Albino Spider’s Ancestor

(this is the text accompanying this video)

I was much smaller when I was young. And I had eight legs, and clever claws, and teeth. I gave up all those things, for the chance to be big, but I did not lose the fear that comes from being very small.

I was born in a library. Libraries are safe and quiet and beautiful but even in the safest places an albino spider is easy lunch. I hid often in the valleys of books, and I learned from my hiding places that I had an ancestor who was as large as people.

People are never eaten. Their homes aren’t torn apart by enormous oblivious faces who have the NERVE to thrash and cry.

(I promise that I have never wanted to frighten you.)

I read that I had an ancestor who was as big as people, but I did not read her history carefully.

Arachne had made a bet with a god, or had shamed a god, or lost a contest or won… either way I knew a contest was involved, and I knew the god’s name.

It is easy to find contact information in libraries.  🙂

I reached out to Athena and explained that I wanted a chance to regain what my ancestor had lost.

…she laughed at me.

“Why would I enter a contest with you? You have nothing I want.”

But I had fury. I was small, and because I was small I was constantly afraid. I had been nearly swatted just for using the computer to find her. I had escaped the jaws of a cat only days before our meeting. I could not count the number of times my home was displaced! And after, my name cursed as though I wanted my work broken against your skin!

(it does upset me, by the way, when my work is broken against your face. Not for the work I must put in rebuilding, but for the assumption that I was deliberately cruel.)

Athena tried to speak over me. She had fury, too. The fury of a god no longer worshiped but I would not relent because I had something more.

“I have forgiveness.  It’s locked deep inside my heart, but if you will contest with me, you might just win my forgiveness.”

She had never known forgiveness, and so she agreed to my terms.

I was born in a library, and cleverness is born there, too. I knew that this egotistical god would not accept defeat from a spider. If I created something more beautiful than this goddess of crafting beauty, she would find some way to make it my defeat.  So I bet Athena that even a god could not be a worse weaver than a scared albino spider tucked into the corner of a library.

She accepted, and we began to craft.

I am distracted. I am fidgety. I lose focus as quick as a cell phone ping and I pick up all my stitches on the wrong side of the fabric. I never test swatches, I never set colors, and by the time I was finished, the fabric that wouldn’t be fit to ride underneath a donkey’s saddle.

And Athena, in all her glory, she dropped her stitches so precisely that it made a lace.  And her colors mixed so casually, that she finished with a lace shawl that sang like an autumn day.

I won.

(hooray for me)

I won the form stolen from my ancestor and how deeply sorry I am that I did not read more carefully.

My limbs were stolen! And my venom gone, my teeth blunted…

She cracked my armor open to give me the shape of persons and this flesh is so easily bruised.

I miss the smallness I had.  And I kept all of the fear.  It’s no good thing to be clever.  The gods live for such a long time and they know so much more than you ever will think to ask.

And even the cleverest spiders, when they win against the gods, they lose.

~end~

Art Against Fear

It takes a lot of courage to write. I’m not big-upping myself, I know that if you are reading this, you probably write.

(All my friends are artists, even the ones who don’t acknowledge that part of themselves. You are courageous, and I love you.)

It takes even more courage to present that work to scrutiny, to ask someone who owes you nothing, if they would please like to buy your work and promote it with their name attached. My courage usually fails here. Query letters are a social game, with indiscernible rules, where a win grants you a few more seconds to pitch your work, and a fail is mark on your name. “This one does not belong with us.”

Or, that’s how it seems, when you are all alone, reading every book in your writing-instruction library and wondering how anyone has ever liked their own work enough to write “Dear Editor…”

I am becoming more courageous. That has not come from the years writing alone. (That had its own uses, which may be a post for another day.) It’s because I’ve met people in the industry. I’ve seen so much kindness from fellow authors, and editors, and agents. And I know that every one of those people are in the industry because they love stories and they want to make stories happen.

I sent out a couple really big stories recently, and I am not worried about them. If they sell, I will be thrilled. If they don’t, I will send them on to someone else. I won’t have offended anyone for sending a story they don’t want. I won’t have made some great social blunder that will keep me out of print forever.

Nobody seeks failure in their inbox. And if you’ve found an editor who does, you didn’t want to work with that person, anyway.

 

Also, if you know some magic, use it! Fear tells stories. Its favorite story is the one about all the possible disastrous futures that could result from your actions. But stories are my magic, and I’m really good at upsetting the narrative. I once put on skull face paint to set up a poetry reading over the phone. Fear didn’t know what to do with the shear absurdity of my actions, and the phone call went exceptionally well. Not every magic needs skullface, but allow yourself the tools you need to overcome fear. Sometimes just a favorite pair of sunglasses will alter your perspective enough to send that query letter.

