As the clapping subsides, a harsh voice says, ‘That sounds like my cue.’ The old man with the disfigured face is standing by the fire-pit, ready to speak his piece.His author biog isn't either:
‘This one’s from a very old friend of mine...’ he begins. ‘Jim Sheldrake.’ The storyteller pauses to let his name-drop take effect. ‘You might have heard of him.’ He smiles, as he pushes back an unruly dreadlock and casts a hooded glance at his audience, looking for recognition, but finding none. He presses on, the gravel in his voice grown organically over years and lifetimes beside one fire or another.
The name he has chosen for himself is Story. It is not his birth name, or any of sundry identities he has worn, but it is the one he has borne the longest, both before and after his rebirth. In truth he has always been Story. Every wrinkle and blemish upon his skin tells its own tale, so no wonder he was rebirthed exactly as he went out.
Jay Eales, ya say? I knew the fella, once upon’a. On the road to St Ives or somesuch. Northampton? Sounds about right. Land a’ the Blessed Alan. Back in them days, people had holes in they shoes, they gots Elves ta do the fixin’. Well, somebody gots ta pay ’em, right? Fer his sins, that’s what he done. Paid off them Elves ta keep ’em tap-tap-tapping soles ’n’ heels all night long. Elves being Elves, it din’t last, so he sold elbow grease ’n’ long weights ta simple folks, and a spell lockin’ up wrong-uns. But all through, he’s scritch-scratchin’ away at his stories. Some got bought and some didn’t. Did he ever make it here to the City? There’s the thing. I ain’t rightly sure he atcherly died... Plain forgot to pick up the knack of it from ol’ Sister Death, he tole me. Laid hisself down, but it just never took. He be out there somewhere, pissin’ an’ moanin’ ’bout editors, I ’spect.mentioned the "fanthologies" which I -- and Susannah Tiller, and Simon Bucher-Jones and Kelly Hale and Dale Smith, and any number of writers who've been professionally published since -- contributed to, around the turn of the century. The two specific ones I wrote for were edited or co-edited by Julian "Jay" Eales, an author, editor and publisher with an impressive track record in small-press prose and comics. His most recent editing work was, in fact, the Faction Paradox anthology Burning with Optimism's Flames, for which I wrote "De Umbris Idearum".
Jay's fiction is weird and spiky, with a habit of defying clear categories, and indeed description. His More Tales of the City story, "Born among Briars", draws heavily on the folklore of Br'er Rabbit, hence the style of that biog. It's a sequel of sorts to "Mightier than the Sword" in A Romance in Twelve Parts, the story of a convict over whom a pulp author named Sheldrake exercises an inexplicable influence, and it's fantastic.