Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Feathered Edge: A New Meviel Adventure...With Pirates!

Last year I began this series on "the stories behind the stories" in this anthology of marvelous fantasy stories I was privileged to edit. I got about halfway through when life in the form of writing deadlines intervened. So I'm going to repost them and hopefully finish the series, then put them together in a companion volume. to The Feathered Edge.

One of the challenges of writing short fiction is how much must be accomplished in how few words. Harry Turtledove once said that novels teach us what to put in a story, but short stories teach us what to take out. Every story element must serve multiple purposes - setting the scene and evoking the larger world beyond it, creating and heightening tension, revealing character -- oh, and moving the plot along. It's a tall order to accomplish in only a few thousand words. Some writers do the world-building part so well in even so short a space that it keeps beckoning them to return. That happened to me with a series of short stories I wrote for Sword and Sorceress (that eventually became a fantasy trilogy, The Seven-Petaled Shield). It also happened to Madeleine E. Robins with her world of "Meviel."

The first I saw of this wonderful place was the story Madeleine wrote for the first anthology I edited, Lace and Blade from Norilana Books. It was called "Virtue and the Archangel" and began thus:

Veillaune meCorse left her virtue in the tumbled sheets of a chamber at the Bronze Manticore. This act, which would have licensed her parents to cut her off from family and fortune, was a grave error; but with her maidenhead, Veilliaune also left the Archangel behind, and that was a calamity.

I guess the world of Meviel was just too enticing for one such tale to suffice, and when I was reading for the next volume, Madeleine queried me whether a second story in the same setting would be of interest. Bring it on, I said, and received the hilarious "Writ of Exception." I'm not going to divulge any of its secrets; you'll have to read it for yourself.

Time passed, as it does, but the years did not dim Meviel's luster, because when I inquired of Madeleine if she would like to do a story for the anthology that would become The Feathered Edge: Tales of Magic, Love, and Daring, she wrote:

I'm working on a Meviel story... No alternate sexuality per se (after the last two stories I sort of wanted to change things up a bit) and no romance particularly: just a girl who reads too much and gets kidnapped by pirates and...

I ask you, what editor could resist that premise? Who knew there were pirates in same world as Veillaune meCorse and the Archangel? True to form, the pirates in "Wreath of Luck" are and are not your usual sort. There's a lovely twist of -- is it magic or superstition or a plucky young heroine creating her own good fortune?

If you love Madeleine's work as much as I do, you'll want to check out her wonderful Regency novels on Book View Café (and the latest "Sarah Tolerance" adventure, The Sleeping Partner, in paper, too). Madeleine's also got a story in Beyond Grimm: Tales Newly Twisted.

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