Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Weirding out again

I grumped out pretty hard yesterday (somebodygotacaseofthemondays) so let's shift gears altogether today and talk about some genuinely good news of positive developments for me. I recently made some purposefully vague comments about personal projects which I was not yet comfortable elaborating upon in detail, but I am happy to report that as of today I can lift the veil of semi-secrecy: the big project is the third (and, sadly, probably final) volume of How the West Was Weird, and my personal involvement consists of a short story which I submitted for inclusion in the anthology. I found out over this past weekend that my story was accepted and will see print sometime this spring. Which makes me pretty happy!


For those of you who may be new to the proceedings around here, some background: when volume two of How the West Was Weird came out, back in 2011, I was a contributor to the anthology, which kind of happened in a strangely roundabout way. Basically I was approached out of the blue by the editor of the anthology, because he was looking for additional pieces to fill out the second volume and we had a mutual friend who mentioned I might want to write something, and it so happened that I had written a little vignette years earlier which was definitely weird and approximately western-set, plus had been sitting on my hard drive with no particular purpose. So everything serendipitously came together to everyone's benefit.

Some time after I announced here on the blog that I had a story appearing in How the West Was Weird v.2 (and after I had shamelessly promoted the book with links to purchase it on Amazon) the anthology actually hit the streets and I got my contributor copy and I read the whole thing cover-to-cover. (I don't know if it goes without saying or not that I would do just that, but in case it needs saying, I suppose I am the kind of person who would always be curious about what all of my co-contributors came up with.) The reading experience was positive overall from a pure entertainment perspective, but somewhat frustrating on another level. The vast majority of the other stories in the book were straightforward pulp adventures, and I am not saying that in any kind of disparaging way. I love pulp adventures. I love big, loud, fun, plot-heavy stories; I love other kinds of stories, too, there's a time and a place for everything, but stories with larger-than-life heroes and ever-escalating stakes are a particularly enduring pleasure of mine. And yet, the story I had written that happened to put me in the right place at the right time to effortlessly slide into the How the West Was Weird series was not exactly that kind of story. It was written in an intentionally off-kilter style and its pulpier elements were at least somewhat subverted. Overall I'm sure it struck the editor as a good fit because it added a different note of flavor to the overall anthology, but I found myself jealous of the contributors who had contributed the meat and potatoes that I was theoretically spicing up. And thus I vowed that when (and if) there was a volume three, I would set myself to the task of writing a story that was undeniably straight from the heart of the weird western genre, a lot more in keeping with the ostensible theme and thus more of a main course entertainment.

Since then I've re-read all of Stephen King's Dark Tower books about Roland Deschain the Last Gunslinger, and I've sat down to watch a lot more classic westerns like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West, all of which certainly helped. And I've also started raising a little girl (my wife was pregnant with our daughter when the editor initially approached me about participating, and the little girl was a newborn when volume two was published), and that ended up influencing me more than anything else. Somewhere along the line I decided that even better than indulging in my love for pulpy pulse-pounding fantasy and all of its tropes (and cliches) would be carving out a little more new space in the playground for all the little girls out there. So I actually wrote the tale of a young, brave, resourceful cowgirl hunting down bad guys and taking on whatever the world throws at her. I really can't abide the thought of sharing my enthusiasm for adventure stories with all my kids as they grow up, and my sons having no shortage of heroic protagonists to look up to and emulate and identify with, and my daughter having the very limited choice between Wonder Woman and Princess Leia and ... that's about it. Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but not by all that much. And I'm not so full of myself as to think I can level the playing field singlehandedly, but it's always better to do something positive than do nothing. So, my something, coming soon!

I will continue to make use of the How the West Was Weird tag around here as the publication date for volume 3 draws nigh, including when the full table of contents is released and when the final cover art for the book is unveiled, and so on. (That image up above? Nothing really connected to the How the West Was Weird series, just a cool piece of comic book art in the appropriate vein.) My inclusion in the anthology this time around feels much less like a happy accident and much more like something I worked hard at and am commensurately proud of, so, you know, be forewarned that I will probably talk it up a lot.

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