McKillip's New Book
Dreamed 2010/7/23 by Wayan
WHAT PROVOKED THE DREAM
I just read a peculiar book: Clio Cresswell's Mathematics and Sex. Four of its game-theory insights struck me hard:
I drive my housemate Alder to a friend's house--they'll carpool to a storytelling festival in the Sierra Nevada. As long as I'm near Oakland, I visit my friends Bob & Catherine, but it's hell getting there--just ten miles, but the freeway's gridlocked. At lunchtime! I take small streets. Slow, hot, every light against me. Takes forever, and I ache and feel feverish from the base of my skull all down my spine. Damn. I have a recurring fever (Lyme?) and I've triggered a mild attack.
I stay there till my fever fades. We talk of Gertrude Stein--Catherine wrote her master's thesis on Stein. A local girl who swapped Oakland for Paris. Wouldn't you?
And yet... we have dinner at a great Laotian restaurant, Champa Garden. A local hangout for young couples and singles. Some very hot girls in goofy ensembles. Bob and Cath both girlwatch openly, making me feel less shy to. Nothing cheers me up like bisexual bohemians, Lao salads and a multigenerational parade of weirdos--I actually felt at home. On planet Earth! Gertrude, your obituary for Oakland was premature: there is a there there--just not downtown. The life's in the 'hoods, now.
Go home with a Tarot deck, an old Ethernet board for our housemate Cory's computer, homegrown lettuce, windfall oranges, and a T shirt depicting The Hanging Bunny (don't ask). It's after rush hour, and I zoom like a gull over the bridge to San Francisco.
Just before bed I read a fantasy tale, Dragon's Teeth. A queen saved the life of a gutter kid named Paulus. Now he's captain of her guard, determined to save her from a sinister minister. But first he has to slay a dragon...
But I'm too sleepy to go on. I close the book and turn off the light. But soon I find myself in another book...
Coyote's Giant Lover
Patricia McKillip has a new fantasy novel out. I haven't read it yet, just glanced through. A new experiment for her: it has illustrations. Just sketches, really, but their content is startling. Three of them show an encounter in a mountain valley: a gigantic Coyote, clearly the Trickster himself, finds and makes love with an equally gigantic hermitess with wild hair and a ragged smock...
Two loners, no longer alone. But our lovers soon discover pine-tops make a prickly bed. Ow, ow, ow...
The archetypal trickster, poked!
Next I head for a fantasy/science fiction convention where a crowd of McKillip's fans dress up as characters from the new book. Most of these cosplayers are teenage girls dressing as the half-dozen sheltered court ladies who in the book must venture out into the wilds to save their country--discovering their strength(s) as they go.
McKillip herself is here, but to my surprise she's often slower than the fans to recognize who the models are trying to depict (despite their lovingly elaborate costumes). But then McKillip's at a unique disadvantage: she knows these characters! She inevitably pictured a face, build, and body language for each character, and it's often unlike the fan wearing it.
Also, some fans are just too young to carry off adult roles--they don't yet look the part. Though since McKillip writes for the gifted, not a mass readership, even her youngest fans play their parts quite intelligently. Elfin courtiers.
Everyone recognizes The Storyteller instantly, despite her player's deliberate inauthenticity. In the book, Storyteller wore a long gown typical of the court, but with a shockingly atypical motif: the black silhouette of a vulture (on a carcass, in profile) on the front of her skirt.
But this fan's left the gown plain. Instead, the black silhouette of a huge raven peers inquisitively over her left shoulder, on a sort of shawl; her right shoulder is a spread wing. It's as if she's under the protective wing of a huge living bird-spirit.
It's as startling and distinctive as a vulture gown, and fitting her character better, if anything. Plus, this girl (the cosplayer I mean) has a strong aura--intelligent, sexy, dashing, ravenhaired--a perfect Storyteller.
Sigh! But then so many of them are. But I feel too shy to talk to any.
Sit on a Hob
Now I'm playing in a scene from the new book. Not roleplaying--I really am a girl at court! Days pass in the dream, but I still feel ill at ease. I'm thin, a bit frail, and awkward because I'm unused to these long slender classic gowns. They look fabulous but you just can't run in them. I feel like a wild horse caught and hobbled.
One day, up in the palace nursery, I'm having a heart-to-heart talk with two friends. But I hear a faint scrape and sense movement beneath me. I think a bogle or hob is hiding under my friend's chair!
Oh, I can clearly see the empty floor between its plain wooden legs, but the old lore says a few hobs are more than unobtrusive--they can go truly invisible, even to a knowing eye.
So I pounce, toppling the chair. Feel something squirmy! Grab and sit on it. Aha!
The hob tries to bite and claw me, but it can't--my gown is tight-woven silk. Tough stuff.
The damn gown is good for something at last!
Is my invisible hob-catch just nosy, or was it spying on someone's behalf? This IS court...
Folklore back in my home town said "Catch a hob, get your wish." I intend to find out if our little snoop is forced by the rules of his magic to grant me one...
The Lemon Guards Wed
Now I'm watching the climactic scene of McKillip's new book: all the court ladies, not just the main characters, go shopping together in a cooperative grocery. Their carts are half full of vegs when in sweeps a troop of the royal guard, in screaming lemon-yellow uniforms. They dance round the ladies and their shopping carts like giant orioles begging for crumbs. Wrest the carts from the courtiers, pick the ladies up and pop them in the carts like purchases! The ladies mime astonishment but not alarm, for each guard has miraculously chosen the girl he's sweet on, and since this is a musical, all love is requited. At least during the dance!
Now small children appear from nowhere, wholesome and photogenic. They hop in too, one or two to a cart! As the number comes to its musical climax the guards roll their instant nuclear families past cashiers baffled how to ring them up, as courtiers and kids lack price stickers. Out of the store, they disperse, seeking new family homes.
A mate for everyone. If declassé.
Rise Above the Cops
I'm male now, and at a different dance--outdoors, in a modern street. We're a spillover crowd from a dance club whose stage is half indoors and half in the street. The band is highly danceable, but bland. A tall girl comments to me "They seem to have lost their creative edge."
I say "Were they ever good? I think we're just so far from the drum-beat now, the dance-trance is fading. Now we hear their limitations."
Strangely, the performers call themselves the Incredible String Band, though their monotonous dance techno is the exact opposite of the Incredible's complex experimentalism in the sixties and seventies.
Two guys come round the corner and stare at me. One snickers to his friend "Twinkle-toes!" So they find my dancing funny? I start leaping, try truly ridiculous capers, holding myself at the peak of each leap longer than Newton would consider legal. Just barely, but I'm cheating gravity.
Now a diagonal line of riot cops comes slowly across the street! Push us back. No announcement to disperse, no explanation, no attack, just a steady push. But I've already proved I can levitate. I creep upward, slowly feeling my way into the air. Not easy. But at last my center of gravity's at head-height and rising. A little more and I'll be above the reach of their clubs--though not bullets. Yet they haven't been aggressive...
Do I want to risk crossing their line to find out who or what they're displacing us for?
And hovering right on the line, I wake.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
How about it, O beloved readers? Ideas?
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