On Beast Claiming, from the
Lady’s Societal Gazette of New Manchester
By Sean Robinson
Long time readers will recall that the Editricies of The Gazette hold steadfast in their belief that women of good breeding must adhere to the social conventions of both their sex and class. That is to say—to demonstrate the virtues of tenacity, ferocity, and single-minded mastery of their chosen avocation.
To this end, we continue our exploration and celebration of the successes of the Ladies of New Manchester.
A young lady, as we know, is judged by the pursuits she holds closest to her heart. These might be the harpsicord, the joy found in paints and canvas, or the recitation of poetry. In recent months, the good homes of New Manchester have taken to hosting parties around such themes. It has been quite charming. In particular, our in-house writers enjoyed the poetic exploits of Melenna Ambersoft, her work “On Dancing Slippers” left us quite ready to dance, while Dayanah Meadowslark’s “Ode to New Manchester” touched our hearts with patriotic fervor.
Both ladies were kind enough to remark that they are avid readers of The Gazette.
We most recently attended a menagerie hosted by Cerise Lutenbach, just returned from abroad, who shared with us her experiences as a Beast Claimer, as well as guidance to the young society daughters who will, undoubtable, seek to emulate the up and coming menagitrixes of New Manchester.
On Beast Claiming
The art of Beast Claiming has spent much time believed as the pursuit of bluestockings, the rural, provincial, and the untutored. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the very essence of the wild brought to high art. No matter the class, or the current societal convention, it is, however, something that required dogged determination and art.
To be a Beast Claimer is to brave the wild and find a beast with which you might find some measure of common virtue. It is to stand alone in a field, or tall grass, and with skill, fervor, and will, to join them to you, gentle them, and further your mastery.
As the art has grown over the years, while both in and out of fashion, there remain several conventions that must be taken into account should a woman of quality wish to pursue this avocation.
On First Beasts
Generally the nascent Beast Claimer is brought into the profession with the presentation of their first beast. In the Hinterlands Plain, beyond New Manchester’s Third Ring, this presentation is traditionally done on the tenth birthday.
It is fitting and appropriate that she be offered a selection, in keeping with her nature, but choose only one, before taking on the great challenge of her young life.
It will be, in many ways, her first and greatest friend. As the road spirals out from New Manchester, and the young girl’s adventures grow, it will be there beside her. It will fight for her, when necessary, share in her victories and mourn with her in her defeats.
In custom, a child is brought with her parents, her hair in ribbons, and presented with three orbelles. Each orbelle contains the vitaye of a prospective Beast. The child is then expected to choose between the three, finding some measure of common ground. This will be her first partner.
Most acceptable for a young lady are a trio: the bright-plumed alerion is fitting for a child who is concerned with her appearance. The alerion is plume with the most becoming feathers—flammeous—colored crimson to poppy. Incandantine. For the craftier Beast Claimer, the slick-finned remora is ideal. Fleet in water, it is quick to pluck bright stones from the river bank and has a most pleasant singing voice. Last, for the young lady who will be the envy of her brothers, she might choose the orbelle of the thick-rooted mandrake. Mischievous and brave, the mandrake will present a loyal guardian on the road and a challenge to opposing Beast Claimers as the young lady begins her quest.
As a young lady journey’s on into the Hinter Land plains, accompanied by her new-won beast—the must begin to search for the ultimate goal in their new avocation.
For some, they will seek to train and raise their beasts to the highest pinnacle of achievement. For others, they will seek to collect as many beasts as they may find, cataloging their experiences in a bestiary, perhaps for publication upon their triumphant return to New Manchester. Readers of the Gazette may find our reviews of several such publications in our archives.
To be a Beast Claimer, a young lady must face her fears. It is quite likely that in her journeys beyond the Third Ring that she will encounter beasts in the grass, as well as beyond, in the marshes and fjords, forests and caverns that her exploration will take her. It is equally likely that she will wish to capture specimens along her journey.
To do so, she must have an empty orbelle. Made of crystal, they hold the beast’s vitaye and binds the Claimer and the beast together. She must be swift and brave and take the orbelle in her hand, concentrate and will.
She may fail at first, as she will fail at many things, both in her quest and in her life. The will of any beast—sphinx, or ash-drake, or golem—may be too much for the young Beast Claimer. They will fight and writhe, but she must hold firm until the orbelle lays quiet and the vitaye is secured.
The capture of a beast is cause for celebration! It is the next in the step of becoming a master beast claimer and as the Lady’s collection grows, so too, does her prowess and prestige.
She will walk away, leaving her parents behind, never looking back. Trusting as all young women trust, that home will always be there when she returns.
It is simply not enough to gather the many beasts of the forest, the fen, the sea, and the moor. The beasts the young lady claims require stimulation as they have been taken out of their natural habitat. They require growth on the prat of the Claimer as well as on their own part to grow into their full potential.
