On superheroes, deification, and the relationship between writer and reader

Today’s the day! My short story “The Crafter at the Web’s Heart” is up at Apex!

I wrote the first draft of this story at Clarion West 2017, which makes it the second CW story to appear, the first being “The Good Mothers’ Home for Wayward Girls.” It started out as a challenge to myself to build a secondary world. I began with an image–a city suspended on a spider’s web–and combined it with some questions I’d been pondering about how to craft magic systems.

When my amazing classmates read the draft, they gave me excellent feedback on how to make it into a workable story. A few of them noted that it felt to them like a superhero origin story. I could definitely see that, even though it wasn’t what I’d intended. But then, readers often find things in stories we don’t intend. It might be that writers cannot fully comprehend everything that shapes our writing. Certainly, letting the critical part of your mind dominate too much early in the process can make writing impossible (at least for me; I don’t know how widely this is true).

So my classmates’ reading wasn’t wrong–in fact, all that was certainly in the story, given that multiple thoughtful readers had come to that conclusion. But only one, Robert Minto, articulated a reading that matched my own: that “Crafter” is a story not about becoming a superhero, but becoming a god. It’s a story about deification (or apotheosis, if you prefer).

What makes a god (and who makes a god) are fascinating questions for me, and that’s an question tied to how I think about this story. There’s only one kind of god that can be the deity of Traverse, and only one kind of person who fits the bill.

This is also, for me, a story about transition, and embracing your true self, but I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that point.

I don’t know whether other readers will see the story the same way I and Robert do. I rather hope that there will be a diverse set of readings, which is a sure sign that people are finding something to engage with in the work.

But for me, it will always be a story about gods and the situations that create them.

If you liked this story, then stay tuned: I have another story set in this world in the forthcoming anthology Maiden, Mother, and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes.