Debrief: “Real Monsters”

Lethe Press | Amazon

Lethe Press | Amazon

Scylla and Charybdis are sea monsters, but they didn’t start that way. In “Real Monsters,” Scylla tells her story. In Scylla’s version of events, what lies between Scylla and Charybdis is not death and destruction but a radical and vibrant love story.

Publication date: First published in Cactus Heartissue 8, on 6/4/2014.

Reprinted in Heiresses of Russ 2015 on 10/23/2015.

Completion date: 11/3/2013

Number of times subbed:
Six–four rejections and two acceptances. One of the acceptances was an initial acceptance to publish, and the second was an acceptance to publish as a reprint.

The story of the story:
I wrote this one to a call for stories featuring queer women and the theme “over and under the sea.”

I had that call banging around in my head when I went on a trip with my ex to meet her family. That trip didn’t go well; her family could not get my preferred pronouns right, nor did they seem to have any interest in doing so. Not a queer friendly situation, much less trans-friendly.

The idea came to me very suddenly, born out of I’m not sure what, but the upshot is that I ended up in a crappy little Starbucks looking up elements of myth about Scylla and Charybdis while I sketched out the plot. I wrote the thing in a single sitting, there in that Starbucks, the day we left her family behind and started another leg of the trip. Writing it was an act of catharsis, an exorcism of vicious defiance I’d been carrying for days.

Placing the story:
This one wasn’t easy to place. It’s a retelling of Greek myth, still with the same setting but told in modern colloquial language and subrversively recast. It’s kind of spec fic but kind of not–there are sea creatures and gods and goddesses, but it’s a Greek myth retelling and those are often perceived to be tongue-in-cheek literary as often as not as well. It was another one that was, frankly, just kind of…weird.

I sent it to the lit mag that issued the call, and was rejected. I sent it to a couple of spec fic lit mags, and was rejected. I tried a literary lit mag that had a call going for a fanfic-y type thing, and this piece seemed to fit, but was rejected. I saw Cactus Heart listed on Lambda Literary, and their mission statement said they were after “spiny writing & art—sharp, relentless, coursing with energy and able to thrive in the harshest of places, all while maintaining a vulnerable, succulent interior.” Hell, I thought, this one is spiny and vulnerable. So I subbed “Real Monsters” to them, and they took it! An ethos fit, I’d call it.

A few months later I saw the call from Lethe Press for submissions to their annual Heiresses of Russ collection–reprints of lesbian fiction from the past year. I sent them “Real Monsters” and “Beneath the Dane Hills” for consideration–both fit the bill–and they chose “Real Monsters”.


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