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Preview — The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
There’s a . . . sheen to waking-world men. A dark charisma. If you spend more than an hour or two with one, it’s obvious.
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It was unlike cats to travel like this, but she also knew that cats lived according to their own schemes and agendas.
Cats move fearlessly between the dream lands, the moon, and the waking world—and to other, unknowable places—but this cat was no fool. It stayed close
The sky was hardly infinite: she could see its pendulous, titanic folds, its shifting patterns, black on black. And if each planet or star had its own buffeting, fretful, whimsical god, how could the waking world survive?
Despite the differences in language, age, and sex, his tone was a mirror of that of Uneshyl Pos, the librarian at the Women’s College; for all librarians are the same librarian.
Everywhere, signs of the gods and their intemperate, petty angers.
Not a tall man, but dark and handsome with excellent teeth: attractive in the way of all dreamers, but always with an essential, solitary coldness.
Men said stupid things all the time, and it was perhaps no surprise that men of the waking world might do so as well, yet she was disappointed
That night and for years afterward, she had envisioned another dream land, built from the imaginings of powerful women dreamers. Perhaps it would have fewer gods, she thought as she watched the moon vanish over the horizon, leaving her in the darkness of the ninety-seven stars.
He had been a man like many, so wrapped and rapt in his own story that there was no room for the world around him except as it served his own tale:
Of course, he had always been wise in the ways of cats, valuing them above entire races, many men, and most women. “The cats have their own secret routes. They’ve saved me before this,” he said.
“No,” she said suddenly weary of it all: his self-absorption and the soul-sickness that sat so uneasily on his young face. He loved who he was: Randolph Carter, master dreamer, adventurer. To him, she had been landscape, an articulate crag he could ascend, a face to put to this place. When were women ever anything but footnotes to men’s tales?
In a land defined by dreaming men and bickering gods, there were no sure rules, but there was also no certain randomness.
There were no gods in this place. She could feel it in the same way she felt the vacuity of the massless sky.
Gravity seemed in some indefinable way less onerous, but it was not this that made things lighter: it was the absence of gods, as though she had walked her entire life under a heavy hide and cast it off at last.
The churches were silent, sleeping and godless; there was no smell of dried blood, no stains upon their calm altars.
“I’ve seen a world without gods, and it’s better.