(in “The Fortune-Teller’s Poem” anthology, not online yet)
This was a difficult story to write. I re-used a setting (you will be sensing a theme in these behind-the-scenes things) that I had created for “Miracle on 34th Sheath,” the Cottage Hill district (which also has a cameo in IP; Lee’s aunt lives near there), because given the line “bonnie and blithe and good and gay,” I was coming up with a character, Barwyn the bear, who was cheerful and good, and blithely going through life doing what he thought was best without really realizing what the consequences were. In a heavily gay neighborhood like Cottage Hill, this equates to promiscuity, sleeping with people to make them feel better. That in turn engenders a culture where people fake feeling bad just to get some sex.
(Writing note: one of the things I do when trying to get an effeminate male character is think of the character as female in my head except when it comes to writing gender pronouns. Barwyn was one of the first I tried this with; another one occurs in “Green Fairy.”)
A little to my surprise, this character turned out not to be the main character. The main character was someone who wanted to boost his status in the community by taking “possession” of Barwyn. Because Barwyn was a bear, I turned another stereotype on its head by making this aggressive character a fox. And the imagery of the weed was something that suggested itself immediately as I introduced the character. A weed is something unwanted but tough; defined by being outside the norm. And a weed crowds out the desired plants, suffocating them, giving them no nutrients and no room to breathe. So it worked well for the plot of this story, where the fox takes Barwyn in and slowly cuts off his friendships with other people. Only he realizes in the process that he has ruined was Barwyn was, and in the original ending, he leaves all his things to Barwyn and walks away, never to return.
The reaction of my writing group to this one was odd. Most of them focused on Barwyn as the broken character, the guy who thinks he can get by just sleeping with anyone. So I started to realize that both these characters were broken, and that changed the ending to one where they decided that perhaps they should try to help fix each other. Which is more the kind of ending I like anyway, although I will admit there was something poetic to having the fox walk away into the sunrise.
This is actually the oldest story on the eligible list. Due to delays in production of the anthology, the story was completed about a year and a half before it actually saw print.
[All Ursa-eligible stories for 2011: http://kyellgold.com/wpblog/2012/01/31/ursa-eligible-stories-linked/]