I find myself asking questions of myself. "Have they noticed I'm gone?" "Was I replaced by another 'me?'" "Was that history rewritten so I was never there, or do they miss me?" "Did they survive?" I go through a few hours of strange mourning, for what I lost on waking, no matter how terrible it might have been. It was a universe, if "only" of my imagination.
A Soviet invasion, or a revolt against Soviet Russia (Think Enemy at the Gates). The early Twentieth Century. A city that might have been in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary. I'm not speaking English, and no one else is, either. But I understand every word. Endless mud, filthy snow, shattered bricks and paving stones, fiery night, smokey days, gunfire, always running. The burnt-out husks of tanks. Barbed wire and road checks. Our clothes are the rags of Soviet uniforms stolen from dead soldiers. Finally, it's discovered that I'm a geologist, and I'm taken from a work crew to look at something that's been unearthed. I'm able to take two people with me. I know one was a woman, but I've forgotten her name. The forgetting is, by the way, part of the pain that comes after waking. It leaves me feeling guilt. Forgetting ones you love and who loved you.
I'm led to the edge of the rubble that was a city, and shown a bank of sediment, and asked what it is. Straightaway, it's obvious that I'm looking at a deposit of glacial loess, probably Pleistocene. I point out fossils from the foot of a perissodactyl, most probably a horse. There are also several dolphin vertebrae weathering from the yellow-orange silt. I'm explaining all this, uncovering the bones, when I'm forced to stop. There's a long ride in the back of a horse-drawn wagon, and at the end of it is a chasm, and a cavern opening into the loess. I'm left with the two people I "saved," and told to investigate. We do, and discover that the cavern leads to a fantastic palace of blood-colored marble, red so red it's almost black. Pillars and fantastic domes, frescos overhead that would put Michelangelo to shame. It all looks vaguely Greek, vaguely Roman, but of no particular period, or of many periods. We see very little, as we have to report what we've seen at once (I'm hastily drawing maps). As soon as we do, we're shuffled back into the wagon, and as we're being carted away, I hear explosions from the direction of the subterranean palace. I stand up, screaming, begging to be taken back, but no one's listening.
And then Spooky wakes me. And...I hit that conscious wall of ice at a hundred miles an hour. This morning I cried out (which always leaves me feeling like a fool).
A lot of writing yesterday, and the first third of a "secret" project finished. Some corrections today, and it goes away to my editor. And then it's Assembly Day for Sirenia Digest #79, which subscribers will have by tonight, I hope. You get a new story, "Quiet Houses," illustrated by Vince Locke, plus Chapter One of Fay Grimmer. So, it's a good issue, yes? And then no more work until after Readercon 23.
I'm going to be crazy busy during the con, by the way, and my schedule is very tight. If I don't have time to stop and talk with you, or if I stop, but then rush off, don't be offended.
Listening to the Carolina Chocolate Drops, one of my new favorite bands. They are incredible, and you must own their CD, Leaving Eden. They'll be playing a show in Rhode Island, down at Ninigret Park, on September 1st. And, by the way, on that whole subject of the art police, what do those self-appointed Art Police, protecting tender ears and eyes and fragile minds and striving for a landscape of bland, cautious, ultimately noncommittal art make of a band composed entirely of African-American youths whose first album was Genuine Negro Jig, and whose new album, Leaving Eden, includes "Kerr's Negro Jigg"? All that matters, of course, is that the music is beautiful, breathtaking. Fuck the rest. Dog, this music makes me "homesick."
Oh, and by the way, if you're wondering when an artist's intent ceased to matter in art (many have asked me that question over the past two days), look to Academia, and to currently fashionable literary criticism, especially reader-response criticism*. Which teaches the work only exists once it has been perceived, and that the reader's interpretations are what matter. The intent of the author, anything about the author, is entirely irrelevant. This is a good place to start (though other schools of lit and art crit have also done damage), and to the kids who were fed it in college, and the kids who didn't go to college themselves, but still know it's what all the Cool, In-Crowd Folks are espousing. It's not what an author said and meant, it's only how we make all those fragile unique snowflakes feel. I say we go on strike, and let them make their own fucking art.
Neither Here Nor There,
* By the way, in my disdain for reader-response criticism I am most emphatically not being anti-intellectual. There are schools of literary criticism I find sane and reasonable. This just isn't one of them. Russian Formalism (which does address reader response, but in the context of authorial intent) and New Criticism**, for example. But reader-response criticism is, in my opinion, quite bizarre and destructive. It's the reader's equivalent of a pre-Galiean universe in which the cosmos revolves around the earth. The readers who preach this nonsense are, of course, the mental and cultural equivalent of the 17th-Century Church.
** Both have, regrettably, fallen out of favor, despite their general robustness as theories.