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Eight Days

The title of this post has nothing to do with how long I haven’t posted here — though it may well be 8 days — but with my newest story project. I’m finally writing a story about (edit: Crown) Prince Sado, aka Sado Saeja. He’s a particularly unusual case in the Joseon Dynasty, whose story is told in more (prosaic) detail here. As far as monarchs who lose their minds, he’s quite an odd (unusual) one. I haven’t managed to do much writing in the last couple of weeks — some last-minute-emergency-hurry editing has dropped into my lap, and I also attended a Medieval/Renaissance Lit conference in Seoul, and a performance by L’Orchestre de Paris — both of which I will blog about when I have time, along with a discussion of a story sent to me by a wonderful fellow in Japan. I direly want to write about those things. I just have no time. As you can imagine, I’m all but collapsing from exhaustion.

Deadlines loom, not only for my editing work but for the Fantasistent call for short stories in Asian settings. I figured I could probably write a pretty short account of the 8 days that poor Sado spent in his rice chest. Interestingly, most of the modern accounts show interest in the memoirs of his wife, Lady Hyegong, who recorded the case as she understood it in order to have the truth known. (For it was later claimed Sado had not gone mad in the way related here.) But me, I’m interested in Sado’s story, in what happened in the palace for those eight days he spent dying in the rice chest. In a way, I’m writing a ghost story about a man who is not yet dead.

(Maybe not surprising, considering my Inestimably Great Crit Group is currently reading and analyzing Geoff Ryman’s (in my opinion downright brilliant) novella “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter,” a tale set in Asia that is rife with ghosts. But I must declare that I’ve been planning to write about Sado for the Fantasistent call since I first heard of it.)

I should caveat this all with — I need to do more research. As soon as I’m not editing, I will be reading my copy of Lady Hyegyong’s memoir of 1805, which deals with the case of (edit: Crown) Prince Sado directly, so I can really get my facts straight. (I’ve read some of it, but not all.)

Anyway, here’s the opening paragraph or two of my current draft:

Muffled cries reek from the rice chest, each scream curling the bowels of the court. Every eunuch, every lady, every last slave shivers in dread, in black relief.

It is midsummer, the heat terrible already. But not so terrible that they could not sleep from it. Sweat should not cling to skins, pool on the floor beneath their sleeping mats. Their cushions should not be heavy with sweat or tears. Yet the voice, small, high, failing already this second night, sticks to their bodies in their silent sleeping rooms, sliding its slender, black fingers into the chambers of their hearts and then wrenching, squeezing until they ache and shiver and weep.

As I say, I’m exhausted — about to sleep — but I needed to bang out something. I hadn’t written any fiction in so long I was starting to get outright grouchy! Anyway, I managed 532 words tonight. A small achievement, but a start on things, at least.

After this and my revision of the other story for the Fantasistent call, “The Spike,” I’ll be revising another novella, for Tesseracts12. I haven’t figured out which one to sent to Tesseracts12, actually. I could rework “Winter Wheat” — though I think I need more reading and research to make that story work — or I could go nuts and do the rewrite on “Why Korean Eat Dog” that is lurking in the shadows , yapping occasionally, howling incessantly at me.

The coming holidays abound with tons of projects vying for my attention. But of course, travels, too, await. Whatever. Right now I’m not thinking more than a day or two ahead, because that’s all the editing and teaching allows me to do. If I can get my midterm grading all finished this weekend, I’ll be proud of my achievement. Poor Price Sado shall have to wait a few more days in his horrid, stuffy rice chest.

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