11 August 2015

Do You Want To Build a Scarecrow?

Credit: solaroid by way of TV Tropes
Today's mail brought my copy of Scarecrow, a themed speculative fiction anthology edited by Rhonda Parrish and published by World Weaver Press. (See the cover here; you can order it here or from Amazon.) Along with work by Devil's Arithmetic author Jane Yolen and others I'm excited to read is my short story "The Straw Samurai," which was inspired in part by the above illustration of a tengu. A tengu is a Japanese mythological creature, and my original intent was to write a story about one for the companion anthology, Corvidae, to be continued in a sequel for Scarecrow. Because I had this idea just three weeks before the submission deadline (Halloween, 2014), I had to blend it into a single, standalone story that I barely finished on time. As expected, it deals with both tengu (crow-people) and a scarecrow, but it was chosen for the latter theme.

Here's a quick blurb:
Okamiko is a lonely human girl in a land of Monster villages. She wanders between these cow-people and bird-people and dog-people, struggling to find where she belongs...until a family of chough-children want her only friend - a supposedly magical stick of bamboo - in exchange for a straw samurai.
 Without giving anything significant away, I can also tell you:

  • the story is a retelling of the Japanese folktale "The Tengu's Magic Cloak"
  • it features anthropomorphic animals, or mutants - a subject I devoted a lot of attention to in this post
  • even though the corvidae called choughs (pronounced "chuff") aren't native to Japan, I made my tengu red-billed chough-people because of the similarity in appearance
  • it represents my fascination with the subject of supernatural transformation, as explained here
  • the main character was inspired by both Ponyo (from the Miyazaki movie, itself a retelling of The Little Mermaid) and my daughter Greta
  • I've written two novels set in this same universe of retold myths and legends, and while several excerpts were shortlisted and one was an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest, this is the first story set in that universe to see publication
  • it is also the first to be written specifically for a themed call for submissions
It's not a terribly long story, so that's probably more than sufficient preamble. I hope you'll take the chance to read it!