Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Feathered Edge: Raven Girl and Sir Francis Drake

Sheila Finch's "Fortune's Stepchild" is linked to other stories backwards-fashion. For so many of us, a tale or legend or bit of history so captured our childhood imaginations that forever after, it is a touchstone for "something wonderful and magic." Kari Sperring, for example, grew up dreaming of joining the musketeers and saving France. (Aside: I wonder if there's something about being British -- Sheila's an ex-pat Brit -- that lends itself to such inspiration; we on the other side of the Atlantic can read about Arthur and company, but he's not our Arthur.) At any rate, Sheila admits to a special fondness for tales about Sir Francis Drake (who was an amazingly colorful fellow, even if only a tenth of the stories told about him are true.)

Sheila's best known for her science fiction, including a series of stories about the Guild of Xenolinguists (one of which won the Nebula Award), but she's a writer of many and varied interests. I met her a gazillion years ago, if memory serves me right at the same convention at which I met Sherwood, and thus began a long running conversation. After I fled from Los Angeles to the redwoods of the Central Coast, we'd get together every so often at one convention or another, grab a few friends, and head offsite for the best fish restaurant we could find. And have meaty, thoughtful discussions on everything under the sun.

So when I was considering the balance of new-to-me writers and new-to-my-anthologies writers, I thought, I bet Sheila would come up with something fascinating. With her unerring sense of serendipitous timing, she presented me with a period piece with romance, magic, and intelligence. The first time I read "Fortune's Stepchild," my husband and I had not long finished watching every film adaptation of the life of Elizabeth I we could get our hands on, and my head was filled with the Spanish Armada, Shakespeare, religious wars, courtly politics, schemes and beheadings, pirates and privateers, not to mention seekers of fortune of all varieties.

We tend to think of the early history of the Americas as one tragedy after another, at least for the native peoples. What Sheila has given us is a tiny moment of magic in a land of unusual opportunity. Perhaps this really happened. Perhaps it happened in a different world, a different America.

Perhaps it's one of those stories that should have happened, and some day, in a galaxy far, far away, will...

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