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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Guest Blogger: C.S. MacCath

I have been dealing with the Zombie Apocalypse since Saturday night (okay, it is just a really bad summer cold, but since it has eaten my brains, I feel that I can call it a Zombie Apocalypse with reasonable accuracy). I meant to put up a "Weedy Wednesday" post with pictures of the flowers from my yard, but it just didn't happen.

Luckily, I had a secret weapon waiting in the wings...a guest blog post by my author pal C.S. MacCath, who has just put out an amazing collection of Pagan poems and tales. Months ago, as she was preparing it for publication, she asked me if I would consider writing the introduction, and I was delighted to do so. Here is what I said:

I first met C. S. MacCath when we both took part in a Pagan short story contest put on by Llewellyn Worldwide and BBI Media. The winning entries, including ours, became part of a first-ever collection called The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction: 13 Prize Winning Tales. The book was filled with Pagan-centric stories of every style imaginable; contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, even a western. Some of the authors went on to become successful multi-published authors. Others, no doubt, are still stirring their cauldrons of creativity, somewhere out there. 

But none of the writers I met impressed me so much as one: C. S. MacCath. Not only did I love her story, but I found the woman herself to be charming; warm and clever, witty and wise, earthy and larger-than-life. In the years that passed since that chance meeting at Pantheacon, where the awards were presented, I have followed her career with great interest.

My first impressions proved to be true, as both her real-life adventures and her writing endeavors continued to impress and amaze me. A Pagan who truly walks her talk, C. S. spends her time working for the betterment of our natural world, rescuing orphaned and injured wildlife, learning and advocating for the Scottish Gaelic language and of course, writing. Unceasingly supportive of other writers and Pagans, she walks her path with courage and conviction I have seen in few people and writes with a gift that is even rarer.

That anthology where our stories came together was intended to be the first of many. But alas, that particular dream did not come true. Sadly, there is very little out there in the way of fiction specifically written by Pagans for a Pagan audience or for those who are interested in learning more about us and catching a glimpse into our hidden ways. There are many nonfiction books on modern Witchcraft (some of which I’ve written), but until now, the lyrical, magical, spiritual voice of the Pagan author has gone largely unheard.

Thankfully, this collection changes all that. With C. S. MacCath’s vivid poetry and evocative, sometimes heartrendingly beautiful tales, Pagan fiction finally has a shining star to guide us to new worlds and give us a clearer look at the world in which we live. And that’s what I call magic.

Below, you will find her guest post; I hope that you will give her the usual warm welcome I have come to depend on from my fabulous readers. As a reward, I will give away a copy of The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction (where you will be able to read the short story that won me 3rd place, and which led to the novel, PENTACLES & PENTIMENTOS, that eventually got me signed with my lovely agent, Elaine Spencer) to one random commenter.

