Children of Rouwen

Most of the news around here lately is about that book, but meanwhile Fireside Magazine published a new piece of short fiction from me on Monday: Children of Rouwen. I'd be delighted if you would read it and tell me what you think!

I'd like to talk a bit about where that story comes from -- and this is incredibly spoilery, so if you care about that sort of thing, please, read the story before you continue. Children of Rouwen is very directly inspired by and in conversation with Ursula Vernon's Elegant and Fine, a breathtaking work about Narnia, and about Susan, and the realistic emotional consequences of living a life in Narnia and then... coming home again, into a child's life and a child's body. It's a fine piece of writing, and Ursula Vernon is a genius.

This got me to thinking about the nature of portal fantasy as a whole, and about the ones who get left behind. If you think on it, the adults of Narnia, living through wartime and reconstruction, arguably need a little magic even more than the children do. The idea of being left behind, of being the one not chosen, of having missed your chance -- I think that speaks to a deep human fear. And there's another layer here, especially for parents: even once those children come back, the parents have still been left behind by the passage of time, haven't they? So Children of Rouwen is also, as many of my works are, about the inevitable sorrow of seeing your children grow up and away from you.

When my first daughter was a few days old and I was home alone with her for the first time, I was suddenly overcome with waterfalls of tears in the middle of a diaper change because it struck me all at once that one day, she would be a teenager and she would hate me; or at the very least, one day, she would be an adult, and she wouldn't really need me anymore. This was mostly a crazy rush of weird postpartum hormones. It's not really a rational train of thought, as such.

But parenting is, for me, full of something opposite to nostalgia; I think maybe the aesthetic called mono no aware in Japanese. It's the sadness of knowing that something beautiful is ephemeral; of missing something that brings you joy before it's even gone.