The Headless Flute Player

This past week, I received the happy news that a short story I wrote a couple of months ago has been accepted for publication.

(In case you’re wondering, the pleasure of knowing a story will come out somewhere never gets old.  At least it hasn’t for me.)

Look in the Middle

Look in the Middle

“The Headless Flute Player” will appear in the collection Shadows and Reflections: A Tribute to Roger Zelazny edited by Warren LaPine and Trent Zelazny.  A release date has not yet been set.

When I was asked to submit a story to Shadows and Reflections, I immediately decided that the best tribute I could offer Roger was to write a story expanding on one of the two novels that he had trusted me to finish for him: Donnerjack and Lord Demon.  I chose Lord Demon because I really like Chinese material, as anyone who has read my “Breaking the Wall” series might have guessed, and the universe of Lord Demon includes Chinese elements.

As those of you who read the Friday Fragments may recall, in late 2014, I set myself to re-read Lord Demon.  In doing so, I had one of those weird experiences that only happens when a writer has been publishing for many, many years.  (Lord Demon was originally published in 1999.)  I found myself reading the novel as if it had been written by someone else.  Occasionally, I’d find myself remembering writing a specific bit or how I’d woven my material into what Roger had contributed, but mostly I just read Lord Demon much as I would any novel.

When I finished, I started thinking about how I might expand upon the novel.  Initially, I’d considered writing a sequel, but I rejected this thought pretty quickly because Lord Demon has both a very rich setting and a fairly large cast of characters.  I felt that a short story might lose intensity because of the need both to work in characters from the novel and to explain why certain characters were not involved.  I also didn’t want to provide too many spoilers for the novel itself, just in case someone might read the story and decide they now wanted to read the novel.

So I decided to write a prequel.  This choice gave me a very wide field in which to play since Kai Wren, like so many of Roger’s characters, is an immortal and enters the novel with a long life before him.

When Roger and I were living together, one of the ornaments he brought along was a slightly damaged carving of the Eight Chinese immortals.  He explained to me that, for him, the damage was part of the appeal and that, someday, he’d like to write a story explaining how the flute player lost his head.

I still have that carving.  It resides on the mantelpiece in my living room.  I decided that I would tell the story of how the flute player lost his head.  I don’t pretend that it’s the story Roger would have written.  Despite our shared interests, we were very different people.  However, now, whenever I look at the carving, I feel a certain pleasure that the story has at long last been told.

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4 Responses to “The Headless Flute Player”

  1. James Marshall VI Says:

    Will “Shadows and Reflections” be available only to backers of the project or will it be generally available for purchase at some point?

  2. Paul Dellinger Says:

    Good choice, for this project! Hope it’s out there soon.

  3. Paul Genesse Says:

    Congrats and that excellent news!

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