The ED SF Project

The Ellen Datlow/SCI FICTION Project, that is. We're showing the love for five and a half years of great short fiction, and we need your help! We've got over 300 stories to cover, so if you're a person who loves short speculative fiction, we want you. Go here to read the list and add your voice.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Hula Ville" by James P. Blaylock: An Appreciation by Amy Sterling Casil

Hula Ville was once a real landmark on the famous "Route 66" going to or from the High Desert in Southern California. It's not the kind of place any of my people would have been inclined to stop at when I was growing up. Although it's absolutely my kind of place, I never managed to stop there before it sank back into the desert sands.

So, I read "Hula Ville" by Jim Blaylock.

When I was 12, I woke and saw shining lights flickering at the foot of my bed and I was covered in electricity that made all my hair stand on end. For a long time I thought it was the spirits of Indians coming from their burial ground out in the wash. I have a hard time understanding why "Hula Ville" is in SCI FICTION. It's plain it's a true story. The problem is that most people don't understand what goes on out in these places. I guess they never heard that God does live in the desert. I know about those people that went out to Angel's Peak to get baptized. They all acted differently when they came back. Considering the pretty near total lack of what all went on in my town back in those days, it was a good thing.

As Jim writes about this fellow who went out to Hula Ville,

When I was twelve years old, I awoke in the night to find a strange man standing at the foot of my bed, regarding me as I slept. Moonlight through the window cast what appeared to be the shadow of wings against the wall behind him. Instead of being terrified, I was filled with a radiant joy, and as he faded from existence it came into my head that I had been visited by an angel.

Of course he was.

"Hula Ville" has some of Jim's most beautiful writing, and that's saying a lot. It's as stark and graceful as the Mojave itself, where the story is mostly-set. People might not understand that the fellow who visits Hula Ville and who made the desert trek to see what he could see, lives in a terrible place as the story begins. Not magical at all, and not much the kind of place you'd expect angels to visit. Open to wonder, the fellow journeys to Hula Ville and gets a map of the desert and all of its magical places. His journey starts and ends at the amazing Hula Ville--and the thing about places like Hula Ville, which to my knowledge you see only in the Mojave, is that they are testaments to human dreams. The dreams might not make sense to other people. They make sense to their single-minded creators. Scotty's Castle. That lady that has the Opera House in Death Valley. I saw a fellow who had surrounded his house with giant desert rocks, out by Baker.

This road that the fellow takes, where Hula Ville once was, was Route 66, and everyone knows what kind of road that was. It's I-15 now, and mostly, it's the way to Vegas. Thousands of people drive that way every day, chasing a certain kind of dream.

But real dreams are out there in the desert, hidden in crags--found by distant desert oases. Some people chased gold. Others--angels.

This is one of Jim Blaylock's most evocative stories. Do read it.

Link to story.

Amy Sterling Casil
8 January 2007
Redlands, California


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