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I Belong

Fantastic Fables: Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Please welcome author Elizabeth Bear here today to Fantastic Fables for her take on a Tibetan folk tale called “The Three Genjias”. Shattered Pillars is the second novel in Elizabeth’s Eternal Sky series following Range of Ghosts. Shattered Pillars will be released tomorrow, March 19, 2013.

Today’s giveaway is provided by Elizabeth Bear. She is giving away three signed ARC’s of Shattered Pillars!


In the night, after Temur had counted the moons and everyone had pretended they did not know what he was doing, Samarkar came, flicked the skirts of her black Wizard’s coat smooth, crossed her legs in her black Wizard’s trousers, and sat beside him. She folded her hands on her knees and pretended she watched the last blue flickers at the heart of the fading fire. Yak dung burned with a sweet smell.

Finally, she said, “Have you ever heard the story of the three Genjias?”

He lifted his head and turned to her as if noticing her presence for the first time. Across the fire, the massive shadow-striped form of Hrahima rose as silently, as seeming-weightlessly as a cloud, and withdrew into the night. One last fire-flicker gleamed orange off the tiger-warrior’s fur, then she was gone.


“This was in the days before my ancestors united Rasa, and we were only tribes who shared a language and the worship of the Six Hundred. And in this particular tribe, there were three men named Genjia. There was Genjia the chieftain; there was Genjia the carpenter; there was Genjia the chamberlain.”

“Inconvenient,” Temur grunted, frowning. He wouldn’t look at her again. He picked up a stick they had been carrying since the forest and began methodically knocking down the flames.

“If you think that’s confusing, there were at least six women in the village named Tsering.”

The corner of his mouth quirked, though he tried to keep stern. It was, after all, a very common name. And a very slight smile. Samarkar, who had just assigned that to this formerly nameless woman out of history, tried not to congratulate herself.

Too many women in history were nameless, anyway. Even when the whole of what had happened hung on their actions, or on their choosing not to act.

She cleared her throat and continued, “One of the Tserings was called Beautiful, to separate her from the others. And she was married to Genjia the carpenter. But Genjia the chamberlain was a foul man, and drunk on his own paltry power as if it mattered. He tried to seduce Tsering, but Tsering was an upright woman and loved her husband and would not be seduced. He tried to buy Tsering, but Tsering was an upright woman and loyal her husband and would not be bought. He tried to threaten Tsering, but Tsering was an upright woman and dutiful her husband and would not be threatened.

“So in the end, Genjia the chamberlain decided to do away with Genjia the carpenter. For six hundred days he studied the ancient arts of calligraphy, and in the end he forged a document in the old writing. He took it to the chieftain’s Wizard, claiming that a bar-headed goose had descended from the heights of the Steles of the Sky bearing the note wrapped in red ribbons, but that he could not read it. The Wizard opened the scroll and read it aloud, and confirmed its provenance.”

“This story doesn’t reflect well on your order,” Temur said.

“We train our novices better these days. And tell them this story.”

The quirk might be becoming a dimple. He waved a hand at her: continue.

“The scroll said that the Genjia the chieftain’s father, who was also named Genjia, was writing from the Six Hundred Heavens to complain that because no one had done him sufficient obedience as an ancestor, he could not hire a carpenter in Heaven to build him a house. And because he had no house, he was forced to sleep in the streets of Heaven. It said that his son must send him the best carpenter in the village forthwith, or risk the disapproval of his ancestors.”

“They couldn’t just burn money?”

“Perhaps all of Heaven’s carpenters were already otherwise engaged.

“In any case, Genjia the Carpenter was sent for, and he instantly knew that this was a trick–and he was pretty sure why.”

“A man with a pretty wife is always pretty sure why other men are eager to see him fight at the vanguard,” Temur observed.

Samarkar ignored him. “He asked for seven days to make preparations. And then he hastened home to warn his wife.”

“One of the six Tserings.”

“Just so. Tsering the carpenter’s wife proposed that she would help her husband dig a tunnel from the field behind the house, and each night they worked on this project in secret. Each day, she carried the earth out in her basket and scattered it on the plowed fields with the seeds for the new crop. Eventually, at dawn on the seventh day, they broke through the earth in the field. The carpenter Genjia dragged a stone to cover the hole, and Tsering his wife scattered earth to cover it. Then they built a pyre atop it.”

Temur had stopped knocking the fire down, and now let his wrists rest on his knees. Samarkar waited until it felt like she could see the moons moving across the stars before he broke, and said, “And–let me guess. In the morning, the other two Genjias burned him.”

“They tried. He came out with a satchel and toolkit, exactly as if he meant to go to the Heavens and build houses, and he stood in the middle of the pyre. But as the flames were lit, Tsering opened a gate and let the village’s yaks out. In the confusion, Genjia the carpenter slipped into his trapdoor and followed the tunnel to hide himself in his house. There he stayed for six hundred days, while his wife fed him on butter and buttermilk and he did no work. He grew plump and smooth-skinned and glossy of hair.

