Dispatches from the Word Mines: A Witch Among Wolves, and Other Pagan Tales by Rebecca Buchanan

Dispatches from the Word Mines is an irregular blog series about literature and writing from the perspective of writers themselves. This entry comes to us from Rebecca Buchanan, author of A Witch Among Wolves, and Other Pagan Tales. She discusses that collection here, shares her thoughts about Pagan fiction, and tells us where to find her current and forthcoming work. Many thanks, Rebecca!

C: I'd like to know about the seeds and germination, both sacred and mundane, of a couple of your stories. Where did these tales begin? How did they flower into completed projects?

R: Anything — really, anything — can get the wheels turning: a snippet of a report on NPR that I hear on my way to work, a newspaper headline, an off-hand comment by my husband. That will trigger a theme or maybe just a fragmentary scene around which to build a story or poem. Depending on time constraints, I might chew on the idea for a few days or weeks, or start writing immediately. For example, while mulling over a story in honor of Ares, I considered and discarded a number of ideas; then I heard a report on NPR about military dogs, and “Homecoming” coalesced in my mind in just a few minutes. “Black Leopard” was inspired by a documentary on Animal Planet, and it did not take much finagling to turn it into an homage to Dionysus. I wrote “How Kpodo and Lishan Met, and the Adventure They Had After” in only two days, but it took me weeks and weeks to come up with an idea for the Apollo anthology, With Lyre and Bow; when I finally settled on a driving theme for it (Apollo as healer) it took a good month to actually get the story onto paper, and almost as long to come up with a title.

On the other hand, a few stories just seem to pop out of nowhere. “A Witch Among Wolves” started as a single scene: a woman facing down a pack of shape-shifting wolves on a high cliff. I built the rest of the story slowly around that scene. It was the same with “Sirena,” which started with a young girl locked in her room, sewing.

Sometimes, too, I decide to write a short story in a particular genre. When the call went out for Daughter of the Sun, an anthology in honor of the Egyptian Goddess Sekhmet, I knew that I wanted to write a science fiction piece. Narrowing the genre from the beginning helped to focus my thoughts; once I had the opening scene, “Hysthaany” pretty much wrote itself.

C: What are your thoughts on Pagan fiction in general? Is the term 'Pagan Fiction' important to you? Why or why not?

R: Pagan Fiction as a genre is extremely important to me — so important that I founded Eternal Haunted Summer, a Pagan literary ezine, and I serve as editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. I also write the BookMusings blog at PaganSquare, which focuses on Pagan and Pagan-friendly literature, and I post semi-regularly at Luna Station Quarterly in the Gods Among the Stars column.

It is vitally important that Pagans of every tradition — Celtic, Kemetic, Asatru, Wiccan, Hellenic, polytheists from around the world — produce our own literary works. The world’s oldest literature is Pagan. In the Western world (and in areas influenced by Europe and the United States), that lineage was interrupted by the rise of monotheism, and the secular/monotheist narrative is still dominant. It is unfortunate, but in almost any work of fantasy the Gods are treated like jokes or caricatures or worse. I love fantasy, but I absolutely hate that. In many horror stories, the Gods and Powers of old are treated as inherently evil, as things to be defeated and destroyed. And spirituality of any kind of woefully absent from most science fiction. That needs to change — and we are the only ones who can bring about that change.

C: Where are you going from here creatively, and where can we buy your stuff?

C: I love writing short fiction, and, with my “real job,” that is often all that I have the time to write. I’ve decided to expand my horizons, though, and I’m working on novels and novellas as I can: an alternate reality/paranormal romance set in a Greek version of San Francisco, an adult choose your own adventure which mixes magic and science fiction, an epic urban fantasy featuring elemental witches, and a story about a female military veteran who becomes the caretaker of a very unusual island.

Most of my stories can be found in the devotional anthologies released by Bibliotheca Alexandrina. I also have stories at T Gene Davis’ Speculative Fiction Blog, The Future Fire, Luna Station Quarterly, Nebula Rift, New Realm, and other venues. I have a complete, up-to-date list on the Contact page of Eternal Haunted Summer, so keep checking back!

I’ve also just released my first short story collection through Asphodel Press. A Witch Among Wolves, and Other Pagan Tales is the first in a series of anthologies; it contains six stories, ranging from science fiction to fantasy to eco-fable. I plan to release one every year for the foreseeable future. The next, due in 2016, will be The Serpent in the Throat, and Other Pagan Tales.

You can find Rebecca's work here:
Bibliotheca Alexandrina Current Titles
Eternal Haunted Summer
Contact | Eternal Haunted Summer
BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature
Gods Among the Stars
Asphodel Press