Oh, this one’s a doozy.
In December 2008, my dear friend SJ Tucker fell drastically ill. S00j is a traveling bard; as such, she din’t have health insurance. Fortunately, she has a bunch of creative and determined friends! We started a community and auctioned stuff we made. But it wasn’t enough.
So Phil Brucato and Sandra Buskirk, anthologists extraordinaire, announced a charity anthology. And invited me, as Phil had loved .
Great! I already had a story for them! Called “Fortune”, it drew from S00j’s songs “Carousel” and, tangentially, “Alligator in the House”. I happily sent it in…
And it was rejected. Aii. But. Phil *loved* one particular segment of it – the story of a mermaid trapped far from home. He said “I can hear her *screaming* in this. This part is *great*. The rest of the story is just good. And we’re getting some A-list names here, so we need *great*. So keep the mermaid, throw the rest out, and give me something like that.”
“And set it in Vegas. Keep the fortune-teller and the mermaid part, but put it in Vegas. That’s where the heart of your writing comes from.”
“…okay. I… cannot figure out how to put the mermaid in Vegas.”
“Can you give me that emotional core, though?”
“…well… I have this thing in my brain. The Descent of Inanna. But through Vegas.”
“Perfect. Give me that.”
So I did. I changed the fortune-teller from a woman on in a circus tent to a man sprawled beneath the Hanged-Man-Reversed of Vegas Vic. Kept the cards.
And I pulled out a story that is maybe another side of “The Angel of Fremont Street”. Maybe not. It’s raw. It’s deeply personal. I couldn’t re-read it, couldn’t edit it, couldn’t look at it, just sent it to Phil and Sandi, who went WOW and took it.
It was only then that I got a look at the rest of the table of contents – my first anthology publication, side by side with Charles de Lint, Midori Snyder, Terri Windling, Francesca Lia Block, writers who’d shaped me. The honor, it is huge.
You can read “Fortune” in Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard’s Name. All sales benefit SJ Tucker and go to offset her medical expenses. This book has helped tremendously, but they still need to raise a few thousand dollars to pay off her hospital bill – so please do go buy a copy!
Art by the amazing Jenny Anckorn.
TheWrongHands says: “But the really outstanding story of the collection, for me, was Shira Lipkin’s “Fortune”. From the mythic roots in the descent of Inanna to the modern wry word-twisting (I loved “Lie back and think of Vegas” as an encapsulation of half the things that are wrong with that city), she lays down a hard and shining path before you and compels you to walk it. I was caught on every word and drawn in to the character’s journey. Really brilliantly well done; brava.”
Kelley O’Hanlon says: “Inanna’s descent, a fortune told in cards, and the true experience of one soul in Vegas. I found myself in tears over and over again while reading this story. It goes into very dark places, and comes out the other side in hope. I know I’ll be re-reading this story, whenever I need to be reminded that my life is what I choose to keep with me, and who I decide that I intend to be. It’s a gift, paid for in blood, and written in the same.”
Deborah J. Brannon says: “This story hits on several of my favorite storytelling devices: Tarot cards and a mythological retelling (here, the Descent of Inanna). However, for some reason, the magical realism aspects didn’t entirely mesh well with the terrifying, yes, but sadly all too typical narrative of the degradation and dissolution of a woman alone. However, in spite of that one complaint, this is a powerful recasting of the Inanna myth and Lipkin couldn’t have picked a better back-drop than Vegas. Knowing that pieces of this story were autobiographical makes it linger all the more.”