More stories from the mountains

Georgian Folk PoetryWriters usually dread questions about where they get their ideas. How can anyone remember the thought processes that generated hundreds of decisions about plot points, character traits, macguffins and more?

However, in the case of “A Pebble in the Mountains,” I remember quite clearly how the story began to form in my mind. I was in the university library, looking for an entirely different book, when my eye fell on a volume titled An Anthology of Georgian Folk Poetry by Kevin Tuite. On a whim, I picked it up and began to leaf through it, expecting to find poems from the American state, or else the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Instead, it proved to be poetry from the republic in the Caucasus. All at once, I was pulled into a world of high mountains, fierce shepherds, and gods old and new. It was love at first reading.

Kurtsikidze-ChikovaniWhen I had read all parts of that book several times over, I began seeking out more examples of Georgian folklore. The poems proved to be just a fraction of a much larger corpus of legends, fairy tales, ballads and historical epics shared by the peoples who inhabit the border between Georgia and the territories of the Northern Caucasus. If you liked the tropes in “Pebble,” their original source material is well worth tracking down. Most of it isn’t translated into English, but there are a few titles available.

Ethnography and Folklore of the Georgia-Chechnya Border by Shorena Kurtsikidze and Vakhtang Chikovani translates legends and fairy tales. Here you can find hunters, princesses, and a great many heroic horses, but the flavour of the stories is quite distinct from similar European tales. The book also includes ethnographic information and black and white photographs of the Khevsurs and the Kists, two ethnicities that inhabit that harsh corner of Georgia. There’s a sample of the material here.

Legends of the CaucasusLegends of the Caucasus by David Hunt is another terrific source. This is where the cyclops legends, epics of resistance to foreign invaders, and the occasional tale of a woman warrior are collected. Of the three three books, this one probably generated the most tropes for my story. It gave me so many ideas, I could write several more tales written in fantasy analogs of the Greater Caucasus range.

Myriad Lands, the anthology in which “A Pebble in the Mountains” appears, launched this evening at Readercon. If you’re in the Boston area this weekend I recommend going to take a look at it.

Myriad Lands is now for sale

Myriad Lands, the anthology in which my story “A Pebble in the Mountains” appears, is now available on Amazon. Look at this gorgeous cover by the artist Likhain. I think it really captures the spirit of the book.

Myriad Lands


The idea for this anthology was to showcase fantasy stories set in places outside the genre’s usual European milieu. The description on Amazon says we can look forward to the following tales:

  • A Chinese ex-soldier is confronted by the ghost of a young man he killed in battle.
  • African gods roam modern Britain following an immigrant family.
  •  A blind Japanese girl journeys through the woods to tend her grandparents’ grave and encounters a nefarious fox spirit.
  •  How does an Indian noble girl learn to cope after becoming untouchable?
  • A Nigerian boy catches a magical fish the local magicians would love to eat. But is it worth more to him alive?

And finally…

  •  A girl from the Caucasus mountains is set to marry a young man from the valley, when an invasion of Cyclopses interrupts the wedding.

That’s “Pebble”!

Volume Two sounds like it’s going to be fun as well. The stories in that one are set in worlds that never existed. I particularly want to read the one that’s blurbed as “An investigator tries to decipher the message from assassins who use very aggressive flower arranging.”

On the western side of the Atlantic, the official launch party for both volumes will be on Friday night at Readercon in Boston. If you’re in the neighbourhood, you should check it out.