The Gentleman Recommends: Kij Johnson

Posted on Monday, August 21, 2017 by Chris

If you like to use books to escape from reality, whether it’s because your cats have been acting up or due to the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation, the strange tales of Kij Johnson are your ticket to a more pleasant reality, one where, for example, a fox might fall in love with a prince and so decide to transform into a human female so that she might increase the odds of the woo she pitches being perceived and appreciated. Or, maybe, inspired by your cat’s complete disregard for authority and subpar mousing, you’re craving a story in which a truly independent kitten traverses the bulk of Japan devouring mice. Maybe your travelling magic monkey show just isn’t bringing in the bucks like it used to, and you’d like to read about a modestly successful travelling magic monkey show. Perhaps you’d like to learn of a fancy bridge being built in a strange land. Or maybe the graphic details of the intimate encounters shared by two shipwrecked space travelers (one human, one exceedingly not) is more your cup of tea. Whichever strange brew you require to slake your thirst for escape from your foolhardy cats or pending nuclear explosions, Kij Johnson’s “At the Mouth of the River of Bees” has concocted it for you. I recommend you take a taste right here.

At the Mouth of the River of Bees book cover

(Kij Johnson has an imagination that should earn shrines, but I can’t sculpt, so what she gets is this blog post. She is welcome.)

If you like your stories a little longer, “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe” is a novella about a professor (Vellitt Boe) at a university (located in the realm of dreams) going on a quest to find a student who has fled, with her boyfriend, to the waking world. The problem is that the student is the daughter of a university bigwig and the granddaughter of a sleeping god, and neither men are likely to take kindly to the young lady’s disappearance. Dad may ban women from the university. Grandpa might destroy the world. So it’s darn suspenseful and a fantastic distraction from your cats knocking over your carafe of freshly polished monocles.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe book coverThere are all manner of strange creatures in the dream realm (ghouls, goblins, gods, an obedient cat, other monstrosities that like to eat humans), and you may, as with some of the stories in the aforementioned collection, find yourself frightened at times. Take strength from the fact that I guarantee there are no nuclear explosions or cats that poop where they aren’t supposed to.