Monday, December 01, 2014

The Book of Feasts & Seasons

It being December 1st, we are now properly in the Christmas season and so this seems a propitious time to announce the newest John C. Wright book from Castalia House, a collection of 10 holiday-inspired science fiction stories collectively known as THE BOOK OF FEASTS & SEASONS. This is not your average cup of Christmas tea, as a look at the story titles alone will tell you. Over the course of the year, from January to December, the science fiction grandmaster takes his inspiration from ten different holidays and explores their meanings in a series of stories of marvelous imagination. The book begins with New Year's Day and "The Meaning of Life as Told Me by an Inebriated Science Fiction Writer in New Jersey." The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin is represented by "A Random World of Delta Capricorni Aa, Called Scheddi", while "The Parliament of Beasts and Birds" represents the Feast of Pentecost. The calendar, and the anthology, culminate on Christmas Eve with "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus".

My personal favorite is "The Parliament of Beasts and Birds", which rather reminds me of one of Tanith Lee's best works, "The Tale of the Cat", and is, in my opinion, a serious contender for the best thing that Mr. Wright has ever written.

The animals gathered, one by one, outside the final city of Man, furtive, curious, and afraid.

All was dark. In the west was a blood-red sunset, and in the east a blood-red moonrise of a waning moon. No lamps shined in the towers and minarets, and all the widows of the palaces, mansions, and fanes were empty as the eyes of skulls.

All about the walls of the city were the fields and houses that were empty and still, and all the gates and doors lay open.

Above the fortresses and barracks, black pillars upheld statues of golden eagles, beaks open, unmoving and still. Above the coliseum and circus, where athletes strove and acrobats danced and slaves fought and criminals were fed alive to wild beasts for the diversion of the crowds, and the noise of screams and cries rose up like incense toward heaven, statues of heroes and demigods stood on white pillars, glaring blindly down.

Within other walls were gardens whose trees were naked in the wind, and the silence was broken only by the rustle of the carpet of fallen leaves wallowing along the marble paths and pleasances.

Above the boulevards and paved squares where merchants once bought and sold ivory and incense and purple and gold, or costly fabrics of silks from the east, or ambergris from the seas beyond the Fortunate Isles, and auction houses adorned and painted stood where singing birds and dancing girls were sold to the highest bidder or given to the haughtiest peer. And here were gambling houses where princes and nobles once used gems as counters for cities and walled towns, and the fate of nations might depend upon the turn of a card. And there were pleasure houses where harlots plied their trade, and houses of healing where physicians explained which venereal disease had no cures and arranged for painless suicides, and houses of morticians where disease-raddled bodies were burnt in private, without any ceremony that might attract attention and be bad for business.

And higher on the high hill in the center of the city were the libraries of the learned and the palaces of the emperors adored as gods. But no history was read in the halls of learning and no laws were debated in the halls of power.

Not far outside the city was a mountain that had been cut in two, crown to root, by some great supernatural force. On the slopes of the dark mountain, in a dell overgrown and wild, two dark creatures met, peering cautiously toward the empty city.

A black wolf addressed a black raven sitting in a thorn-bush. “What is the news, eater of carrion? Did you fly over the city and spy out where the corpses are?”

As you will have noticed from the text sample, THE BOOK OF FEASTS & SEASONS is not the traditional light-hearted seasonal fare, but is as deep and as dark, as full of grief and joy, as the true story of St. Nicholas, Wonderworker, Defender of Orthodoxy, Holy Hierarch, and Bishop of Myra, himself. It is available from Castalia House as well as on Amazon.



Blogger Sean Carnegie December 01, 2014 12:06 PM  

Must fight urge for "FIRST!" post.

For those of us who missed it, how does one get onto the mailing list?

Blogger Clint December 01, 2014 12:14 PM  

Go to Castalia House Blog and leave a comment on one of the posts. Then click the "add me to newsletter" button.

Anonymous Cranberry December 01, 2014 12:15 PM  

Purchased, and I look forward to reading and relishing this book, as I have Awake In The Night Land and Mr. Wright's blog.

If you would be so kind to answer, Vox, any plans to make Transhuman... a hardcover? That's a book I'd like to have on the shelf, rather than living in the ether of Amazon's digital jungle. Thank you.

Anonymous VD December 01, 2014 12:29 PM  

If you would be so kind to answer, Vox, any plans to make Transhuman... a hardcover?

At some point down the road. Not in the next three months, however. For all that people talk about how much they love real books, the fact is that they vastly prefer to buy ebooks at one-fifth the price. And I can't say I blame them.

Anonymous old coyote December 01, 2014 12:47 PM  

Thanks for the publication of Mr. Wright's work. This latest edition adds yet another plank in the platform of his elevation to "grandmaster". I read the entire new work in one sitting. Now I will return for seconds and know there will be thirds and... This is grand and great fantasy / SF; Jack Vance has been my favorite author for many long years- John C Wright is the new Vance, in my humble opinion. And his wonderful references to, and use of past masters of SF and fantasy names and characters in his writing make the reading all the more fun.

