By Kevin Dilmore
I certainly mean the state, which I regard as my own native land despite that my birth and first five years of life took place in upstate New York. I also mean the band, a favorite of mine for nearly 40 years whose music accompanied the majority of my writing process on this story. And I also mean the residents, from the native tribes to the homesteaders, who struggled against nature and, yes, each other in their quests to live off of the land and make a home on the prairie with only their determination and faith and work ethic to fuel them.
Mix those inspirations liberally with the weirdness drifting through my own mind, and that is the formula for my contribution to Native Lands, “The Initially Unsettling But Ultimately Triumphant Return of Afterbirth Boy.”
Spoiler alert: Don’t read the story title until after you have read the story.
When I received the very gracious invitation to propose a story for the Native Lands anthology, I immediately knew that I wanted to write a tale that felt like home. Growing up in a town of 6,000 in central Kansas and then spending 15 additional years in a similarly sized Kansas town while reporting for a twice-weekly newspaper, I many times had the sense that the problems of big-city America did not apply to our lives here. As I read Divine Tales, I was struck with a similar impression. Sure, the Gods would work wonders or horrors in the lives of people on the coasts. But how would things shake out around here? What challenges might a small town face in light of these arrivals? Who would step up for the little guys?
Turns out, at least in my mind, it was a little guy. I imagined Mitchell Finehorse as a kid not necessarily like me but certainly like someone I would have hung out with in my high-school days. As for his chosen company in the story, well, those guys came by way of Pawnee legend. Specifically, I was inspired by a tale known in some accounts as “Good Boy and Long Tooth Boy” and in others as “Handsome Boy and Afterbirth Boy.”
Well, I know a winning title when I see one.
I had a great time writing what I intended as a fun romp of a story, and my sincere hope is that you will enjoy your visit to my native land.
ReDeus: Native Lands will be available in print and digital editions starting this Friday.