Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Winooski Gorge

Driving up to Montreal on I-89, I caught a glimpse of what in my youth we called simply "the Gorge." From the car, it looked like nothing special. But it loomed large for me in those years. Here's what I wrote in "A Changeling Returns," and essay originally published in Meditations on Middle-Earth:

You grow older, you grow more wary. As a boy in Vermont, I spent almost every day of one summer fishing in the Winooski River. I didn’t tell my parents that my favorite spot was a backwater just below the hydroelectric dam at the head of a stretch of river bounded by high, steep cliffs to either side, which we all called the Gorge. The river churned wildly as it went through the Gorge, and every few years a teenager died falling from the cliffs. And I certainly didn’t tell my parents that the way to the backwater was through the old power plant, and involved scrambling down the jagged, rusted-out remains of iron stairways and a running leap over a gap that would have, at a minimum, broken bones if I’d slipped. For all that, those long summer days spent with my best friend Steve, fishing and talking and playing cards and reading stacks of comic books from each other’s knapsacks, were one of the best times of my life. I wouldn’t trade the memory of them for anything.

Years later, somewhat transformed, it appeared in The Dragons of Babel:

The Gorge extended half a mile down-river from the hydroelectric dam to a sudden drop in the land that freed the Aelfwine to run swift and free across the tidewater toward its confluence with the Great River. The channel it had dug down through the bedrock was so straight and narrow that the cliffs on either side of it were almost perpendicular. The water below was white. Crashing, crushing, tumbling as if possessed by a thousand demons, it was energetic enough to splinter logs and carry boulders along in its current. Anyone trying to climb down the cliffs here would surely fall. But if he ran with all his might and jumped with all his strength, he might conceivably miss the rock and hit the water clean. In which case he would certainly die. Nobody could look down at that raging fury and pretend otherwise.

It was an endlessly fascinating prospect to contemplate: Stone, water, stone. Hardness, turbulence, hardness. Not a single tree, shrub, or flower disturbed the purity of its lifelessness. The water looked cold, endlessly cold.

Is there anything for which we feel so much nostalgia as that which, when we were young, we knew could easily kill us?

An Apology

I was, as I feared might happen, unable to find the time and opportunity to get online while at Congres Boreal (wonderful event! more on it soon), but I was not expecting to be overdue with Monday's post. Alas, I got home at ten yesterday night, far too weary to add a single word. Next time something like this comes up, I'll manage it better.

The Earthquake in China

As you may have heard, there was a massive earthquake in Sichuan Province, China. Science Fiction World, the widest-read SF magazine in the world, is located in Chengdu, so those of us who made new friends there last year were of course concerned. Luckily, they seem to be untouched. I've received an email from my fellow writer Haihong Zhao, who says:

Chengdu is quite close to the center, yet the situation there was not bad. Most of the area was in the mountains, so the information could not be transported immediately, there will be heavy rain this evening, which will make the
matters worse.

We are watching, the whole China is watching, and acting.

The Chinese Army has been mobilized to lead relief efforts and the government is apparently pouring resources into the area. (Quite a contrast with Myanmar!) If I learn anything that you can't find out more immediately elsewhere, I'll let you know.



Ruhan Zhao said...

I have got a confirm from an editor of Science Fiction World magazine that all the editors there are safe.

Those giants pandas in chengdu and Wolong (much closer to the earth quake center than Chengdu) natural centers are also safe.

Michael Swanwick said...

Thank you, Ruhan. That's extremely good to hear. I'll pass it along to Rob and Neil and Nancy, who were particularly anxious on all accounts.

Ruhan Zhao said...

Thanks. I have also posted the similar information to Nancy and Rob's bolgs.