You may have noticed that a lot of my so-called “random” Thursday blogs have been about Alpennia. This is, perhaps, not entirely surprising, given that the clock is ticking down to release day. A couple days ago I turned in the editorial revisions and now I’m turning to compiling lists of reviewers while waiting for the copyedits to come in. So I’ve been thinking a lot about forthcoming Alpennia stories (while not forgetting that I plan to do the Skinsinger collection in 2017).
As the scope of the Alpennia stories continues to expand, and as events start moving into place for the big events of the last couple of novels, I’m running into a unusual frustration: there are stories I want to tell in Alpennia that can’t be told through the viewpoints of queer women. Huh. It’s sort of the flip side of one of the forces that pushed me toward publishing with Bella. I knew that I was planning a lot more stories about queer women than I had any confidence a general publisher would support. But publishing with Bella means that my novels are locked in to centering on women who love women.
I had a bit of an epiphany about this the other week: think how radical it is to be telling an extended epic-level fantasy series that’s about the regular world (rather than a single-sex secondary world) and yet where everything is experienced and filtered through the lives of queer women. Especially when those women do not hold a central or decisive position in the power structures of that world. Yes, it distorts things a bit. Yes, it means that there are things we’ll see intimately and things we’ll experience only tangentially that are very different from how those choices would be made with straight (and/or male) protagonists. And isn’t that just a bit mind-blowing all by itself?
But there are still stories I want to tell—need to tell, for completeness’ sake—that need other voices. Fortunately, that’s what short fiction is for. And the overall story arc is coming up on the points where those pieces fit in.
The next book I’ll be working on is Floodtide, and there’s a story—something in the line of a character sketch—about Celeste that I want to put out before it’s published. And then, right on the heels of Floodtide, comes an episode that prompts Jeanne to reminisce about her first girlfriend. Mistress of Shadows currently looks like it’s going to center on three viewpoints (Barbara, Serafina, and Zobaydah) and take place largely outside of Alpennia. But while it’s going on, back at home, I want to tell a story that happens around Iulien Fulpi’s long-delayed coming-out ball (not the one she has in Chalanz, the promised one in Rotenek). And while Barbara is in Paris, I want to tell a story about Margerit’s complicated crisis of faith and how it resolves. And then there’s a story about Anna Monterrez that doesn’t really fit well anywhere else but falls around the end of Mistress of Shadows and involves events that would be hard to tell from any viewpoint than hers. I think people have asked for something about Akezze as well and there are some possibilities in her future that might grow into a separate story.
These are all short, self-contained episodes, none of them novel length. I’ve been thinking a bit about how I want to handle them (other than continuing in my tradition of self-pubbing them as freebies). Slapping the files up on the website is all very well, but it doesn’t give me a good sense whether anyone is reading them. I’ve been thinking of something more like an opt-in “fan club” newsletter that would include access to the short fiction as an incentive for signing up. I blog so much that it can be hard to identify reasons for someone to sign up for a separate newsletter, but I’m assured by other authors that it’s a useful tool. So maybe, possibly, something worth considering.