The Liner Notes: “Sun Glass”

By Chi King (Huangshan, China (YELLOW MOUNTAIN/LANDSCAPE)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Chi King (Huangshan, China (YELLOW MOUNTAIN/LANDSCAPE)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m in the processes of working on a redraft (the fourth) of a rather epic story called “Sun Glass”, it’s a secondary world story focusing on a civilisation based on ancient China. Except that the people live on a planet with three moons and a population of shadowy creatures called demons—the native species—who appear at night and do not like the humans one iota.

When I started the story I knew several things for certain:

  • Humans came to this world from somewhere else, aka Earth, documented in a semi-mythicised text called The Annals of the Arrival. But enough time/generations have passed for this to become near mythological.
  • The ‘demons’ were the native inhabitants of the planet, who dwell in the dark and the shadows and are capable of taking partial form as smoke-creatures with coloured, jewel-like eyes.
  • Magic, encapsulated around arts and crafts, words and meaning, exists and the moons of this world can enhance magic.
  • There are specific clans and castes who teach children how to forge a magical weapon from a meteorite or how to capture a spell in glass.
  • Humans either have magical talent or they don’t.
  • The hardest of these professions are the glassweavers, a protective form of magic that shields people from being attacked by demons.
  • Hu Xia, my MC, is a glassweaver of some skill who became one thanks to personal tragedy. She’s also spent her life pretending to be her dead brother, Jin, in order to learn her art.
  • The demons are getting stronger and more bold; no one knows why or how to stop them.
  • Xia must stop them. Because reasons.

This story was unabashedly inspired by TV. I was watching Kevin McCloud’s series on making his man-shed which involved making his own glass, the process captivated me (as does any hobby involving hot things, danger etc). The process was literally magical and thus was Hu Xia born. The story opens with her crafting a magical totem made of glass to protect her village from the demons.

I knew I wanted to set this in a Chinese-based secondary world because, like Japan, ancient China lends itself perfectly to magic. Add in a sci fi angle and a secondary world with a crux focusing on magic and off I went, building a world which included lost villages, angry demons and (though it’s never stated) genetically-engineered sentient unicorns. Oh and, once, there were dragons too.

This is one of those stories where, as I write it, I’m mentally reminding myself I want to submit it to a certain place, in this instance I have the market’s submission guidelines open so I can review them as I go, things like word counts and genre. I’ve got a list, helpfully provided by my crit group, of places if my first choice isn’t successful which helps because I tend to be very narrow-minded and focused when it comes to submission. I want to sell it to X, it doesn’t mean they’ll take it.

This story has been a beast but it reminds me a novelette I think I beta-read for Mary Robinette Kowal a couple of years ago called “A Fire in the Heavens” which was essentially about a journey and this discovery of the unknown. The entire time I was writing “Sun Glass” I couldn’t stop thinking about this story, even though there’s no connection whatsoever with my pseudo-Chinese society on an alien planet. No MRK’s story feel’s epic, even if it’s just over 15k in length and the world was so vibrant, so strange.

I gave the third draft to my crit group a month ago and then, in the wake of their ever so helpful comments, literally pulled the story to pieces and added in what I call a Viola subplot (Yes, guess what I studied for my English GCSE). It actually fit well with the cultural feel of the story and turned Xia into a very active character (something I’ve been having problems writing) which has pleased my beta readers muchly. I can’t help squeeing every time one of my trusted crit group tell me they love something, even if it also means (because they’re good), I have a page by page list of things to fix or clarify.

I can’t help squeeing every time one of my trusted crit group tell me they love something, even if it also means (because they’re good), I have a page by page list of things to fix or clarify. Now I just have to go through, clean it up, check for typos, remove a few over-used words and wait for a rejection so I can submit it to Market No. 1. That’s tomorrow morning in Starbucks and my first coffee accounted for then.

That’s tomorrow morning in Starbucks and my first coffee accounted for then.

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