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Invitation to Camelot (1988)

av Parke Godwin (Editor and Contributor)

Andra författare: John M. Ford (Bidragsgivare), Gregory Frost (Bidragsgivare), Phyllis Ann Karr (Bidragsgivare), Tanith Lee (Bidragsgivare), Sharan Newman (Bidragsgivare)5 till, Madeleine E. Robins (Bidragsgivare), Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (Bidragsgivare), Susan Shwartz (Bidragsgivare), Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (Bidragsgivare), Jane Yolen (Bidragsgivare)

Serier: Firelord (Companion short story "Uallanach"), Guinevere (Companion short story "The Palace at Moonlight")

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I was in a short story mood this past Sunday. This doesn’t happen often, so I resolved to take advantage of it. Although there were two other volumes competing for my attention—an anthology of fairy tales that I’ve been putting off finishing (Mme. d’Aulnoy, why must you be so long-winded?) and a Poe collection that I want to save for Halloween—I reached instead for the Parke Godwin-edited Invitation to Camelot. When I read it a couple of years ago, I loved some of the tales, tolerated others, and downright hated a few. Now, although I recognize that (like all anthologies) it has its ups and downs, I am more forgiving towards it as a whole, and am impressed by the array of talent showcased here.

In his introduction, Godwin likens the anthology to a dinner party, and he introduces the authors as though they were party guests, making remarks such as “Sharan Newman makes the most delightful peach preserves I’ve ever tasted.” It’s an unexpected approach, but a charming one.

Jane Yolen’s “The Storyteller” does little for me as poetry, but despite the fact that it is not Arthurian, it makes for a good opener and reflects the collection’s attitude towards imagination and the canon: It is all true, / it is not true / ... I am not paid to tell you the truth.

Things really start going with the first fiction entry, “Their Son” by Morgan Llewellyn. This one makes me uncomfortable for some reason, but in the end I think that’s a good thing: the subject matter is hardly bright or cheery. Both the plot twist and the way in which she plays with the reader’s expectations are really exceptional.

Tanith Lee’s “The Minstrel’s Tale” is darkly poetic, but it does not belong in this collection, as it has nothing to do with Arthur or Camelot. One could argue (as Dr. Raymond H. Thompson does in the book’s snooty-academic afterword) that the Arthurian canon has always welcomed new material, but I say that in order for a story to be included in an Arthurian anthology the author must tie it to the legendarium. Lee does not; anyway, the story does not end nearly as well as it began.

Phyllis Ann Karr’s “Two Bits of Embroidery,” on the other hand, is simply delightful. It juxtaposes the famous story of Elaine of Astolat’s tendre for Lancelot du Lac with a tale of Karr’s invention about the regard a young kitchen girl bears for Sir Kay. There’s a wonderful symmetry to the tale, and Karr depicts Lancelot’s hypocrisy and Kay’s blunt honesty equally well.

By far the most unusual of the stories, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s “The Camelot Connection” tells of a pop psychologist and his girlfriend, who go back to the times of Camelot, inhabit Merlin’s body, and try to solve the court’s problems. It’s a silly premise, and parts of it are downright tasteless, but there are some funny bits, and one has to admire Scarborough’s Guinevere, especially her determination that, if all her men folk decamp, then she at least is going to keep the country running smoothly (ha!). If only Cecily had dumped Miles at the end....

“Uallanach,” Godwin’s own entry, requires several readings to understand; the language is difficult and it refers to events from his novel Firelord. This is much better than Firelord, though, and speaks to the true tragedy of the Arthurian legend: the turning of love into hate, and the inability for human beings to find an eternal homeland.

Susan Schwartz’s “Seven from Caer Sidi” is one of my favorite tales from the collection, but one that I find very difficult to describe. It is based off of the old ballad The Spoils of Annwfyn, and in many ways it carries over the aura of those oldest legends, yet it is also quite modern. In short, it’s wonderful: read it yourself to find out more.

Like Tanith Lee’s tale, Gregory Frost’s “The Vow that Binds” is totally original, though he does attempt (lamely) to tie it in with the legendarium. But the real issue here is the length and characterization; I simply cannot believe that the two characters found eternal love within the story’s twelve pages. And the ending is just random.

“Nimuë’s Tale,” by Madeleine E. Robins, shocked me on my first reading, both in the opening scene with Merlin and in the mildly homoerotic interactions between the title character and Vivienne. But I just adore the section about Nimuë and Pelles—one of the few couples in this collection you can really root for—and on a purely technical level what Robins does is marvelous, covering several different plot threads and making you believe in every one of them.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s “Night Mare,” besides sporting one of the most inane titles I’ve ever come across (that’s a pun for children’s action figures, Chelsea, not should-be-taken-seriously short stories), is also far too long for the story it tells. Verily, it drags. And while the situation Mordred finds himself in at the very end is interesting in its way, it also feels like a bit of a cheat. I suppose that’s the point?

Thankfully, the last two prose entries are my favorites. Sharan Newman’s “The Palace at Moonlight” is a post-Arthurian tale of rare power, in which a young minstrel sets out to discover the truth about Camelot. This yarn reminds us of why we tell Arthur’s story in the first place, and if the scene with Guinevere doesn’t make you tear up a little ... well, then you’re of sterner stuff than I.

But it is Jane Yolen’s “Meditation in a Whitethorn Tree” that is the true gem of this collection. Trapped for eternity in the trunk of a whitethorn tree (“Niniane, woodsgirl, your sweet sorcery did not betray me but rather be-treed me, if an old man may be allowed a small joke”), Merlin muses on the three women in his life who did betray him: Igraine, Morgaine, and Gwenhwyfar. The wordplay alone is astounding, with more assonance and soft rhyme than one generally finds in prose, and I adore Yolen’s Gwenhwyfar, a plain girl with a great knack for friendship, and a great love for Arthur.

The anthology ends as it began: with a poem. I do not precisely see the point of John M. Ford’s “Winter Solstice, Camelot Station,” which conflates the age of Arthur with the Age of the Railroad, but it has some clever associations and humorous touches. I enjoyed it.

Overall, this is a great collection that I can see myself coming back to—and I already have two friends queued up to borrow it now I’m done. Bearing in mind that there is a lot of adult content in the stories (particularly Scarborough’s and Robins’), I still recommend it to anyone interested in the Arthurian legend—or, indeed, fantasy short stories in general. ( )
1 rösta ncgraham | Oct 12, 2010 |
My favorite is John M. Ford's Winter Solstice, Camelot Station. Phyllis Ann Karr's Two Bits of Embroidery also stands out in my memory. I think if you like King Arthur, you'll find something here to enjoy. ( )
  aulsmith | Sep 1, 2007 |
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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Godwin, ParkeEditor and Contributorprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Ford, John M.Bidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Frost, GregoryBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Karr, Phyllis AnnBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Lee, TanithBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Newman, SharanBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Robins, Madeleine E.Bidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Scarborough, Elizabeth AnnBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Shwartz, SusanBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Yarbro, Chelsea QuinnBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Yolen, JaneBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
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