Black Mask & Pale Rider, the rewrite and what has become Tales of Six Gun & Sorcery. The series of stories originally followed two elven women, Shani Wennemein and Pania Alow, through the Union and into the Confederacy and back again.
The following contains aspects of real world folklore, representation based on race, and representation based on sexual orientation.
Since the first writing several changes have been thought of, including how to go about describing the world that Shani and Pania come from and how it’s connected to Earth. The easiest way is through the narrative itself, by having Shani and Pania tell small stories about their world and what they know of it. Even how Shani came to have a small dragon as a companion and how Pania came to have a wood pixie for a familiar.
Telling the different professions and giving insight to one of the great wonders of the elven world was also easy. By introducing Wren, Shani’s younger sister, the reader learns of the Consolers, an order of knights who are dedicated to aiding those who are suffering from the loss of a family member or friend. They are undertakers, but so much more. They are also clerics, healers, and soldiers. Care and compassion is their primary duty, but they are taught to fight, and often that focus is against those who would use undeath to their advantage.
Showing part of the history of the connection between the two worlds was also easy. By introducing Abisayo Temililou, it’s revealed that elves do indeed still live on Earth, but they are slowly leaving this world for their own. Once the four elves are brought together, there is only a few short stories to tell.
Expanding the stories also gave me the idea that elves don’t have to be generic. They don’t have to be pale skinned and fair. Elves can be anything the story teller wishes them to be. And so, they were given clear identities. Shani and Wren come from mixed heritage; Gaul and Mohawk. Gaul is similar to Celtic, but they are people who resided in what is now France. It is well known that even among the French there were stories of elves, pixies and fae folk. Even dragons. Mohawk might be surprising, but the Mohawk also had stories of elves, just as many of the other First Nation People across North America. The Mohawk believed dark elves lived in the forest and protected the humans against things that were venomous, such as spiders, snakes and various poisonous plants. Together with the light elves, the dark elves would join in grand celebrations deep in the forest.
Pania is a Celtic elf. To be precise, she is Irish. It will also be revealed very directly that Pania is also a lesbian. Showing this up front is important, while at the same time not focusing on her sexuality (or trying to make it a trope). She is an adventurer, she is a skald, she is a herald. And in these stories she is also a swashbuckler and a gunslinger.
As for Abisayo, she is Yoruba. She is African. And she is the eldest daughter of the royal house that rules and guides the Yoruba elves. While in Yoruba myth, one of the gods may have been described as “elf like” that was more than enough to make sure that elves lived in many of the nations of Africa.
Even the lands that the four elves speak of will be different than what (even in 1863) those lands would be called. For example, Shani and Wren will always mention North America as Turtle Island, Pania will always call Ireland in the more local name of Eire, and Abisayo will mention her birth place being in the Empire of Kanem (which includes the present day areas of Nigeria, Chad, and Libya. Abisayo’s native language is Kanem, Pania’s is Irish (Pania will also know French, Latin, Greek, German and Spanish), while Shani and Wren’s is Mohawk and French. All four will know English as well as the common elvish language (Wren will know several more including Greek, Latin, Cree, Lakota, Inuinnaqtun, Norwegian, Spanish, German, Russian, Kemet, Arabic, Punjabi, Mandarin and several others due to her profession as a Consoler; Consolers are encouraged to learn the cultures and languages of other people in the event they are called upon to assist with the funeral rights for someone who has died).
Giving them actual recognizable identities (as in a race that readers would be able to recognize and know) was important. Representation is important. Just as it is important to identify Pania as a lesbian.
What was also important was the changes to some of the characters that Shani and Pania (and Wren and Abisayo) meet during their series of adventures. Clayton “Slowhand” Johnson’s name was changed to Clayton “Slowhand” Adams, and while his description was rather ambiguous in the original story, it would be identified in the rewrite. Clayton is an escaped slave, living in the wilds along the Arkansas-Missouri border. Aurela Dorchester is a former upper class white woman who left her family plantation (along with about sixty slaves she helped liberate) and moved north to Chicago where she operated a safe house for ex-slaves wishing to escape (disguised as a brothel and boarding house).