Saturday, 30 July 2011

A Tale of Katy in the Night

Mother Goose, by Gustave Doré - via Wikimedia Commons - public domain

From Charles Newbury's Fairy Tales from the Old Marches, written some short centuries after the events of Three Katherines of Allingdale:

"...I do not say, that if a very good Child shall break the bread of Drizzle Mill today, she shall find stars in it; nor that if a very bad one durst climb Featherhowe without his Parents' leave, his hopes and dreams shall now burst out of his heart to find them better nests to dwell in. For in the World's grey age we are grown mighty sagacious and wise; and by once learning to lug dirty coals in a fire-wagon, we prove at once that nobody ever outraced the wind on a yellow mare, nor made the sea that is the sky break in thunder upon our daily hills.

"As for the Good Witch Katy, the hero or helper of so many of these tales, the learned Doctors will say now that she was one person, next that she was two or three; again that she never lived, or else that she must have been only the wise Dame Catriona Tynde, and here is the address where the tradesmen's bills found her. On nothing will they agree, save that she was not a Witch; or if she was, she was not Good; and in any case she did not amend everything, because nothing can ever be amended. And who grows old and schoolmasterly enough, he may search their dusty books all his life and hope to judge the right of it.

"But for myself, I confess very simply that there is an Elfland, and that stars shine out of loaves of bread, and hopes take wing out of broken hearts - which great courage and grace unlooked-for may yet amend in time. These things the old Wives and rambling Storytellers of the East Country remember, if more respectable Folk do not; and for those yet young and simple of soul I have collected the best of these ancient tales and fashioned them politely, so that the charms and wisdom in them shall not remain the Peasant's portion only. For as the other tale reminds us, Gentlefolk have neglected charm and wisdom once before - and rains of red coals we then got for it.

"These small tales are not that stern tale. They are only my own poor mortal door to Elfland that is eternal; and in She who weaves in and out of them, I venture that Young and Old alike may find their best and safest Guide to that fairest and most perilous of countries.

"Charles Newbury, Esq.,
Latham, 1684 Anno Victoris Orbis."

A Tale of Katy in the Night

Hush, my little darling,
And back to bed you creep!
"The Red Fox rides the sallow Moon
And hunts me through my sleep!"

A comet's not a fox, my love.
The Moon is not her horse.
"But Lackland with his dead stag's head
Comes storming through the gorse!"

You sleep in down, not gorse, my love.
Who was not, will not come.
"But frightful Fireguard calls me back -
Oh, hear her devil's drum!"

Your heart is not a drum, my love,
Nor you a knight of old,
But if you cuddle quiet and close,
You'll hear the tale told

How one kind careful serving-girl
Did master all the three -
So if you chance to dream again,
You'll be as brave as she!


"Hush, my darling mother -
It's off to bed I go
To dream I walk with Katy in
The lands of long ago!"

Friday, 29 July 2011

"All Things Coming Home"

A cock and a hen roosting together, by Andrei Niemimäki via Wikimedia Commons - released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic LicenseNow fully into the terminal Bonfire Arc of Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland. This was supposed, from the beginning, to be one chapter of Kate's final personal and political showdown in Alland, followed by a chapter of my united protagonists' showdown with the Big Bad. Details had already been much modified by circumstances.

But the rhythm has also been modified, now I come up to it, by the much-changed rhythm of the overall tale. A structure that was reasonable in an eight-chapter novella is not necessarily transferable to a two-dozen-chapter novel. Also, after the clash and fury of the fall of Carrowglaze, it makes neither emotional nor practical sense to hop directly to a dinner-date with Nemesis. Lastly - though this story has always been about things done by and for ordinary people, with and without heroes - it has grown in the telling to be much more about the secondary and tertiary characters themselves, from its original sharp focus on the larger-than-life Kate and Luke.

For all of these reasons, it wasn't too surprising that I found myself devoting a chapter to the aftermath of the rebels' victory, or using it to bring onstage some of the stuff I'd previously meant only to summarize in the epilogue.

