Cities come, cities go, yet the city remains.
Pilum is now working on getting it's fourth book published, Shagduk by JB Jackson, over at Kickstarter. This, fresh off of successfully republishing Sky Hernstrom's Thune's Vision with the addition of a new Mortu and Kyrus story.
I've mentioned their first collection, The Penultimate Men, in passing, but today I'd like to cover their second book, The Wells of Ur.
As I said in the opening, cities come and go, but yet they also remain. Their fortunes may wax and wane, some are lost to time and near rumor until rediscovered like Troy. Others have been in place so long that cities long past have been buried under the streets of the current one. The library of Alexandria may not exist, but the intersection where it had stood still is a crossroads for trade.
In the end, men gather together. Just as often, men grasp too much, and watch everything slip through like water through open fingers.
What kind of stories are these? Where The Penultimate Men was a collection of fiction and essays loosely inspired by the gonzo post-apocalypse of Gamma World, this mostly delves into our distant past to look at the city eternal, how they rise and fall.
Nick Cole of Galaxy's Edge provides an introduction, as does the editor. After that, a short poem, source unknown, translated. Then Jon Mollison's tale, written by a scribe about a place as far removed from his time as he is from ours, on how we came to write, among other things, of Griffins, and mankind's attempt to build a city to rule all - which fell as life got too easy, and those who ruled were freed from consequence.
Next, we shift to the near-present, a glimpse of Philadelphia in the late 70's, a snapshot of life, of a time that seemed vibrant and is already past. It is also the story of a librarian with more problems on his mind than keeping the stacks organized, as he tries to solve the riddle of a magic text he had found. This bit is actually an excerpt from JB Jackson's Shagduk -but it stands well enough on its own as a slice of life, with hints of greater things simmering in the background, evocatively drawn out as a series of journal entries.
Our next journey is back to the past, to the story of a crusader lost in time, defending a tribe, a woman, and her son, who then becomes founder of a great city, bequeathing it to that rescued child, Nimrod, who may or may not be the builder of the tower of Babel.
The last story is a glimpse of a future past, a bridge in a way to the Penultimate Men in that it is in our distant future, yet alien to us in a manner similar to Gene Wolfe's Urth, told to us as a fantasy or a fairy tale. A girl, Elektra, takes a days-long train trip to the heart of a once-great city, watching strange barbarians tear down the signs of civilization about her along the way. For a grim look at a failing society, there is also hope.
Because cities come, cities go, but the City remains.
And people remain.