[image description: An Alligatorid of the Caimaninae family wears a black t-shirt and an unconvincing black toupee. He smiles toothily and points to a red book – ’Armenian Gods’, Winner of the Yugo, Crab Nebula, Blueberry, and No Bell Prizes – inside the breast pocket of his black jacket. Neal’s Sales Pitch appears in a big word balloon. Text reads, “I gots ‘em all guv’nor! The Gravestone Book, A Coral Line, Neverwear, Good Womens, Blackberry Girl, Armenian Gods, Signal to Boys, Horse Mythology, Starduck… 141, Neal Caiman ~ Small God of Copy Copycats”]
Here is a fact about humanity that humanity as a whole often tries to reject: originality is not the holy grail. There is no special award for being the first one to have an idea, no magical “you got there first, good show” prize for being the person to pioneer a new shape of story. Humans are magpies, one and all. They see, they steal, they polish and rearrange, building bowerbird palaces of bits and pieces, and the most enduring stories have always been made from the gutted remains of a thousand things that came before.
That isn’t to say that theft is an acceptable means of creative expression. The best are patchwork artisans, not highwaymen: they do not steal, but they allow themselves to be inspired by the stories already all around them, the fairy tales and the folklore, the local legends and the family rumors and the lies and the lies and the lies. It doesn’t matter, to a storyteller, whether the seed they plant is false or true; the story that sprouts from it will be both things at once, patently untrue, and yet filled with a core of absolute honesty. Neal is not a thief of dreams.
He is, however, a guide to all the many roads that you might potentially walk to find your own store of seeds.
He will walk with you through fairy tale forests and down dark folkloric lanes, guide you through the tangled briars of poetry and escort you into the gated halls of history. The seeds you plant may, in their first sprouting, resemble his own, but with proper care and nurturing, they will bloom into something altogether beautiful and different, and there will be none more eager to applaud you when you appear at your first Fiction and Floral Show than the scaly king of seams, who sees all the places you have stitched old stories together to come up with something entirely your own.
Don’t worry so much about being the first.
Worry about being the best.
Artist Lee Moyer (13th Age, Cursed Court) and author Seanan McGuire (Middlegame, Every Heart a Doorway) have joined forces to bring you icons and stories of the small deities who manage our modern world, from the God of Social Distancing to the God of Finding a Parking Space.
Join in each week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many tiny divinities: