Excerpt: A LITTLE BIT OF LOVING by Jane Yolen (Tachyon) – From THE SCARLET CIRCUS

YolenJ-ScarletCircusToday we have an excerpt from The Scarlet Circus, a new short story collection by Jane Yolen. Specifically, it’s an excerpt from “A Little Bit of Loving”. Due to be published by Tachyon Publications in February 2023, here’s the synopsis for the collection:

A rakish fairy meets the real Juliet behind Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. A jewelry artist travels to the past to meet a successful silver-smith. The addled crew of a ship at sea discovers a mysterious merman. More than one ignored princess finds her match in the most unlikely men.

From ecstasy to tragedy, with love blossoming shyly, love at first sight, and even love borne of practical necessity — beloved fantasist Jane Yolen’s newest collection celebrates romance in all its glory.

This bewitching assemblage, with an original introduction from Brandon Sanderson, is an ideal read for anyone who appreciates witty, compelling, and classic romantic fantasy.

Now, read on for a taste of A Little Bit of Loving

*

When asked what I write by researchers, interviewers, school children, adult audiences, and people I meet at conferences, I normally answer, Everything!” But then I hesitate charmingly and add, Except sport stories, cowboy stories, and romance novels.”

But I am lying. (Definition of an author/storyteller = liar. It runs in the family.)

You see, I have published well over 400 books, plus thousands of poems and a huge basket load of stories. So when I really want to parse that answer, I need to think about my output. And then I remember that way (back in the 60s/70s/80s) I published two childrens picture books about baseball. So, yeah, I have written sport stories.

Even earlier, I wrote a childrens picture book about the wild(ish) west. It had tumbleweeds and all.

But no romance novels.  When asked, about that, I reply: I am in my mid-eighties. The research alone would likely kill me.”

However, I have a brand-new husband after fifteen years of widowhood . . . who knew!!! And there is a lot of interesting” research on love and love affairs available, and I have spent years on other research projects (including three Holocaust novels), none of which have killed me.

But that begs another question: I am also forgetting the many short stories and poems in the SF/fantasy genre that I have published over the years in magazines, collections, anthologies, many of which have a romantic tinge or a full-out romantic assault as the through-line. Yeah—not romance novels, but a lot of romance all the same. Many of those stories (my favorites) you will find in this book.

And I have also written songs of love as well, a number of which of which have been performed by bands.

The difference is that these stories are either science fictional or fairy tale-ish or fantastical. Humans fall in love with mermaids or mermen, or selchies or fairies or half-breed redcaps, or magical birds or magicians or . . . hard to rule anything out when you write genre.

And, come to think of it, some of my SF and fantasy novels include long and involved romantic storylines, like Briar Rose which is based on the fairy tale but set in the Holocaust, or like the Great Alta Saga that has magic and a prince, or like The Curse of the Thirteenth Fey, which is full of fairies (not the little people with wings kind though), or like Except the Queen, co-written with Midori Snyder, and that book includes a romance between a couple of middle-aged fairies and humans.

OMG—I HAVE written romance novels. Turns out I am a complete romantic! Who knew!

However, please note: theres a difference between romantic novels” and capital R Romance Novel. The former has a measure of love story woven into its arc (think of War and Peace) but it is not just about the love story . . . or the lovers that you thought it was going to be about. But a Romance novel is driven entirely by the love story, even though there may be a decoration of history draped over its shoulders. The Romance Writers Associations definition of the genre, which is capital-R Romance, is quite specific: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” As you can see, they are quite rigid in the happily-ever-after aspect expected in each novel, whereas the stories in this book may have sad endings, compromised endings, or joyous ones. In other words, real life. Except also magical and fantastical and science fictional . . . of course.

So, I guess I have to redirect those questions from researchers, interviewers, et al to say that I have written fantastical stories and books that include Romance as well as True Love, with a bit of snogging and touching and kissing and other stuff. And if this makes me a writer of Romance Books, then perhaps we need to redefine the concept, not redefine me.

So—heres a challenge: using a few common definitions of love and romance culled from the Internet, how do they wrap their loving arms around the stories in this book?

Here is Googles definition: A feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.” What about how I love my Prius? My dog? Or my grandkids? My country? No romance here but still love.

This is Wikipedias basic definition: Romance or romantic love is a feeling of love for, or a strong attraction towards another person, and the courtship behaviors undertaken by an individual to express those overall feelings.” The term person” is so human-centric. What about those selchies and mermaids and . . . ?

The Wikipedia entry also includes this definition from the Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies: Romantic love, based on the model of mutual attraction and on a connection between two people that bonds them as a couple, creates the conditions for overturning the model of family and marriage that it engenders.” Why just people? Why just two? And again, we have a human-centric idea (and ideal) of a love relationship. Building a family when one of the partners is a selchie or a mermaid or a redcap means having to redefine—through story—the definition of love (and also the definition of people? Lots of science fiction romances count the non-human as people). Of family. Of sex or contentment or passion. Or release.

However, I am a storyteller, not a sex counselor. I am not writing these stories to help anyone, or to lecture on how to create a permanent relationship with a ghoul, or have an extra-marital affair with a ghost. I am simply telling a story. If along the way it entertains, amuses, even arouses, or touches the reader deeply, then my work is well done.

*

Jane Yolen’s A Little Bit of Loving is due to be published by Tachyon Publications in North America and in the UK, on February 14th, 2023.

Also on CR: Interview with Jane Yolen (2020)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, InstagramTwitter

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