In Elder Days, in years of yore, I was revising this set of cuneiform tablets collectively titled Three Katherines of Allingdale,
and posting the odd shard about it to this journal. At the beginning of this year, I was comprehensively stuck, and turning to other projects until some idea or other worked loose. My life then performed several unscheduled triple back somersaults before landing in a marvellous better place (waves to green_knight
across table). And now the long-awaited missing clue to the Kateverse has finally turned up, and I'm writing in it again...
Okay. Three Katherines
in its first draft presently consists of The Deed of Katy Elflocks
, a fairy-tale novella with which I'm almost wholly satisfied; and Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland
, a chunky low-fantasy novel which brings all the chickens home to roost thirty years later, and with which I'm not satisfied at all. I'm unsatisfied although, or more likely because, I think Killer-Kate
has the elements of being the best story I've ever told. The issue is that there turns out to be far too much backstory essential to its unfolding.
A grand epic fantasy driven by timeless destinies and history-mastering heroes might get away with skating lightly over a generation or two, even if great matters and dreadful reversals have occurred in the interval. This is not such a story - although it is
partly about its greatest hero's lifelong struggle to keep stories like that from happening anywhere around her, for much the same reason that she works to keep plague, famine, and other similar disasters from the door. In the first draft, I put the history into the story as it touched it, and the resulting datadumps proved both unlovely and hard to redact. In the abortive second, I tried to wrap the true story artfully around the tale not directly told, somewhat as Tolkien did to The Lord of the Rings
and the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen
. I got some myriad words in and bounced hard, either because I'm no Tolkien, or because Three Katherines
and the untold 'Tale of Foxfires' are no such a pair of stories, or I don't know what else. That left telling the Tale of Foxfires in full. I've attempted this several times in the past, and broken every time upon the undeniable fact that it is a messy history rather than a proper story of its own. What to do? I was out of ideas I hadn't tried, so I let it lie fallow for a bit. Now again, I think I've got it.
I've identified the actual stories I think need telling in the gap. The real key was discovering that some of them have no direction to the Foxfires matter at all, and that Katy Elflocks as a character spends far too long completely out of scope. So my new, improved, revised version of Three Katherines
should end up looking something like this:
1) The Deed of Katy Elflocks
- Novella; essentially complete for many years.
2) The Bridge to the End of the Night
- Novella; set several years later, telling of a border-quarrel and what came of it. Work in progress.
3) The Wain of Winter Stars
- Novel; set immediately afterwards, following an exodus from slavery and war into regions dubious and uncanny. Not yet written.
4) Crown of Foxfires
- Novel; set ten years after the Deed, telling of the fall from grace of two heroes, and a contention for a kingdom. Exists in scraps and many incompatible versions. Will have to be completely rethought, now that the extraneous matter has been hived off into its own tales, or else placed in question.
5) Roger Rock Candy
- Long novella or short novel, set about eight years later, telling of an ill-fated peasant uprising and what lay behind it. Not yet written.
6) Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland
- Long novel set twelve years later, telling the last great deeds of all three Katherines and their comrades, and how a new popular rising changed the days of the Northdales, and brought all ever-afters home. First draft finished; in need of much revision, and probably no little shortening.
And that is where things stand at the moment.