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September 23rd, 2015
Superversive Blog: The SF Culture War Posts — Part Two
Part Two of our multi-part look at the psychology of Science Fiction, as explained by Ruth Johnston, author of Re-Modeling the Mind, a new book that takes a fresh look at Jung’s work on personalities.
Part One: What Forces Drive the SciFi Culture Wars?
Part Two: Optimistic in the Night Land
Q: For Part Two and Three, we wanted to take a look at specific works and discuss how the ideas in your new book apply to these works. Let’s start with John C. Wright’s Awake in the Night Land.
A: I read John's Night Land stories last year, and this year I've been trying to catch up on the original work they're based on. The original novel, The Night Land, is very, very early science fiction isn't it?
Q: Yes. The Night Lands by William Hope Hodgson was written in 1912. This was after the very first science fiction authors, such as Wells and Verne, but before E.E. “Doc” Smith and the Golden Age of Science Fiction. John really liked the original book and had run a game based on it back in law school. So, when the chance to write stories in that background for Andy Robertson’s Night Lands website, John jumped on it. The stories in Awake In The Night Lands were originally written for that website, back when John was an atheist.
A: I really like how John's four stories pick up the future history from Hodgson, gradually moving ahead into the most distant future, right to the collapse of the sun. I guess around the time that Hodgson was writing, there were early theories about the sun's age, based on Lord Kelvin's calculations. These theories, as well as the increasing pile of dinosaur bones and other fossils, were making people aware of time in a new way.
The Night Land (the original) gets described as a horror story, but I see a lot of optimism in it. Our relationship to technology changed during and after the World Wars, but in 1912 this process hadn't started yet. Scientific knowledge was exploding in unimaginable directions and, as yet, no real downside had been seen. The Chicago World's Fair was lit by electricity in 1893, and this made a powerful impression on people's minds. For the first time, an entire building, and more, could be outlined against the dark night sky by thousands of lights without any danger of fire or constant human tending. Electricity meant that people could control light and with it, knowledge and safety.
Then in 1903, the Wright brothers managed the first powered flight. By 1912, there were small aircraft factories and various “firsts” had been achieved, like first crossing of the Channel, first passengers, first woman, and so on. Hodgson knew that flight would go in unimaginable directions in the future, so he included an airplane in his story only as an ancient artifact.
People had always dreamed of flying, but the science of the early 20th century also brought things they had not imagined. Light had a measurable speed, which changed the nature of physics. It was literally unimaginable how far science might go in a million years. When Hodgson published his novel in 1912, there was good reason to believe that discovery and technology might keep going in a straight line upward until everything now impossible might become real. Later science fiction often explores how technology might go wrong for us; The Night Land is about how technology can help keep us alive in a changed, dangerous world.
What's happened to the earth is terrible, of course: as the sun cooled, the earth cracked open, with the ocean pouring into the rift, gradually evaporating and contributing to more cooling. Life is only sustainable in the valley that eventually emerges from the crack, 100 miles below the current surface. The sun has gone out so the only source of power is the earth's core and magnetic charge. Survivors of humanity re-started history inside the valley and have mostly forgotten that the world is larger. They live in a thick metal pyramid sunk deep into the ground and standing 7 miles above the surface. But in this endless darkness, technology is optimistic and life-sustaining. Like the World's Fair, the pyramid creates its own daylight. The original novel's plot hinges on light: being able to make it, finding it in unexpected places, and how to cope when it's utterly gone.
So in spite of the darkness of the fictional world, I see the stories as grounded in optimistic Extroverted Intuition.
Q. Before we continue with our main subject, could you remind our readers of the unusual use you make of the words Introverted and Extroverted. Most people use these words to mean “likes to be alone” and “fun with people”, but one of the real gems of your book is your entirely new take on what Jung might have meant by these terms. Can you remind us of how you are defining them?
A: In the first article, I explained how both Intuition and Sensing can be Introverted: scanning for danger, idealistic, and a bit pessimistic, like a rabbit's instinctive way of scanning the sky for flight patterns that could be hawks. On the other hand, both of them can also be Extroverted: optimistic, flexible, and pragmatic. Balancing each other in personalities, they form two basic polarities that I called A and B. (These are just temporary names for this series of articles; A and B are not terms from my book.) A is the pairing of optimistic, exploring Intuition and more danger-oriented, idealistic Sensing. B is the other pairing, where Intuition is idealistic and danger-oriented, while Sensing is exploring, flexible and optimistic.
