My possessed/ing-cities story, “City of Salt”, is up at Strange Horizons today! I am intensely pleased to have a story published there — SH is an every-week read for me, and one of my absolute favorite magazines, and this is a delightful honor. Enjoy!
“CITY OF SALT” — In the month of Tammuz, Ammar came to the city of salt, for which there are no maps. He came on a camel, with his habitual azure scarf wrapped around his nose and mouth to keep off the dull rose dust, and he came alone. I watched his guide abandon him.
Some notes on the story follow:
The first time I wrote this story, I was nineteen. In that version, most of the action took place in a restaurant. It was a very important story to me then; it was probably the best thing I wrote that year. (It was also three times as long, contained some incredibly belabored metaphors about bad situations one can get into while playing Go, and was technically fanfiction by the strictest definition of the term.) You may notice that in the present story the restaurant is nowhere to be seen, and no one is playing any sort of board game.
In fact, only one single line survives intact from that initial draft (the innocuous bit of dialogue, “Why are you here?” — which may not even count, it is so generic). And yet, I feel an enormous sense of continuity between me-a-decade-ago, trying to write about a relationship between two people who had loved each other and hurt each other and were rotating around the space of an absent third person, and me-this-past-summer, trying to write about that same dynamic. The questions are the same: what is salvageable? What is forgiveable? To what degree does love matter, in the face of disaster?
At 29, I am better at writing an answer — an exploration — to those questions than I was at 19. I wonder if I’ll write another version of this story at 39, and what I’ll say then, if I do.