Neos Alexandria’s publishing arm, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, has recently released a new fiction anthology, Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, edited by Literata Hurley.
I’ve got two pieces of fiction in it, which are the last two contributions in the volume: “Hadrian in Hyperborea: The Enigma of the Emperor’s Wanderings,” and “Navigatio Gaii Suetonii Paullini ex Britannia ad Ogygia et Insulas Saturni.” The first is straight-up fiction in no particular style or after any particular idea or model (though the finished piece came out drastically different than I had assumed and planned it would…and for the better, I think!), while the second is my attempt to do a “Roman version” of an Irish-style immrama, partially based on Immram Curaig Mail Dúin and the Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis, but also having as its inspiration a few lines from Plutarch’s “Concerning the Face in the Moon” that mentions a British belief in the Isles of the Blessed to the West where Saturn reigns, and drawing some of its structural features and rhetorical style from that particular Irish tradition.
If you’d like to purchase the volume, you can find it here.
I am happy to add these additional publications to my Publications Page under the “Fiction” heading, which at the moment is the smallest section with the least number of entries. And, I wanted to take this opportunity to say a bit more on that.
I’ve considered myself a full-time poet, so to speak, for the majority of the last twenty years, and especially so since about 1995; I had certainly done poetry for many years before that (in fact, I was writing poems when I was three years old in 1979–they weren’t that good, partially because I didn’t yet know how to read or spell, but anyway…!?!), but in mid-1995, I kind of made a bit of a break with my ambitions to be a fiction writer. Since 1990, fiction writing had been my passion, and I went to college thinking that it would be my major, that I’d go on to get an M.F.A., and would seek to teach fiction writing at the college level. (That would have been a more sensible career path for me, it turns out, but I thought that doing something more seriously academic would be better…how foolish that was, eh?) It was in the context of writing fiction that I first began to explore my spirituality, as well as getting deeper into all of the things I would subsequently study, after a series of near-death experiences in the 8th through 10th grades, though I had written fiction and poetry and was a pretty serious student before that as well. When I went to my undergraduate college (Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY) in the fall of 1994, I went hoping to be a fiction major, and I had asked for a fiction class for first-year studies; I was placed in medieval studies instead, and while I was initially disappointed in this, that turned out much better for me in the long run, as the don I was matched with was absolutely brilliant and I had a wonderful education as a result of her good guidance. The college, however, allowed me to get admitted to whatever fiction class I wanted, and so I took one in particular that seemed like it would be good…
And, it wasn’t. Or, it was up until I turned in my first pieces of writing: a new story for the workshop, and then a story I had done at the end of senior year of high school for my conference. The professor hated both, and the class hated the one I workshopped. Most of the other fiction I read in that class by other students I didn’t particularly like either, and the stories that were assigned by the prof likewise did almost nothing for me. I got a “B” out of the class, which was my worst grade in my entire college career, undergraduate to Ph.D. Luckily (though I didn’t think so at the time), the professor in that had convinced me (or, really, informed me, as he didn’t really give me a choice, and when I said I’d rather not, he still insisted) after the first week of class to switch to the semester-long version of his course rather than the year-long version, and things really didn’t seem the same to me after that–I never really connected with most of the students in the semester-long class (whereas I felt I had, in that one week, with some of the year-long class ones)–but, the upshot of the whole thing was that in the second semester of my first year, I was able to change to a different fiction class, and the one I ended up in was much better. It was a small class (even for Sarah Lawrence), the professor was kind and sensitive and understanding, and while I wrote more for it and enjoyed it more, things still progressed in such a way that indicated to me that the sorts of fiction I wrote or wanted to write were not what would be considered “proper” or “useful” for a class at Sarah Lawrence…and, from what I understand, most fiction classes at colleges around the country.
After that, I never took another fiction class, I only took poetry classes, and that was not only because I was writing poetry all along as well (including some poetic works that were longer than the pieces of fiction I wrote that year), but because my second-semester fiction professor asked me, at one point, “Do you write poetry?” I said yes, and she said, “Could you bring some in to conference at some point?” So, I did, and she read it, and loved it (even though some of it wasn’t my best, admittedly), and she said, “My best advice I can give you at this point is not to stop writing poetry, and to get into some poetry workshops in the rest of your time in college.” And, that’s what I did, every semester except for first semester of my second year (when I wasn’t able to get into any of them).
I still wanted to return to some fiction pieces at some point, though; I began to give up on the idea of writing the grand novel I had been planning since high school (though I still have the notes and the draft chapters for it in my files in storage), and thought of most of the longer pieces I had intended as being works of lengthy narrative poetry rather than fiction. I kind of thought that one year of fiction workshops at SLC had killed my fiction career, and I was a bit upset about it. (Especially many years later, after finishing my Ph.D. and being turned down for job after job, whereas it seemed that every college and its sister was hiring for creative writing professors!)
Really, the only serious fiction I’ve written in the last five years or so has been for devotional volumes (although not all of it has been published yet, or written!), and I’ve found that some individuals that I like and know well and who also write fiction have liked my fiction better than my poetry…and the individual concerned is notoriously critical, and yet he liked the stories in The Scribing Ibis and Etched Offerings very much indeed. So, I don’t think my “fiction career” (such as it is, unlikely to ever earn me any money, and a side-occupation at best) is entirely over yet, and there are a number of ideas I still have that I’d like to see in published form at some point in the future.
Most of my stories are ones that I tell, or that I write in the form of narrative poetry; some I intend to see realized as graphic novels; but, a few will do just fine as pieces of shorter or longer fiction, and I am glad to have returned to this endeavor, and to do so in honor of my deities is an even better and greater privilege, and I’m glad that some people are giving me good feedback on doing so.
Right, so go and enjoy some reading now, folks!