GOLUBASH, OR WINE-BLOOD-WAR-ELEGY
CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE
Catherynne M. Valente is the critically acclaimed author of The Orphan’s Tales, the first volume of which, In the Night Garden, won the Tiptree Award and was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. She is also the author of the novels The Labyrinth, Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams, and The Grass-Cutting Sword. Her lastest novel, Palimpsest —which she describes as “a baroque meeting of science fiction and fantasy”—was published in February.
Those familiar with Valente’s work may be surprised to see her name in this anthology; for although she is well-known in fantasy, this story marks her first foray into science fiction. Her fantasy writing is renowned for its exquisite prose style and its highly literary nature; I think you’ll find that’s true of her SF as well.
As the title implies, this one is about wine and war—a pleasing bouquet, with a hint of bloodshed.
The difficulties of transporting wine over interstellar distances are manifold. Wine is, after all, like a child. It can bruise. It can suffer trauma—sometimes the poor creature can recover; sometimes it must be locked up in a cellar until it learns to behave itself. Sometimes it is irredeemable. I ask that you greet the seven glasses before you tonight not as simple fermented grapes, but as the living creatures they are, well-brought up, indulged but not coddled, punished when necessary, shyly seeking your approval with clasped hands and slicked hair. After all, they have come so very far for the chance to be loved.
Welcome to the first public tasting of Domaine Zhaba. My name is Phylloxera Nanut, and it is the fruit of my family’s vines that sits before you. Please forgive our humble venue—surely we could have wished for something grander than a scorched pre-war orbital platform, but circumstances, and the constant surveillance of Ch^ateau Marubouzu-D'ebrouillard and their soldiers have driven us to extremity. Mind the loose electrical panels and pull up a reactor husk—they are inert, I assure you. Spit onto the floor—a few new stains will never be noticed. As every drop about to pass your lips is wholly, thoroughly, enthusiastically illegal, we shall not stand on ceremony. Shall we begin?