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These Mudfish Ways

Australian Speculative Fiction has pre-orders up for Outcast: An Anthology of Exiles and Strangers (CSFG Publishing). The official launch date is planned for Easter 2006 at Conjure. There'll be 20 stories inside, including The Mudfish Goddess. Cover price is AUS$20.35 (incl. GST).

I will preface the rest of this post by saying I am aware this is in bad form. I am aware the story in question has gone to print, that I made a choice, and I'm responsible for it. It is not my intent to be a wet blanket for everyone else who is hyped about how their stories turned out and the promotions for this anthology in general. But I wanted to be able to say something, even if it was in the personal capacity of this journal, about my reservations regarding the version of Mudfish that will appear in this anthology. I don't feel I've done my best for this story, and I'm aware there are certain expectations regarding this collection in terms of Australian speculative fiction -- all this makes me reasonably nervous about the whole thing.

I don't, for a start, believe my story is as strong as it could've been. When the first round of edits were going out, I was asked to, "break it down a little for the simple ones." The original idea for Mudfish was to have a protagonist with no regrets for the choices she was making. Most of the revulsion the protagonist feels, most of her fear, wasn't shown. Godi did not hesitate about her choices -- she knew what she wanted, and I felt this made her a stronger character. In line with the edits, I was asked to make it obvious that Godi was repulsed by her culture, and in the end, hesitant about abandoning a key aspect of her culture before she abandoned it. At the time, I'd already spent about 4 years trying to get this story published. I didn't think twice about adding the required edits. The unfortunate result was that the story went from a piece of dark fiction to something more familiar perhaps to young adult fantasy -- girl wants dragon, girl gets serenaded by dragon, girl hesitates because dragon is really a metaphor for a rock star, girl develops angst and rides off into the sunset with dragon. Did I say dragon? I meant pony. Yeah, ponies.

I often say that Mudfish was probably the only real horror story I ever wrote. Most of my stories kind of flail around a bit in their genres and sort of look at you with small fuzzy faces before disturbing you in your sleep. They're like gremlins that never transform, because it's more disturbing to have cute fuzzy things you know you shouldn't feed after midnight but can't resist popping in an extra snack for. Mudfish actually had a three act structure. You'd know something bad was going on, and you'd recognize it as bad (not, y'know, small and cute with a hint of fangs). The new version isn't dark. It's camp. And I worry for it, as I am wont to do, because I like my Kali stomps on husband's entrails sequences. My heroines don't pity, because my Mary Sues don't secretly want to make vampires good, they want to be vampires and kill people. All this, however, doesn't discount the fact I am still looking forward to seeing how the anthology turns out, even, how it's received, whatever my fears about the quality of my work.

Have you, by chance, ever seen a mudfish? They're charming creatures, and can be quite adorable. Malaysian mudfish (or mud skippers) are a little different from other mudfish. They're cuter. On the path to finding a decent shot of Malaysian mudfish, I found the journal of Trevor Stokol. It's a fascinating read. He traveled through India, Southeast Asia and onwards to Mt. Everest, where he was last seen, and is believed to have met a tragic end at last year.

Comments

mokie
Feb. 11th, 2006 08:13 pm (UTC)
I'm sure all writers have such regrets, ya? Changes they didn't think were necessary but editors and test readers just weren't seeing it the same way, blah blah blah, and maybe the editors and test readers were right.

Except not here. Here they just didn't get it.

But never fear, one day you will be Big Famous Author, and you will put out a collection of your favorite short stories, and you will offer Mudfish with a little preface commentary, some chattery smarm that sells the story, all about editors and readers and authors and how they don't always see eye to eye on how stories should go, and how this story was once watered down to explain to editors and readers what shouldn't have needed explaining, but now you have the chance to show readers (whom you've always trusted to be smart enough to get it, editors be damned) the original story, undiluted and dark as it should've been.