Q: Let’s talk about the ideas you share in your new book. What light can they shed either on the original Night Lands or on John and his version?
Science fiction fans are usually personalities in which Intuition is a very strong part, often the strongest and most dominant. When it's Extroverted, the universe seems full of possibilities waiting to be connected. Under every rock or behind every star could be a great invention or cure. When it's Introverted, the personality usually has an innate feeling of knowing the truth of the world, so that exploring ideas is a matter of looking inward, following an inborn map of meaning. It's also a bit more pessimistic and idealistic: under every rock there might be a rattlesnake, not a cure for cancer. But the rocks do need to be turned over, because it's terribly important to find truth and roll away anything that covers and hides.
William Hope Hodgson's original story seems full of Extroverted Intuition to me. Technology keeps mankind alive and there's no real downside. His dark world is filled with evil spirits and creatures, but mankind's ability to solve problems keeps one step ahead so that they can build a good way of life. The optimism of his Intuition feels so powerful in the story that I believe he probably had this kind of Intuition in his personality. It creates a sort of worldview.
I think this is some of what charmed John when he read the 1912 novel, and because I know John from college, I can say without guessing that he has that kind of Intuition. In his mind, the world is full of dots to be connected, and we've barely begun to connect them all.
Now the other half of the polarity I'm calling A is Introverted Sensing, which can show up as an intense idealism about human social roles. In fantasy and science fiction, it comes out in taking fairy-tale roles like king and knight very seriously. It also believes strongly in archetypal images like mother and father, male and female. When someone with A writes SFF stories, the setting and events can become wild and even chaotic, but the human roles never move much from archetypes. We see this clearly in both Night Land versions, the original and John's. Anyone walking in the Night Land is going to be surprised by whatever comes next, whether it's a fire pit, a dangerous creature, an oddly detached spirit, a living stone monument, or a cluster of blind worms. The stories depend strongly on human thought, activity, and roles to give them structure: like putting a snail into its shell. Human roles are stable, not flexible and random like the setting and ideas.
Q. Now we are getting to the crux of the issue, are we not? Can you tell us more about how your ideas apply to the human roles in The Night Lands.
First, just the concept of being human is crucially important. Hodgson has a “Master-Word” that only humans can know or say, though (wisely) he never tells us what it is. John's stories picked up this core meaning of being human and play with it: what if someone refrains from saying it, what if someone has been made into a non-human and can no longer say it, what if an evil creature develops the ability to say it? I think the Master-Word is an archetypal notion of the essence of being human, and its message is that being human is not a flexible category. It is a core attribute and as such it is rigidly unchanging.
Second, the archetypal contrast of Male and Female is of utmost important in the Great Redoubt. In the original story, Hodgson's narrator and his true love are depicted as having extreme attributes of male and female traits: the man's strength and the girl's daintiness are reiterated over and over. Further, there's an aristocracy in the pyramid, hinted at by Hodgson and developed by John. In John's first two stories, the leading ladies (narrator in one case) are princesses. In the first story, the princess rebels against the law of arranged marriages. The second story is a retelling of the Greek tragedy of Antigone, which requires a royal princess for the plot to work. Both princesses push back against their fates, but they can't divorce their personal identities from their social roles, and fate always wins. So the human roles in the stories are not flexible at all; I don't want to call them “stereotyped,” but quite appropriately we can call them “archetyped.”
Q. Are there archetypes in the story that do not have to do with humans?
A: There's another strong archetype: light. Light is never general, it always comes from a source. Maybe a volcano, maybe a natural gas flame, maybe electrical current in a tool or weapon. In John's first story, “Awake in the Night Land,” the narrator is saved from imminent death by the sudden appearance of a star, where stars are normally hidden by thick toxic clouds. In Hodgson's story, the narrator is saved once or twice by a sudden light from above, maybe a star, maybe something else. Light is always a force for goodness, though it brings danger too. In folk tales and stories around the world, stars have the same image of goodness and, in a way, eternal life. The stars go on while our lives end, so they seem to stand for a power above death.
