New story up!

January 27, 2011 at 8:46 am (Stories online)

Ever said to yourself, “Self, what I really want to read today is a story with industrial accidents, involuntary magic, tabletalk, and opera”?

No?  Why the hell not?

“Recapitulation in Steam” is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  It’s another in the industrial fantasy/steampunkish world that “The Guilt Child” and “A Serpent in the Gears” share, but it’s gone in an entirely different direction.  Hope you enjoy it!

“I’m fine,” Izzy said, swinging his feet off the cot and trying to blink away the persistent pinkish cast to his vision. “The compressor coils. That’s where the leak was, wasn’t it?” He remembered climbing down into the main ore distillation chamber, going to the secondary vapor line on a hunch, hearing a tremulous hiss….


  1. Timothy Baron said,

    Wonderful job, Margaret! You’ve made a life-long fan out of me.

    After reading “Recapitulation in Steam,” I went through your site and read everything I could find. Turns out that you also wrote “A Serpent in the Gears,” another of my favorites!

    Incidentally, have you heard of Kaundinya? He’s a brahman in Cambodian myth. His story goes like this: while sailing along the shore of Khmer, he meets and then marries a dragon-princess. After their wedding, he gives her a dress which turns her into a woman. I’m reminded of “Dragon’s-Eyes” and the princess with the twelve dresses. Both entail a transformation from dragon to human, only in the Cambodian version, the princess is the dragon and she’s transformed not by stripping but by dressing. What a strange twist.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to more stories in this vein–especially if they entail twitting!


    • mlronald said,

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you liked the stories — I loved writing these, and it’s always a joy to find that some of that came through.

      I’d never heard of Kaundinya — thank you for telling me! It’s a fascinating direction for the story, and one I want to read more of. Where would you recommend I start?

      Part of what inspired the tale in “Dragon’s-Eyes” was the Scandinavian fairy tale “Prince Lindworm.” The repeated exchange “Maiden, shed a shift!” “Prince Lindworm, shed a skin!” stuck with me, and when I started putting together the ideas that had formed the story, that surfaced from the back of my mind. It’s funny how certain fragments of old stories can strike that sort of spark.

      • Timothy Baron said,

        David Chandler makes a passing reference to the myth in his ‘A History of Cambodia.’ On page 18:

        “Like many Southeast Asian countries, Cambodia had a legend that originates with the marriage of a foreigner and a dragon princess, or nagi, whose father was the king of a waterlogged country. According to one version of the myth, a brahman named Kaundinya, armed with a magical bow, appeared one day off the shore of Cambodia. The dragon-princess paddled out to meet him. Kaundinya shot an arrow into her boat, frightening the princess into marrying him. Before the marriage, Kaundinya gave her clothes to wear, and in exchange her father, the dragon king, ‘enlarged the possessions of his son-in-law by drinking up the water that covered the country. He later built them a capital, and changed the name of the country to Kambuja.'”

        Chandler then explains how the story of Kaundinya and the dragon princess is really the story of Cambodia’s Indianization. Before Hinduism arrived, Cambodians lived in small hunter-gatherer tribes (subsisting primarily on fish), and “clothing was not especially important; early Chinese accounts refer to the Cambodians as naked.” Kaundinya’s gift of a dress transforms the uncouth dragon princess into a woman with the sensibilities of a brahman.

        Also, here’s a post describing how the modern Cambodian marriage evolved from the myth of Kaundinya:

        * * *

        I’d never heard of “Prince Lindworm” before, but the story has a good moral. Beneath the skin of a monster, you’ll find a man. Freeing him from his scales isn’t easy, though. You must convince him to expose his true self. You must whip away the rot in his heart. You must embrace him and show him love. You must . . . bathe him in milk? Well, whatever. Folklore is weird, but up until that point it’s actually sound advice.

  2. mlronald said,

    …And there’s another book to put in the “to-read” stack. Thank you!

    I’ve always liked how Prince Lindworm feels so fragmented in several ways — the prince’s twin brother sort of disappears after a while, the significance of the milk, etc. I have a weakness for fairy tales and myths that feel as if they’ve lost some vital part of the story somewhere over the years.

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