Anonymous Stingray December 01, 2014 12:52 PM  

I'm no Sci Fi reader (But have becoming more and more intrigued because of Vox's posts) but have Mr. Wright's Awake in the Night Land. Do I need to read The Night Land first to understand it? Or am I completely missing the point and they are unrelated?

OpenID malcolmthecynic December 01, 2014 12:55 PM  

"Pale Realms of Shade" was my favorite (it blew me away, in fact), but "Parliament of Beats and Birds" was clearly number two.

Anonymous VD December 01, 2014 12:55 PM  

Do I need to read The Night Land first to understand it? Or am I completely missing the point and they are unrelated?

Absolutely not. In fact, it is better that you don't.

Thanks for the publication of Mr. Wright's work.

You're very welcome. It's really a rare privilege to be able to do so. I just hope we do it justice.

Anonymous Cranberry December 01, 2014 12:57 PM  

Stingray, no, you don't need to read the source material. Wright describes the scenery and setting well enough so you understand what the Night Land is like - Lovecraftian monsters and an unbearably harsh, dark, cold physical environment. The heart of the book is its themes of the indomitable human spirit, loyalty, love, divinity, and their endurance to the end of time.

And other things. I took a lot away from Awake in the Night Land, won't clutter up this post with it. It's worth the read.

Blogger Danby December 01, 2014 1:03 PM  

i ordered and paid for the book, but the links both on the website and in the receipt email take me to an error page. I emailed the error to the email address on the error page and to

Blogger Danby December 01, 2014 1:07 PM  

Never mind. It was my ereader plugin crashing. The book is safely downloaded.

Anonymous Kent Brockman December 01, 2014 1:41 PM  

"Ladies and gentlemen, what you are seeing is a total disregard for the things St. Patrick's Day stand for. All this drinking, violence, destruction of property. Are these the things we think of when we think of the Irish?"

Blogger Crowhill December 01, 2014 2:29 PM  

I'm sure you know this, Vox, but since the book is about church seasons I'll mention that it's "the Christmas season" in ordinary usage, but as far as the church calendar is concerned it's Advent. The "Christmas season" goes from Christmas to Epiphany.

BTW, downloaded the book earlier today. Looks interesting.

Anonymous maniacprovost December 01, 2014 3:15 PM  

I'll get it. It appears that Mr. Wright's florid prose has once again burst through its embankments and overwhelmed the civilized structures of English usage like literary kudzu.

Blogger JG December 01, 2014 3:40 PM  


Have loved all of Castalia's JCW books so far.

Anonymous Stickwick December 01, 2014 3:43 PM  

I'm a slow reader, and also very, very busy, so I only have time to read one short book each Christmas, and it's almost always A Christmas Carol. However, so intriguing is this post that this Christmas I shall be reading Mr. Wright's collection.

Blogger Shibes Meadow December 01, 2014 4:06 PM  

Actually, we are not in the Christmas season; we are in the season of Advent, a time of fasting, penance, and contemplation of the Four Last a Things. The Christmas season (aka Christmastide) begins on the Feast of the Nativity of The Lord, 25 December, which feast lasts 12 days, ending on the Feast of the Epiphany of The Lord on 6 January. Christmastide continues thereafter until Candlemas, 2 February, at which point we re-enter Ordinary Time.

Anonymous BluntForceTrauma December 01, 2014 4:19 PM  

Methinks books like these could actually make one a better man. I'm gonna start actually paying money for the pleasure!

Anonymous VD December 01, 2014 4:25 PM  

Actually, we are not in the Christmas season

We're in what I consider to be the Christmas Season. I am militant about NO CHRISTMAS BEFORE THANKSGIVING. And certainly not before HALLOWEEN. The decorations are up, the music is playing, and so forth.

Blogger Josh December 01, 2014 4:37 PM  



OpenID malcolmthecynic December 01, 2014 4:52 PM  

Anyway, I would rank Mr. Wright's short stories thus (from the ones I've read, which is admittedly a fair amount):

1) "Awake in the Night"

2) "Pale Realms of Shade"

3) "The Plural of Helen of Troy"

4) "Parliament of Beasts and Birds"

5) "Murder in Metachronopolis"

OpenID malcolmthecynic December 01, 2014 4:55 PM  

(Short stories/novellas)

Blogger automatthew December 01, 2014 5:34 PM  

Vox: For all that people talk about how much they love real books, the fact is that they vastly prefer to buy ebooks at one-fifth the price.

There are snowflakes. I bought Awake in ebook to support JCW and CH. I bought it again in hardback because I buy all JCW books in hardback. Now that I trust you'll publish a tangible form of it, I'm waiting to buy Feasts.

Anonymous Beau December 01, 2014 5:55 PM  

OT or so

Yesterday prepping for our homeless outreach I put on the complete production of Handel's Messiah in the chapel then went about my business. One of our homeless regulars stepped into the chapel to walk through to use the restroom. Entering, he stopped stock still in the doorway, "You have Christmas music. Real Christmas music. I haven't heard this since I was five years old." He wept.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous Cranberry December 01, 2014 6:12 PM  

Beautiful, Beau.

