Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand
Vonda N. McIntyre
second last entry in Phase I of Young People Read Old SFF is Vonda N.
McIntyre’s 1973 Nebula award-winning “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”,
later expanded into the Hugo winning novel, Dreamsnake.
I am pretty confident the double win is a good sign, and that
McIntyre is modern enough in her sensibilities to appeal to my Young
you, I’ve been wrong on that last point before....
Mist, and Grass, and Sand” is
I was unable to find it at Chapters-Indigo).
spent a while when reading this one playing the 'is this fantasy, or
science fiction that looks like fantasy?' game. I wondered if there
was a more high tech society that Snake was from, maybe this was a
story about class divides in extraplanetary colonies. I don't think
it is. Usually the author is much more excited to reveal that 'it was
in space the whole time!' and this story didn't have that.
going to cut Snake some slack because she was young and exhausted and
starving throughout the story. If you're going to look down on people
for being dumb, panicky, superstitious, and unwilling to even explain
their superstitions, the least you can do as the more 'advanced' one
is try to explain your own actions. Snake really played up the witch
act without any attempt at explaining what the snakes were for. Maybe
I'm too optimistic about the power of explaining what you're doing.
Maybe explaining that Grass's bites didn't kill, they just caused
dreams, would have been enough to prevent what happened.
enjoyed the story. It didn't spend a lot of time explaining itself,
and didn't need to. It had probably just the right amount of
exposition for a short story.
of the interesting things about these stories is that when I start
reading, I never know what I'm going to get. Humans or Robots? High
Tech or Low Tech? Earth, another planet, or outer space? Actual
stories with plot or weird essay about random crap?
answer my previous questions as they relate to Of Mist, and Grass,
and Sand – humans, low tech, not space, and lots of snakes. Snakes
that are named Mist, Grass, and Sand, and a human named Snake. Which
made orienting myself within the story a bit of a task.
reading Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand, I looked it up on wikipedia. I
liked the story enough, and was intrigued enough by the person named
Snake, that I would consider reading Dreamsnake (even with the pulpy
title), so that's a win. But two things stuck with me that I'm
starting to wonder about the genre:
part of the reward of reading SFF figuring out the who, what, when
and where of the story? I feel like in many other genres, these
things are pretty clear up front. But my enjoyment of these stories
after figuring out the planet and species featured in the story is
way higher than my relative enjoyment of the stories before figuring
that out. Maybe I've started being more positive about the stories
because once I figure out what's going on, they're (at the very
least) alright, as opposed to frustrating?
are people in SFF so reluctant to give their names to strangers, or
to anyone at all? I feel like this has come up in other stories
before. Does giving someone your name give them power over you? Is
this something that has to do with magic, or something else unique
to the SFF genre? If anyone could explain that to me, that would be
off the bat, the writing style reminded me of Ursula Le Guin. In
contrast to Le Guin, though, I liked this story more than the Wizard
of Earthsea books. This author doesn’t have the slightly
condescending? ... tone that ‘simple’ writing has sometimes.
fact, I wasn’t sure if this story was aimed at younger readers. I
would have loved this story when I was 7* – around the same time I
started reading The Chronicles of Narnia.
liked the little indications and discussions of ideas. Three parents
for the child are casually mentioned.
briefly critiques this unemotional society for being too repressed.
Ahem. I’m looking at you, people who tell others “Get over it.
You shouldn’t be mourning for that person anymore.” No. People
are allowed to feel things. I still occasionally tear up because I
miss my mom, and it’s been seven years. You don’t just stop.
loved the discussion about friendship. It reminded me of the extreme
extrovert vs. the extreme introvert. Extroverts tend to count a lot
of people as friends and can spread themselves thin. Introverts are
very selective, to the point of having no friends sometimes. I used
to be very shy and a bit more introverted: there were a few years as
a tween when I didn’t count anyone as a close friend.
reading the story and writing down my first impressions, I found out
this story won a Nebula award. I’m a little surprised. The story
was good and solid in my opinion, but it didn’t blow me away.
However, it did make me curious to learn more about Snake’s
training, the towns and the big city.
will add Dreamsnake to my long list of “things I would like to read
eventually, if I ever get the time”. Somewhere below Jasper Fforde
novels. Somewhere above Robinson Crusoe.
was a precocious reader. I started reading Beatrix Potter silently
around 2 or 3 years old, so age up appropriately for an average or
slow reader because of the story’s vocabulary.
enjoyed this story.
liked Snake as a character. I liked that here we have a woman who’s
an expert in her field, and that the story never made her gender an
issue. Nobody remarks about her being a woman alone, she’s allowed
to get on with the job she needs to do.
a bit uncomfortable about how judgy she was of the culture that she
was visiting, but I liked that it gave us the chance to see her
values and expectations. I really liked the discussion of friendship.
How both characters considered it important, but approached it in
very different ways. I’m not sure if the ending was trying to imply
that they were romantically interested in each other, but it was left
ambiguous enough that it didn’t undermine the discussion of
friendship for me.
snake healing idea had enough of an explanation that I was willing to
go along with it. The plot itself with the illness and healing didn’t
seem to be the point of the story so much as a platform to examine
the character interactions. I liked that the main conflict wasn’t
because of bad intent but instead from fear and ignorance.
was the first story we’ve read that felt to me like it could be a
modern story. The pacing of the story and the way the characters were
written felt a lot less dated than the other stories we’ve been
reading for this project.