce didn’t want it. On the advice of a beta reader, I expended it to about 700. It worked much better at a more typical flash length, and it sold to AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review.

30. Ribbons

When they put Marnie in solitary she started to pick at her fingertips.

At some point, Leodegraunce announced that they were making an anthology, and that I could submit up to TEN microfics! I proceeded to go wild and write so many microfics that Krista D. Ball asked if I was on drugs.

Most of the microfics were not very good, but “Ribbons” stood out from the pack. “Ribbons” was, in its first incarnation, less than 100 words long (I later expanded it to exactly 100) and TERRIFYING.

It didn’t sell, either to Leodegraunce or other venues (and the anthology ended up folding before it was printed), but Krista still says it’s the scariest thing she’s ever read, and whenever I look at it now, I smile and think of her.

37. Space Pops

Once they notice real limitlessness, all they can do is grow to match it.

“Space Pops” was written, not for Leodegraunce, but for the AE Micro 2012 contest, which happily published it. It features deep space and people cheerfully exploding. I think it is tied with “Ribbons” for my favorite microfic, but the tone is very different.

47. The Wives of Miu Fum

We found a cave in the side of the mountain and built Miu Fum a death-house as large and well-furnished as any living man’s.

The only other one from the large batch of Leodegraunce-inspired microfiction that I still like. “The Wives of Miu Fum” is the tale of a funeral. I ran out of markets for it, so I published it on my Livejournal in 2013 as an experiment.

Pro tip: don’t ever publish work you care about on Livejournal (or Dreamwidth, or WordPress, or whatever). You will feverishly wonder for the rest of your days if it is Terrible, if No One Likes It, if you are a Terrible Presumptuous Author publishing Bullshit in your journal and expecting people to care about it, or if anyone even read it at all. Send things to editors and get paid, and you might still wonder those things, but at least you’ll have money and one person’s approval. Oh well. It was an experiment and I learned things.

I’m pretty sure I put this one in the collection out of sheer cussedness. Enjoy!

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on AmazonKobo, Indigo,  Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND: story notes, part 18 and 19

18. The Dragon-Ship

Half-alive, prow cruelly pointed, undulant through the slow currents of spacetime: these were the ships that slipped like sea-snakes into galaxies no chemical thruster could reach.

A science fiction prose poem, never before published. This one is what it says on the can.

19. The Screech Owl Also Shall Rest There

Your love is mine, even if you don’t know it yet. Your life is mine. And, darling, new darling, I take what is mine.

This story was my first collaboration with my friend Jacqueline Flay. We’ve since collaborated on two other stories – one that is set to come out in Persistent Visions next year, and another that is still out on submission.

The nice thing about working with Jacqueline is that she nudges me to take more risks, and to explore territory I wouldn’t necessarily have built a story around on my own. “Screech Owl” is a sexy, kinky, violent, angry story about a Neolithic vampire and her loyal pack of humans. The gradual development of cities poses problems for her and her way of life. How do you cope with a change so massive, when it happens so slowly that a mortal might not notice it happening?

I did some research for this one, but probably less than the topic deserves. The initial impulse to write a Neolithic story came from a chapter of Elizabeth Wayland Barber’s “Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years,” which I read on a whim. The temple that features prominently in the story is inspired by this one.

“The Screech Owl Also Shall Rest There” was intended for a small-press anthology about vampires and tattoos, but Jacqueline and I had a contractual dispute with that publisher and the story was dropped. (In retrospect, I… still think it wasn’t a good contract, but I could have handled the situation much more tactfully than I did.) It eventually made its way into a different anthology by an equally small press, “The Death God’s Chosen”.

There are no owls in the story; the title is an obscure Bible reference that probably makes sense only to me.

Song Pairing: Jacqueline says the theme song for this one is In This Moment’s “Bloody Creature Poster Girl”. Who am I to disagree with Jacqueline?

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on AmazonKobo, Indigo,  Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND: story notes, part 15 and 17

15. Turning to Stone

Time flees,
and when the sound begins, you’ve run too far
ahead to hear.

A poem about an actual real-life autistic meltdown/catatonia thing that happened. Nor is it the only time I have had catatonia. Catatonia is a Thing.

I went through an unusual number of drafts with this poem. Folks on the poetry forum I was using at the time didn’t seem to get it no matter what I did. (Was it a drug trip? A lot of people seemed very intent on the idea that I was writing about a drug trip.) But they did have many useful suggestions, and they made the poem a stronger beast.

Putting the verses of the poem into first person was a very late development; earlier drafts were more distancing. The refrains in parentheses are also very altered from what they were in the early drafts. I wanted the people around the “stone woman” to be ironically admiring, expecting there to be something magical and powerful about her when in reality it’s just that she can’t move or talk right now. But that version of the lines didn’t connect with anyone. Adding some more realistically harsh external comments made them more powerful. It was also surprisingly painful to do.

The poem’s rhythm, which I rather like, was with it from the beginning.

I eventually worked up the nerve to stop posting drafts on the poetry forum and send it to Stone Telling, where Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan had yet more suggestions for edits (mostly about the enjambment). The published version is up here. Rose has told me that it’s still one of their favorite Stone Telling poems.

17. The Self-Rescuing Princess

Did you expect this: matted hair,
dress in the unsexy kind of tatters,
holes at the elbows and filth in the seams,
fingernails black, face scarred?

In 2013, and in the thick of processing some of my own traumas, I decided that the phrase “self-rescuing princess” made my hackles rise. It’s a common term of fan approval for female characters who don’t wilt around waiting for A Man to rescue them. It made me think thoughts about what it is to be rescued, to be in need of rescue, to have the need for rescue be presupposed but the idea of who is responsible for it to be in question. About the idea that, whatever horror might enter into a person’s life, a Good Person must remain self-sufficient in dealing with it and its aftereffects. (A relative of this idea is that the idea that these horrors are “for a therapist to deal with” and must never under any circumstances become an inconvenience to one’s actual friends.)

The resulting poem says a lot of things that I’m not sure I entirely agree with. Clearly, some part of me did at the time. (One thing I would certainly do differently if I was writing it again is the line that references Wonder Woman. I don’t think I really understood what that character was about at the time.) It’s still a fun rant, though – good enough for the editor of Lakeside Circus in 2014, though, and now good enough for MONSTERS IN MY MIND.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on AmazonKobo, Indigo,  Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.