Sometimes every once in a great while-- we get to go where dreams are made.
About a month ago (as these words are being written) I had occasion to be in California with a few days of free time. In situations like this, I tend to get a severe case of "walkabout fever" and enjoy nothing more than taking car, motorcycle or bike to places I've not been before.
Santa Cruz seemed like a good place to go. We have relatives in the area, I know people there and who are from there, and I wanted to get some first-hand sense of what life was like nearly a year after the big earthquake of last October. The weather was wonderfully obliging; California gets warm blue days with just the right amount of humidity and just the right touch of coolth for walking around.
Santa Cruz itself is recovering well from its ordeal; it seems to me very much like an injured person who is well on the road to full health, but who will have scars, maybe a missing finger or two, and a limp that will be a long time in the accepting. Many of the downtown shops have had to relocate to temporary pavilions, and there are gaping holes in the ground where some buildings used to be. A few streets are themselves eerily silent, with boarded-up storefronts and chain-link fences keeping people away from unsafe structures, and yet the sun shines, the flowers grow, and the sounds of life and bustle filter over from the next block.
Since I am both bibliophile and packrat, I made my way to the bookshops. As you might expect in a town that is home to the University of California at Santa Cruz, where you find book stores you are also likely to find college students. At one cavernous used-book emporium I got into a conversation with folks who attend UCSC and, as one thing led to another, it came out that I do have a little to do with ELFQUEST.
It turned out that some of these students know ELFQUEST, and their reaction was a delighted "Oh yeah? You've got to go see Elf Land!"
Elf Land, my partners in coversation explained, is a wood located between the University's two main campuses. It's easy to find the entrance-- the students would be happy to give me directions to the place-- but once there I would be on my own. You see, they said, there are no maps of Elf Land; indeed, no map can be drawn. The land itself keeps changing...
The entrance (or an entrance; there are doubtless several) is at the end of a small road. To get there I drove past a good deal of beautiful campus, buildings nestled into redwood forest, footpaths and bridges over deep gorges. Much of it looks more like a campground than a university. I parked the rental car and, as I'd been instructed, looked for a path and started in.
I'm sure that Steven Spielberg knows of this place, or one like it. The opening scenes from "E.T." as the little alien waddles through cathedral-like woods, evoke exactly the feeling of Elf Land. The redwoods stand tall and arrow-straight, and late afternoon sunbeams like luminescent smoke give just enough light to navigate. The air outside is warm and dry; here it is cooler, almost damp. The silence is absolute.
I walked. There are paths; others have been here before, and laid sticks end to end to show the way. I don't say that other humans have done this, as I'd not be able to prove that. But someone has marked directions, and someone comes here from time to time. Or many someones, because here and there are... places. There's no other word, not homes or rest stops or hideaways, that really works. There are places, where a ring of redwoods surrounds an old, hollow trunk, where someone has woven branches into walls and a roof, where other someones have left a feather, or a coin, or a bit of incense, or a message painted on a piece of bark with dayglo colors. I didn't go looking for these places-- I just walked, turned comers, and there they were, half-hidden. The places, some of them, have names: Spider's Lair, Dwarves' Dale, Smoker's Den. I saw the Tree of Decision and the Tree of Peace. A huge redwood that had fallen across a gully was called the Bridge to Heaven; a smaller sign, pointing down into the gap, indicated the Way to Hell. Magic is there, all around, seeped into the loamy ground, tingling in the evening air. Dreams are made there, in the deep quiet. I stayed until it began to get dark, and felt very at home.
It took a while to find my way out of Elf Land, because my usually good bump of direction was useless. Oh well, I'd been warned that paths and landmarks would move when I wasn't looking. I believe it.
On the drive back into town, I thought about what else the UCSC students had told me, that by this time next year, Elf Land would be gone, taken by the University in order to expand its facilities. The problem is that the University is under a state mandate to accomodate every applicant who makes the grade, and there is no more room. New buildings, new dorms must, by law, be put up. And Elf Land is in the way.
I like to think that when the bulldozers come, someone--or many someones--will have moved the Trees and the Lairs and the Dens deeper back into the woods, reseeded the magic and gotten the paths to shifting around again. I'd certainly like to go back there, maybe trade a few words on a piece of bark for a dream, and feel that kind of "at home" again.
So with love for all those who've been there, and all the someones who live there, this issue is dedicated.
P.S. So the guy replied, "For vainglory." TBC in 60.
Skywise - I howl for his loss, but at the same time I am proud of him beyond words or reasons. I will wait to howl for Kahvi and the child, as I have waited for Two-Edge. You two have pulled too many fast ones for me to lay any bets. And thank the High Ones for a child's insight - above all, I do not want to have to mourn my beloved Strongbow. (He's turning into a regular blabbermouth, y'know? Three times he's talked in the last ten issues, as opposed to three times in the original twenty. And whaddaya mean, Leslie Holman, such a Republican? Yeesh!)
The bottom of page 14 in issue #2 - what a Beautiful Moment For Love. I am eager to learn how this rather awkward love affair will turn out - for Treestump's sake, I hope Clearbrook can learn to love him.
