No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

California / Adept's Gambit

Got to the end of California, so to speak. Definitely enough history in there for me to have learned a lot, and since it's an illustrated history, there's plenty to gawk at it as well. Sure, it's fortysomething years old, but that's at least new enough that things like the Watts Riots and Cesar Chavez are not only covered, but the spin is recognizable as that of the average liberal Californian who's fortysomething years old.

The book starts off with quite a bang. I guess I was vaaaaaguely aware the the name California comes from a work of fiction, but I was not aware of the peculiar nature of 'California':

Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very near the Terrestrial Paradise, and inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and living in the manner of Amazons. They are robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great valor. Their island is one of the most rugged in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks. Their arms are all of gold, as is the harness of the wild beasts which, after taming, they ride.
In this island called California ... are many griffins the like of which are not found in any other part of the world. In the season when the griffins give birth to their young, these women cover themselves with thick hides and go out to snare the little griffins, taking them to their caves where they raise them. And being quite a match for these griffins, they feed them the men taken as prisoners and the males to which they have given birth. All this is done with such skill that the griffins become thoroughly accustomed to them and do them no harm. Any male who comes to the island is killed and eaten by the griffins.

Dr. Pookie was good enough to get me the recent edition of Fritz Leiber's Adept's Gambit from Arcane Wisdom. It features an earlier draft than the published version, retaining some of the references to the Cthulhu Mythos. It also has a letter from HPL to Leiber, praising the story in general and criticizing bits of spelling, diction, and historical reference. I haven't read the final published version in some time, so apart from a few obvious differences, it's hard for me to pick out the changes in the text. It's always been a bit of a strange story, with the focus shifting from Fafhrd and the Mouser to the story of Elsbeth/Ahura, but still a good one.

I curse that much of my library has been carted away in a pod, because I have a vague memory of a different letter from HPL to Leiber than the one printed here, that also offers some good insights and advice.
Tags: book, california, lovecraft

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