Sometime between October-December 2014, I’d decided I’d probably never get my short fiction traditionally published, and I set about putting together a chapbook with Tower of the Rosewater Goblet, Butter-Daughters, and other stories of Sesen. In December, over an intense fortnight, I penned three new stories, and completely revised/revamped the three I had already written. Violets On The Tongue was as much an afterthought as was Eggs aka Morning Cravings. You see, I was going to call the stories by these titles:
Eggs (Morning Cravings)
Cream (Redacted since it’s still in submissions)
Butter (Butter Daughters)
Rosewater (Tower of the Rosewater Goblet)
Honey (Violets on the Tongue)
Blood-Oranges (Still being revised, never submitted anywhere yet)
My clever idea was then to come up with a recipe that had all of these ingredients. I haven’t done it yet but I rather think a Rosewater and Blood-Oranges cake might actually work.
(If you make a recipe with these ingredients, feel free to share it!)
Anyway, somewhere along the way I was convinced that self-publishing was maybe not a good idea and there was hope for me yet. I got a couple of acceptances, and more than one person reached out to me and talked me down off that ledge. I appreciate that still after all these years. So in 2015 I spent a lot of time refining those stories, and then I added What The Stories Steal to what seemed to be a collection still in my mind. (hint, jolly big hint)
So, during that intense period in December 2014, Honey was written and it was around 2-3k words, focused on the living crystal, the alien bees, also on Lashav and Eshe. I didn’t quite expect how it turned out, honestly! I wanted it to have the elements that I always wanted to write about the first generation of Arrivals on Sesen. A first contact story, but this isn’t quite that. I certainly didn’t expect to include string theory and pragmatic philosophy but it sort of happened. As did the fact that this story became a sort of meditation not just about identities, but about ontology. I also had great fun playing with Putnam’s hypothesis along with other philosophical concepts. I’ll forever call this my qualia-punk story.
I’ve always known (since teenhood) that Sesen was a planet occupied by humans who then evolved into their own society with tribal custom and histories (blame star trek, star wars, Ursula k LeGuin, Poul Anderson and various other SF authors I read during my nerdy teenhood). I then toyed with the idea of the tensions/resentments brewing amongst the Arlishya/Barlishya because of it (you see that in nearly all of my published Sesen stories to date), so I felt this story explained the beginning of that as well as the connection to the Bunian Empire stories on earth.
I bounced this story off several slushpiles but while my other Sesen stories sold, this one languished. It’s a strange thing that’s very hard-SF in its ethos in one sense but fantastical in another sense. But my short-story writing craft also improved and I took out a lot of unnecessary scenes and explanations. I also went deeper into the interactions and motivations between all three characters.
Originally it was going to be an entirely different story and Eshe/Gyasi were going to be a couple but you know how characters are. You plan one thing for them and they go down an entirely different direction altogether. This is because characters aren’t us — they exist within their own worlds and I’ve always listened to what my characters want to say because I’m a strong believer in the fact that every storyworld has its own inner logic and verisimilitude. I’ve become very fond of Eshe/Gyasi/Lashav and I hope you’ll like them too!
Also, several easter eggs are strewn throughout this tale. I revised What The Stories Steal after I wrote this one and well, the connection lies in a stack of pragmatic philosophy books 🙂
There are other easter eggs which may or may not become apparent if you read the other published Sesen short stories. There are more on the way! Plus! The Yrole Triptych!
(I do hope both “Cream” and “Blood Oranges” also find homes, because that would be really neat. Also, I think if you like my other Sesen stories, you may dig them. Yes, they’re all also connected through gustatory metaphors and imagery as conceived as integral parts of our ontology. What happens when a literary scholar and thinker writes SFF. I am so sorry, it’s a feature, not a bug of Nin Harris stories.)