Q: What is the connection between someone's personality and a story's worldview? There isn't a simple one to one correspondence between readers' personalities and the type of stories or movies they like.
A: That's right, and we don't want to suggest that it's so direct. We can like a story for idiosyncratic reasons, or from technical admiration, and we may not even cotton to the structured beliefs of people who overlap in what I call personality worldview. However, the way we process the world may match the way a story presents it so that it just feels like home. I think John had that sense about Hodgson's stories.
For a personality with the aesthetic taste of Introverted Sensing, the archetypal presentations of people and light make sense. They make the confusion of the shifting world seem tolerable, and there's little to no feeling of pushing back, going “whoa, maybe these traditional ideas need to be challenged.” It feels comfortable to adopt them unchallenged. This may not be true for personalities with Extroverted Sensing, as we'll talk about in the next article.
I want to point out a significant difference between Hodgson's world and John's adaptation of it, one that I imagine is based in their personalities. Hodgson seems only secondarily interested in the science of his world, because he's really deeply interested in idealized love. Technologies are props to show us how even here, love conquers all. But John's mind is organized around idealized logic, not idealized relationships. His stories all move toward philosophical questions and moral tests of principles. Science ideas (obviously, fictional ones) are much better described and developed, of course especially in the last story when the universe is collapsing. Every story still has a central love, but it may be fraternal not romantic, and it may be pitted against logic and law in a more meaningful way.
In Jung's system we'd say John has a Thinking personality, while Hodgson may have had a Feeling one. But the world Hodgson laid out is easily adapted for John's idealized Thinking for one main reason: that Hodgson does not require us to mix good and bad. In the Night Land, everything is bad, because evil spirits from outer space made it that way. Idealized, Introverted Thinking tends to define “good” as the force for order and logic, and “evil” as a force for chaos and destruction of life. Good upholds life, like walls, roads and fences. Evil leaves unmarked cliffs, sinkholes and pockets of toxic gasses. Evil is the enemy of both logical order and life itself. That's the moral outlook of a mind that's strongly organized around Introverted Thinking, and it fits easily into the post-apocalyptic Night Land.
I think John's Introverted Thinking works neatly into his fiction, but in non-fiction, in his essays, it moves toward very strongly-worded opinions that polarize readers. So one of his great strengths as a science fiction writer also draws him into polemical rhetoric. Knowing how strongly he defends traditional religion now, it's amazing to realize that he was writing the Night Land stories before he had any belief. There's no God in the pyramid, but the star as an archetype of Good Light comes close to faith. As a writer, he really lives in two worlds, one in which he can move through unreal places and write things he does not personally believe, and the other in which he makes enemies by calling out what he sees as good and evil.
Q: Can you give us an example of how these personality categories we have been discussing apply to a story with a different world view, perhaps one from the most recent Hugos—in the hopes of finding one that is familiar to many of our readers.
A: In preparing to write these articles, I read some of this year's nominees and winners. I found Heuveldt's “The Day the World Turned Upside-Down” utterly charming. I think I liked it so much because it matches my own personality worldview: I have that optimistic, what-if wondering Extroverted Intuition but it's combined with super idealism about love and relationships. So I understood immediately that when gravity flipped, this wasn't intended to be a scientific event, but in some ways it was just about how devastating it is to lose love. I talked to one sci-fi fan who said it felt like a cheat that the gravity-flip wasn't taken seriously as a natural disaster, and I can see how to a more Thinking personality this would be a problem. I also see the “A” polarity in the way characters were handled. The little girl hasn't much individuality, rather she's an archetype of a child, even called “Dawnie” which evokes the dawn of life. One house has three women spinning flax into rope, like the Three Fates. So this has significant overlap with “Awake in the Night Land,” in my terms, but at the same time an opposite focus. It's the “A” polarity organized around Feeling, not Thinking.
Thank you again, Ruth, for your observations.
Next time: Ruth Johnston applies her mind-remodeling magic to: “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love.”
Available from Amazon in paper or on Kindle
Also, in paper at B&N
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon
)Tags: john c. wright
, re-modeling the mind
, ruth johnston
, the night lands
, william hope hodgson
June 4th, 2015
Superversive Blog: Guest Post by a Ghost
I am reposting this essay because I love it so much. It was written by Andy Robertson, the man for whom John wrote his Night Land stories.
