Monday, February 25, 2013

Acolytes of the Wolf(e)


Pleasant news today.

But first, a definition.  A festschrift is a book created in honor of a respected person, usually an academic but often enough a poet or writer, and presented during his or her lifetime.  Oftentimes, they're kinda lame . . . reminiscences on old days, essays on how this or that peer met the Great Man, appreciations of the work that simply restate the obvious.  Sometimes, however, the book comes through and is something splendid in and of its own right.

I'm betting that's the case with Shadows of the New Sun:  Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe.   I can't say for sure because the Advance Uncorrected Proof just arrived and I rushed to get out the news.  But check out the table of contents:

J.E. Mooney
Gene Wolfe
A Lunar Labyrinth
Neil Gaiman
The Island of the Death Doctor
Joe Haldeman
A Touch of Rosemary
Timothy Zahn
Steven Savile
David Drake
… And Other Stories
Nancy Kress
The Island of Time
Jack Dann
The She-Wolf’s Hidden Grin
Michael Swanwick
Michael A. Stackpole
Tourist Trap
Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg
Aaron Allston
Rhubarb and Beets
Todd McCaffrey
Tales From Limbo, But I Digress
Judi Rohrig
In the Shadow of the Gate
William C. Dietz
Soldier of Mercy
Marc Aramini
The Dreams of the Sea
Jody Lynn Nye
The Logs
David Brin
Sea of Memory
Gene Wolfe

I'm hopeful not just because there are a lot of first-rate writers here, but because those of them I know (most, actually) would very dearly want to contribute a story worthy of Gene.  I know that when I was given the opportunity to write something in one of his worlds, that's how I felt anyway.

Here's the opening of my contribution, "The She-Wolf's Hidden Grin":

When I was a girl my sister Susanna and I had to get up early whether we were rested or not.  In winter particularly, our day often began before sunrise; and because our dormitory was in the south wing of the house, with narrow windows facing the central courtyard and thus facing north, the lurid, pinkish light sometimes was hours late in arriving and we would wash and dress while we were still uncertain whether we were awake or not.  Groggy and only half coherent, we would tell each other our dreams.
One particular dream I narrated to Susanna several times before she demanded I stop.  In it, I stood before the main doorway to our house staring up at the marble bas-relief of a she-wolf suckling two infant girls (though in waking life the babies similarly feeding had wee chubby penises my sister and I had often joked about), with a puzzled sense that something was fundamentally wrong. “You are anxious for me to come out of hiding,” a rasping whispery voice said in my ear.  “Aren’t you, daughter?”
I turned and was not surprised to find the she-wolf standing behind me, her tremendous head on the same level as my own.  She was far larger than any wolf from ancestral Earth.  Her fur was greasy and reeked of sweat.  Her breath stank of carrion.  Her eyes said that she was perfectly capable of ripping open my chest and eating my heart without the slightest remorse.  Yet, in the way of dreams, I was not afraid of her.  She seemed to be as familiar as my own self.
“Is it time?” I said, hardly knowing what I was asking.
“No,” the mother-wolf said, fading.
And I awoke.

Those who know Wolfe's work well will recognize the first paragraph as being a close copy, with reversals, of "The Fifth Head of Cerberus."  That was an extremely important story for me, one that opened up the literary possibilities of science fiction to the young Michael Swanwick in a way he'd never seen before.  So I was anxious to do it justice.

Did I?  That's not my judgment to make.  You can decide for yourself this coming August.



Valya said...

Michael, I'm so envious!

I can't wait to read this. I'm sure it will be a wonderful tribute.


David Stone said...

It's going to be a long 6 months...

HANNAH'S DAD said...

*Very* keen on getting this one. It will sit happily on the shelf next to the Jack Vance equivalent "Songs of the Dying Earth".

Are there any other SFF festschrifts that have worked notably well? I know I've read a Tolkien one. One could fill a bookshelf with Heinlein Juveniles by other hands, but that's not exactly a single volume...