Who is the Black Beast?

Red-winged blackbird

Some time ago, I start­ed writ­ing a short sto­ry, which at that point was titled “The Lake in the Library”. In its neb­u­lous first lines, it fea­tured a librar­i­an, a library, and a lake in that library. Oh, and a lake mon­ster of some sort.

Lat­er, I had more ideas for the sto­ry, and a theme came to me like a bolt from the blue. I excised the lake and the lake mon­ster, not with­out regret. (There’s no guar­an­tee they won’t reap­pear; the sto­ry is very dreamy, in the lit­er­al sense of the word.)

The new sto­ry, on its sur­face, fea­tures a library full of books that are qui­et­ly eras­ing them­selves, and a set of young people—who might actu­al­ly all be the same person—re-writing the sto­ries, or per­haps over­writ­ing them is a bet­ter way to put it. The title changed to “Palimpses­ts”, and I deter­mined that there would be a selec­tion of nov­els that were fea­tured as hav­ing por­tions re-writ­ten by the mys­te­ri­ous child|ren.

One of the books I select­ed, a per­son­al favourite, was Sta­tions of the Tide by Michael Swan­wick. There’s a chap­ter in it called “Who is the Black Beast?” and I decid­ed that the heart of that chap­ter would be the por­tion re-writ­ten in “Palimpses­ts”.

I read and re-read “Who is the Black Beast?”, for research, and actu­al­ly end­ed up re-read­ing Sta­tions of the Tide for the fifth or tenth time in the process. As I said, it’s a favourite.

At one point, I tweet­ed that I was read­ing the chap­ter as research, and, help­ful­ly, Michael Swan­wick respond­ed.

And so I checked out the library cat­a­logue, only to find out that Crow is not the local hold­ings. I moved on. “Palimpses­ts” was eclipsed by a new, dif­fer­ent short sto­ry project.

But then, recent­ly, as I was fin­ish­ing up the oth­er short sto­ry’s first draft, I decid­ed to see if the local libraries had any Ted Hugh­es col­lec­tions. And, long sto­ry short:

So now I’ve got some more read­ing to do, as I con­tin­ue to work on “Palimpses­ts”. (Which, I might as well tell you now, is cur­rent­ly titled “Dried Flow­ers”, but I’m not entire­ly con­vinced that’s the right title either.)