LSQ: There is a lot happening in this tale to transition from our “normal” world to one of circus sideshows and magic. When writing “The Dog and Pony Show”, how did you come by the idea of this new setting?
Piper: Circus is a part of my ordinary daily life — not sideshows, but I am an amateur aerialist. The magic of circus feels real and true to life to me, and not at all abnormal. The loss of the “regular” world came from my feelings about the collapse of normalcy during my COVID-19 isolation. They’re different — I was separate from my community in real life, and supported by a great deal of technology; in the story I swapped these, so the loss of technology is redeemed by camaraderie and mutual support.
LSQ: How would you place your MC’s role in the circus? It seems that she is a little bit wild animal trainer and a little bit ringmaster.
Piper: Since my own circus experience is amateur, it’s a far cry from the regimented roles one might see in a corporate circus like the old Ringling Brothers. My story-circus is a small group, and everyone does what they can. I looked up some circus glossary online to find relevant terms, and here’s some I picked for her: baggage wagon driver, advance talker, animal tamer, props artist, aerialist, and founder. But mostly she is simply a part of the community.
Of course the animal in question is not quite a wild animal, nor a tame one, so the usual words seem misleading to me. And there’s no tradition of escorting one’s audience away after the show — I made that up first to suit my setting, and then my plot.
I also discovered the delightful phrase “Boss Hostler — The man who traveled ahead of the mud shows to mark the way for the caravan; sometimes used to denote the one in charge of all horses in a show.” Aside from not being a man, that covers a bunch of my POV character’s important roles.
I wouldn’t call her a ringmaster, who stands up and announces the various acts. If she does that in the story I’ve forgotten it!
Incidentally, “Dog and Pony Show” is a (typically dismissive) term for a very small circus. I like to think my character would embrace it.
LSQ: As you noted in the first line, magic came out of the old shattered world and now seems to be seeping into the new one. When writing this, did you project what might happen next with magic and the traveling circus? Is it just the circus in particular, or other parts of the world as well?
Piper: The changes in magic and mundanity are for the entire world. The old and existing magic (and, honestly, mundanity) of circus provides a bridge for those who were involved with it already.
LSQ: What were your favorite parts to write in this story? Was anything easier or harder to pen?
Piper: The first sentence was easy and I liked it; the rest of the story came naturally from that. The ponies and the performers are more or less straight from life, and writing them as characters was a delight.
The fight scene was hard. I abhor violence, and I suspect it could have been written better than I managed.