Tag: Sandman Meditations

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In Which a Wake is Held – Sandman Meditations

Three years have passed. Not in The Sandman, but here between these meditations. Within only a few installments of finishing the central series, I couldn’t go on. I read chapter two of The Wake and could think of nothing to say. Characters from all the books were coming back, congregating, ready to pay respects. I wasn’t ready.

What has changed? Everything. Nothing. Years have passed. Can I think of something to say now? Perhaps. Is it worth saying? I don’t know. (But then, I never know.)

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Which Occurs in the Wake of What has Gone Before – Sandman Meditations

Sometimes, the English language plays along. A god-like king of dreams has died, and so there is a wake. Dreams, in the literal sense at least, die upon the dreamer’s waking, and so, too, in The Sandman when Morpheus is no more: the dreamers wake.

There is a sense of quiet throughout this chapter, a quietude. And more so: gravity. Not for lack of words; there are plenty of words throughout these pages. Instead, the quiet, grave, pensive sorrow filling each panel seeps from the pencil lines and muted hues, the scored shadows along most of the edges, and all the downcast eyes. Though the chapter is not rich with plot, it gives an inescapable sense of motion, an undercurrent — the characters are all drawn toward the last page, the last panel. It’s the greatest, grandest view of the Endless we’ve yet seen, but also in many ways the coldest, for they look like stone monuments against a slate sky. “They are the family,” a character says.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones: Part 13 – Sandman Meditations

The King is dead. Long live the King.

Those sentences have been rattling around in my mind’s ears ever since I finished reading the thirteenth, and final, chapter of The Kindly Ones. They’re traditionally said at ceremonies of monarchical accession, but mostly they remind me of E.M. Forster’s distinction between a story and a plot. In Aspects of the Novel, Forster maintained that “The king died, and then the queen died” is a story, while “The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. A story is a narrative of events; a plot is a narrative with causality.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones part 12 – Sandman Meditations

“Because there are rules.” That is Dream’s reply to Matthew, who wonders why one of the most powerful creatures in the universe has to give in to the demands of the Kindly Ones and risk his entire existence.

My immediate response, perhaps because I share a name with the raven, was to whine to myself: “But why!?!”

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones: Part 11 – Sandman Meditations

You will be relieved to learn, I know, that I survived the suspense of the cliffhanger at the end of Part 10. And as with so many of the surprises (and suspenses) of The Sandman, it was less and more than it appeared. We might have expected Nuala’s luring of Morpheus at the end of the previous part to lead to a story of great explosions back in the Dreaming, or we might have guessed Part 11 would give us an epic attack by the Furies, or we might have feared a giant climax of gigantic giantness to lurk around the corner, with Nuala as a devious double-agent of the forces of evil.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones: Part 10 – Sandman Meditations

Dear Reader, see me squirm. After watching Nuala insist that Dream come to her to grant her boon, and after reading Dream say, “As long as I remain in the Dreaming, no real harm can occur,” and after then reading Nuala say, “My Lord … you are no longer in the Dreaming,” and Dream reply, “No. I am not,” I turned the page only to discover that I had just read the last words of Part 10, and thus must stop.

Dear Reader, I work hard to stick to our agreement about this experiment. I do not read ahead before I write down my meditations. I do not consult reference books or Wikipedia. I risk bushels of blunders. The purity of the experiment is what matters, and I have kept the purity I promised you at the beginning, Reader.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones Part 9 – Sandman Meditations

By the end of the ninth chapter of The Kindly Ones, some characters may have found things they were looking for: Rose Walker may have found her heart, and the Corinthian may have found Lyta Hall’s son, Daniel. I say “may have found” because only a fool proclaims certainties about a Sandman story before it is finished (if then!), and I aspire to be less of a fool.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones: Part 8 – Sandman Meditations

Travels and transgressions. Emigrations and imbrications. Diffusion and osmosis.

The eighth part of The Kindly Ones suggests that borders are breaking down, that walls once seemingly sturdy may be more rickety than we supposed, that to be Endless is not to be free of the threat of an end.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones: Part 7 – Sandman Meditations

In the seventh part of The Kindly Ones, the growing sense we’ve had that Lyta’s story and Dream’s will intersect climactically is solidified by this chapter’s many parallels and apparent omens.

Ominous parallels and forboding omens.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones Part 6 – Sandman Meditations

We have reached a sort of middle: the sixth part of The Kindly One’s thirteen parts. Thirteen, of course, being an odd number does not split evenly in two. Fans of Part 7 might find it more comfortably middle-ish, being for all intents and purposes the beginning of the second half, while fans of Part 6 might argue fervently and ferociously that their part is really the middle because it’s the end of the first half. Fans of Part 8 might then dispute the fans of Part 7 for the title of Beginning of the Second Half, invoking all sorts of ancient statutes requiring that second halves be shorter than first halves if the halves are not equal halves.

