It is more than two years since I saw Kij Johnson give the Tolkien Memorial Lecture in Oxford. We’ve both been busy in that time, and one of the things Kij has done is write this lovely little novella. I’m pretty sure that she wrote it after her visit to Oxford, because the central character is a professor at a university in a fantasy world and the descriptions of her home in the first few chapters could easily be descriptions of Pembroke College.
Oxford, of course, is not Ulthar. There is doubtless a large feline population in the city, but the city does not belong the cats in the same way that Ulthar does. Nor do they exert the same influence.
The cute stuff doesn’t last long. As you will have guessed from the title, this story riffs off HP Lovecraft’s The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. Kij’s story visits many of the same places, and features a lot of the same characters, but there the resemblance ends. There is so much interesting, and occasionally brilliant, in what Lovecraft did, but this book makes me wish he had been a better writer.
You can read my review here.
While you are doing that, I’m going to continue to ponder on one of the great questions of the Dreamlands, which Kij alluded to but did not answer: just who is it that is buried in that bridge outside of Ulthar, and why?