Jan. 27th, 2010

starlady: Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter (alternate history)
This morning I dreamed of the zombie apocalypse.

I used to have a lot of long, involved dreams in college, when I usually went straight from doing homework to sleeping, for not very long. I've been getting back into a similar pattern since the end of last month, which is, I think, why I had this particular Technicolor epic playing in my brain today.

So the zombie apocalypse! We jumped straight into in medias res, when we joined my dreaming self along with some guy--an ally, clearly--in my garage, watching a zombie flail around. It being afternoon, and zombies being lethal only at night, we were perfectly safe. It transpires that zombies are merely slow and fuddled during the daylight, and that it's possible for someone to be infected--a future zombie--without realizing it. So after I woke up at 4:30 am and then went back to sleep, in the dream my friends and I decided that the thing to do was host a dinner party for everyone we knew and then lock the doors after the dessert course and kill all the zombies and infected people. In retrospect, this dream has clearly been influenced by Sherlock Holmes. The dinner party was wonderful, as befits the last occasion a group of friends will ever celebrate together. I remember clearly showing those friends and guests of ours who weren't either infected or in on the killing plan out the door, and then going back inside and locking it behind me. The confusion of those people who didn't know they were already infected was painful. I woke up to go to work before we got very far along into the "kill them all" portion of the evening/dream, which is fine by me, but I also think that we were winning, which is good.

So, in conclusion: Maybe I should give myself a mental breather of 15 minutes or so between stopping work on the Holmes WIP and going to bed tonight.

starlady: (sora)
Item one: Jo Walton's list of neglected books in sff. Some if not all of these--such as Megan Whalen Turner, OMG!--are unjustly neglected. A good list, in any case.

Item two: the text of Cat Valente's GoH speech at ConFusion last weekend, which is pretty damn awesome, and I encourage all fans of sff to read it.

Which leads to item three…a book review! What else, really?

Valente, Catherynne. Under in the Mere. St. Paul, MN: Rabid Transit Press, 2009.

Thinking back over all the Arthuriana books I've read, to say nothing of the mostly crappy movies I've watched, I can't legitimately claim to not be a fan. That said, however, I've never read The Once and Future King or La Morte d'Arthur (nor watched Merlin), and my standards for Arthurian derivations are now pretty high, since it's so common in the genre. I think I can fairly say, though, that Valente's take on Camelot may be unique.

His name became like the sword in the stone: write Arthur on the skin of your hand and it means more than a boy so named, it means him, always him, forever.
Valente's singular insight--ably illustrated by James and Jeremy Owen--is the extent to which the continued tellings and retellings of the Arthurian mythos have leached the players involved of character; they have become archetypes, and as such they are well suited to being reanimated as archetypes by Valente's admittedly baroque prose. I'm quite sure Valente and this book aren't to everyone's taste, but the beauty of her language is stunning, as are the occasional deft insights into the nature of stories, and of this story, that she slips into the text. Nor is it entirely devoid of humor, which is a nice touch. Her other innovation is her connection of the land in which quests take place, the Otherworld, whence Camelot's enemies come and where they reside, with California. As they say, I'll buy that, partly because her evocation of California--mostly SoCal, okay, let's be fair--is so enthralling and perfect despite its fantastical description.

After I finished the book I realized that the legend's three central characters--Arthur, Merlin, and Gwenivere--did not get sections of their own, which is an interesting decision in light of the fact that even people I'd never heard of, such as Balin and Balan, get their own chapters. But we know them well enough through the other characters, and what else could they say, that their friends and enemies and lovers did not already know? If the people of Camelot are archetypes, its king and queen and wizard are legend.

P.S. [livejournal.com profile] thewronghands talks a bit about parts of the book on which I cannot comment, particularly the floral symbolism, here.