For someone who doesn't like the Arthurian mythos, I am in the odd position of having written two "Arthurian" stories (the other one is "Heart's Desire," also in this collection). At least, I always think I'm not very fond of the whole Arthur thing, believing there are already too many stories and books that have mined the canon. But I love T. H. White's The Once and Future King. I love Mary stewart's The Hollow Hills and The Crystal Cave (while not being partial to the later sequels). I like the Arthurian elements in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence. I would especially love to see again a television cartoon series from my childhood called King Arthur and the Square Knights of the Round Table. I know there are many other fine Arthurian or Arthurian-influenced books.
So I must not have a problem with Arthurian legend as such. My dissatisfaction probably lies in the way that the legends are used over and over again in the same way: the same stories told with little or no variation of character, plot, theme, or imagery.
The Lady of the Lake is one example of a cliched character. How many times has she appeared as a beautiful woman, rising out of the water to hand over Excalibur and help out the forces of good? Not to mention being dressed in silken samite.
Finding something new in an Arthurian character was the first thing I thought about when I was asked to write a story for an Arthurian-themed collection (after writhing about in horror, that is, and initially declining the invitation). Several months later, as the deadline approached, I started thinking about the Lady of the Lake. What would it be like living way down deep? Why would she choose to live there? What if she wasn't actually a lady? Or, better still, not even human? And why would she help Arthur? What if she wasn't good at all? What if she was a real monster, like a very smart psychopath?
The story came from there. The anthology I wrote it for never proceeded, adding insult to injury. I'd written an Arthurian story against my better judgment, and all for nothing. But stories share a characteristic with humans, in that they often get second, third, or even more chances. For Under the Lake, that came with publication in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and I was on the record as having committed Arthuriana. I just couldn't resist reading Under the Lake! It's the second story in Garth Nix's Across the Wall and had nothing to do with the Old Kingdom. That surprised me since I thought the book was many of the short stories that he'd written about the Universe he created in the Abhorsen trilogy. So far, only the first one is about the Old Kingdom while the third, which is as far as I've gotten so far, is not but it's short and very cute.