Mr. Robertson ran a website dedicated to William Hope Hodgeson's book, The Night Land. Back when all the other magazines were paying 2 and 5 cent a word. Mr. Robertson paid 10…and John writes a lot of words! Furthermore, Mr. Robertson paid in British Pound Sterling, so by the time the check was converted, we had a nice chunk of change–more than enough to buy a major appliance.
At one point, our refrigerator, our stove, and our dishwasher had all been paid for by Mr. Robertson. (Our dishwasher has been replaced twice, but the others are still going strong.)
Last year, Castalia House gathered all John's Night Lands stories into an anthology. A day before Awake in the Night Lands was published, just about two weeks after penning this essay, Mr. Robertson permanently rejoined his wife. He is missed, but the legacy he struggled so hard to create–and, thanks to him, that of William Hope Hodgson's–lives on!
The following words are Andy. Robertson's:
AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND by John C Wright: a review
About thirteen years ago, I started a little website.
My wife was only a few years dead then, and she still visited me from time to time. I would wake up in a bed full of her warmth and musk, and feel her sleeping just beside me. I would turn over and kiss her, and she would whisper love sleepily. I would get up and go to wash my face, and go back to the bedroom to kiss her awake. Then I would really wake up.
My daughters would come to the door-gates of their rooms, holding up their arms and saying daddy, and I'd pick one up and snuggle her and take her downstairs to where their grandmother had breakfast ready, then go back upstairs for the other, then grab a bacon sandwich and a mug of coffee and walk down to the train station and go to work. They waved from the windows till I was out of sight. I'd come home late and just have time to kiss them goodnight.
It was along hard day until they let me telecommute, and I suddenly had a lot of spare time.
There was a man who had a beautiful young wife.
She died, and he dreamed of meeting her again, at the end of time, when the Sun was dead.
I had always been fascinated by the book. The Final Arcology of mankind, Earth's Last Citadel, surrounded by an entire universe that had been taken over by Hell. I wanted to read more stories set in that Land, and now I had the time to do something and a little bit of spare money, I took advice. I was a subeditor for INTERZONE back then in its glory days, and I had Dave Pringle to explain the legal side of buying fiction to display online.
I set rates and contacted Ranlan.com and waited for stories to come in. Meanwhile I started the trimmings. Essays. A gallery of book covers. Then a little step up: Stephen Fabian's terrific paintings of the Watchers, illustrations for the 1973 edition of THE DREAM OF X, the abbreviated version of THE NIGHT LAND Hodgson published in the US to keep the copyright. I was careful to pay Fabian for his work, for these pictures are surely the first example of someone actually adding to the original NIGHT LAND, adding something that will always be connected to it from now on. .
Look at them. They do not so much illustrate the story as form a collateral theme.
And quite quickly we got our first story, "An Exhalation of Butterflies" by Nigel Atkinson. This was its basic idea. Every so often, as a gesture of defiance, the Redoubt turns the production of its Underground Fields over to the creation of butterflies. They're kept on ice for a few years to build up numbers and then they are all hatched and sucked up by the ventilation system of the Redoubt and ejected Out into the Night. No practical reason. Just a gigantic Fuck You to the forces in the Night and the horror and the darkness.
I thought it was brilliant. Dave took it for INTERZONE, and I put it online next month.
I tried my own hand and wrote "EATER". It was the story of a female Seer, telepathically surveying the Land, who is taken over and used to invade the Redoubt. The invasion fails and she dies burned body and soul by the Redoubt defense systems. It's a reasonably good tale, and Dave accepted it to run in INTERZONE, and Gardner Dozois gave it a tick mark in his year's best recommended. There is nothing special about it, except it was the first time in my life I had ever tried to write a piece of fiction.
The dark, looming, images of the Land had made such an impact on me. When I started to write stories set in that world, it was as if I remembered a life I had lived in that society, with its prim manners overlaying iron values and its dauntless courage. I didn't need to make anything up. I just watched it happen.
Brett Davidson sent me a story from New Zealand with a background that complemented and extended my own, and I found the person who would be my principle creative partner. For years we've batted ideas back and forth by email late at night. Other writers joined us and mostly took their lead from Brett and I. We were building a shared world but one so rich and vivid felt as if we were were discovering something that already existed. I don't think I've ever had such fun ((while vertical)) in my life.
