Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nemonymous revealed

I can now reveal which story in Nemonymous 9 was mine: "The Rude Man's Menagerie." Here's one review that had some nice things to say about the story:
Some of the tales use the image of chalk figures like the Cerne Abbass giant. One such story is ‘The Rude Man’s Menagerie’, in which Rebs, working on the remains of her late father’s Michigan tree farm, discovers the chalk figure of a man who appears to have drawn various animals to himself. The man appears malevolent, and Rebs resolves to free the animals — but how? This is a satisfying piece of fantasy that runs on its own internal logic; by the time reality comes gently free of it moorings, one is happy to go along.
Why were there multiple chalk figure stories? This may not be clear to someone picking up the anthology, especially someone from the US who doesn't know about the Cerne Abbas giant, a chalk figure also known as the Rude Man. The subtitle "Cern Zoo" was listed as "Cern(e) Zoo" on the submission page, as an anagram of the previous "Cone Zero" and "Zencore." Much of the discussion I stumbled across relating to the anthology focused on the CERN aspect, so I decided to take the Cerne aspect. But what kind of story could I, a US native who's never been to Cerne Abbas...or anywhere in the British Isles for that matter, write about the chalk figure?

It took me awhile to answer that question, but when I did, I felt that the process of writing the story fit perfectly in the anonymity of the Nemonymous series of anthologies. It was a story, I remember thinking at the time, that anyone familiar with me through my writing would not guess from me. But because I set it very concretely in the West Michigan I grew up in, with all kinds of geographic details from those fields and obvious familiarity with what it takes to work trimming Christmas trees...well, anyone who knew me growing up would pick that up right away. In fact, my brother was paging through the book when he was visiting, not even reading anything in detail yet because he'd just picked it up, and he picked out my story at a glance.

I rarely set stories in the real world--creating and taking advantage of particular differences from our own world is a big part of what I enjoy in writing--but it was fun to try to use my childhood without resorting to either nostalgia or the sort of small-town mockery you often get when writers try to revisit where they grew up.

Cern Zoo also includes one story that will be reprinted in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of 2009: "The Lion's Den" by Steve Duffy.

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