This year, I am making it a point to observe the Nativity Fast, as Shibes mentioned (Catholics are no longer expected to fast during Advent, but I'm being "radically Traditional" about it) and to only play religious Advent music in the house.

We'll hear enough of it when out and about in public this season, so in the home I play advent music for the kids. I have a CD called "Advent at Ephesus" sung by the Benedictine Nuns of Saint Mary's that is heart-wrenching in its beauty.

Handel's Messiah also features. I love listening to the whole thing beginning to end, as it tells a story that should not be interrupted and needs to be heard.

God bless.

Anonymous Stingray December 01, 2014 7:22 PM  

Thank you Vox and Cranberry. I am reading it tonight.

In fact, it is better that you don't.


Anonymous Beau December 01, 2014 7:33 PM  

I have a CD called "Advent at Ephesus" sung by the Benedictine Nuns of Saint Mary's that is heart-wrenching in its beauty.

I'll look this up. Thank you very much!

Anonymous Stingray December 01, 2014 7:35 PM  

Ok, so I'll admit that I have been indulging in some alcoholic egg nog, but just the preface, On the Lure of the Nightland had me in tears.

Anonymous maniacprovost December 01, 2014 8:06 PM  

In fact, it is better that you don't.


Night Land is rather long, and was clearly written in one draft with a quill pen. And, while I like it, some people might be put off by the circuitous pseudo-Victorian style. The plot is reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the setting is a Lovecraftian postapocalypse- therefore, not actually as creepy as the John C Wright version. It's quite likely that you will put it down and never get back to it.

Anonymous a. atheist December 01, 2014 8:14 PM  

"Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I'm too old for fairy tales."

Blogger Manach December 01, 2014 9:46 PM  

Well trolls are examples of mythical fairy creatures: alive and well.

Blogger Outlaw X December 01, 2014 10:06 PM  

I bought Amazon copy and read first Chapter. Having trouble understanding.

Blogger John Wright December 01, 2014 10:16 PM  

@ old coyote

Thank you very much, from the depth of my heart. To be compared favorably to Jack Vance is the finest compliment I have ever received.

Blogger automatthew December 01, 2014 10:27 PM  

John Wright, have you missed the numerous occasions when folks here have compared you to GKC?

Vance was a better writer of SFF, but Chesterton was sublime.

Anonymous IncoherentM December 02, 2014 12:05 AM  

@ Stingray

While not trying to contradict VD or anyone else, reading The Night Land first did not diminish, and I think enhanced, my experience of reading Mr. Wright's fantastic work. I enjoy turn of the century (or thereabouts) classics and wanted the background from the original. However, as other's have pointed out, William Hope Hodgson's book is a difficult reading experience, mainly due to the repetitive, archaic style, and a middle that sags terribly. But when the narrative focuses on the Night Land and its horrors (and hope), it is very rewarding.

Having said that, Mr. Wright's work stands on it's own. The separate novellas (if that's the correct term) form a whole and tell a complete story that is deeply affecting. The writing style is also better than Mr. Hodgson' much so that I would love to read a "re-imagining" of the original by Mr. Wright.

In summary, read them in whatever order you want, but if you read only one, read Awake In the Night Land.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera December 02, 2014 12:30 AM  

>"Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I'm too old for fairy tales."

Anyone who says this is too young for fairy tales. But I suspect (and hope) it was in jest.

Blogger Markku December 02, 2014 2:21 AM  

>"Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I'm too old for fairy tales."

Granted. Also: Coals.

-The Parents.

Blogger SirThermite December 02, 2014 2:33 AM  

Am just a little ways into Feasts & Seasons, but reading Mr. Wright's skillful, take-no-prisoners re-imagination of a recent, infamous, "Nebula-winning" short story..well, let's just say that alone was worth $4.99. Am looking forward to reading the bits that sound more like "Awake in the Night Land" though. Speaking of which, after Amazon gets around to shipping me the hardcover copy of that masterpiece, I intend to donate it to my hometown library.

Blogger John Wright December 02, 2014 9:20 AM  

"John Wright, have you missed the numerous occasions when folks here have compared you to GKC?"

Yes, but I think that refers to my girth. I thanked them kindly for those compliments as well, but modesty prevents me from believing I am the equal of Chesterton. The concept is impossible to swallow. However, I think I can equal Jack Vance, at least on a good day. See, for example, my short story 'Guyal the Curator' in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH. It was the only story in the Jack Vance homage volume which did a pitch-perfect impersonation of the Vancean style.

Blogger pdwalker December 19, 2014 8:24 PM  

I just finished Feast & Seasons, and I have two things to say:

1/ wow. Those are some powerful and beautiful stories.

2/ I feel like each story needs a list of references of all the background material that you should read in order to fully appreciate the story. I caught a few obscure ones, but I'm sure I must be missing many.

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