By John Hertz (reprinted in part from Vanamonde 1519):Absent Without Leave (2021) is the first of three novels about Valhalla by Lee Gold. The second is Into the Darkness (2022). The third should appear any day now.
You can’t hold copyright in a title. So the publisher, knowing there were other books called “Absent Without Leave”, put “Valhalla” before each of Gold’s. Look for them under “V”.
I happened upon Absent in a bookshop. Gold has said it “isn’t about the ancient Norse or … Vikings…. a modern … arrived at Valhalla [but isn’t] content [with] train[ing] to fight and die in Ragnarök [Norse, “the gods’ twilight” or “final destiny”, often prophesied as a climactic battle ending the world]. She wants to stop Ragnarök from happening!” The narrator telling us all this wants to remain anonymous, but slips often enough (“Oops,” p. 100) that we can infer who it is.
Ancient legend attracts and stymies many of us. Ooh, how colorful! Aiee, how could they think that? Introducing someone more like Us than like Them has often enough proved slippery: few stories succeed when there’s no one we can stand: few succeed when rather than run down an alien world they exalt it: comedy is trickier than ever, how shall we know what’s laughable? what if it’s laughable to Them but not to Us? And a bookful of allusions, or comedy, or both (those aren’t the same, even I know they aren’t), may not amount to a story.
Gold has a sense of story. And Absent shows thought, attention, wit.
Lee Gold has done so much in with for fandom (prepositions are idiomatic; I haven’t remembered from whom [Michael Flanders 1922-1975? — although I suspect he was quoting a schoolbook about Latin] I first heard “of, to, or for, by, with, or from”) that it’s a pleasure to be acquainted with her.
She and her husband Barry edited Along Fantasy Way, the Fan Guest of Honor book for Tom Digby at ConFrancisco the 51st World Science Fiction Convention; the electronic may see her 2014 revised edition at ConChord (ConChord 1983-2015 was a Southern California filkers’ convention; its Website continues; filk our home-made music, from a 1950s typographical error; Digby was a Guest of Honor at ConChord XX).
Once in the early days of Dungeons & Dragons with Lee Gold as Dungeonmaster my companions and I encountered strange — that may be redundant — vague fuzzy creatures. When one of us with magic powers cast the spell Detect Magic, the rest found ourselves infuriated: Why did you do that?? What a wretched thing to do! You’d better stand over there, away from us! Undaunted, the magician thought “Well, I’ll protect us from them” and cast the spell Sleep. Suddenly the creatures were fluffy, plainly had four legs, were seen to be white brown and black, and bleated. They were typos; they had turned the first spell into Detest Magic, the second into Sheep.
Gold’s contributions to filking led her to become editor-publisher of Xenofilkia; her contributions to fantasy role-playing games led to her becoming editor-publisher of Alarums & Excursions; both periodicals are ongoing.
I’ve said Cross-cultural contact is homework — oops, there goes half my readership — since you didn’t run away, I’ll continue with you — both of you — for science fiction. Or maybe speculative fiction, which I think should include both science fiction and fantasy, even though Heinlein thought it shouldn’t. Gold inter alia knows Norse and Japanese lore, getting published Land of the Rising Sun and GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System) Japan, and Vikings.
Oh, and if you know what Tuckerizations are, and you know who Robin_Johnson is, this one isn’t, just as there are other books called Absent Without Leave. This one just makes two Robin Johnsons I’m a fan of.
Just testing if I can leave a comment, since I can’t leave one on the latest Pixel Scroll.
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Lee Gold is one of the best, most reliable people in filkdom. She’s been turning out Xenofilkia on schedule for decades. I already have Absent Without Leave.
I attended her RPG room party at LA Con in 1984. It wasn’t a closed door party, but only people who had a familiarity with RPGs was allowed to stay. One such individual showed such familiarity, then, after Lee introduced herself, he said: “Lee Gold! I know you! You wrote the ruleset for ‘House of the Rising Sun’!”
It was actually “LAND of the Rising Sun.”
Although Lee did make some comment about writing a RPG set in whorehouse in New Orleans.