P.C. Hodgell

The Faces of Fantasy


play_audioThe Faces of Fantasy.  Photographs by Patti Perret.  Introduction by Terri Windling.
New York:  Tor, 1996.  P. 50.

By P. C. Hodgell

When I was a child growing up in my grandmother's house, I had a recurrent dream that there were three of me living in a land beyond the sunset.  More than that I can't remember, except for the image of three children with my face, crowded into the front seat of a tiny, shiny car going... somewhere.

I grew up.  I became three different people.

"Pat" is the closest to that child of long ago, still living in the old, family house, still shy and solitary, with the relics of her childhood crusted about her like layers of pearl around a grain of sand.  She thinks it very strange to find herself in the pages of such a book as this and wonders (but doesn't ask), if there may not have been some mistake.

"Patricia C.," on the other hand, is impatient to get on with lesson plans.  This fall she will teach a college course based on books that she hasn't read since graduate school.  Beowulf, The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost.  She touches her doctorate as if it were a talisman.  She has earned this.  It means something.

"What?" asks Pat.

"Shut up," says Patricia C.

"P. C." pays no attention to either of them.  What does their bickering matter when her heroine Jame is about to ride into the military college of Tentir and fall off her horse at the feet of the Commandant?  This will only be the first act in a year's worth of misadventures, culminating (somehow) in Jame's graduation as a cadet officer.  She will earn it.  It will mean something.

"What?" asks Pat. "Will it make me enough money to go on living in my old house forever and ever?"

"What?" demands Patricia C.  "Will a fantasy, a mere genre work, earn me any respect in academia?"

Jammed between them in the front seat of a Honda Civic, P. C.  doesn't answer, hasn't heard.  While Patricia C. stares grimly ahead at four long, bleak weeks of classes and Pat gazes uneasily out the window at a present sliding inexorably into the past, P. C. happily draws a map of a land that never was, beyond the sunset.

Where are these three middle-aged women going?

Ask P. C.  She has the map.