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After the Mouse King’s Fall
“How many ballet shoes do you have?” Bluejay holds up a bouquet of frayed satin, goes down on one knee as though proposing. The bouquet is bound at the shanks by pink ribbons much stronger than they look. Elastics bob and droop around Jay’s fingers like grey-tinged leaves.
Claire used to have a poster hanging on the back of her door, of a dancer en pointe balancing atop an egg. Impossible feat, a trick of photography, but Claire hadn’t known that growing up. All she saw was a challenge to balance her weight on egg and toe, to achieve the impossible.
She flexes a bare foot against the floorboards, pushing up through the ball to demi-pointe. The muscles in her arch bunch. She could do it even now. Balance on toe. On egg. Without shoes.
She could do the impossible.
Jay swings the bundle around by the ribbons like a flail. From satin bouquet to weapon. In The Nutcracker, Marie killed the Rat King with a slipper. Most people forget that the sugar-spun fairy tale begins with a death, like most fairy tales do. “So, pack, sell, or trash?”
The shoes are worn to uselessness, the boxes soft and shanks broken. “Trash. No. Wait.” Claire draws out a single shoe, tugging the tangled ribbons free of the others. The shoe smells of dust and rosin. Time has erased the scents of sweat and blood. Memory has faded on what character she danced in the shoe. Marie, maybe, or Sugar Plum. It’s a performance shoe, not practice. A shoe like this once killed a king. Fitting talisman for her current mission.
“Go ahead and toss the rest,” she says, and chucks the pink slipper into her field kit. You follow the script, you dance the choreography just as you’re told, hoping the tyrants will get their just desserts. Instead, you are left with sugarplum dreams and caviar wishes.
They don’t teach you that killing a king is only the start of a revolution, never its end.
|What I Write||
Alyc Helms fled their doctoral program in anthropology and folklore when they realized they preferred fiction to academic writing. They dabble in corsetry and costuming, dance Scottish Highland and Irish Ceili at Renaissance and Dickens fairs, and game in all forms of media. They sometimes refers to their work as “critical theory fanfic,” which is a fancy way to say that they are obsessed with liminality, gender identity, and foxes. They are a freelance RPG writer for Green Ronin, a graduate of Clarion West 2012, and have published short fiction in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Crossed Genres, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. Their novels The Dragons of Heaven and The Conclave of Shadow are published by Angry Robot books. They can be found on Twitter @alychelms or at http://www.alychelms.com.
The Conclave of Shadow, by Alyc Helms. Angry Robot, July 2016.
The Dragons of Heaven, by Alyc Helms. Angry Robot. June 2015.
“The Blood Carousel,” by Alyc Helms. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. June 2015.
“A Screech of Gulls,” by Alyc Helms. Beneath Ceaseless Skies, #168. March 2015.
“A Song of Sixpence,” by Alyc Helms. Crossed Genres. 6/1/2014.
“And The,” by Alyc Helms. Daily Science Fiction. 11/4/2011.
Primary Goal – I’m working on a super-secret collaborative project with another author. We are starting drafting at the beginning of July, and our minimum goal is 5000 co-written words per week. I put this as my primary goal mainly because I have another person involved keeping me honest and motivated.
Secondary Goal – I have finally escaped revision limbo on my Italianate secondary world fantasy, Chiaroscuro. My secondary goal is to get the first book finished and out to my agent. August 30 is my target date.
Stretch Goal – After I finish Chiaroscuro and get it out the door, my goal is to finish my Nutcracker-inspired short story/novelette (sample included in my profile) and to write my super queer Coppelia-inspired short story/novelette. Somewhere down the line, there is going to be a Giselle story and a Swan Lake story because heck-yeah ballet!
I would like to secure at least 20 donors at $5 per donor, for a total of $100.
I am learning a lot about collaboration in the process of doing this collaborative project. Because it involves another author who is not doing the write-a-thon, I’m not going to share samples or spoilers. However, I am going to offer a weekly blog post on collaboration tips, tricks, and pitfalls.
For sponsors at the $5 level or more, I will include you in the acknowledgements for Chiaroscuro whenever the book gets published, as a thanks for urging me toward the finish line.
For sponsors at the $25 level or more, I will tuckerize you (or a person of your choosing, with their consent) in one of the ballet-inspired stories. I reserve the right to make minor modifications to the name to fit the milieu of the story, but I promise it will still be recognizable.