Ponies, Admin Aversion, Dark Erotica & Kicking Bad Habits

My friend Tom Dullemond, one half of the fabulous Literarium directed my attention to the story Ponies by Kij Johsnson on the Tor.com site last night and asked me what I thought of it. In short – it is one of the most powerful stories I have read in a long time, as well as the most settling and thought-provoking. I’ll be talking about this story for weeks, if not months to come. Only after we’d had a back and forth for a few minutes about it over twitter, did he tell me it was the joint winner of the 2011 Nebula Prize for the short story.

The upshot of it was Tom didn’t think much of it was a story. Which got me thinking – was there an inherent gender bias in the reactions to the story. Yes, it’s about girls and their ponies… but it is about so much more than that. Just scratch a little under the surface. I feel it is an important read for anyone who is a daughter or has a daughter.

It is interesting to note also, in livestock handling there is a term called ‘Cutting Out’ which refers to a stockman and his horse targeting an animal and ‘cutting it out’ of the herd. You’ll see aspiring rodeo heroes doing it across the world. Knowing this, it gives a whole new level of meaning to the story.

But don’t take my word for it… go across and read. I’d love to know what you think.

– – –

Today is admin day. See if I don’t dedicate some time to it, I just won’t do it. While I’m saving the fun of doing the front cover of The Red Book for later, I have a list of ISBN’s to register with BowkerLink. This was a job Paul used to have, but it made better sense for me, given I’m in the same time zone. Plus, it was a pain in the arse, the easy submission system never worked for him and it must have taken him all of half a second to agree to hand the job over to me.

When we bought our first block of ten ISBNs back at the end of December 2009, we both looked at the list of numbers and wondered how the hell we would ever fill them. Well we filled them within a year and having bought the next block of numbers, we’ve already allocated ALL of them. Amazing.

Later on, once I’ve done battle with BowkerLink its time to pen some new bios. I’m not sure yet how I feel about admitting in such a public way that I am the recipient of ‘The Hembury’, or even how you actually wind that into a bio. I write fiction right – it should be a sinch. Ha!

– – –

When Dan Powell asked me to be part of his My Life in Short Fiction I was more than willing to be part of it. I found it a useful process, to think about the short stories which might have influenced me. I realised there is a close link between what I write and what I read, and how that pattern was strongly shaped by the writing and reading I did at high school.

We were only ever encouraged to write short stories. I have a folder full of them. But we were never exposed to short stories to read. I read a totally of ONE, yes read, ONE, fictional short story through my English years. This hangover remains… I write short fiction and my bed side table is full of novels.

This is something I am working to address. As May is Short Story Month – I committed to only read is short fiction for a month and I’ve been surprised at how much I’m enjoying it. I’ve read Cate Kennedy’s Dark Roots, #50 Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and I’ve almost finished Dead Red Heart. From now on there will be more anthologies on my bed side table. Which just goes to show, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

– – –

My re-writes on “Saw Him Standing There” the story I penned for Susan May James Sunday Snaps: The Shorts are complete and the story is submitted (yes almost two weeks ahead of the deadline!)

The story is inspired by another short story I wrote, based in a churchyard. The thing I’m most happy with (and my beta readers too) was the mastery of the imagery. Anyone who knows me, knows descriptive narrative is my Achilles. I write as little of it as possible. I find descriptive narrative totally boring in novels and short stories alike (yes, I will actually skip ahead if there are paragraphs of it). It has to be unique or beautifully written to hold my attention. It’s been beta reading for Jason Coggins which has really given me the shove to take my descriptive narrative more seriously and try to excel at it, rather than simply avoid it.

I’m thinking this time around the descriptions works so well because worked from a photograph– something I could actually see (given I don’t see things, only hear voices when I write my work). It was the clear leadlighted windows in the church which appealed to me most and I actually blew the photo up to look intimately at the detail in the window and then paced around the bedroom trying to work out the best way to describe them.

Jen Brubacher who worked on the piece as a line editor said in her email:

“It’s dark as you say, but it isn’t unbalanced. Your description is terrific, from the church yard to the sex and even the women by the mirror (familiar sight for most of us I guess). The pace and length are right on and I love the way you circle around “what goes around come around,” and the idea that it’s deathly serious.”

The best bit about it all… this story was a joy to write and after months of writing being a hard slog, it’s given my confidence a well timed injection. I didn’t think the redemption of my writing confidence would be in a dark, erotic tale! You’ll have to wait a few months, to read it though. The slated release date is 19th September – which will pair the photos and stories. A text only paperback and eBook will be available in October.

Thanks to Jason Coggins, Chris Chartrand and Jen Brubacher for being the best darn pit crew any writer could ever wish for.

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4 thoughts on “Ponies, Admin Aversion, Dark Erotica & Kicking Bad Habits

  1. Wow the ponies story… I don’t see how it’s not a story? I have two girls, and I can see the layers of meaning in the story. Very poignant, and tragic :(. It’s why I am raising my girls the way I am, and not pink sparkly princesses.

  2. Pingback: “Ponies” by Kij Johnson « Forego Reality

  3. I’ve had an interesting reaction to Ponies… from women I thought would get it, no less. I wonder if modern short fiction of this type is inaccessible to a lot of people. If those of us writing and reading it as a matter of course are imbibing, unconsciously, a cultural awareness and understanding of it that is lost to people who are not familiar with short fiction? It has me pondering, that’s for sure…

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