Vita Urbis

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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Reviews and reproduction…

I’ve had two new short stories published in the last couple of weeks, both themed around reproduction.

The Absence of Feathers“, a mythological eco-fantasy, has been published in the latest free-to-read issue of Luna Station Quarterly. “Feathers” features the Morrigan and her adopted grand-daughter Einin, and what happens to them when all the birds disappear from the world.

“Vita Urbis”, published in Elektrik Milk Bath Press’ recent urban fantasy anthology Twisted Boulevard, is probably my favourite story. It took me seven years to write, mostly because there were darlings I didn’t want to kill, but the poor things got slaughtered in the end. It’s about an architect who is impregnated by a city, interspersed with scenes from classical mythology, where women were always getting knocked up by bulls or swans or showers of gold, though I hope I’ve given the women involved a bit more agency than Ovid did in his Metamorphoses, which was a major inspiration for this story. There’s also shades of Oz in there, and 1984, to give a bit more density and layering.

That both stories feature myth is no accident. They’re part of a collection I’m working on, called The Mythology of Salt (that being the title of a story of mine that was published in Strange Horizons last year). Salt is based around the idea of women and myth and the consequences of knowledge. There’s two or three more stories I’m planning on finishing up soon, and then hopefully Salt will be complete enough to sell.

Speaking of selling, there’s a couple of reviews of my novella, Trading Rosemary, that have come out recently. The Book Smugglers were very kind and particularly complimentary, and Locus also had some positive things to say. It’s so nice when that happens – Trading Rosemary is my first book, and it’s such a relief to know that people like it.

If anyone’s interested, I also did a guest blog about the novella over at Catherine Lundoff’s site. It was very kind of her to ask me (thanks, Catherine!), and I was pleased to do it.