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Dreams Underfoot

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dreams Underfoot (1993) Charles de Lint

“Uncle Dobbin’s Parrot Fair,” Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Nov ‘87
“Stone Drum,” Triskell Press chapbook, 1989
“Timeskip,” Post Mortem: New Tales of Ghastly Horror, ed. Paul F. Olson & David B. Silva, St. Martin’s, 1989
“Freewheeling,” Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine Issue 6, ed. Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Pulphouse, 1990
“That Explains Poland,” Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine Issue 2, ed. Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Pulphouse, 1988
“Romano Drom,” Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine Issue 5, ed. Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Pulphouse, 1989
“The Sacred Fire,” Stalkers, ed. Ed Gorman & Martin H. Greenberg, Arlington Heights, IL: Dark Harvest, 1989
“Winter Was Hard,” Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine Issue 10, ed. Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Pulphouse, 1991
“Pity the Monsters,” The Ultimate Frankenstein, ed. Byron Preiss, David Kellor, Megan Miller & John Gregory Betancourt, Dell, 1991
“Ghosts of Wind and Shadow,” Triskell Press chapbook, 1990
“The Conjure Man,” After the King, ed. Martin H. Greenberg, Tor, 1992
“Small Deaths,” original to the collection
“The Moon Is Drowning While I Sleep,” Snow White, Blood Red, ed. Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, AvoNova, 1993
“In the House of My Enemy,” original to the collection
“But for the Grace Go I,” Chilled to the Bone, ed. Robert T. Garcia, Mayfair Games, 1991
“Bridges,” The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Oct/ Nov ‘92
“Our Lady of the Harbour,” Axolotl Press: Eugene, OR, 1991
“Paperjack,” Cheap Street: New Castle, VA, 1991
“Tallulah,” Dead End: City Limits, ed. Paul F. Olson & David B. Silva, St. Martin’s, 1991

This was the first Charles de Lint collection I came across, and I immediately fell in love. I like his novels, but I really love his Newford story anthologies. I’ve been waiting for awhile for this book to come out on kindle–when it did I snatched it up.

“Uncle Dobbin’s Parrot Fair” isn’t set in Newford, but it doesn’t not fit in this anthology.

Ellen carried a piece of string in her pocket, with four complicated knots tied into it, but no matter how often she undid one, she still had to wait for her winds like anyone else. She knew that strings to catch and call up the wind were only real in stories, but she liked thinking that maybe, just once, a bit of magic could tiptoe out of a tale and step into the real world.

Ellen has been searching for years for the magic she saw in her childhood. But there is darkness as well as beauty in magic.

“The Stone Drum” is the first Jilly story. I appreciate how our view of Jilly changes over the collection. Initially she’s a pretty artist who wants to believe in magic.

“Religious artifacts and trappings require faith— a belief in their potency that the skookin undoubtedly don’t have. The only thing I know for certain that they can’t abide is the truth.”

“Timeskip” is the first story in which Jilly and Geordie appear together. It’s a love story and a ghost story and a story of heartbreak.

“Freewheeling” is another story of heatbreak, only it is the heartbreak commonly seen on the streets. It’s another Jilly story, even if she isn’t necessarily the primary character.

“That Explains Poland” is a story about a Latina character, but it’s not a Latina story. It’s a Bigfoot story.

Verdad, I still don’t know who I am or where I fit in. I stand in front of the mirror and the muchacha I see studying me just as carefully as I’m studying her looks older. But I don’t feel any different from when I was fifteen.

So when does it happen?

Maybe it never does.

Charles de Lint’s stories are full of amazing women, and those women are not all white. Because that’s the way the world is.

“Romano Drom” is a story of the secret roads that run through the world.

The road. The Chinese called it a dragon track. Alfred Watkins, in England, had discovered the old straight tracks there and called them leys. Secret ways, hidden roads. The Native Americans had them. African tribesmen and the aborigines of Australia. Even her own people had secret roads unknown to the non-Gypsy.

“The Sacred Fire” is an especially dark story, mostly because unlike many of his other stories, it doesn’t end with any note of hope, only the possibility of more horror.

“Winter Was Hard” is another Jilly story, where we being to see her complexities, as she plans to spend Christmas with an elderly man in a nursing home, without family to go home to or visit, but it’s also about magic and memory.

There were people who just made other people feel good. Just being around them, made you feel better, creative, uplifted, happy. Geordie said that she was like that herself, though Jilly wasn’t so sure of that. She tried to be, but she was subject to the same bad moods as anybody else, the same impatience with stupidity and ignorance.

“Pity the Monsters” is another very dark story, that lacks the hope usually found in these stories. It’s about the loneliness of monsters.

“Ghosts of Wind and Shadow” is a Meran and Cerin story, and also the story of a teenage girl whose mother doesn’t understand the magic she sees in the world. It’s also an explanation of sorts as to why people don’t see or talk about magic in the world.

“The Conjure Man” is a story I particularly like, and the events here are referenced in later stories (although not in this book). It’s about a tree of tales and memory.

(T)hat’s our hope for the future, isn’t it? That the imagination reaches beyond the present to glimpse not so much a sense of meaning in what lies all around us, but to let us simply see it in the first place?”

“Small Deaths” is the story of an overnight DJ, and the people who are drawn to her. The main character is a tiny bit like Kitty the werewolf, but only, really, because I think midnight DJs are a sort of their own.

“The Moon Is Drowning While I Sleep” is a Sophie Etoile story (Jilly makes an appearance). Sophie is another character who recurs throughout the series.

(D)reams want to be real. When you start to wake up, he said, they hang on and try to slip out into the waking world when you don’t notice. Very strong dreams, he added, can almost do it; they can last for almost half a day, but not much longer.

“In the House of My Enemy” is probably the most heart-breaking story in the book. It’s where we discover that Jilly is far more than we could have imagined, and that her love of her friends and the world in general is a miracle.

“But for the Grace Go I” is another story that I especially like and that has always stuck in my mind. A young woman has made her life on the streets, caring for those who can’t care for themselves, wanting nothing more except to be left alone.

Except that life asks more of us.


You build the bridge and it either takes you where you want it to, or it doesn’t.”

“And if it doesn’t?” His teeth flashed in the moonlight. “

Then you build another one and maybe another one until one of them does.”

“Our Lady of the Harbour” is The Little Mermaid, except it’s more.

“Paperjack” is another story I particularly like. It picks up where “Timeskip” leaves off, with Geordie trying to come to terms with Sue’s disappearance.

If I had to describe myself as belonging to any church or mystical order, it’d be one devoted to secular humanism. My concerns are for real people and the here and now; the possible existence of God, faeries, or some metaphysical Otherworld just doesn’t fit into my worldview.

But the story also has Paperjack, who is a fascinating enigma.

Around him, an overcast day didn’t seem half so gloomy, and when the sun shone, it always seemed brighter. He just exuded a glad feeling that you couldn’t help but pick up on. So in that sense, he was magic.

“Talullah” is a Christy Riddell story. For some reason, he is the character I find least compelling in Newford.

(S)he taught me that getting close can hurt, but not getting close is an even lonelier hurt.

In some ways it’s the flip-side to “Our Lady of the Harbour” but it’s also the story of the city and of change.

No matter how much I know that so many of these stories are dark, it still surprises me every time how dark the stories can be. Mostly because with a few exceptions, the darkness is tempered with hope.

Publisher: Triskell Press
Rating: 8.5/10


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