Since my last update, I’ve managed to tick more than a few items off my laundry list. I finished my final edits of Chronicles of Ytria and ordered proof copies of both that and a Voyage Embarkation hardcover. Those should arrive later today.
I’ve also been putting together the ebook for Chronicles, watching the Foundation TV series, and reading the books I will be submitting reviews of to MacroMicrocosm.
I feel Chronicles is very much on track for its new October 29 release date. If all goes smoothly in the next week and a half, I should have that book ready to go and out the door.
The collection has a unique genesis. I found myself simultaneously pumped up to write, after getting great feedback on The Other during its 2020 launch, and possessing an abundance of free time, owing to the pandemic shutdown. As a result, I returned to an old habit of writing a short story every week. Unlike most of my stories, which I develop in my mind for months before I even start taking down notes, the world of Ytria developed organically, week over week, for about six months.
Below the line is the author afterword that will appear in the back of the book.
In 2015, I was attending a Seattle writing group regularly every weekend. On one such occasion, our group arrived, took up our usual tables, and at once started being berated by a man at a nearby table. Normally, I would have spent the first ten minutes of such a writing group thinking about what to write, but that day the man’s absurdly anti-social behavior became the basis for a story that came spilling out of me, eventually becoming “We Were Here First.” The idea was fairly simple: What if a man such as our verbal assailant found himself the victim of his same behavior, but from perpetrators much more powerful than himself? And so I invented an extrapolation. Who would have power over a straight male knight in a medieval world? Clearly, someone more technologically powerful would have to find their way to him.
I published the story in my second short story collection, Transmutations of Fire and Void the next year, and there it remained for four years, an interesting little thing I had put together and no more.
In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic happened, and I suddenly found myself with much more free time to write. I decided to reinstate my practice of writing a short story every weekend. For the first few weekends, each new story was set in its own world, but on June 6, I decided to set that week’s story on the planet I’d created for “We Were Here First.” As I recall, I wanted to write about how a medieval society had dealt with a novel contagion, and so the medieval world of that original story came readily to mind. That first draft became “One’s Own Medicine.”
Throughout June and July, I continued to explore the Glissian continent of Ytria. I worked out the physical relationships of the myriad kingdoms by drawing myself a map and decided upon some shared features—where the universities were, where the plague had originated, etc. After July, the writing spree petered out. However, I did end up writing two more stories for the collection. After getting only four hours of sleep one night in early September due to a particularly terrifying nightmare, my friend Aaron Ramos encouraged me to write about that dream, and “All My Dreams” became the result. Just after Christmas, I started thinking about inverting the situation of the plague. What if it was the technological civilization that had a pandemic and the medieval people somehow possessed the cure? “Adaptive Response” is my own personal favorite of all the Ytria stories. I love the way that the inhabitant of the medieval world is ultimately able to demonstrate moral, ethical and even technical superiority in relation to the people who presume themselves to be “more advanced” than he is.
Throughout working on these stories, I benefited from the feedback from Christopher Kulp and Aaron Ramos. As always, my husband Alex is an endless source of inspiration and support, particularly so during 2020, when we found ourselves in lockdown and both going slightly mad with cabin fever. At least we were able to do so together. He is perhaps the only person I can imagine myself being locked up with to good effect rather than ill.
As I write this afterword, the coronavirus pandemic is receding. By the time this book reaches print, the dedication will be out of date. My friend Jon Luke and I have, in fact, been boxing again for about two months now. Those words were written before the results of vaccine clinical trials had been published, during a time when no one knew how long we might have to seal ourselves off from one another. I think the Ytria stories came to me during the pandemic, because the big lesson for me was that, despite all our modern technological prowess, it is how we treat one other that matters. If these chronicles have any unifying theme, it is that at the chaotic intersection of medieval and spacefaring, human beings on both sides of that divide must care about the outcomes of others as well as themselves.
I do not know if there will be any more stories set on Ytria. I certainly won’t rule it out. I will, though, borrow a line from Ursula K. Le Guin. If Ytria’s people do happen to speak to me again, I promise I’ll be there to listen.