urban fantasy

So You’ve Written A Mystical Pregnancy…

Vita Urbis - High ResolutionI know. I know.

They’re terrible. You think I haven’t seen them or read them and thought “What is this bullshit?” Granted, I don’t hate them as much as I hate the Magic Baby, Child of Prophecy, but then nothing comes close to the hate I have for that.

I mean, a woman’s more than an incubator, and it’s a sad fact that inflicting a character with a mystical pregnancy pretty much turns her into little more than a host organism victimised by her own capacity for reproduction. No choice, no agency.

So why did I feel the need to add another story to this pile of idiocy? I’ve just self-published my November novella, Vita Urbis, wherein the main character, Vita, gets knocked up by a city. Yes, roll your eyes, go ahead. I don’t blame you. I did as well, on the grounds of better late than never. See, this novella is based on a short story I wrote, published earlier this year in the urban fantasy anthology Twisted Boulevard. That was unadulterated mystical pregnancy for you, though my idiot self didn’t see it until far too late. Although the story was intercut with scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, so transformation and some really twisted reproduction was par for the course. (Leda fucked a swan, for God’s sake. Say what you like about Vita, but at least she’s not out molesting the local wildlife.)

So I felt the need to do a fix-it job. Hence the novella – and if it makes matters worse then hell. It’s only a novella. I can always write another one.

To improve the expanded version I did three things. First, in the Ovid intercuts, I emphasised the themes of choice and agency. The novella is set around images of reflection – the stories mirror each other, the City with its own underworld, Vita reproducing through work and womb – so strengthening the metamorphoses helped to (hopefully) strengthen the whole.

Secondly, I gave Vita more choice… and made the City an active player in giving her that choice. For example, there’s a point where she considers abortion, and the same entity that got her pregnant in the first place makes it clear that it would support her if that’s what she wanted to do. It’s actually helpful about it. I’ve done things like this to try and return some agency to Vita, to make her more than a passive receptacle.

Finally, it’s the mirror effect again. Vita, in effect, knocks up the City before it lays so much as a smoky tendril on her. An architect, Vita reproduces herself in the buildings she designs, in a deliberate attempt to recreate the City in her own image. Little wonder the City wants to return the favour… Their relationship is mutually exploitative, especially as after the earthquakes that accompany Vita’s labour, her buildings might be the only things left standing.

So, I’ve written a mystical pregnancy. For the first and last time, probably. If it sounds like something you might be interested in, get yourself over to Amazon.

You can still roll your eyes if you want to.

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The Don’t Girls

The Don't GirlsMy second novella’s out, and it’s way different to the first. I suppose you’d call The Don’t Girls urban fantasy, with a feminist bent.

It started out as a short story (now the first chapter), wherein Bluebeard’s wife met up with Pandora and her box, and decided to take care of her murderous husband before he did to her what he’d done to all his previous wives. And this was all well and good, but then I gave it to my sister to read. She liked it – not surprising, our tastes are quite similar – but then she said “OJ, it reads like it should be longer.” And I thought bugger it, because I thought it was done and over with and maybe it wasn’t.

So, obliging girl that I am, I started writing. I had no clue as to story, and nothing was written in order. Instead the fragments came together on their own, and they did so very easily – as if I’d already decided what I was going to say. There was Anne of Cleves, for instance, fitting in like she was made for the story, as if I hadn’t started scaffolding around her in a quest to build a story of, well, something anyway. All I knew was that The Don’t Girls was going to be about women. Some were historical (Anne, Ada Wilson, Mary Prince, Nell Gwynn, Edith Cavell). Others came out of story (Bluebeard’s wife, Pandora, Mab the Queen of Fairies) and one was entirely made up because she came from the future and, unlike Pandora, I don’t have a magical time-tripping box.

Shame.

Anyway, Masque Books published it, and The Don’t Girls is now available at Amazon, Scribd

Locus review.