Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Feathered Edge Ventures into an Algerian Brothel

As I've discussed in earlier posts, one of the joys of editing is getting an inside view of another writer's creative process. Sometimes this comes in the reading process, but more likely it happens during the editorial discussions with their give-and-take. Often a good editor can pinpoint places where what is on the page does not fully or accurately convey the writer's intention. We then become conspirators whose goal is to make the story the best incarnation of that authorial vision. When I began editing, I had no idea that I'd also get to witness yet another joy of short fiction -- the inception and development of a series of related stories that trace not only the adventures but the emotional development of a character.

The first anthology I edited was Lace and Blade (Norilana Books, 2008), and I asked Diana L. Paxson, who I'd known about as long as I'd known Marion, to send me a story. The premise of the anthology was elegant, sensual sword and sorcery of the "Scarlet Pimpernel With Magic" or Alfred Noyse's poem, "The Highwayman," variety. Diana gave me a dashing young hero, Baron Claude DeLorme, newly come into his title, and promptly took a right angle turn from the expected European-centered fantasy by sending him off to Brazil to claim an emerald mine as his inheritance. The magic that imbues "The Crossroads" is anything but conventional, but this adventure was only the beginning. If "The Crossroads" taught Claude about Brazilian/African magic, then his next story (in Lace and Blade 2) brought him back to Paris to face a very different sort of supernatural evil in "The Crow." One of the things that most appealed to me in this second story is how, although it stands perfectly well on its own, it's a true, developmental continuation of the previous story. The Claude DeLorme who arrived in Brazil is not the same man battling an occult cabal in Paris...and not the same man who arrives in Algiers.

"Blue Velvet" is not an easy read, for Claude's adversary is a sadistic, equal-opportunity-rapist slave-master, and Diana doesn't pull any punches. As in the previous stories, Claude finds himself in danger that is both physical and magical. But he is not without resources -- his innate compassion, the loyalty he shares with his friends, and his hard-won understanding of the supernatural. At the end, Diana suggests that Claude might next be off to West Africa. I hope she has the chance to write that story -- and that I have the chance to edit it!

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