So there you halve it: the halves and halve-nots.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones: Part 5 – Sandman Meditations

Given how complex the narrative of The Kindly Ones is revealing itself to be, I would be a fool to pretend to be able to come to any conclusions about it yet, or even to pretend to any knowledge of quite what is happening beyond the immediate events of each chapter. This is by far the most difficult of the Sandman volumes to proceed through in an issue-by-issue way; every time I reach the end of a chapter, I groan with the effort of restraining myself from turning the page. While such restraint fulfills the goals of this experiment in reading, and somewhat mimics the experience of the original readers who had to wait between issues of the comic, it’s still unavoidably frustrating.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones Part 4 – Sandman Meditations

When Carla comes to visit Rose in the fourth chapter of The Kindly Ones, Rose is getting ready to videotape an episode of the sitcom Roseanne. She tells Carla that she is hoping to write something about three sitcoms in particular: Roseanne, The Addams Family, and Bewitched This information comes as she and Carla discuss, among other things, the difficulties and weirdnesses of families. (And from A Doll’s House we might remember that Rose knows a thing or two about weird families.)

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones Part 3 – Sandman Meditations

The sadness of Hob Gadling is, for me, among the most poignant recurring elements of The Sandman. In the third part of The Kindly Ones, Hob’s sadness stands in counterpoint to Lyta’s growing anxiety and, then, horror and hatred.

Previously, we have learned that all lives are brief, but what we learn now is that the pain of death comes from those lives suddenly losing synchronization. As Hob stands at Audrey’s grave, he says, “I thought we’d have longer.” This is what anyone who loses a loved one is likely to feel. I and some of my closest friends all lost parents when we were at very different ages, and yet our feelings of that experience were more similar than different. Prolonged illness may dull the response to death a bit as we feel grateful that the sufferer is no longer in pain, but even in those circumstances where we feel relieved to reach the end, the combination of death and love collapses time. We always think we’ll have longer.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones: Part 2 – Sandman Meditations

The second chapter of The Kindly Ones develops two stories: the story of Lyta, who has now called the police because of her missing son, and the story of Cluracan and Nuala, who have gained Dream’s permission for Nuala to leave the Dreaming and return to Faerie.

But I’m not going to write about any of that.

We’re still just starting this story, and so I’m going to pause and discuss something tangential, though it begins with this story. Or, rather, it begins with me deciding not to read this story in a particular setting.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Kindly Ones: Prologue and Part 1 – Sandman Meditations

The prologue to The Kindly Ones contains an image that is pure pornography for someone like me: an endless library. A library of books not written, of books that authors and readers have only dreamed. We’ve seen it before in The Sandman, and come to recognize the librarian, Lucien, but it is here in Kevin Nowlan’s art that the wondrous scope of the place is most enticing to me. We see Lucien standing at the top of a library ladder, pillars of shelves all around him, floors of stacks leading to the unseen, infinite horizon. There’s an M.C. Escher quality to the image, given all the symmetrical lines. We might imagine that the stairs of one floor lead in a loop to the stairs of another floor, creating an ouroboric space without entrance or exit. There’s a particularly wonderful detail in the image: the bottom right corner of the panel shows a cluster of books lying as if on the top of a shelf. They’re in the foreground of the picture, tantalizingly close to us, all come-hither look and attitude of, Hey big boy, don’t you just wish you could open me up and have a peek…

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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WORLDS’ END – Sandman Meditations

Worlds’ end and words’ ends; end as conclusion and end as purpose. We’ve reached the finishing line of this story arc, and the stories within stories reveal by the last page what seems to be their outer shell.

This conclusion does what the best conclusions do: it ties up some loose ends while heightening the overall sense of mystery. We might say we like stories that have clear, unambiguous endings, but do we? Depends on the we, I suppose. No-one who likes such endings is likely to last through many Sandman volumes.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Cerements – Sandman Meditations

The word necropolis etymologically means “city of the dead”, but its everyday definition is “cemetery” or “burial ground”. In the penultimate chapter of Worlds’ End, the necropolis of Litharge is more literal — a city built from the dead and devoted to the dead, a metropolis of morticians.

It’s an evocative, strangely beautiful idea. Certainly, it’s efficient: with all the corpses and their detritus contributing to the creation and maintenance of the city (once the appropriate rituals have been attended to), Litharge provides a model of sustainability, with one of the best recycling programs in all the Sandman stories.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Golden Boy – Sandman Meditations

The tale this time is a mystical Manichean parable of an alternate America, and it’s a story that uses severe simplification to highlight our governing myths.

(Let me pause here first to say that an inn with a library full of many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore seems to me the perfect rest stop in a storm. The Worlds’ End becomes a stranger building with each chapter, but the addition of a bibliophile’s wing seems eminently civilized to me.)

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Hob’s Leviathan – Sandman Meditations

Stories within stories within … how many withins are there in this story? There’s the story Jim tells, which is the primary one in the Sandman story called “Hob’s Leviathan” — as with all the Worlds’ End tales, at least up through this one, it is a story-within-the-story. But there is also the stowaway’s story, which is told within Jim’s story and so is a story-within-the-story-within-the-story. And then there are the various allusions and references, from the punning title (cf. Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan) to Jim’s final statement, which echoes Moby Dick‘s first sentence. Traces of stories within all the other stories…

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Cluracan’s Tale – Sandman Meditations

I have to admit, I was dreading this one.

