If you valorise paranoia so much don’t be a hypocrite about it, all right?
Still, it was the library of his dreams. Wesley imagined an ancient time, centuries ago, long before the building became Astoria’s library, when armies from around the world took turns storming the gate, each determined to obtain the treasures hidden within. It was that kind of place. It stirred something inside of him.
This book reprints the story “The Future Is Blue” from the Drowned Worlds anthology, and follows it with a further novella “The Past Is Red.” The latter was written about four years later for the author Catherynne M. Valente (in late 2020) and ten years later for her protagonist Tetley Abednego (sometime after 2133).
Tetley is an irrepressible survivor and an unreliable narrator who hails from Garbagetown on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, evidently one of the largest of remaining human communities in the 22nd century. The first story accounts for her becoming a hated outcast by age 19, and the second gives the saga by which she matures into a “trash Plato” (138) in her third decade.
The Garbagetowners have an ambivalently hostile envy for their antediluvian ancestors (i.e. us), to whom they consistently refer as “Fuckwits.” In light of the current situation in US society, it’s not hard to read this sentiment as the Millennial/GenX view of Boomers writ large.
Valente herself compares Tetley to Voltaire’s Candide (148), and there’s a little of de Sade’s Justine there as well. But the tone here is not so satirical, and the concerns of the parable are remote from those of the philosophes. The afterword and the acknowledgements claim an independence for Tetley, whom her author has gradually come to know, and the character does have an engaging voice to draw the reader into and through her world, which is enchanting to her, and ultimately, only differently horrible than ours.
The whole book is wonderfully weird but sadly feasible cli-fi that I read in about three sittings: a speedy read and a satisfying one.
A rubber-bodied toddler with a painted face and very red hair lay dead beside your knee and for some reason it was this that destroyed you, it was this that kindled within you something you had no hope of defending against. You howled in a purity of fright.