by Emma Newman
As a new member of the Wild Cards consortium, I have only written for one volume so far, Knaves Over Queens, and that was an origin story for Stonemaiden.
When Stonemaiden touches a living, organic creature, it turns to stone, along with whatever clothes that person might be wearing, or the animal’s fur or spines. In my first Wild Cards story ‘How To Turn a Girl To Stone’ she is a lover of animals and nature, exploited by her parents for profit, her ability both isolating and frightening.
After I’ve written something, I like to look back at the roots of where that character came from, as sometimes I can’t see all of them when at the coalface. There are two very obvious ones; the story of Midas, and that of Rogue from the X-Men (and I am thinking of the movies here, as I have not read the comics), but there are more subtle ones too.
I remember reading the story of Midas when I was a child and finding it absolutely terrifying. Of course, Stonemaiden doesn’t have things as tough as he did; she can still eat and move through the world without turning absolutely everything to stone. But I wanted to recapture some of that horror in Stonemaiden’s first story, that feeling of being afraid to touch any creature or person for fear of killing them instantly. She is a lover of nature, one of those gentle souls that animals find easy to approach, and that makes it all the more tragic.
There is an obvious overlap with Rogue there; the fear of a moment of intimacy resulting in someone’s death, only Stonemaiden doesn’t benefit in any way from that momentary contact. I wanted to explore how isolating that would be, especially the tension it creates in a close family, not only from her perspective and the sadness of never being able to risk a comforting hug from her parents again, but also from theirs; imagine being terrified of your own child.
That sense of isolation is one of the main reasons why I set the story in Cornwall, the other being that I was born and grew up there and wanted to see it in the Wild Cards universe! When you grow up in Cornwall, everything seems such a long way away. Where I was born, right in the very far south west, it would take hours of travelling just to leave the county, and hours more on top of that to reach any really big cities with lots of exciting things going on. I wanted the geographical isolation to mirror both her domestic isolation of growing up on a farm and being hidden from the world when her card turned, and her personal isolation of being unable to be truly close to her family any more.
When I was writing the story, I didn’t have to worry too much about weaving her in with the other characters already established in the universe; that isolation made my life easier for that particular project! Of course, other aces are mentioned in the story, but she doesn’t actually get to meet any of them during that tale.
I’m working on a second story featuring Stonemaiden, and the things I love most about the Wild Cards universe, namely its complexity and its depth, also make writing for it quite intimidating. It isn’t just a matter of it having existed for decades and having many books published within it, it’s the fact that the authors and editors have worked so hard to deftly intertwine the disparate characters and factions across several decades of in-world history. It feels like a living, breathing universe.
Now it is time to weave Stonemaiden into the world, to fill in the gap between when we met her in Knaves Over Queens and when we see her again, many years later as a member of the Silver Helix in the upcoming volume Three Kings.
I am so excited to be working on this, but writing the story is a very different experience than usual. For one thing, I can’t just dream something up that satisfies me and then jump right in. And unlike an average anthology, with a theme to focus on resulting in a quick email dashed to the editor saying ‘I was thinking something along these lines’, I can’t leap right into that either.
Weaving a new character into the past twenty odd years of the Wild Cards universe starts with reading, lots of reading! And that’s what I’m doing now, having zeroed in on the two characters that I believe will have a big part to play in her story; Noel and Flint. I have an idea of the emotional feel of the story, but I am keeping a very open mind on the details while I read and make notes. Once this stage is over, I’ll draft a more detailed story outline than I usually do and send that in for approval. Once that is settled, only then I can begin, and once it is drafted, there will be many more people involved in the editing process than usual too. But it will be worth it, to have her woven into the Wild Cards tapestry more tightly. I want to see more of Stonemaiden in the world, and I hope you will enjoy getting to know her too.