And so a descending chapter of mists, and squawling kicky children, and the clatter of the Great Chain of Being falling link-cut onto the rocks below the Green Hill. In a world where certain stars really have shot madly from their spheres to put their spokes in, the aristocrats' survivors can't very well be blamed for feeling that the joint order of natural and civil law is being overthrown in mere apocalypse, and chaos in every sense is truly coming again. Nor the great majority of their conquerors, for feeling on a similar basis that a new heaven and a new earth is much more nearly within their grasp than is ever humanly possible, even on the marches of Elfland.

E M W Tillyard's The Elizabethan World Picture has been an invaluable resource for me in wrapping my head around some of the fundamental assumptions with which Kate and her contemporaries were raised, though they haven't imbibed their version from either Christianity at all or Greek philosophy as such. I wish I'd come across it a lot sooner.

In this chapter it is also seen how there are other militant rejectionists among the common people than those who look to the Good Witch Katy; and that even worse systems than divinely-sanctioned aristocracy can be arranged for, if only a body will try hard enough.

But all that is Luke's problem for now. Old Kate of Fairfields - once the masterful Golden Margravine of Alland, and now the Northdale revolutionaries' Grey Wolf in the Red Gloaming - is coming home for the last time to the castle where she was born; and her long lifetime's worth of chickens flies shoulder-close behind her.

What I didn't expect was that now I'd need to jump back in time, and spend another chapter setting up her reception from the point of view of her friends and foes at Garcastle. This, though, is what it will take, to make the final confrontation work.

As Kate and Luke have come to discover over the course of this story, it really isn't all about them any more.

Monday, 4 July 2011


Books I Will Very Probably Neither Read Nor Write III... the Search for Shame!


The United Stars of Amalthea Were Falling!

For twelve thousand years, Man had proudly straddled the Milky Way Galaxy, dominating a million million worlds through a brilliantly uncompromising Code handed down unchanged1 from the U**A's arch-human First Founder.

But nothing lasts forever. The glaucous telempathic hordes of the Magellanic Clouds are swarming over the space border, diluting the values that made Amalthea great in an unstoppable flood™ of groupthink and irresponsibly menial labour. The Honest Engine Insurance Co. - once the bouncy rubber backstop of the enterprise society that went boldly where no men had gone before – has degenerated into a vast populist pyramid scheme, looting ever more cheekily where no bugger ever bugged a businessman erenow. The once-proud Überdollar is now printed on perforated rolls, its promise to pay present gold replaced by a Union adjuration to wash one's hands after use. The anthropoid termites have gnawed their way through the Founder's edifice at last!

One woman's searing vision pierces the clouds of complacency, and sees through to the thousand-year Long Night of barbarism ahead. One woman - Doctor Professor Mirandola Raven – sets up two Galactic Gullies, hidden from the incompetent and the ill-willing, to which the few brave and able spirits abiding in the Union shall withdraw. By these heroic 'Gullivers', via her meticulously detailed Great Blueprint, must the Second Foundation of Civilization be accomplished!

The price will be high – a Long Night extended to 30,000 years by the withdrawal of every soaring soul who can tie their own shoelaces without instructions in triplicate from a superior. But 'Doc' 'Prof' 'Randy' Raven has the moral courage to impose it.

Do YOU have the moral courage to read of it?

In this mighty epic of the Gullivers' first millennium, thrill along with the bold men, passionate women, and uplifted wolverines who hectically trade, fight, orate, and dynatomite their way towards a ruggedly handsome tomorrow – relying only on wit, vision, might, and ravishingly didactic AI emulations of Doctor Professor Raven her ineluctable self!2

Will Mankind ever be free to follow her soaring and intricate master-plan to the unprintable limits of liberty?

1 You Will Be Free!, 57pp, $30 hardback, available separately from all bookshops of validly independent judgement. Buy It = Because.

2 Objectively Verified Solutions to Raven Crises, #1-16 – full texts separately available, cloth binding, $20 ea.

AND DON'T MISS: Coming soon, Objectively Verified Solution to Raven Crisis #17: So, Plagiarists Perverted Your Terraforming Protocol?