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Of Melei, of Ulthar

“Of Melei, of Ulthar” appeared in the October 2009 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine, which was thrilling for me. (And even better, it appeared on the Locus 2009 Recommended Reading List! And got an Honorable Mention in Gardner Dozois Year’s Best Science Fiction, Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection, and was on the long-list for the British Fantasy Awards 2010!)

The story was also reprinted in Ross Lockhart’s Lovecraftian anthology The Book of Cthulhu II in September 2012, and was podcast by Far-Fetched Fables at the end of September 2014.

I was especially happy to have my work appear at Clarkesworld, as  it was one of the first professional magazines to which I submitted my work, and because I’d long hoped to write something of the right length to submit there! And having just met Neil Clarke at WorldCon a few months before its publication just adds to the pleasure.


Reviews: “There is nothing here that one could really call a plot, but it’s not much missed. What we have is description of the places and cities that Melei sees, both waking and dreaming. Descriptions fantastic and wondrous.” — Lois Tilton @ The Internet Review of Science Fiction

“For all its dream-like, inverted complexities, the story is relatively straightforward: whispers of mystery, brutality, and warmth intertwined. The prose wanders from verbose and overwrought to more concrete as the decision sharpens within the protagonist, and the slow realization of the dream-world’s location – which could come off as overly trite or precious so very easily – is effective when wrapped in Melei’s breathtaken wonder at fierce survival in the face of overwhelming bleakness and apparent lack of the divine (or supernatural).” – Deborah J. Brannon @ She talks to wolves…

A little background: I started the story as a response to a call for Lovecraftian stories.

HP Lovecraft was the first author within the wider genre whom I read. For me, at the time, he was a horror author and I was puzzled by his strangely bewitching Dreamlands stories. While a lot of people write stories that riff on his Cthulhu stuff, I don’t know so many who work with those lovely mythic fantasies. (And the few I know about, such as Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow novels, somehow didn’t work for me. I have ’em on the shelf — found them in hardcover in a free-books pile in a foreigner bar in Korea — and tear through one occasionally, so yeah, I can say my opinion hasn’t changed. I finished them. My opinion still didn’t change.)

So I set out to write something in the Dreamlands… and failed. I set it aside for a few months, and then after a brief holiday on Jeju Island (a lovely island off the coast of Southern Korea) I was approached by someone who needed a story pronto. I didn’t have anything of the appropriate length, but said I could try finish this Lovecraftian story I had half-written. (Actually, not really half, more like 1300 words or so.)

I sat down in the Sweet Buns coffee shop with a Korean study book and began writing, taking a two-hour break to have a Korean lesson. The final result wasn’t quite what got published, of course: I sent the story to the editor who’d solicited it and while he loved it (the rejection letter began with stunning praise), it didn’t quite fit his needs. So I tweaked a little, fiddled a bit, trimmed and tickled and applied makeup, and send the story to Clarkesworld. End result? Yay! There are a few Easter Eggs buried in the story for specific people to catch while reading it. I’m not telling what they are. But while bits of life are woven into this tale — life is all about decisions, is it not? — but the characters and situations are piecemeal assemblages, and I am pretty much a magpie gathering up shiny bits and lining my nest with them. Which is what every writer is, at bottom.

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