A contribution for International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretch Day: "Parting Gifts"

by Diane Duane

I thought that for my offering to this noble group effort, I would bring along something that people have been asking about on and off for a while: something of a rarity, one of the very few extant short works set in the Middle Kingdoms universe.

“Parting Gifts” is, I think, the first piece of short work (i.e., shorter than novel-length) that I had published. It came out in 1981, in FLASHING SWORDS #5: Demons and Daggers, which was edited by Lin Carter and published by Dell — under the aegis of editor Jim Frenkel, if I remember correctly.

The cover for Flashing Swords 5

The company in the anthology was exhilarating: C.J. Cherryh, Tanith Lee, Roger Zelazny, Craig Shaw Gardner. I got even more excited to learn that the cover of the anthology was going to be based on my story. But I became just slightly less excited when I found out that Richard Corben, of “Den” fame, was going to be the artist.

Don’t get me wrong: I liked Den. But Corben was well known for, to be blunt, hanging mammaries — and ample ones — on anything that could possibly be made to take them. When I found out about the cover assignment, I remember thinking, Okay, buster. Here are the characters: a grandmother, a young guy, and a kitten. Let’s see you hang bazongas on those. And what the heck: he did. (Click on the image for a larger version. At least the kitten and the guy are bazonga-free.) But in the process he also created a terrific cover that (for the time anyway) was quite unusual for him, a complete break with his usual palette of hot tones.

The story was written between The Door into Fire and So You Want to Be a Wizard. Some tropes which were later transplanted to the YW universe can be found in here: the Shadow is plainly being played very much as the Middle Kingdoms’ version of the Lone Power (though the backstories of these two embodiments of Entropy are far different). The word “errantry” is even mentioned once. Otherwise, though, the tale is one of an “average” Rodmistress — if there is such a thing — in her sunset years. In Middle Kingdoms time, Sirronde is apparently working in a period well after the Door Into… novels: the doings of the Five are mentioned, briefly, as events of a past time, if not quite the remote past.

It seemed a nice thought to turn this story loose right now because I’ve been thinking about republishing it with its two prequel stories: “The Span”, which came out in Wizard Magazine a couple/few years ago, and a third untitled Sirronde story, presently in the works for a UK publisher. I may also add to that collection the only other Middle Kingdoms short work, “Lior and the Sea”, which appeared in the tribute anthology for Andre Norton, Moonsinger’s Friends. Those who’re interested in seeing such a compilation volume should keep an eye on one or another of the weblogs during late spring / early summer of ’07.

Meanwhile, “Parting Gifts” is available both here in HTML form and as an unlocked PDF, for those who prefer a printout.

Enjoy! And vivat technopeasantry.


EDIT: My brains aren’t that much good late at night. I completely forgot to mention: I have a whole novel online right now available for free download — Raetian Tales 1: A Wind from the South. Hit the link for info on formats (.LIT, .PDF, .PDB) and the download URLs.)

[tags]international, pixel, stained, techno, peasant, wretch, day, IPDTPWD, technopeasant, Diane, Duane, Parting, Gifts, Middle, Kingdoms[/tags]

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