 

In other news, I’ve been reading some brilliant stories while not updating this blog. Here’s a few recent favorites:

Robo-Liopleurodon! by Darcie Little Badger is about the futility of being a scientist when the world has stopped listening to scientists, and the piratic ways to fight back!  (And just keep reading through the rest of Robot Dinosaur Fiction after you are done because it’s seriously great.)

After Midnight at the ZapStop by Matthew Claxton is absolutely delightful, and I love how dang mundane this incredible science fiction world is to the poor guy working the counter at the only 24 hour 3D bio-printer shop in town.  The way all the pieces come together in the end is super satisfying, too.

The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly is a total magic trick.  A despot slowly savors another delicious meal while the protagonist relives the years in which he rose to power, and the ways she failed to resist.  Also, there are magic pastries that allow you to relive specific memories, and I want to eat (almost) every single one of them.

Luminous Mermaids

Florence Leilani Folsom

Wonderful News! Intergalactic Medicine Show bought my story The Late Mr. Folsom’s Luminosity Shop, and will be publishing it in October!  I’m so excited to finally share the story of Florence Leilani Folsom and Oren Honeydew!  This story merges my long standing love for luminescent jelly-mermaids, and delight for heroic low-level bureaucrats.

wrecking it

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like.  But I’ve still been making.  I acquired some watercolors and big paper for free or nearly, so I didn’t feel like I was ruining materials while painting portraits of the three main characters from my trio of stories on spiders.

Only one has been printed.  Silk Will Hold Her Bones Together is Tillie’s story, and it’s still live on The Iowa Review’s online back catalogue.  There’s a link to it under my bibliography page.

TillieMackenzieMavis

The colors are more vibrant irl, but I’ve only got my camera phone to show you.  It’s nice to make without worrying where it’s going to end up.  It’s hard to sell stories, and I’ve needed a win that comes from within.

These may end up in a small book of three stories, or this may be where they end.  Either way, I’m happy.

Happy making, making happy. 🙂

Hi, I’m Megan!

Fabulous news first: My story “Where You Get Your Ideas” is live right now for any ears to hear at Cast of Wonders!

The host A. Merc Rustad had so many nice words about my story (and I totally fangirled while listening because I have been a fan of their work for a while), and Dani Daly did such a wonderful job with J_’s voice!  Please give it a listen.  I can promise blood forged swords and banshee skulls, but There’s no fighting in the ideas shop!

All other news second:  I went to NorWesCon41!  It was big, and frightening, and I managed to talk to people before the convention is over.  In previous years, I was an awkward specter so overwhelmed with human contact that I forgot to tell Tina Connolly how much I loved Iron Skin until we had already parted for the elevator.  (Very glad I ran back to tell her, because she’s wonderful and Toasted Cake is now a delicious part of my weekly story diet.)

Leaving my routine is difficult, even for things I really love.  Like story telling, and learning more about story telling, and lavish costumes derived from a communal love for story telling.  NorWesCon is something I have been to before, but it only happens one week out of the year, and it changes in small ways that can’t be foreseen.  It’s difficult to make it routine, and so I plan myself around it.  I use some magical thinking to keep grounded; clothes I’ve made, favorite boots, calming objects in my purse.  And I have my schedule on my phone so I know what to expect.

Still, the biggest obstacle for me is the number of people.  But that number drops dramatically when you hold out your hand to people you’ve only met briefly online and say “Hi, I’m Megan!”  Then you only have to worry about the people standing with you!  And they do cool things, make cool things, travel to places you don’t know much about and oh my goodness it is so wonderful to meet people.

This might seem obvious.  This was not obvious to me in 2016.  I had only brushed with it at the end of NorWesCon 2017.  This year I managed on the first day.  It might have been the “everything is fine” code I knit into the fabric of my sweater, but I think it has more to do with the incredibly welcoming community of science fiction and fantasy writers that will bring you in and ask what you’re working on.

I am having a harder time writing this than I thought I would.  Admitting my anxieties is still something I’m getting used to, and it takes a lot more strength to acknowledge them than it does to suffer them in silence.

Highlights of NorWesCon:

A hotel beer with TJ Berry who shared my woes over working retail at a bookstore, and has a book coming soon called Space Unicorn Blues.

The Fairwood Writer’s workshop read the first three chapters of my novella, and gave me suggestions to revamp it in a way that could make it traditionally marketable.  I have a lot of work ahead of me, but it’s worth it to get this book into a trad publisher.

The readings.  Always the readings are wonderful.

Lowlights:

Putting off anxiety in big ways manifested in a small strange sensation that my toe had come detached from my foot inside my boot, and it got so strong that I missed a YA writing panel I wanted to see.  My toe is still attached, and there are no bloodstains on my boot, but I definitely had to spend some time in the bathroom massaging my foot to ensure my body was working.