And then I got a new submission, from John C Wright, which was quite apart from all the other Night Land tales.
I'd written a fusion of Hodgson's vision with cutting-edge science, and tried to evoke a credible Redoubt culture, a culture that might really last ten million years. Therefore my Redoubt was a society of strict moral codes, an actual functional and enforced marriage contract, strong kinship bonds, and sharply differentiated complementary behavior of men and women. ((It strikes me only now that this is mistaken by some readers for archaism. But of course it isn't. It's futurism. Or just realism. No society without these values or something like them can survive more than a couple of generations.)) And I'd written of a society rich in technical and scientific knowledge, including as unremarked givens such familiar SF tropes as nanotechnology, cyborgisation, and Artificial Intelligence. I had some fun integrating these into Hodgson's "scientific" formulation of reincarnation and psychic predation.
I had done my best to reinterpret the Night Land as science fiction, and other writers had followed me. But John's story followed his own dreams.
His character names were derived from classical Greek, not generic IndoEuropean sememes. The manners of the society were likewise closely modeled on the ancient pagans. Dozois has called this an air of distanced antiquity, and it works well, but I repeat it's distinctly different from my own, which is not antique at all. His was not a technically sophisticated society and seemed not to have a scientific attitude to the alien Land that surrounded it. It ran off rote technology and was ignorant of the workings of much of the machinery it depended on. It was doomed and dwindling and dark and candle-lit, a tumbledown place with a hint of Ghormenghast to it. (I know John will hate that comparison, and I apologize). The story was one of childhood friendship, rivalry, disaster and rescue. The writing style was, incidentally, brilliant.
I bought it and published it in our first hardcopy anthology, ENDLESS LOVE. It got into Dozois' BEST SF and several other yearly anthologies and created a minor sensation. There are still places where the first taste of Hodgson's work a casual reader will get is the translation of "Awake in the Night" in that year's Dozois, and the story is an entry drug not only for THE NIGHT LAND but for Hodgson himself and all his work. This was a story which Hodgson might have written if he had been a more gifted weaver of words. John remarked to me at one point that he was surprised at the story's popularity. I think we both understood that despite its author's talent, the real power resided in the way it had stayed faithful to Hodgson's own visions, without elaborating them too much. The whole world could now see and share Hodgson's original Night Land. They were seeing it through John's eyes, not mine, but that didn't matter to me. This was what I had set the NightLand website up for.*****
I expected a whole series of tales from John set in his version of The Night Land, but his next story was a radical departure from anything that he or any of the rest of us had ever done. It surpassed not only Hodgson's talents but, damn it, Lovecraft's. When I read "Awake in the Night" I felt some envy, but when the ms for "The Last of All Suns" crossed my inbox I felt something like awe.
It's almost impossible to describe this story without employing spoilers, because there is nothing else like it to compare it to or to hint that it is like. Baldly, then: the universe is in its final contraction, falling back on itself into a massive black hole, the last of all suns. In one sliver of it, life remains: a gigantic starship, millions of years old . On board this Starship,ruling it, are the great powers and forces of the Night, who have been victorious not only in the Night Land they turned Earth into but throughout the cosmos.
To oppose them on the ship there are a scattering of human escapees, their bodies artificially regrown from some ancient recording, their souls compelled to one final reincarnation for unknown reasons. The oldest is a Neanderthal, or something similar. The youngest is an inhabitant of the Last Redoubt. Yet it is now so very much later than even the Last Age of the Redoubt that the entire time span from the earliest to the latest lives of these reincarnated ones is like the blink of an eye at the start of a long, dark, night.
And now what can I say? How can I possibly describe what happens next? Even if I could, I would probably have to go beyond what is allowable in a review. As I said, this story is unique. I can't describe its plot as "like" anything else. I'd have to go through it section by section, practically retell it.
Yet certain things can be said. For example, I can tell you that when these resurrectees talk to each other, their language automatically translated by some mental trick, their concepts of the universe are so diverse that only method they have to communicate with each other is to employ the metalanguage of myth. And yet this works, and Wright's genius effortlessly makes it credible to the reader that it would work. By selectively recounting the foundational myths of their diverse societies, they are able to discuss their situation, plan their actions, and the plot is rapidly and convincingly advanced.
