" In this universe the night was falling; the shadows were lengthening towards an east that would not know another dawn. But elsewhere the stars were still young and the light of morning lingered; and along the path he once had followed, Man would one day go again"

Arthur C. Clarke Against the Fall of Night

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Stories of Hope and Wonder: In Support of the UK's Healthcare Workers

Readers of my Lovecraft Blog will recognize that part of this post, (concerning my purchase of the anthology "Stories of Hope and Wonder) appeared there as well. For Jagged Orbit, I will discuss another story from this anthology "The Road to the Sea" by Lavie Tidhar.

A recent newsletter from PS Publishing noted the following new release.

"We all of us like—even THRIVE on—a little hope and wonder in our daily grind. Heck, it’s the marmalade on our morning slice of toast, the bracing and blustery wind off the North Sea and the sunlight in our most darkened days (and we’ve had some of those these past few weeks) so I want to sign off this week’s Newsletter with a nod of appreciation in the direction of our chum Ian Whates, head honcho of Newcon Press on a remarkable project.

STORIES OF HOPE AND WONDER contains a rich and varied treasury of quality stories, from dark to light, humorous to menacing, clever to exciting. Fifty-three stories in all, more than a quarter-million words of fiction, including several pieces that are original to the book, featuring some of the finest writers of science fiction, literary fiction, fantasy, horror, and more.

All proceeds from the sale of this digital anthology are being donated to support NHS staff and other UK healthcare workers. So come on, folks, buy your copy by going here—do it now."

My wife and I have watched a number of programs on the work of the NHS, a recent favourite is "The Secret Life Of The Hospital Bed, is a unique 15-part series where, across the 45-minute episodes, fixed-rig cameras tell the story of patients who enter four different hospitals across the country."


The NHS is a great cause, and I was more than happy to purchase this item. I have several anthologies edited by Ian Whates, including 2001: An Odyssey in Words, so I also knew the collection would be a good one.

"The Road to the Sea" by Lavie Tidhar

I have read several stories by Lavie Tidhar, and I have been quite impressed by them. His world-building is lovely, the stories are imaginative, and the setting and characters beautifully realized. The stories themselves are studies of the relationships between characters and their families, and the societies they live in. They are not overly dramatic or violent. They often act as quiet meditations informing us about Tildhar's imagined worlds and the beings who inhabit them.

I would describe the structure of this story as a fable. Events seem to have taken on the nature of a myth or origin story. The community or area that the characters inhabit is not described in any detail. The inner workings are vague. Instead, we are told, "When the world changed and the moon was hurt and our people came to the Land, the ocean remained." This is the story of little Mai's first journey with the band of salvagers her mother leads. They are going to spend the winter in one of the ancient cities by the ocean, searching for workable metal. They travel to the city via a network of old roads. They walk on the shoulders, Tidhar has Mai make a charming little play on words about walking on the shoulders of giants here. They come across rusting travel pods and avoid traps frequently broken ground, but there are references to wild machines.

Characters have evocative names; there is Old Mercurial, who tells ghost stories, Old Grandma Toffle, Shosho Mosh, the hunter and Old Peculiar, who lost an eye when he disappeared into the blighted lands only to return long after he was presumed dead with a treasure trove of maps. It is clear that in the future little Mai will become a storyteller. This is the story of a post apocalyptic world with some hints about how it came to be, but mostly is the story of little Mai and how she came into her role. I will not say any more; instead, I will leave you with a quote, "but I remember that first glimpse of the ocean, how it went on and on until it reached the sky; it seemed to me an immense beast then, always moving, never quite still, its smooth back stretching across the world; and I thought, for just a moment, that it sensed me, somehow, and that it responded.

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