The strangest things can inspire a story, and the seed of an idea can lie dormant for years, biding its time. Some while ago, Helen and I were out walking our dog Honey (a golden cocker spaniel, sadly no longer with us) when Helen said a word: Winternet. I can no longer recall the sentence or even the context, but that single word stayed with me. I knew there was a story in it somewhere. Even before the walk was completed I was picturing hidden communities of fey creatures, fairies, living on in secret, cut off from their brethren by the modern world. Only on very rare occasions, when winter was at its height and the world froze, could these isolated groups communicate, reaching out through the traceries of frost and ice which blanketed the land to discover what had become of their fellows, who continued to survive and who had failed.
It’s an idea, a strong one, but not yet a story; to become that it would need a plot. I’ve revisited the notion several times over the years, trying different storylines on for size: two star-crossed lovers separated by their families, each not knowing if the other survived until the Winternet re-establishes itself; an ambitious fairy clan determined to seize power, using the Winternet to attack the ruling family; a desperate race to establish more reliable links before the Winternet melts and the remaining communities of fey are lost to each other forever… None of them, though, quite fitted, so the notion has remained just that.
I established NewCon Press way back in 2006 to publish just one title, and then kept the imprint going on a whim, intending to run it as an occasional hobby alongside my writing. The best laid plans and all that… By the end of this year, NewCon will have published some 130 titles. Of these, 36 are anthologies. These include seven reprint volumes edited by others (starting three years ago with the first Best of British SF edited by Donna Scott, which has become an annual series), and one collaboration between Newcon and small presses in Finland and Portugal – a book featuring the best steampunk writers from all three countries. The balance of the anthologies, those containing original stories, have all been compiled, edited, and curated by yours truly.
Enter [stage left] David Gullen. Dave approached me with an idea a couple of years ago that I found impossible to resist. In essence, alien fairy stories. For hundreds of years scholars and writers have collected and retold folk and fairy stories from around our world. They are not alone. On distant planets alien chroniclers have done the same; for just as our world is steeped in legends and half-remembered truths of the mystic and the magical, so are theirs…
What would the fairy tales of alien races be like? That’s the challenge we set potential contributors. Excited by the premise, I commissioned the anthology and left David to it. However, once a notion takes root in a writer’s mind, it can be difficult to shake. I had an idea for a story, one for which the title “The Winternet” fitted very well. There are no fairies, no fading communities desperately clinging on in the modern world, and the Winternet isn’t a means of communication; instead, it’s a harbinger of dread, but the title fits. I duly wrote the story and submitted it to Dave, who, I’m relieved to say, accepted it. The anthology, Once Upon A Parsec: The Book of Alien Fairy Tales is due to be released next month: the first anthology of original stories released by NewCon to be edited by someone other than me.
Within can be found my story “The Winternet”; finally written, but not the story I expected it to be. As for the fairies and their plight, will that story ever be told? Maybe, one day, when the time is right. But, if so, I’ll have to come up with a new title.