One recalls the marvelous passage in Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out Of Time" which lists the enormous range of human societies the Great Race of Yith has plucked its time-swapped prisoners' minds from. The dialogue in this story is the sort of language those time-stolen scribes would have had to employ to talk to each other. And Wright drops a few hints that let us know that "The Shadow Out Of Time" is exactly the ur-SF story he is drawing from here. Wright excels Lovecraft - Lovecraft – by this enormous margin; he does not merely list the societies his characters have been plucked from; he gives us their dialog, word for word, and effortlessly makes it believable.
And this is only one tiny facet of a story that integrates THE NIGHT LAND with THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND and goes on to swallow the modern mythos of Lovecraft and Stapledon and most of the GraecoRoman foundational myths of Western society. And modern physics, as easy as an after-dinner mint.
Finally it comes down to this. In place of a soulless mathematical Episode of Inflation or the mindless flutings of Azathoth, Wright gives us cosmos that is founded on the pattern of eternal love between man and woman. And he does it convincingly. He does it without breaking a sweat or drawing an extra breath.*****
There was a man who had a beautiful young wife.
She died, and he dreamed of meeting her again, at the end of time, when the Sun was dead.
I am not that man. That man was a fiction. I know death is merely the end, there is no reincarnation, that her presence in my bed was merely dream, and we shall never meet again in any age or realm or dimension, not hand in hand looking out from the battlements of the Last Redoubt of Man nor anywhere else.
So how can I write about Eternal Love? Is love a laughable delusion, or is it the only real thing? I'm quite an old man now, suddenly and cripplingly ill, but it seems only yesterday that she was in my arms and our lips and hands were always reuniting. I understand human sociobiology, I took the red pill decades ago, without the help of the Internet. I understand what they call Game nowadays. I've read and admired its accurate application, I respect people who truly are using this to strengthen marriage, but the bloggers with their bedpost scores and their flag counts are children fighting for bottles of fizzy drink. Love is another dimension. Love is the only thing stronger than death. And I'm writing this as a man who has lost his loved one and might meet death quite soon.
I don't "believe" in love. I know.*****
It's odd that the one flaw in this, John's best story, is the portrayal of the Mirdath-figure, the multi-souled narrator's eternal mate. The story rings like fine bronze when the men from different aeons resurrected in the death starship speak to each other: but it klunks juat a tiny bit whenever she pops up her eager-sex-partner-and-ideal-mother head. Surely the eternal female would in most of her incarnations be an ordinary unexceptional woman only made special by love? But I'm not going to fuss about this.
There is nothing like this story, nothing like it, anywhere else. It is incomparable.
John sent us two more stories. They are both good stories, but I'm going to end this review with only brief mentions of them.
"The Cry of the Night hound" concerns a doomed attempt to domesticate these monsters, and were it not for Wright's ever-beautiful prose and his moving portrayal of his Redoubt society in (temporary) decay, it might be judged rather improbable.
"Silence of the Night" is a mad,fractured episode that must come from a time close to the Fall. I think it does not work too well, though the beautiful writing and imagery carries it through.
I don't know if Wright has written himself out, and said all he has to say about the Night Land. Maybe he has. Maybe not. (But if you have, I have a theme for you, John, that I think you'll like, that might rekindle your interest, that might produce something as good as "The Last Of All Suns". I really do. But I gave it to another writer who has first dibs on it, and he's doing nothing. If he gives it up, you'll hear from me.)
Anyhow. I messed up the marketing of "The Last Of All Suns", and the story fell into an obscurity from which I hope this new edition will rescue it. Now it's been republished by professionals, along with Wright's other three Night Land tales, I hope it sells a million copies.
A final word.
Did the stuff about my wife with which I stared this review strikes you as forced, unreal? Probably. But it was in fact the simple literal truth. I really did experience that, many times, though I have no doubt it was merely a dream.
Perhaps I could have made this review more plausible by leaving it out, even though it was the truth? Indeed I could have. And perhaps in the same way I could have made this review more effective, more believable, by being less effusive, by toning down my praise a bit. Perhaps I could have. But I'm not going to do that. If you doubt my word, doubt away. But truth is truth, and I don't see why I should dodge it just to convince you. Buy this book, read the stories, read especially "the Last of all Suns", and whatever you think about me after reading this review, when you have read the book you will know that every word of praise I give it here is the truth.