My reason for dread isn’t even a reason, not in any reasonable way — it’s nothing more than an irrational prejudice.

I hate fairies. Everything about them. The glitter, the glamour, the glow. Most of all, I hate the word itself. Fairy. (Or, worse, faerie. Ugh, it hurt just to type that.)

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Sequences at the Inn and A Tale of Two Cities – Sandman Meditations

Worlds’ End begins with a prelude illustrated by Bryan Talbot and Mark Buckingham in which two people get in a car crash during a mysterious June snowstorm and find their way to a magical inn, the Worlds’ End.

That plural apostrophe is easy to overlook, but the plurality of worlds at the inn is immediately apparent to the viewer from the first panel on page seven, which offers our initial sight of the other characters who are waiting out the storm, or storms — characters of such physiognomic variety that they might be ready to attend Mardi Gras or a particularly good Halloween party. We’re experienced enough by now with The Sandman, though, to suspect these aren’t costumes.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Brief Lives: Chapter 9 – Sandman Meditations

All lives are brief. That is what we learned early in Brief Lives, and now, in the last chapter, the lesson is offered again in various guises. Stories have conclusions, even stories of the Endless. They are Endless, but not Immutable.

Death is feared by all, even those, like Orpheus, who yearn for it for a thousand years. When she arrives, bringing a last border to life, she opens up a vast unknown. (Or perhaps it is not vast. The unknown is, by definition, unknowable until it is known. It could be narrow, tiny, crushing, nothing.) Death is the one constant in an ever-changing universe. (That sentence lies. If the universe is ever-changing, then change is also a constant. Death and change dance together in the ever-changing universe.)

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Brief Lives: Chapter 8 – Sandman Meditations

Were Sandman a conventional story, this chapter would be the climax of Brief Lives. But Sandman is not a conventional story.

And in many ways, chapter eight is a climax. Events have been building to bring Delirium, Dream, and Destruction together for the first time in 300 years, and that meeting is portrayed here. The meeting does not explode with screaming and yelling, it features no hostage attempts or murders or giant exploding squid. For the most part the characters just chat, then Destruction goes off to another universe.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Brief Lives: Chapter 7 – Sandman Meditations

One panel in particular stands out in this chapter of Brief Lives. On page 23, the bottom left panel gives us a sihouetted figure, bright yellow eyes his only visible features, standing against a dark blue-purple-red sky. This is an anomalous panel in a chapter that has been mostly bright, or at least neutral, in color tone, with no other character entirely silhouetted in a panel.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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A Hope in Hell – Sandman Meditations

“A Hope in Hell” feels like a turning point, a moment when the creators of The Sandman took a new step forward in the progress of their work and skills. There is a drama to the story that emanates not from any one element, but from a coordination of structures.  We have seen strengths of art and writing throughout the first three stories, but it is not until the fourth that these strengths are both consistent and cooperative enough to create a sense of depth greater than anything that can be pointed to in a single panel or on a single page.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Dream a Little Dream of Me – Sandman Meditations

The third Sandman poses some problems for me, someone who has read almost no DC comics and has only the vaguest sense of their characters and history. The vagueness and sense share a source: popular culture in general. You’d have to live in some remote part of the world, away from billboards and newspapers and televisions and radios, to avoid all references to DC characters, given how many of them have metamorphosed into stars of movies and TV shows. I was going to write a sentence in which I listed them, but then I realized I don’t know how many of the characters I’m thinking of are DC characters.  Many, I’m sure, are Marvel characters. In fact, I probably have a greater sense of Marvel characters than DC characters, because the only comic I read as a kid was G.I. Joe, and that was a Marvel comic, so there were ads in it for other Marvel comics. At least, I think it was a Marvel comic.  I’m pretty sure of it, in fact. I remember the rectangle in the upper left corner of every issue’s cover that showed Spider-Man or somebody, not the DC circle.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Brief Lives Part 6 – Sandman Meditations

The sixth chapter sits roughly in the middle of Brief Lives, and it is suffused with a kind of mid-life melancholy. Or perhaps not melancholy exactly, but rather pensive yearning and contemplative reflection. Reconciliations and reconfigurations. The characters’ histories are long and a bit dusty, and many seem now on the verge of significant change, though no-one knows what that change will be. Everyone knows their stories must go somewhere, but there are nearly infinite wheres out there.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Imperfect Hosts – Sandman Meditations

Throughout the second Sandman, I kept wishing the characters would stop talking.