So tell us! Did we pull another fast one? And do you really think we're through doing it?
Well, you've done it. You have succeeded in getting our attention. What next? Sending the Palace of the High Ones into orbit?!!
Welllllll... Low orbit, anyway?
What I wanted to write to you about was the death of Starjumper. Now, all the wolves have no speaking parts, nor are there lengthy explanations about their past, but I felt that I knew Skywise's wolf. The love and respect between wolf and rider is the essence of their fellowship. How terrible it must have been for Skywise to put his old companion out of its pain. When Cutter's wolf died, he soon found a new one, Warfrost, to take its place. But sensitive Skywise may have difficulties with this tragic loss. Don't let him find a replacement so easily. Although Skywise owes it to Starjumper to carry on, I think the period of mourning may take many years.
Manila, The Philippines
You know how we are about being obvious. Skywise is just now starting to come to grips with questions having to do with immortality and death, questions that could be seen as pretty un-Wolfrider-ish. Cutter, on the other hand, seems settled within himself- but who knows what there is yet to learn.
"Some people say it with flowers, some people say it at Lloyd's, but you don't find many trying to say it with humanoids..." (Bonzo Dog Band, Humanoid Boogie, ca. 1968)
Irrelevant aside #1: My annual bout of flu arrived just in time to coincide with my purchase of Kings #2. Consequently this letter is being written under the influence of aspirin and caffeine. You have been warned.
It has been said before, but it bears repeating: ELFQUEST is absolutely unique. In terms of story, characterizations, dialogue, human insight and art quality there just nothing to match it.
That's basically the problem. You see what I'm saying? ELFQUEST is too unique. Although it's hard to imagine anyone outdoing EQ in terms of quality, it's a bit disconcerting to find that nobody seems to be trying. Or if they are, they're keeping very quiet about it.
OK, so what am I looking for specifically? Simple. Anything that doesn't involve superheroes, mutant animals, paranoid vigilantes, inner city angst, ageing hippies or graphic horror. In other words, just good original stories, well-written and well-drawn. (like mineral water, sort of. Rotten pun? You do better.) They don't even have to be SF or fantasy, how's that? just decent stories, funny, serious, or preferably both.
I'd like to know what the problem is. It surely can't be lack of talent. Is it indifference on the part of editors, or is it just that all the upcoming comic creators would prefer to draw teenage etc. animals? You tell me.
Am I going to get around to say anything about this issue? OK, OK...
The humor of the cover nicely counterpoints the serious events of this issue. It would be kinda nice if you could turn that around one day and surprise us with a liberal dose of humor in the story. It's been a while since you've done it but you proved it could be done.
Almost in spite of myself I'm becoming fascinated with Clearbrook. Just how she manages to find the patience to put up with Rayek in spite of all he's done ("Where did that bloody great canyon come from?" "Oh, that's Rayek's fault...") (Puns I wish I'd come up with... ed.) is beyond me. For that matter, I'd like to know why she never lost her confidence in him in Kings #1 despite Treestump's scepticism. I dare say the fact that he was custodian of One-Eye's body had something to do with it. Most of the time, Clearbrook's character seems to match her name, she's so perfectly calm and rational. And yet in times of stress she's perfectly capable of (say) cold-bloodedly stabbing Two-Edge. I'm quite sure there are facets of her personality that you haven't even begun to explore yet. (Incidentally, if Two-Edge is really dead, I'll eat my hat - but just in case I'm having it made of candy.)
And then of course there's this issue's big shock - the death of Starjumper. (I could point out that if you go on at this rate you'll run out of characters by the end of 1993, but of course I'd never make such a facetious remark.) Redlance and Nightfall saw it coming; through their eyes we all saw it coming. And of course Skywise saw it coming, however much he tried to deny it. What now? Good question. We've seen that Skywise sometimes overreacts in a crisis; the wolf fight is a prime example. Will he overreact now? Will he blame the Sun Folk for bringing their wolves? Will he blame himself? Will he lash out blindly at his friends? Will he sink into a black depression? Just don't let him get... too depressed. Otherwise that remark about running out of characters might not seem so facetious after all.
Miscellaneous remarks: As always, Petalwing getrs some of the best dialog. Just how do you manage to make baby-talk so damn eloquent? Speaking of which, I guess we'll be seeing a lot more of little Trinket in future issues. Ay caramba!
Don't think I didn't notice that Sun Person's little innuendo on page 18. Will Zhantee be asking Leetah for the next dance? And speaking of Leetah, just what is this promise she's made to the expectant couple, hm?
Finally, I read that time travel will play a part in future issues. All I can say is, you're sailing perilously close to the wind - time paradoxes, unless they form the basis of the plot, can seriously screw up a story's credibility. All the time travel business in Anne McCaffrey's Dragon novels just blew it for me. So be warned: One glimpse of a flying DeLorean and I'm outta here.
Such a letter! So round, so firm, so fully packed! Provocative... well-seasoned! So full of speculation! We love it! Some questions have, perhaps, been answered in this issue - but there's much more to come. See you in 60!