– Andy Robertson
AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND
A collection of four stories set in William Hope Hodgson's Night Land
by John C Wright
Castilla house 2014
ISBN XXXXXXXXXX (to be announced)
This essay was originally posted at The Night Land.
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon
)Tags: andy robertson
, john c. wright
, night lands
, william hope hodgeson
October 16th, 2009
10-16-09 - China Update - Shirst and Shoes and Other Problematic Things
My new daughter just ran off to meet her friend in my shoes. She wanted money to pay the taxi that Ee-Ee (sp?) was coming in, but she did not want me to come with her...I have no idea why, but she was laughing. My shoes are way too big for her, so she can't intend to go far.
Ee-Ee is coming to visit and stay overnight. The translator translates Ee-Ee's name as The Happy of Happy. "The Happy of Happy comes today." Thinks like that. Ping has really been looking forward to having her friend with us. I have been, too, as her friend is a sweetie, and Ping Ping is very happy when she has someone she can really talk to.
In other news, we are on this gorgeous island between a river and a canal. It is a resort island filled with shops and banyan trees, from which hang fringes of what looks like Spanish moss, but what is actually roots. When I look out of the window of the hotel, I can see low buildings with trees all around them and then, beyond the canal, tall skyscraper and city...so we are really lucky as to our location.
The island is maybe a mile across and half a mile wide. I could be quite wrong about the distances, but it doesn't take too long to walk around. Today, I walked in the other direction from where I had walked before and came upon Susan's Place, a shop that our new friends Trisha and Phil--fellow CWA adopting couple--had told us about. I went in and ordered a Chinese shirt for myself. It has to be ordered because everyone in China...the whole country...is skinnier than me, so shirts that fit my arms don't close over my chest.
I got to look at wonderful Chinese silks with phoenixes and dragons and such and to pick one to have as a shirt. They didn't have enough of the red dragon cloth, so I got one that had a swirly design that the shopfellow said was phoenixes.
Then, we had tea. The shopfellow made black tea and Ginseng wulong tea (spelling from the bottle). Tea is made fresh here. They have a whole little ceremony involving using the first little pot for washing the tea, then drinking it...only the black tea, which is the only aged tea, gets washed twice. The tea has a stronger taste than bag tea. It was delicious. We had many many many little cups along with an American woman who had been teaching English in Korea and her half-Chinese dad.
The dad was here looking for his family, but the government said that he must stop. Apparently, they did not want him looking up records and things.
Ee-Ee and Ping are here now, after a comedy of errors where I sent John (who had shoes) after them and they came back, but he did not, so I went after him but could not find him...but now we are all back together. Ping is happily listening to music on Ee-Ee's cell phone and the girls are laughing.
Another family joins us tonight and then two more on Saturday. Simon, our wonderful guide, is happy about this because with more people, we can eat more food, so he can order more dishes for us to try.
The food is the best food I've ever eaten. I can't recall when I last could--if ever--eat out without guilt and really enjoy it. I don't have to worry that maybe I should have cooked. We've tried all sorts of things: pigeon, goose, steamed chicken (very good!), eel, pork, beef, and more. Guangzhou is a large city in the Cantonese area of China and is apparently acknowledged by all to have the best food around. We've also tried other types of cooking, though...a northern kind from near Mongolia that had all sorts of dumplings...and put lizards and snakes in their wine bottles, dim sun (sp?), eel soup. The food has been just heavenly!
But I am also not as worried about my daughter eating back in America as I had been. We've eaten at MacDonalds and Pizza Hut, and she did just fine, plus at breakfast, she eats chicken nuggets and eggs and yogurt...so my great fear that she would not like anything in America is quieted. We can still make her Chinese dishes, but she should be okay with normal meals, too.
I mentioned Trisha and Phil. They are adopting a girl from Guangzhou, too. A little two year old who is utterly adorable. They are from California, but Trisha's sister is from Chantilly--one town over from us. They've even eaten in one of our favorite restaurants back home.
Tags: china Current Mood:
, john c. wright
, l. jagi lamplighter