Everything in a comic is visual, but though we pull the words off the page with the same eyes that perceive the pictures, they serve different functions and go to different parts, I suppose, of our brains.  Were we to be dropped into the diegesis, we’d still perceive the characters and settings through our eyes, but the words that they speak would enter through another organ: our ears.  Same thing if the comic were a movie, or at least a movie since the advent of the talkies.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Brief Lives: Chapter 5 – Sandman Meditations

At the end of the last chapter, I suspected Delirium driving a car would lead to some interesting adventures. In life, someone driving like that would be terrifying, but in our story here it’s hilarious, partly because I assumed she wouldn’t kill anybody, and so it was okay to laugh. Upset some people, certainly; cause some minor crashes even, yes, but if she wreaked so much havoc that anyone died, it would create a tone for the story that could be unsettling in an unhelpful way, making the comedy too dark to be comedic. The traffic on page four is akimbo, but spaciously so. If Delirium had tried driving in, say, Boston, where the roads are often narrow, confusing, and terribly overcrowded, the results might have been a bit different.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Brief Lives: Chapter 4 – Sandman Meditations

There’s something thrilling about the secret spaces of secret identities. Sometimes, of course, they’re fascinating in and of themselves — think of the Batcave, or of Doc Savage’s Fortress of Solitude. But they’re still thrilling when they’re a basement room in a nondescript suburban house. That’s where Capax had stashed the souvenirs of his long life, as his son shows Dream and Delirium. The place reveals nothing to the son except that he had no idea what sort of person his father was. Krugerrands, strange substances, weapons, blank passports — as the son says, “This is like a spy movie or Mission Impossible or something.” (If only he knew just whom he was telling this to!)

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Brief Lives Chapter 2 – Sandman Meditations

Early in Tron: Legacy, some of the main characters sit down for a meal together. This struck me as odd when I watched the film, because at that point in the story, the characters were inside the virtual reality of The Grid, and were really nothing much more than conglomerations of computer code. Computer codes, of course, need something to sustain them, but they don’t usually go around having dinner with each other.

It’s an interesting and appropriate choice, though, for the story, because two of the characters are actually digitized humans, and we humans have built all sorts of rituals and habits around food.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Brief Lives Chapter 1 – Sandman Meditations

Now, opening the first pages of the seventh collection of The Sandman, some of the fun comes from knowing right where we are in the first panels. Disorientation has certainly been an element when beginning these stories, because they could be anywhere or anywhen, but re-orientation is also an important component — at first, the stories re-oriented us to narratives and characters from outside the Sandman universe, tales that began as myths or legends or novels or other comics, but now that we have hundreds of pages of this comic itself behind us, the re-orientations can be gloriously Ouroboric. Guessing at the re-orientations and then watching them unfold can be an exciting position to be in as a reader, and is one of the attractions of serial stories in general, though especially common and complex among The Sandman’s tendency to bust out the metatextual moves.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Ramadan – Sandman Meditations

UPDATE: A portion of this essay is based on a misreading. Not just a questionable interpretation or one of my more idiosyncratic reveries — no, literally a misreading, and one I did not learn about until after my mistake was already public. Please see the note at the end.

“Ramadan” is the final story in Fables & Reflections and was originally published as the fiftieth issue of Sandman. Appropriately, it’s a stunner. P. Craig Russell’s art is rich and imaginative, given extraordinarily vivid coloring by Digital Chameleon, and the story itself is one that seems simple for much of its length and then, in the last pages, gains new complexity and resonance.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Parliament of Rooks – Sandman Meditations

Before we get all philosophical and meditative (which we will), let’s begin by considering the many forms of the human and non-human characters in “Parliament of Rooks”. A lot of credit goes, I expect, to penciller Jill Thompson, who moves from the very thin lines of Lyta and her son Daniel, figures in a world of primarily horizontal and vertical shapes, to the rougher, thicker lines and shapes of the Dreaming, where the characters need to align with their representations from previous Sandman issues and from their incarnations in other comics. In addition to all that — enough to give even a talented artist a headache — somebody, most likely either Thompson or Gaiman, decided to depict Abel’s story of the early days of Death and Dream as a mix of anime and what looks to my eyes like some sort of Saturday morning TV cartoon show from the ’80s (it’s the sheep that creates this association for me; I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly why).

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

Brief Lives Chapter 3 – Sandman Meditations

Brief Lives is, in its plot, mostly transitional: it gets the characters moving and introduces us to people who will, I expect, be important along the way, but nothing quite begins or ends here.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Song of Orpheus – Sandman Meditations

Hearing the same story over and over is tedious, but hearing variations on a familiar story can be fun, as we’ve seen many times in The Sandman. The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the best-known of the Greek myths, and in a first reading of “Orpheus” (or “The Song of Orpheus” as its chapters are titled) the interest lies in comparing our knowledge, however vague, of how the traditional story progresses with our experience of how it takes shape here. Will Eurydice die and enter the underworld? Will Orpheus seek her? Will one of them turn around and thus cast Eurydice back into eternal death? How will the old myth mix with the new myth?

