O is for Once Upon a Time. Some of the best known stories in the world start that way. There’s something about those words that capture our attention. The once upon a time I want to talk about isn’t a fairytale. Instead it’s a LGBT anthology Once Upon a Time in the Weird West which is a great collection by some truly excellent authors.
It started as an email that read something along the lines of would you be interested in writing a short story for an anthology with a weird west theme? Would I? I wanted it bad. Actually I’m not a huge Western fan but you jam the word ‘weird’ on there and I’m all over it. But my excitement was about more than that.
You see, I’ve been in anthologies before but they’re all open calls. This wasn’t that. This was the first time I was invited in by other authors. I was over the moon because of that. It was validation by my peers. In other words, they like me, they really like me! I felt honored and excited to be asked and there was no way I was going to fail to turn out a story. I couldn’t fail, not when I had actually been invited.
I was going to say authors come in three varieties, the super self assured, the quiet competent one and the neurotic but that’s true of most jobs. The quiet competent ones are always there bringing their A game without much of a hub bub. Then the super self assured ones can be split into two or three groups themselves. There are the arrogant Tony Stark types who ARE as good as they think they are. I was going to say Elon Musk types but I’m not sure he’s arrogant (I don’t know him but oddly enough I was friends with his former father in law!) There’s no doubting their skill. The other super self assured think they’re better than everyone else but aren’t. I had one like that in a shared universe I was part of. You could NOT criticize her at all (because her work was too good for that) and if you did (because no, her work really wasn’t) she would have a tantrum. Once at a con after her work was shredded in a writing workshop she infamously locked herself in the bathroom and had to be bodily removed by her lover.
Then there’s the neurotic type. That’s me. I’ve been a big ball of anxiety and self doubt my entire life. I’m always afraid I don’t measure up (even though I know I’m pretty damn good at most things I really work at). Being asked helped to wipe those fears away.
I’m proud of my story in spite of the fact it was nearly 10K too long and I had to hack and hack to get it to only 3K over (sad face). This story wrote itself so easily. The theme of ‘weird west’ is so wide open. The anthology has SF stories, ghosts and demons and so much more. (Seriously if you like this sort of thing, pick it up!). My story is set in Virginia City, Nevada (fascinating place) and is steampunk. Dr. Isaac Adler was a doctor in the Civil War and it haunts him so he tried running from himself to the west, answering an ad from a retiring doctor to take over his practice. Isaac gets screwed by this guy and is scratching out a practice just the same. He answers the call when an airship is attacked by pirates. This is where he meets Tsela Zahnie, the Navajo first mate. Tsela is being followed by a skinwalker, an evil witch from Navajo lore. Isaac’s life just got complicated.
I’m proud of this story and this anthology. It took a lot of research of Jewish customs in the 1800s, ditto Navajo and all that rich Virginia City history. I loved every second of it (even when I was complaining). And yes even though I was asked, even though I knew the story was good, I was still neurotic about it somehow getting rejected. That’s just how I am.
You can find the anthology here.
And here have a picture of Tsela drawn by Lex Chase as part of a trading card set for the anthology