“Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets!
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.”
Clive James

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Notes from the author:

This fictionette goes somewhere a bit darker than most. It starts with someone dying in a fire, and it just goes downhill from there. I got the word prompts “afterlife” and “blaze,” so there didn’t seem to be a choice.

In the original draft, Maggie’s medical history and adolescent struggles had a lot to do with her MTF transition. But in the end I didn’t think I was bringing enough of value to the table to justify writing yet another trans character whose main job in the story was to die. As blogger and author Everett Maroon puts it, “If you’re writing about a trans woman character, give her agency, connections to other people, a strong voice, layers of interest, and don’t make her just the horrible lifeless body in the room. We’ve seen enough of that.” So rather than committing trope, I rewrote Maggie as cisgender.

It’s not that I’ll never write a character who’s trans or non-binary. It’s that, when I do, I want to give myself room to do it right. Besides, anything in the early draft that wasn’t a trope-laden mess, KJ Kabza already did beautifully in the short story “This Is a Letter to My Son,” which you should read more or less immediately.

There had been pain, but it had been short-lived. The smoke had gotten to her before the fire. Good old carbon monoxide, merciful at the last both to suicides and those unfortunates whose lives go up in flames.

Helpless and numb, Maggie had watched the fire grumble and lick its way closer to her across the floor of her parents’ kitchen. The flames fascinated her the way a dancing fox fascinates a rabbit. The end would be much the same, but she couldn’t find it in herself to care. It seemed to her that the fire blazed up suddenly, a bright light that beckoned. It had been beckoning to her all her life, but only now was she able to answer its call. She’d been too heavily burdened before, with her body, perhaps, with life, with worldly cares, with hope. Now she was free to make that long-deferred journey. And now the light was speaking to her, it was saying—

“You died in the fire,” said the voice, “so you shall be queen of fire. You shall receive those given to the funeral pyre. You shall be patron saint of those who burn at the stake.”

What was it saying? Maggie had the disconcerting feeling it had been speaking to her for a very long time, but only now had she begun paying attention. And still she couldn’t make sense of its words, nor yet words out of the sounds she was sensing. Queen something? Maggie had never wanted to be queen....

This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for June 10, 2016. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (872 words) from Patreon in PDF or MP3 format depending on their pledge tier.

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