It is recommended that Beasts be allowed to wander and roam whenever possible over the course of their journey. It gives them the opportunity to take in new sights and discover new places.
So too should the young Lady Claimer explore as well. She should challenge herself to explore the cavernous expanses to the East of New Manchester and explore the seashore as it moves toward the south.
Training should also include further education on the part of the Claimer. Sphinxes are well-read, as is the couatl, to speak nothing of the ferocious intelligence of the manticore. We suggest Lord Aeryc Byron’s History of New Manchester as well as Gwentolyn Reed’s corpus of literature as appropriate places to begin. The young lady will find her companions predisposed to certain topics and should, for no reason, limit the beasts in her care to her own preconceived notions of appropriate material for their scholarship and growth.
As with all aspects of Beast Claiming, as her team grows, so shall the lady. Her perceptions will grow more acute, she will learn from the people she meets on the road—including other Claimers—as well as from the beings she has accompany her. She will grow in ways unusual and unexpected, but to be a Beast Claimer of any renown, is to be succinctly and unapologetically themselves.
As with most chosen professions, it is likely that the Lady Beast Claimer will find themselves accompanied by, challenged by, and almost certainly exasperated by, her peer group.
In the field, or in neighboring cities, young ladies are laying aside their embroidery and poetry to take up the orbelles of the beast claimer, to become masters of their profession. No small amount of jealousy will also take place.
It is also quite possible that a rival may seek to engage in a test of training, of quality, using their beast companions. This is to be expected. How else might professionals measure their success against one another?
For a battle, it is appropriate to choose among the Claimer’s companions—which is the craftiest? The bravest? The most daring? Let them take the field. The opponent will do the same, and—as is the nature of beasts—they will battle. The Lady Claimer should encourage her partner, call out suggestions of how to subdue their opponent.
Let the mandrake strike out bravely with its barbs, or the entling with its jagged bark. Let the Capricorn pull torrents from the water, and the ercinee glow with such radiance that its opponents are blinded.
Battle will be difficult for the fine bred lady of New Manchester, but battle is her due and her legacy and her birthright. She will find, as her journey towards Claiming mastery continues, that she will find reserves inside herself. Reserves of tenacity and drive that, had she chosen a different avocation, she would not have found.
It is pure hubris for a Beast Claimer of any merit to believe that they will be without challenge. For a young lady, she must be prepared for all eventualities. It is likely that they will find a beast whom they adore—such as the might garuda—who will be too strong-willed to give their vitaye to an orbelle. There will be disappointment, when the road is not kind. When hems are ripped and bonnets are lost to the water.
In these times, she must remember that she chose the path, the beast, the quest. She must remember that the only way through is success, or to return home failed. To her parents who were so proud that their child was daring, and to her brothers, who called her names, pulled her braids, and broke her toys. To the world of New Manchester, who is kind to poets and painters, but who has not yet decided what to make of a Beast Claimer not decked with the winner’s laurels.
A Beast Claimer must be brave and hold to the course. She must believe in herself and in her journey. How else will she enter burned ruins in search of lamassu or the mines of the kobold? She must embrace the desire to push through adversity, to challenge those she might fail to, in order to grow into the lady she wishes herself to be, and to support her companion beasts into becoming the beings that they are destined to be.
All roads lead to New Manchester. As a Beast Claimer leaves for the road, a single companion at her side, so must she return triumphant. For some that will mean that her mandrake is a doughty warrior, champion of many battles. Perhaps it means that she carries a hundred orbelles in the bag at her side. Perhaps it means that when she knocks upon the door of her childhood home—a woman they almost do not know—she will be more than she was when her hair was braided and her parents clutched each others hands.
Let the master Beast Claimer enter her home with a smile, with quiet knowing, and great joy. Let her introduce her brothers to her cockatrice and her leucrotta. Let them wonder at the way she smiles at them when they think to pull her hair, or be cruel to her.
And, when appropriate, let her open her doors to society. To the Editricies of The Ladies Societal Gazette of New Manchester so that we may bring our readers in with us to marvel at her journey, her mastery, and how she has transformed into a formidable creature all her own.
Hello! Little late here, but my short story “In Charybdis Bide” is now out through Kaleidotrope. You can find it HERE
This story was written at the final residency of my MFA Program. Where all of my peers read excerpts from novels or longer works-in-progress, I decided I wanted to share two short stories. The first was, “Madder Root and Rampion” which you can find published at Betwixt. This is the second.
It’s about last moments, about what comes next. About conversations and truths you might tell someone you will never meet again. It was written to a song called “As the Crow Flies” by Timothy Vajda, and the song is haunting.
“Where am I?”
I am thrilled to announce that my short story “He Who Makes the Slippers” is now available at Mirror Dance.
Have you ever wondered who stitched the footwear for the dancing princesses, or the iron shoes for Snow White’s wedding?
“In his dream, he slept beside a gloaming sea.”