“He spent this time studying ancient calligraphy, and learning all the arts of composition, by the way. Meanwhile, Genjia the chamberlain was doing everything he could to win Tsering’s affections, but she always found excuses to put him off and turn him away. After all, her mourning for her husband must last at least six hundred days!

“Six hundred days later, he slipped back up his tunnel and emerged amid the scorched earth–now greening with new grass. He called out, and Tsering his wife came running and made a great show of her surprise in seeing him hale and whole and plump, with his satchel in one hand and a scroll in the other.”

“Let me guess,” said Temur. “The chieftain’s father needed a chamberlain to run his fine house for him, in Heaven?”

“You’ve heard this story before?” Samarkar asked.

Temur shook his head. “I’ll bet the second pyre had a heap of bones in the middle of it when it was done burning, though.”

Samarkar nodded. She snuck another glance at his profile. His lips were pressed thin, twisted to the side. She thought it might be the edge of a crooked grin.

Then his face smoothed. “I heard a similar story once,” he said. “About a Rasan Wizard who used to be a princess, and the evil man she married and then burned.”

Samarkar stood. She dusted off her black trousers. “It’s an old story,” she said nonchalantly. “Maybe it’s where she got the idea.”


About Elizabeth:

I was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year (I can only hope that this presages that I, too, will live to be eleventy-one) — but because my parents were hippies, I was nearly named after Peregrin Took. With the exception of seven years in Faerie, or perhaps Las Vegas (they are not so different, really) I have been a New Englander all my life — Connecticut, Vermont, and now Massachusetts. I serve as an alloparent to two amazing (very) young men, Sunil and Naveen, from whom I am constantly learning new and amazing things.

I share my living quarters in a drafty Victorian (which, as of this writing, has just celebrated its eleventy-first) with a giant, ridiculous dog (he happens to be a Briard). I am a terrible but enthusiastic guitarist, a reasonably good and even more enthusiastic cook, and a hobby outdoorswoman. My sports are hiking, running, yoga, archery, kayaking, and rock climbing (sport and top rope, though someday I hope to learn trad).

I am the author of a number of novels and short stories in the science fiction and fantasy genre, and have been fortunate to receive a good deal of recognition for that work including two Hugo Awards, the John W. Cambell Award for Best New Writer (2005), a Sturgeon Award, a Locus Award, an Asimov’s Reader’s Choice award, a Spectrum Award, and an honorable mention for the Philip K. Dick Award. I have also been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the British Science Fiction Award, the Lambda Award, the Romantic Times Reader’s Choice Award, and several others.

My work has been translated into Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Russian, Polish, and Portuguese, among other languages.

I enjoy teaching workshops, and have done instructor stints at Clarion, Clarion West, the WisCon Writer’s Respite, and Odyssey. I am a regular instructor at Viable Paradise.

My partner is a fantasy novelist who lives in Wisconsin. Nope, not that one.

…I spend a lot of time on planes.

You can visit Elizabeth around the web here: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Want to read more from Elizabeth Bear?

Range of GhostsShattered PillarsInk and SteelHell and EarthAll the Windwracked StarsBy the Mountain BoundThe Sea Thy MistressNew AmsterdamSeven for a SecretThe White CityAd EternumDustChillGrailHammeredScardownWorldwiredBlood and IronWhiskey and WaterInk and SteelHell and EarthCarnivalUndertow


This contest is provided by Elizabeth Bear!

Three lucky readers will win signed ARC’s of Shattered Pillars

Available March 19, 2013 from Tor

About this Book:

The Shattered Pillars is the second book of Bear’s The Eternal Sky trilogy and the sequel to Range of Ghosts. Set in a world drawn from our own great Asian Steppes, this saga of magic, politics and war sets Re-Temur, the exiled heir to the great Khagan and his friend Sarmarkar, a Wizard of Tsarepheth, against dark forces determined to conquer all the great Empires along the Celedon Road.

Elizabeth Bear is an astonishing writer, whose prose draws you into strange and wonderful worlds, and makes you care deeply about the people and the stories she tells. The world of The Eternal Sky is broadly and deeply created—her award-nominated novella, “Bone and Jewel Creatures” is also set there.

Click here to read an excerpt

Order from


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4 Responses to “Fantastic Fables: Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

  1. Ann McGrathNo Gravatar

    I’ve read Range of Ghosts with great delight,and can hardly wait to follow the story further in Shattered Pillars.

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  2. Viki S.No Gravatar

    I haven’t read it but may I mention how cool this cover is with the swirl of color :).

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  3. JenniferNo Gravatar

    Loved Range of Ghosts, eager to get my hands on Shattered Pillars.

    Curious about how this micronarrative relates to the macronarrative. Probably I should re-read RoG.

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  4. NatashaNo Gravatar

    I haven’t started it yet, but it sounds really good!!
    Thanks for the chance to win!

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