It’s back! The blog advent calendar. I enjoyed last year’s blog theme last year—re-reading twenty-four books of my youth—so much, so this year I’m applying the same approach to short stories, trawling through a myriad bunch of collections and anthologies I’ve read in the last few years.
Nettlestings: A Fairy Tale by Sarah Caulfield
Tell me about your first time: When I was starting work on The Myriad Carnival I had the pleasure of soliciting work from a whole bunch of writers I admired. But I also had an open submissions window to find stories from elsewhere. Reading slush piles are… interesting. On the plus side, you get the thrill of discovery when you find something great. But on the negative side you have, well, the rest of the slush. When I put out the call for The Myriad Carnival I honestly had no idea what I’d get through the door, and then early on I was sent ‘Nettlestings’. I was sat in a bar in London, waiting for a friend to finish using her feminine whiles to secure a believable passport from across the street, and I read it on my phone. Ten minutes later, I’d emailed to accept it.
Sum it up: Meet Leda, the winged boy, escaping to the Myriad Carnival. And Leda, meet Artemis.
Give me a quote: “There was the jewelled boy with the voice of a nightingale, after all; some sort of modern Bagoas who’d been enchanted to life for an Emperor with alchemy, a blood pact and a bird’s fresh heart, small and slippery as a newlyplucked cherry. When our hero had been a prince, nightingale hearts had been a local delicacy; he remembered the crunch of them between his teeth and gags. The boy was called Artemis and he spoke in cursive, ink and hands, paper and air; the first time he signed shyly in our hero’s direction it was as though his name had been rewritten anew in artificial bone and muscle.”
Second Reading: Honestly, I really do still adore this story. It fuses the sense of storytelling as mythic with the delicacy of human connection; it’s told in an arch, meta-narrative-voice that I just love in any story, and with a sense of the gothic and the queer that stokes the atmosphere of weird indelibly. It made me a fan, instantly, of Caulfield’s work, and I’ve yet to be disappointed.
Where can I find it?: You can read it in The Myriad Carnival (coughbuymybookcough). And if you fancy supporting the writer’s Patreon, that’s over here. And if you enjoy this story, you should probably watch out for my forthcoming anthology Clockwork Cairo (coughNOSERIOUSLYBUYMYBOOKcough.)