Hit it, Ceallaigh--

Thank you Deborah, for your flattering introduction of my collection and for inviting me into your blog space! I’m delighted to be here.
Before The Ruin of Beltany Ring, there was The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction and the purpose for its publication, the first and only Pagan Fiction Award. They sparked a conversation about literature by and for Pagans, and the term ‘Pagan fiction’ was coined. But even the anthology editors weren’t entirely certain what it meant, if Diana Paxson’s introduction is any indication, and those of us who write it continue to wonder whether or not our work can or should be classified as such. However, we do seem to agree that storytelling is integral to the preservation of a culture, and so the part of our writing that might be classified as Pagan fiction is an effort to tell stories that resonate with Pagan readers.
I write speculative fiction and poetry, which draws upon fantastical motifs to do its job. However, my Pagan writing takes its faith seriously; there are no cliché witches in my work. So while I might write a Pagan science fiction story like From Our Minds to Yours, the characters’ approach to the central conflict of the tale is not fantastical. Rather, it’s the sort of approach any Pagan might take, and the story invites the reader to have respect for it. Even when the bumbling Pieter Heinle brings the good word of the eddas to a new world in my alliterative poem Bringing Woden to the Little Green Men, the transformation that results does not diminish the value of Heathen belief and practice (though I confess to a bit of good-natured poking at Heathen lore hounds in the piece). Ultimately, whether a story or poem in my collection is speculative, its references to Pagan Gods, rituals and beliefs are not. They’re spiritual, and they speak to a part of the Pagan ethos that is not at all fictional.
Of course, not every poem and tale in The Ruin of Beltany Ring is specifically religious. All of the stories were written with Pagans in mind, and each of them first appeared in Witches & Pagans, PanGaia, newWitch and similar publications. The poems range a little farther afield; from the spiritual disconnection of Fetters to the divine melancholy of Hephaistos in my poem by the same name (Ηφαιστος), and most of them were published in speculative poetry journals. Still, wherever I’ve handled the cultural artifacts of my faith, I’ve endeavored to do so with care, even when I’m offering a critique. It’s a commitment I’m carrying forward into Petals of the Twenty Thousand Blossom, my novel series in progress, where Wiccans and Heathens alike will come to redefine their faith among an alien species and a powerful artificial intelligence on a new world.
And perhaps that’s the definition of Pagan fiction after all, that whatever the genre of the piece, the Paganism it presents is authentic and true to its own nature. At least, it’s the definition I work under, anyway. Thank you all so much for your time. I hope you enjoy The Ruin of Beltany Ring: A Collection of Pagan Poems and Tales, and I hope it prompts you to seek out other Pagan fiction.
Blessed be.
The Ruin of Beltany Ring may be purchased at: www.amazon.com/The-Ruin-Beltany-Ring-Collection/dp/1482535181/csma-20
C.S. MacCath may be found online at: csmaccath.com

15 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful post! As an avid reader, I have read a number of entertaining pagan-esque books but non that have a truly earthy, pagan feeling. Entertaining is wonderful and has it's place but sometimes the soul hungers for a deeper, meaningful and truthful read. As much as I sometimes would like to be like those fictional witches that can shoot fire from their fingers and zap annoying people into another dimension, it is far more satisfying to read of what a true witch would do in those situations. I thank both of you for
    "keeping it real".

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    1. Melissa--this book is definitely up your alley, then. The stories are short but deep, and the poetry is amazing.

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  2. Great post! I like MacCath's approach to her fiction, to keeping the pagan ethos true. To keep truth in fiction is a challenge and a gift. Thanks to Ms. MacCath for her post.

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    1. You're most welcome! Thank you for reading. And thank you to Melissa, as well!

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  3. We're very happy to have you, C.S.! We'll give it until tomorrow before I pick a winner, since the folks who get email notifications are often running a day late. But lots of page views so far :-)

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  4. Wow! I cannot wait to dive into C.S. MacCath's poetry! Adding to my summer reading list... :)

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    1. Melissa, I think you're going to love it! I did.

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    2. I hope you enjoy it, Melissa, and thank you. =)

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  5. Robert (Xid Trebor)June 28, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Deborah - you know so many cool people (I guess like attracts like). Thanks for sharing C.S. with us - will definitely have to check out her new book. (& thanks for the contest!)

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    1. I *do* know lots of cool people...most of them because I stalked them on the internet :-)

      C.S. is an exception to that rule, of course, but no less cool.

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    2. We stalked each other at Pantheacon, so we didn't have to do it online. =) Thanks for reading, Robert, and I hope you enjoy the book!

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    3. Robert--you won the Anthology! Email me at magicmysticminerva at yahoo

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  6. Defining a non-mainstream genre is always difficult. Invariably we end up describing it in terms of what it is NOT--pagan fiction is NOT about witches pointing a finger and turning a foe into a frog, not about a Harry Potter-style broom race across the night sky, etc. This can leave those unfamiliar with pagan culture scratching their heads..."What exactly are these pagans all about if it has nothing to do with Eye of Newt?" And it can leave pagans just as confused. "What makes for 'pagan' literature when we are all so different?" In the end it comes down to the old, "I can't say exactly what it is. I just know it when I see it." Eventually, enough of us will be writing "it" and enough of us reading "it" that we'll be able to actually define "it."

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    1. "I just know it when I see it."

      There's truth in that, since you have to know what you're looking for to begin with.

      Well said, indeed!

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