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Soft Places – Sandman Meditations

Marco Polo makes a perfect Sandman character because the book by which we know him best, The Travels of Marco Polo, does not exist in a definitive edition, and was first written down by Rustichello da Pisa, who was jailed with Polo in Genoa at the end of the thirteenth century. No definitive edition of the book exists, nor does it even have a stable name — it’s been published as Description of the World, Books of the Marvels of the World, and Oriente Poliano, among other titles.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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August – Sandman Meditations

A week or two before I read “August”, I watched Derek Jarman’s 1976 film Sebastiane, supposedly the first feature performed entirely in Latin. St. Sebastian, the subject of Jarman’s movie, lived two hundred years after Augustus Caesar, the subject of this issue of The Sandman, and I mention it only because both items reminded me of what a terrible student of Latin I had been in high school. I’d taken the language because I’d been told it was an excellent way to learn more about the English language, and to some extent I suppose this is true (when grammarians eventually decided to try to tame the wild English tongue, they applied the rules of Latin grammar, since Latin was respectable; this is the source of some of the most ridiculous crotchets of pedants, such as the command to never split an infinitive — infinitives in Latin are one word, so can’t be split. But I digress…)

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Hunt – Sandman Meditations

Stories and their tellers, dreams and their dreamers; history, myth, overlapping realities — “The Hunt” is in many ways a prototypical Sandman story.

The layers of storytelling in “The Hunt” are numerous, with nearly every character at least briefly a teller or receiver of tales. The frame story gives us the grandfather as narrator and his granddaughter as audience. She’s not really a stand-in for us, as I expect most readers will not be as impatient as she, for, unlike her, we’ve come to this story deliberately.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Thermidor – Sandman Meditations

The last time I remember meeting Lady Johanna Constantine was in the fourth part of A Doll’s House, “Men of Good Fortune”, where Dream said: “Her kind walk amidst the flotsam of lives they have sacrificed for their own purposes, till friendless and alone they needs must make the final sacrifice.”

Now, in “Thermidor”, The Sandman revisits Lady Johanna, who lives in Wych Cross, England, the place, in fact, where we first saw Dream, for that was the home of Roderick Burgess in “Sleep of the Just” and the place of Dream’s imprisonment.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Fear of Falling and Three Septembers and a January – Sandman Meditations

I’ll admit it: I’m cheating. This iteration of the Sandman Meditations will discuss two Sandman episodes instead of the regular one.

Fables & Reflections collects a group of Sandman stories that appeared in a variety of venues over a fairly wide range of time. Having read only the first two at this point, I don’t know if there are linking threads, themes, or threnodies among the stories, but we can revisit the idea at the end of the book.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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A Game of You: I Woke Up and One of Us was Crying – Sandman Meditations

A Game of You ends with aftermath, and once again in The Sandman, the center of the story is revealed to be somewhere other than where we might have thought it was. Early on, it seemed the focus of the tale would be the troubles of The Land and the quest to destroy the Cuckoo, but while the troubles and quest were certainly important to the plot, they don’t seem now, to me at least, to carry the weight of the story’s concerns.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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A Game of You: Over the Sea to Sky – Sandman Meditations

What is most immediately striking about Chapter 5 of A Game of You is how bright its first pages are. Aside from the strong blue and orange of the curtains and furniture in some of the panels, and the red ribbons in the Cuckoo’s hair, these are pages dominated by whiteness and weak colors. The effect suggests incompleteness and possibility, like a child’s coloring book that has only occasionally received the child’s attention.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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A Game of You: Beginning to See the Light – Sandman Meditations

There’s plenty to think about in Chapter Four, the first chapter primarily set in The Land, that place of mysterious wonder and terror where animals talk and Barbie is a princess. There’s plenty to think about, but after reading this chapter, my thoughts kept returning to one subject: the deaths of main characters in stories.

I’m not sure whether we’d qualify Wilkinson’s death in this chapter as that of a main character, since we had only just gotten to know him when he was murdered. But, like most of the characters in A Game of You (whether in The Land or New York), he was vivid, interesting, and likeable. I was looking forward to spending more time with him.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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A Game of You: Bad Moon Rising – Sandman Meditations

Our characters awake from the bad dreams of the previous chapter and enter a nightmare reality. Chapter three presents one of the essential, unavoidable moments in any fantasy story that mixes a world that lacks supernatural elements with a world where the supernatural is present and accounted for: the moment where the characters must reconcile the actual and the impossible. In the first pages, Hazel and Foxglove think they have woken into a world where the laws of the universe are closer to the laws of physics than the laws of fairy tales. Thessaly, a voyager from a rather different realm, enters their apartment and ushers them into a world of disturbing, bewildering magic.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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A Game of You: Lullabies of Broadway – Sandman Meditations

The second chapter of A Game of You begins with Hazel coming to Barbie’s apartment to get some advice: Hazel reveals that she is pregnant, and doesn’t know what to do, because she knows more superstitions about pregnancy than facts.

