Turning the Tied is available for preorder, and will be out for realsies on Saturday the 13th of March, just three days from now! Featuring some of the best tie-in writers in the business writing about various public-domain characters, this very nifty anthology will benefit the World Literacy Foundation, so it’s not only a really good book, it helps an important international cause!
My own story, “In Earth and Sky and Sea Strange Things There Be,” is about Ayesha, the title character in H. Rider Haggard’s 1886 novel She. I was poking around through the various public domain characters that were floating about, and I wanted in particular to do a story about a woman of color. There were vanishingly few — in fact, I didn’t really find any, as Ayesha herself is described by Haggard as being white. She’s also immortal and the ruler of a remote, hidden African nation.
She has a lot of common 19th-century tropes, including being structured as a travelogue-style account found in someone’s papers or sent as a manuscript to a personage of some sort, who then compiles it and publishes it. I thought this was a fun way to play with Ayesha’s story, as that extra layer of narrative provides a handy way to lend doubt to certain events of the novel, especially since the narrative itself claims to be an edited version of the original account. It meant I could make Ayesha a woman of color who was whitewashed by Haggard, who knew full well that his Victorian-era audience would never accept the notion of a black woman running an empire.
I also thought it would be fun to see what Ayesha would be like in modern times, and what kind of roadblocks an immortal might find to keeping her secret in an age of photo IDs, DNA profiling, and especially in the post-9/11 era of increased verification of identity. So in “In Earth and Sky and Sea Strange Things There Be,” I get to use one of my absolute favorite settings: an interrogation room. It’s the main reason why I write so many types of police procedurals: I love the verbal dance of an interrogation between an investigator and a witness/suspect. And in this story we have Ayesha Yatie, as she now calls herself, being interrogated by Special Agent Francesca LaManna of the FBI after she was caught with a fake passport.
I also wrote the story entirely in dialogue, since it’s just two people in a room talking to each other, which is a mode I love to dive into every once in a while.
(By the way, this now holds the record for longest title of one of my short stories, vaulting ahead of “A Vampire and a Vampire Hunter Walk Into a Bar” by two letters.)
Check out the rest of the Turning the Tied blog tour:
- Rigel Ailur: on the Bluetrix blog
- Max Allan Collins: on the IAMTW site
- Keith R.A. DeCandido (hey, that’s me!): on Jean Rabe’s blog
- Kelli Fitzpatrick
- Nancy Holder
- Steven Paul Leiva
- Will McDermott: on Ben H. Rome’s blog
- Marsheila Rockwell: on her own blog, on Ben H. Rome’s blog, and on Jennifer Brozek’s blog
- Ben H. Rome