The dedication for Of Echoes Born is to all the editors I’ve ever worked with, especially in short fiction, and two people in specific: Becky Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert. They’re wonderful authors (and also one-half of a wonderful quartet of authors who write under the pseudonym Timothy James Beck), and they gave me my first real shot at professional writing.
The result of that shot was “Heart” in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. And in that story there is a single scene where Aiden, the narrative voice of the story, has a split-second meeting with his boyfriend’s boss, Ian. He notices in passing that Ian has mismatched eyes, they speak a line or two to each other, and that’s it for Ian.
I included “Heart” as a reprint in Of Echoes Born because it’s still one of my favourite pieces, and also—since it was the first—it’s been quite a while since it had a fresh glance. But I also included “Heart” because all the stories in Of Echoes Born interconnect, and Ian is a big piece of that.
Ian is a character I’ve been writing since that first story, but it’s not until now that he’s found a home. Partly that was due to length: my first attempt at a major piece with Ian was a novel that just wouldn’t work, titled Silver & Blue, and I realized it never would work as a novel because it’s a novella. It got tucked aside, and I wrote Light as my debut novel instead.
But Ian hung around. I wrote a few more stories set in the my fictionalized (and slightly magic) version of my local gay village, and even if Ian’s bookstore—The Second Page—wasn’t mentioned, I knew it was there. He was part of the world-building even if he never popped into the story. I have notes about all the businesses in the Village, who rents which apartment and where (there are apartments over the storefronts).
I’ve already taken a few trips to the Village in other stories. I visited the chocolatier/candy shop, Sweet Temptations, in the story “Vanilla” from Threesome: Him, Him & Me; the consignment/dress shop, Urbane Myth, in the novella Saving the Date; and the coffee shop gets a lot of mentions (that would be Bittersweets, which is practically a character in and of itself in Handmade Holidays, given how much Ru loves his coffee). The other stores get mentioned here and there, too. The gallery, FunkArt; the tea-shop, NiceTeas; the gym/spa, Body Positive… I could go on and on.
And I probably will over the next week as the release date for the collection approaches.
But back to Ian. Ian is the fellow on the cover, and in the two tales we visit him first at sixteen, when his gift first begins to show and he starts to see things: auras around people and visions of things that happened before and even things that are yet to happen; and then again at thirty-six, when he’s lived two decades of his life with that gift, and made mistakes, and yet his life balances on the edge of a new potential.
I feel like I lucked out. I first wrote Ian ten years ago. Sharing two of his stories this June? It’s like finally introducing a long-lost best friend to everyone I know, and then stepping back and watching as everyone realizes they’ve already heard so much about each other.
He’s where the Village began. He’s just one character, yes, but he’s the first one that occurred to me in the intersection where I find myself most comfortable: queer, and slightly magic or psychic or “other.” The whole Village sprang up around the idea of him, and characters like him. Working on the new stories for Of Echoes Born reminded me why I wrote him in the first place.
I think, once I’m done Triad Soul, I’ll be pulling Silver & Blue out of the cabinet. And I’ll be nudging up my other Village stories to the top of the pile, too. Because this collection made me realize I’m not done with the Village.
I’m only getting started.