Such ignorance seems odd to me for a woman in her subculture in New York City, and strains credibility a bit — not so much that Hazel thinks standing up during sex is an effective method of contraception (plenty of people, to their regret, have believed this), but that Hazel thinks a pregnancy test requires killing a rabbit. That’s more something we might expect to hear from a stereotypical character from Deepest Appalachia than from a lesbian in Manhattan.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Slaughter on 5th Avenue – Sandman Meditations

A Game of You is the first Sandman story of which I had any prior knowledge before plunging into it. That’s because the introduction to the book is written by Samuel R. Delany and was included along with two other essays about Neil Gaiman in Delany’s 1999 collection Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts and the Politics of the Paraliterary. I’ve spent much of my life reading Delany’s work, and Shorter Views is among my favorites of his books. Indeed, it may even be the place where I first learned of The Sandman, because the only time I remember hearing Gaiman’s name before that was when a friend remarked that some British comics guy named Neil Gaiman would be writing an episode of our favorite TV show, Babylon 5, back in the 1990s. When it aired, we both liked that episode, but neither of us were comics readers, and at the time that was all we thought he did, so we didn’t seek out his other work. Our loss.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Season of Mists: Epilogue – Sandman Meditations

The end of Season of Mists sends stray characters on mostly separate ways, cleaving them from their pasts and their partners. The only pair that survives this chapter intact is that of Remiel and Duma, the “winners” of Hell (though Duma seems to have gone mute). Nada gets new life, Loki is given indebted freedom, Nuala is cast out of Faery and consigned to the Dreaming, Lucifer is briefly befriended alone on a beach in Australia before he is left to himself and the sunset, and Destiny, alone in his Garden of Forking Paths, reads the tale and closes the book.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Season of Mists: Episode 6 – Sandman Meditations

Figuring out what to do with Hell was not just a problem for The Sandman, but also for Neil Gaiman, because significantly altering the meaning and purpose of a common cultural concept might pose problems later in the story. Though there are, of course, all sorts of theological disputes about what exactly “Hell” means, in general usage, Hell is the fiery place full of sinners and at least one devil. (Unless you’re Jean Paul Sartre, in which case Hell is other people.)

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Season of Mists Episode 5 – Sandman Meditations

The fifth episode of Season of Mists is a transitional one — the various contenders for Hell arrive in The Dreaming to make their case to The Sandman for why they should be the rulers of Hell now that it’s been abandoned by Lucifer and emptied of its denizens. There’s a banquet, and Dream meets with various folks who want to bribe or threaten him to favor them. At the end, he seems to remain undecided.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Season of Mists: Episode 4 – Sandman Meditations

The fourth episode of Season of Mists, and the twenty-fifth issue of The Sandman, sits as a set of black pages in the middle of the book. We’ve seen black-backed pages before (the first pages of Episode 0, in fact), but not this many at once. The effect is powerful, setting the panels off from the background like framed pictures, like snapshots — moments of the past captured, frozen, eternal.

We begin, though, in something like the present: December 1990. We meet two boys, Rowland and Paine, and then we see six panels of Rowland’s terrors, with Dream behind the panels, arms folded and countenance stern. It’s a Sunday morning, Paine reveals, and he and Rowland are in a chapel. Hymns surround them. Rowland is strangely upset by this. “Chapel?” he says. “But who have they got to pray to? That’s sick…”

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Season of Mists: Episode 3 – Sandman Meditations

A friend of mine told me he first got hooked on The Sandman when he read some of the original Doll’s House issues and found them to be among the creepiest, most disturbing comics he’d read. Much as I enjoyed The Doll’s House, I didn’t really find them creepy or particularly horrifying (which may say more about me than them).

But the two images of Loki at the top of the third page of Season of Mists’s third episode are among the grossest things I’ve seen in the series: Loki bound in his son’s entrails. The idea alone is revolting enough, but then to have it portrayed there on the page takes it into realms of splatter far beyond the killings and tortures of previous issues.

Entrails. Yum.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Season of Mists: Episode 2 – Sandman Meditations

Welcome back to Hell.

Of course, we knew we’d get here sooner or later, since we were set up to see Season of Mists as a kind of Orpheus and Eurydice quest, but Episode 2 throws a wrench or two in the engine of our expectations. Quest stories often tend to be structured as a series of picaresque adventures, with each turn of the tale increasing the stakes for the protagonist, like walking up a giant metaphysical staircase. If Season of Mists were that sort of quest story, it would have been much harder for Dream to get to Hell, and he might only have gotten there toward the middle of the full story arc, having overcome various obstacles along the way.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Season of Mists: Episode 1 – Sandman Meditations

The first panel of this issue sets up Hell not as a definitive place, but as “a place that wasn’t a place”.  Hell is as much part of a story as part of a reality: “Once upon a time…” Yet there is something stable to it, because though it has had many names and though it is not a place and though it is part of a story, there is still an “it” for the narrator to refer to: “We’ll call it Hell.”

(I’m just going to pause for a moment to point to the poetry of that sentence: look at all the double-l’s! And it’s a sentence of four words, three of which have four letters!)

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Season of Mists: Prologue – Sandman Meditations

One of the most famous stories by the great 20th century Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges is, it seems to me, echoed via allusion in the first two panels of the prologue to Season of Mists. “Walk any path in Destiny’s garden, and you will be forced to choose, not once but many times. The paths fork and divide.”

The first Borges story to appear in English was “The Garden of Forking Paths”. It was published in the August 1948 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in a special “United Nations Issue” of the magazine. It has one of the more remarkable tables of contents of any magazine issue I know, with stories by Cornell Woolrich, Ferenc Molnár, Georges Simenon, Karel Čapek, and Anton Chekhov.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Facade – Sandman Meditations

Stories about faces freak me out.

