Gordon Grice’s story “If Gold Runs Red” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 4 November 2022.
Somewhere I picked up a warped, water-stained, moldy volume of Chinese folklore called The Man Who Sold a Ghost, translated into English by Yan Hsien-Yi and Gladys Yang. It was packed with gruesome tales of were-foxes and greedy specters. I liked the poetic flavor of one from around 500 AD. It’s about a boy rescuing an injured bird. The bird turns out to be a god. He helps the boy get good jobs and such. Actually, I only liked the beginning. The divine explanation and the job-advancement didn’t do much for me. I decided to warp the premise to suit my own tastes. Early on, I changed the setting to the rural Western landscape I knew. In later drafts, the boy took on a troubled family life, while the landscape got polluted by a meteoric rock with uncanny effects on living things—a science fiction premise to replace the god I’d sent packing. What I enjoyed most was figuring out the effects the meteorite might have on different animals, from birds to beavers. Really, I had too much fun with that; I ended up cutting unnecessary scenes about earthworms, beetles, owls, and finches. I took the scene of a dead man rolling down a river from a real murder case I covered as a reporter. A witness’s bizarre description had stuck with me for years, waiting for a suitable story to fit into.
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