My story has been published in F&SF for the March/April 2019 issue. I’m so happy about that.
An old jazz-playing faun has the chance to get back everything that was taken from him a hundred years ago, if he can take it from his only student. The story has Jazz, Mentoring and Hope as themes. It also asks the question: how do you change your own life?
My two characters, a young college football player who wants to become a jazz musician, and an old faun who just wants to be a part of the world again, struggle and fail and attempt again this massive turn in their lives, together. At one point, one of the characters says, “I feel like I’m this tiny tugboat trying to turn this massive life around.” And that’s one of the questions I wanted to pose–how do you do that? I hope you find these characters as inspiring as I did.
Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program
I mention an organization I used to work for in my twenties when I was at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program under the Missouri Folk Arts Program. An example of their work is here–pairing two musicians together, a master and an apprentice, much like Mr. Dance and Eric in the story.
Billy Sunday and Evangelical Religion
Like many of my stories, this one touches on religion or faith. This time a 1910-1920s religious figure has a terrible effect on a main character. But that’s a common story shared by queer people, even today,—and with many others who are not queer. There are GOOD religions, good faiths, good people, good churches, I know. #NotAllChurches But some, as we know, can be harmful to individuals they don’t understand. This story uses the evangelist Billy Sunday, who influenced, I believe, all the evangelists after him, and became the model for tent revivals of the 30s through the 90s, even today. His particular brand of revival meetings were notorious, sermons based on the evils of drinking, sex, gambling. News reporters had trouble just repeating some of the things he said during the revivals–they were so scandalous.
If you want to know more about Billy Sunday, here’s a quote lifted from the Wikipedia article on Billy Sunday, a quote from Frederick William Betts, who is writing about the sermons Sunday gave on his circuit.
Many of the things said and done bordered upon things prohibited in decent society. The sermon on amusements was preached three times, to mixed audience of men and women, boys and girls. If the sermons to women had been preached to married women, if the sermons to men had been preached to mature men, if the sermon on amusements had been preached to grown folks, there might have been an excuse for them, and perhaps good from them. But an experienced newspaper reporter told me that the sermon on amusements was “the rawest thing ever put over in Syracuse.” I can not, must not, quote from this sermon…
…[a friend] says that Mr. Sunday’s sermon on the sex question was raw and disgusting. He also heard the famous sermons on amusements and booze. [He] says that all in all they were the ugliest, nastiest, most disgusting addresses he ever listened to from a religious platform or a preacher of religion. He saw people carried out who had fainted under that awful definition of sensuality and depravity.
“Sensuality and depravity”—well, that could describe the life of fauns in Greek mythology, or at least sensuality and frivolity, maybe. As a part of Mr. Dance’s past, I put him and Billy Sunday both in the Jazz Age, one trying to promote happiness, sensuality, to get them through what would become the Depression in the 30s, and the other trying to pull folks back from “depravity,” a prohibitionist with the longest list of prohibitions. Billy Sunday discovers these fauns and thinks of them as Jazz Devils–creatures leading good folks astray.
This story is about Mr. Dance’s recovery, in a sense, long after Billy Sunday is dead. How do we take painful memories and their consequences and move on from them? I don’t know. How do we change our own lives? I don’t know. How do we become who we’ve always wanted to become? I don’t know. But Mr. Dance and Eric find a way.
I hope you like the story.
Some Jazz to Listen to
Here’s a little jazz. Many of these songs are in the story itself, as Eric and Mr. Dance try to play them, some are part of Mr. Dance’s attempts to woo the clarinet back to him, and some are part of the concert at the end of the story. Thought you might enjoy hearing some jazz. You can tell I like crooners: Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and others. Enjoy these songs!
F&SF is available at your local Barnes and Noble, or other bookstore that carries the small paperback science fiction and fantasy magazines. Or you can find it here on their website.