This wasn’t the case until I was nineteen and my face changed quite severely because of what was, I was told, basically a lymph node disorder.  It took a year to get a proper diagnosis, and another year of heavy-duty medications to solve the problem, so I spent about eighteen months with a severely and obviously swollen face, the sort of face that caused people to ask me if I’d been stung by a bunch of bees, the sort of face that made people look at me for just a few moments longer than they would have otherwise: I had a face that was clearly not right.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Sandman Meditations

Dates in fiction always cause my meaning-minded ears to prick up, and when a date is the first text in an issue of Sandman, a work rich with allusions, I pay close attention.

“June 23rd, 1593” are the words that invoke this story, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  June 23rd: St. John’s Eve, one of the days of the midsummer solstice.  1593, the year Christopher Marlowe died.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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A Dream of a Thousand Cats – Sandman Meditations

What an appropriate time to read the second story in Dream Country, “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” — I have only in the last two weeks become a servant to cats again, myself.  One of them, a long-haired black and white fellow named Alex, seven years old and quite happy to no longer be at the shelter where he lived for a few months, sat on my lap and observed what I was reading.  His brother, Oliver (white and brown), watched from a chair across the room.  They are champion nappers, but neither napped while I read.  They seemed both intrigued and suspicious.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Calliope – Sandman Meditations

I could have been really cheeky and declared that I couldn’t come up with an idea for this column.

That, after all, is the situation of Richard (aka Ric) Madoc in “Calliope” — he’s a writer who has published one novel, The Cabaret of Doctor Caligari (a title that would be, I must admit, just about enough to make me buy the book without knowing anything else about it), but who has run into total writer’s block.  From an elderly writer, Erasmus Fry, Madoc gets a muse.  Literally.  He gets Homer’s muse, Calliope, the muse of heroic poetry.  Fry has held her captive for decades, and trades her to Madoc for a bezoar.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Lost Hearts – Sandman Meditations

Endings are tough, especially in the realm of the Endless. “Lost Hearts” concludes The Doll’s House, but it’s also a waystation, a rest before another tale.

I’ve got to admit, this was my least favorite of the Doll’s House stories.  It felt too explicit, too explanatory, too determined to try to make us feel something for Rose and the other characters.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Into the Night – Sandman Meditations

At the same time I read the sixth part of A Doll’s House, “Into the Night”, I was reading a very different book, Gabriel Josipovici’s What Ever Happened to Modernism?. I certainly wasn’t thinking I would see any echoes of Josipovici in The Sandman or vice versa — after all, Josipovici at one point highlights approvingly what he sees as the Modernist dislike of fantasy (and, as he notes, realism too): “Not out of Puritan disdain for the imagination or the craft of letters, but out of respect for the world.”  I’m too much of a postmodernist (world?!  Pah!), and too enamored of weirdness as a quality unto itself to have a whole lot of sympathy for such a view, myself, of course, but you can see from it how a connection to The Sandman might not be particularly expected within Josipovici’s definition of Modernism.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Collectors – Sandman Meditations

Well, here we are: The Cereal Convention.

There are millions (more!) things I would like to know about life, the universe, and everything; one of them is if Robert Bloch ever read “Collectors”.  He’d have enjoyed it, I’m sure.  Bloch is the man who gave us Norman Bates and “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” and a novel about the Chicago World’s Fair serial killer H.H. Holmes, American Gothic.  Bloch was a man with a playful, dark sense of humor — he called his autobiography “unauthorized” and was also, I believe, the originator of one of my favorite quips, something along the lines of: “Despite my age, I have the heart of a young boy.  I keep it in a jar on my desk.”

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Men of Good Fortune – Sandman Meditations

On the second page of “Men of Good Fortune”, Geoffrey Chaucer tells a friendly critic that he writes the way he does because he likes it, and, he says, “I enjoy tavern tales told of an evening.”

“Men of Good Fortune” is a kind of tavern tale, at the very least because it is set in a tavern, but it ranges over centuries of evenings.  Dream meets once every hundred years with a man whose name changes over time, but who was first known as Hob.  He is a man who has decided not to die (or, perhaps, who lives because he has not yet decided to die).  There’s a certain Forrest Gump element to the story, with various eminent historical figures appearing or alluded to during each century (Chaucer, William Caxton, Shakespeare, Jack the Ripper…), but while such an approach in other stories can be cloying, here it is an extension of the allusiveness that has filled The Sandman so far.  It serves a greater purpose, though, in setting up the final panels, which prove surprisingly moving.  It’s a marvelous example of misdirection — as our attention is caught in cleverness, we don’t notice the sentiment sneaking up until it springs into view like a jack-in-the-box Athena.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Playing House – Sandman Meditations

“I bet you’ll like The Doll’s House,” my friend Eric Schaller said to me before I started reading it.  “It’s got serial killers in it.”

