The Rules of the Society:
- To qualify for membership, your stories must have at least one Elf.
- Your stories must not contain Laser Blasters or anything else of that sort.
- There are no other rules.
I have been a member in good standing of the ISTE for several years. All my novels and short stories had elves, or in some cases, just one. But then, last week, came a day when the temptation was too strong to resist. I wrote a story with no elves at all.
I know there are plenty of publishers—a majority, even—who don’t care whether I’ve got elves in my stories or not. And the readers mostly don’t care either. But the ISTE does care.
I could get this non-elf story published in a lot of places. I will have to keep looking—I’m sure I’ll find a place to send it.
Still, I tremble to think what could happen if the ISTE found out. They might oust me from their circles and consider me an outsider. Even so, I’m curious. I want to see where this story can go—so my only choice is to use a pseudonym. That’s what I’ll do.
I did it! I got the non-elf story published in a very classy magazine—and it got some good reviews. I just hope it doesn’t get too much attention, or the ISTE might figure out it was me. I know they mostly don’t read the non-elf mags. Well, it was a fun fling into the world without elves, and I think it was good for me as a writer, but now I have to go back to my sylvan stories. My elf-writing critique partner is already wondering why I haven’t sent her any new work for a while.
Of course now I’m tempted to write more tales with no elves, just as the ladies of the ISTE warned me. But they are my friends, I don’t want to offend them, so I will resist and stay within my chosen genre.
Except for my editor at the non-elf magazine.* She’s really nice and gave me some tips I’d never heard before, and they improved my story a lot. She’s also the only one who knows my real name, and I’ve sworn her to secrecy.
*Isn’t “non-elf” kind of a silly term? The ISTE uses it all the time, but really it’s a non-definition!
A reviewer just straight up posted my real name in her remarks. I have no idea how she found that out, but now it’s there in plain sight for anyone to see, the moment they dig deeper into the list of public reviews. And there’s no use denying it.
I admit I have been growing more distant from the ISTE folks. I haven’t written any new elf stories, my critique partner must surely wonder if I’m backsliding, and perhaps most significantly, their little group discussions interest me less than ever before—their blanket inclusion of elves in absolutely everything, their publishers’ strange ban on anything that might be construed as a laser blaster, and the increasingly precise definition of just what constitutes an elf or a laser blaster.
I may be going crazy, but I’m starting to think all this is rather peculiar.
Still, I haven’t been found out yet. I have to consider it likely in time to come, but for now, I can continue to enjoy the companionship of my elf-writing buddies in the ISTE…while writing a new laser blaster story.
Well, it’s over. Someone found me out and reported it to the Board of the ISTE. They requested me to resign—not simply for writing a non-elf story, but for making up things about laser blasters. Upstanding elf writers shouldn’t even think about these things, apparently.
Sure, I knew this was going to happen. It is a strange sense of freedom, though. I can write about anything I like.
And I’ve met a few laser blaster writers online—they are not much like the elf writers at all. They actually talk about how to write better, rather than obsessing about what is or isn’t in the story.
Careful questioning has also led me to discover that the laser blaster writers don’t mind at all if there’s an occasional elf in a story. This is a novel approach to me. I guess it’s how the wider world works—out beyond the circle of elf writers.
They can have their elves, but I didn’t give mine up completely—and now I’ve got laser blasters, too.
Elves with laser blasters, hmmm. There’s a story in that…
Grace Bridges is a dreamer whose muse blows best when it’s fresh from the sea. A graduate of the University of Auckland, she translates German for a living and writes from her hilltop in New Zealand in between projects for her indie publisher, Splashdown Books. Her work appears in various international anthologies and literary magazines, and she is currently working on a series of novels. She is inordinately happy that her hair has started going silver. http://www.gracebridges.kiwi