Welcome to Part 2 of things that I liked that you might want to consider liking too as we enter award season! I’ll continue to use the frameworks for the Hugo Award categories for ease of understanding. These are going to be shorter, because in general, my intake of media other than books is a little slim. Here we go!
Best Related Work
Seanan McGuire’s new filk album Creature Feature. Seanan is a powerhouse of creativity. Her output is exceptional and the quality of this album knows no bounds. It’s been on repeat in my car (i know, i’m old school, there’s a 6-CD changer in my car) since I purchased it. Funny, sad, beautiful. Very related, very best. My favorite track is Last Call.
Best Graphic Story / Dramatic Presentation Long & Short Form
I’m not hip enough, unfortunately. Suggestions welcome!
Best Editor Long Form
Liz Gorinsky. She’s won before, but continues to produce beautiful, thought-provoking work through Tor. While i’ve never met her in person, i’m told she’s really the bees knees.
Best Editor Short Form
My favorite people here aren’t….? Eligible I think. But i’ll throw them here anyway, because some day. One is Mur Lafferty, the Editor in Chief for Mothership Zeta. The other is Sunil Patel, who is the Fiction Editor for Mothership Zeta. They put together some great work for their first edition. Nomination rules require four (total) anthologies or issues to be eligible. I don’t *think* that either of them qualify, but check them both out.
Best Semiprozine / Fanzine
So, the eligibility requirements here also baffle me. I’ll throw some of my favorite markets from this year.
The Future Fire. This is a great market. They’re friendly, provide ILLUSTRATIONS (zomg) custom to their work. The work they produce is really unique and interesting.
Mothership Zeta. I talked about this. I also am a slush reader, so i’m a little biased. It also doesn’t qualify, but dang it’s a fun little ‘zine.
Unlikely Story. These folks just started paying pro-rates. Their topics change per issue. They’re working on their second clown edition. They published an Unlikely Academia issue (with me in it!). But I love their work, and love what they’re doing.
Each year, authors, publishers, and other interested individuals offer up their Best Of lists for perusal as the year comes to a close. These are usually in reference to one of the many awards offered up each year.
I think it’s important to mention, before I get to far along, that i’m a very plebeian reader. I like the authors I like and the forms I enjoy. I read a lot, but I also *re-read* extensively over the course of the year. I like to renew the acquaintance of old friends. That isn’t to say I didn’t read new things this year. I did!
Here are so thoughts:
1. Short Story
A Year and A Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch in Uncanny. This isn’t eligible for an award as when I read it this year in Uncanny Magazine, it was reprint. You should read it. I loved that it had rich language, was evocative. The plot was tight and fun and playful. And there is something infinitely sad about being trapped as a street lamp for all eternity.
Bent the Wing, Dark the Cloud by Fran Wilde in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. This is set in the world of her novel Updraft. Protagonist must navigate family turmoil and life turmoil to succeed. I really appreciate its style. I also like how it speaks to the shifting, uncomfortable, relationships that exist in families that we have to navigate, even when we know we probably shouldn’t.
The Lion and the Unicorn by AC Wise in Lackington’s. This story is beautiful and brutal. There is something about it that reminds me of Those Who Walk Away from Omelas. It’s stayed with me for a long time and I keep coming back to re-read it.
Planet Lion by Catherynne M. Valente in Uncanny Magazine. This story took a while to read, because it’s thick and meaty and not as linear as spaghetti and requires a lot of brain matter. All things that I love in good writing.
There is some other great writing out there. I would point you toward the Queers Destroy editions of Lightspeed as examples of great writing. Uncanny Magazine put out a wonderful spread this year. But! Short Fiction, is not really something that I read broadly.
I would also point you to Seanan McGuire‘s work. Her Indexing Season 2 is lovely. Here Velveteen vs. series continues to enthrall me. Go check those out.
Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente published by Subterranean Press. 1920s in a hotel that might be or not be heaven or hell or somewhere lost in between. Zelda is hunting her muse, her place in the world. And by the time it’s over…well…
I would also point folks towards the beauty that is Tor.com’s publishing arm. The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson is beautiful.
Trailer Park Fae by Lilith St Crow. Not your Shakespeare’s Puck. It’s beautifully written. The world fully-imagined and the conflict the kind of thing you check yourself over and over again to make sure it didnt suddenly infect you through the pages.
Updraft by Fran Wilde. It’s…not quite fantasy. It’s almost Fantasy. It’s not Fantasy. Protagonist suddenly finds herself getting the attention of people she doesnt want in a world where people live in the hollowed our ribs of some monster no one has seen. Crazy, powerful, beautiful. Lovely.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. This was my favorite new-book read of the year. Baru is a genuius and a master manipulator and we follow her journey as she tries to take over the world. It costs her over and over again, but she is relentless and witty and smart and when she finally wins, I was crying because of how much it cost.