Eric knows comics and he knows me and he knows I have a slight fascination with serial killers.  It’s the result, I expect, of having read Robert Bloch’s story “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” at an early age.  I loved the story, wanted to know more about Jack the Ripper, and discovered a few books at the library on the subject.  Some of the books put the Ripper in the context of the history and psychology of serial murder.  The information was so bizarre and so obviously not intended for a child of my age that I couldn’t stop reading.  From then on, stories with any sort of serial killers in them would snarl my attention in a second. Eventually, I even discovered that America’s first famous serial killer, H.H. Holmes (real name: Herman Mudgett), was born in my own state of New Hampshire, and that Robert Bloch had written about him, too, in a novel published a year before I was born, American Gothic.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Moving In – Sandman Meditations

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’m such a shallow person that the biggest kick I got out of Sandman issue 11, “Moving In”, was discovering that Dream’s crow assistant shares my name.  It was actually shocking when I first read it, because I was bit tired, and I got absorbed in the many strands of the story that were coming together, and then there, on page nine, DREAM WAS SPEAKING TO ME!

“Hello, Matthew,” he said.  “The surveillance goes well, I presume.”

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Doll’s House – Sandman Meditations

The Doll’s House” begins the story arc of the Sandman issues also called The Doll’s House, and the colors on the first page feel like an inversion of the colors on the last pages of the previous issue: the prologue that was “Tales in the Sand“.  “Tales” ended with two horizontal panels, a diptych that seemed like windows on a landscape where pastel yellow and blue filled the sky and white covered the bottom third of the image.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Tales in the Sand – Sandman Meditations

“Tales in the Sand” is the prologue to the second set of Sandman stories, The Doll’s House, and it’s utterly different from anything in Preludes & Nocturnes right from the first panels.  The title page is almost abstract in its imagery: the pastel yellow and red of a desert fills a background of triangles and trapezoids; two small figures carrying spears and wearing traditional garb walk in the middle ground; the foreground is dominated and bisected by a black spear.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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The Sound of Her Wings – Sandman Meditations

With the eighth issue, the Sandman is free for the first time of all the concerns that occupied him previously, and so “The Sound of Her Wings” is a kind of coda to the tale up to this point.  It’s a particularly interesting issue in that it has no overt conflict; what conflict there is exists within Dream himself.

This issue luxuriates in the freedom from a need to advance the plot.  For the first time, we get some glimpses of Dream as a character, someone with complex thoughts and feeling.  Though the story ranges across time and space, it feels as focused as “24 Hours” because it is primarily a dialogue between Dream and his sister, whom we eventually discover is Death, the god Roderick Burgess tried to imprison in the first issue, when he instead summoned and captured Dream.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Sound and Fury – Sandman Meditations

The seventh issue of Sandman wraps up most of the story arc, and our readerly expectations of such things are that they should feel climactic.  And yet there’s little suspense or excitement in the narrative of “Sound and Fury”, because Dream’s character isn’t particularly well developed yet, and it’s hard to drum up a lot of concern for his fate.  In previous issues, this hasn’t been too much of a problem, because so many of the characters around Dream were compelling; here, where the story’s central concern is with Dream’s battle with Dee for the ruby, the vagueness of our main character helps sap the issue of any real tension.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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24 Hours – Sandman Meditations

Sometimes we speak of writers “weaving a web” or creating a “web of story” — a metaphor that suggests not just interconnections of plot, character, theme, imagery, but also suggests something that gets caught.  Webs are more than complex, elegant designs; they are traps.  Traps of attention, of imagination.  Readers, in this metaphor, are flies.

The metaphor is given life in “24 Hours” right from the first words: “Hour 1: The flies walked into the web.”  John Dee, sitting in the darkness of himself at a back corner of a diner, thinks of the patrons as flies.  The power of the ruby gives him the ability to shape people’s lives any way he chooses.  The power he has stolen from Dream is the power of the storyteller.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Passengers – Sandman Meditations

In 1969, Robert Silverberg won a Nebula Award for a story called “Passengers” that begins with these sentences: “There are only fragments of me left now.  Chunks of memory have broken free and drifted away like calved glaciers.”

Silverberg’s story is quite different* from the Sandman story Neil Gaiman named “Passengers”, but those opening sentences have resonance here.  Dream is still trying to recover from his imprisonment, still trying to gain strength, still trying to find the artifacts of his power.  Perhaps more than Silverberg it is T.S. Eliot we should invoke, one of the last lines of “The Waste Land”: These fragments I have shored against my ruins.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.

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Sleep of the Just – Sandman Meditations

 

Prolegomenon – You should not expect expertise. There are other sources of that, encyclopedias and annotations, websites and Wikipedia entries, oracles and seers. I’m here for an experiment: to see what happens when someone who has only basic experience with comics and graphic novels encounters one of the classics of the field.

Wake up, Sir. We’re here.

Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including One Story, Weird Tales, Locus, Rain Taxi, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. A collection, Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016. He is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies and currently a co-editor of the occasional online magazine The Revelator. His blog, The Mumpsimus, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2005. He is working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Hampshire, where his research focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, and Samuel R. Delany.