An Announcement and a Confession

By rights, this post ought to be no more than a single sentence: some friends and I have put together an anthology of short stories accompanied by craft essays, and it’s currently on Kickstarter if you feel like supporting our efforts.

Hey, lookit that! I’m one of them fools in that calendar!

There! I’ve said it! Brevity is the heart of wit, so there’s really no need for me to drone on . . . except I happen to be a fantasy author, and as such am contractually obligated to overcomplicate things. Besides: no one ever accused me of being witty.

So here’s the thing.

Although I’m not one of the people who put in the lion’s share of the work on this, I’m thrilled for this anthology to appear in the world. Quite aside from getting something of my own published, we have guest stories from award-winning authors like Eric James Stone, Martin Shoemaker, Kary English, and Wulf Moon. I’m not gonna lie, seeing my name printed next to theirs is a nice ego boost. Ditto for my fellow contributors. So many of them have been published in big-league markets and nominated for major awards, and for those who haven’t, it’s only a matter of time.

Even as this excites me, it also makes me feel crushingly insecure.

The story I contributed is a fun one. I wrote it during the days when I was trying to win the Writers of the Future contest, and it wound up as a semi-finalist in 2019. The late great Dave Wolverton wrote me an email to say there was nothing he thought I should change about it, it just so happened that he received a similar story that same quarter, and that story gave him a couple more belly laughs. If any writer would know what they were talking about, it was Dave. So why do I feel so frightened to let this thing out into the wild?

Maybe it’s because the piece in question, “Knight’s Blood,” features a Grade-A douchebag as its protagonist. He’s both an idiot and a misogynistic bigot. All the other characters are thugs/drug dealers/underworld bosses/actual demons, yet they’re still far more likeable than the protagonist, and most of the humor derives from him reaping the consequences of his actions. I don’t think there’s even the slightest chance this will be lost on my readers.

That said, one of my greatest fears as an author (particularly a white, straight, male author) is writing something that causes harm to a vulnerable person in the real world. There’s more than enough nastiness floating around without me adding to it, even accidentally.

It’s a calculus I perform with every story I write. Good art takes risks, gets messy, and often offends people. So, am I offending the right people? Am I protecting those who need protecting, but not setting myself up as some sort of savior? Am I using my voice while being careful not to get preachy, or assuming that others need to hear what I have to say? (Spoiler alert: most people don’t.)

In the case of “Knight’s Blood”, I think the risks are worth it. The social commentary isn’t terribly nuanced, but I believe it’s a fun action-romp that will hopefully prove cathartic for readers who’ve had to put up with douchebags of their own—and haven’t we all had douchebags in our lives?

I suspect that most of my insecurity stems from my own imposter syndrome and my ADHD-fueled rejection sensitivity. I’m a person/writer, and I want other people/writers to like me and my work. Go figure.

If there’s a point to this post beyond the initial announcement, I guess it’s that imposter syndrome is a tricksy bastard, one who often masquerades as other, nobler emotions, like the fear of causing harm or the desire for things to be perfect. But the world is messy, so I guess it makes sense that fiction should be messy, too.

I’ll try to keep reminding myself of that as we creep closer to the release date.

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