You know, I started to write up the real origin of this story, which involved swiping ideas from Theodore Sturgeon and James Thurber, and then realized that would spoil the ending. So instead I'll give you another, lesser portion of its genesis.
People like to give each other gifts -- for birthdays and holidays and thank yous, and sometimes just because. The thing is, it's not always easy to come up with a good gift idea. So people will find a theme and latch onto that, and run it into the ground.
I have a sister who likes wolves, so when we can't think of anything else to get her, we get her something with a picture of a wolf on it -- a shirt, an afghan, whatever. I have a brother-in-law who liked ducks, so for awhile everyone was giving him duck-themed presents (until he asked us all to please stop).
I'm a writer, so I get a lot of pens -- which is nice, but I hardly ever use pens; I learned to type before I hit my teens and do all my writing with a keyboard.
And I write fantasy, especially stories with dragons in them, so I started getting dragons. All kinds of dragons. Ivory dragons, brass dragons, paper dragons, plastic dragons, hand-carved wooden dragons, Lego dragons, Welsh dragons, Chinese dragons.
I'm fine with this, actually, because I really do like dragons, but one year apparently I was being particularly hard to shop for, and I got about half a dozen dragons at once. It was a bit challenging figuring out where to put them all. And when I had found them all places, and looked around, I found myself thinking that if this went on for a few years it could easily get out of hand -- there wouldn't be room in the house for anything but dragons. I might become a dragon hoarder, the fantasy equivalent of a crazy cat lady...
That was the start of the story. I combined that with a character from Thurber and an image from Sturgeon, and there it was.
And just about then I was invited to submit a story to The Ultimate Dragon, so I finished up "The Man Who Loved Dragons" and sent them that. The editor at Byron Preiss Visual Productions, who was packaging the anthology, accepted it, and I thought that was that.
But then, when the book was delivered to the actual publisher (Dell, I think), the in-house editor didn't like my story and asked BPVP to find a replacement. The fine folks at BPVP called and asked if I maybe had another dragon story handy.
I did, and I sent it to them, and that story, "Sirinita's Dragon," is what wound up in the book. "The Man Who Loved Dragons" was homeless.
I wasn't in any great hurry to do anything with it; I had sold plenty of short fiction by then, and having a few stories stashed away for emergencies didn't bother me. So I put it aside.
And then a few years later, FoxAcre agreed to publish a new edition of my short story collection Crosstime Traffic. To make it more marketable, it was suggested I should add a previously-unpublished bonus story.
I looked in my stash, and chose "The Man Who Loved Dragons."
And there it is. Hasn't been reprinted anywhere; that's its only appearance.
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