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“Oh, My Cursed Daughter”

Oh, my darling daughter. You cannot trust him; you cannot trust them. You cannot ever trust them.

It’s rare for me to completely rewrite a story. Revise, yes — sometimes fairly substantially — but only a handful of times have I taken an entirely new run at a concept. Most of the time when it happens, it’s because I know the draft I wrote is so broken that it’s not even worth submitting anywhere.

That isn’t the case here. Version 1 of this story went to eighteen different markets (and even sold to one, though that sale wound up falling through) before I trunked it in the recognition that what I’d written wasn’t that great. In fact, upon later reflection, I realized I’d done something I was quite uncomfortable with: I’d put a gay character in the position of being a villain. While it’s foolish to say that gay characters should never be villains — that they should only be morally pure and perfect — in the context of a short story that had only three characters total, the effect wasn’t a good one. And triply so in the specific context I’d created: in my head the character’s actions weren’t driven by their sexual orientation, but it would be very easy to read the story in that light. Ugh, ugh, not good. I not only put it in the trunk; I nailed the lid shut.

But when I was poking at my brain to see if it would cough up one more story based on a folksong, to help me finish a short story mini-collection I’m putting together, I found myself drifting back to this one. And then I had a small epiphany: if I made a certain change, I could fix that problem, deepen the story, and have something worth putting back out on the market.

The result, “Oh, My Cursed Daughter,” is written from a different viewpoint, with a different conflict . . . but it’s still inspired by the folksong “Sovay,” and by me wondering what the heck would inspire somebody to do the ridiculous things that show up in that kind of song. It was published in April 2023 by the online magazine Dream of Shadows!