The Future is Blue

The Future is Blue

Illustration By Galen Dara

Dust jacket illustration by Galen Dara.

About the Book:

Subterranean Press is thrilled to present a major new collection from one of the most dazzling, distinctive voices in the literary world. Catherynne M. Valente, the New York Times bestselling and multiple-award-winning author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and other acclaimed novels, now brings readers thirteen stories unlike any others.

In the title story, Theodore Sturgeon Award-winning novelette “The Future Is Blue,” an outcast girl named Tetley lives on floating Garbagetown, in a world that dreams of the long lost land. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos is explored and reinvented in style in “Down and Out in R’lyeh.” In the novelette “The Limitless Perspective of Master Peek, or, the Luminescence of Debauchery,” Perpetua masquerades as a man in order to continue her father’s business as a glassblower and must fashion a special eye for a queen. And in “The Beasts Who Fought for Fairyland Until the Very End,” the wyvern A-Through-L, the warrior Green Wind and his giant cat the Leopard of Little Breezes cope with their broken-hearted disappointment over politicks as the evil Marquess ascends to rule. 

Of her previous collection, The Bread We Eat in Dreams, the New York Times said, “Valente’s writing DNA is full of fable, fairy tale and myth drawn from deep wells worldwide.” With The Future Is Blue she continues to build and invent unforgettable worlds and characters with lyrical abandon, creating stories that feel old and new at once.

The Future is Blue also includes three never-before-printed stories, for almost 30,000 words of work exclusive to this collection: “Major Tom,” “Two and Two is Seven,” and the long novelette “Flame, Pearl, Mother, Autumn, Virgin, Sword, Kiss, Blood, Heart, and Grave.”

Limited: 1250 signed numbered hardcover copies

Table of Contents:

  • The Future Is Blue
  • No One Dies in Nowhere
  • Two and Two is Seven
  • Down and Out in R'lyeh
  • The Limitless Perspective of Master Peek, or, the Luminescence of Debauchery
  • Snow Day
  • Planet Lion
  • Flame, Pearl, Mother, Autumn, Virgin, Sword, Kiss, Blood, Heart, and Grave
  • Major Tom
  • The Lily and the Horn
  • The Flame After the Candle
  • The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild
  • The Beast Who Fought for Fairyland Until the Very End

From Publishers Weekly:

 “In this challenging collection of 15 reprints and originals with a variety of tones, themes, and styles, Valente’s unique knack for bending genres and confounding the senses is on full display. Her approach is dreamlike, even hallucinatory, leaping from one idea to the next with dizzying frequency and skill. Her multilayered, complicated narratives require careful, in-depth reading to grasp their full meaning.”

From Kirkus Reviews:

“Valente (Space Opera, 2018, etc.) collects her fablelike short works of fantasy, science fiction, and science fantasy… Valente loves poetic language, and overanalysis would ruin what she's crafted here.”

From Booklist:

“This collection of short stories showcases Valente’s (Space Opera, 2018) gorgeous way with words and impressive genre flexibility as she moves from science fiction to fairy tale to comedic horror with her singular linguistic flair… Fans of Valente will adore this collection for the same reasons they love her other work; for those unfamiliar, it provides an engrossing and appealing introduction to the many worlds and voices she is capable of producing.”


The Future is Blue (excerpt)


My name is Tetley Abednego and I am the most hated girl in Garbagetown. I am nineteen years old. I live alone in Candle Hole, where I was born, and have no friends except for a deformed gannet bird I’ve named Grape Crush and a motherless elephant seal cub I’ve named Big Bargains, and also the hibiscus flower that has recently decided to grow out of my roof, but I haven’t named it anything yet. I love encyclopedias, a cassette I found when I was eight that says Madeleine Brix’s Superboss Mixtape ’97 on it in very nice handwriting, plays by Mr. Shakespeare or Mr. Webster or Mr. Beckett, lipstick, Garbagetown, and my twin brother Maruchan. Maruchan is the only thing that loves me back, but he’s my twin, so it doesn’t really count. We couldn’t stop loving each other any more than the sea could stop being so greedy and give us back China or drive time radio or polar bears.

But he doesn’t visit anymore.


No One Dies in Nowhere (excerpt)

First Terrace: The Late Repentant

There is a clicking sound before she appears, like a gas stove before it lights. One moment there is nothing, the next there is Pietta, though this is the last gasp of before/after causality in her pure, pale mind. Now that she is here, she will always have been here. Charcoal-blue rags twist and braid and drape around her body more artfully than any gown. A leather falcon’s hood closes up her head but does not blind her; the eyecups are a fine bronze mesh that lets in light. Long jessies hang from her thin wrists. This room which she has never seen belongs to her as utterly as her eyes: a monk’s cell, modest but perfect and graceful. Candles thick as calf-bones. Water in a black basin. A copper rain barrel, empty. She runs her hand along the smooth, wine-dark stone of her walls; her fingertips leave phosphor-prints. She lays down on her bed, a shelf for holding Piettas carved out of the rock, mattressed in straw and withered, thorny wildflowers that smell of the village where she was born. From the straw, she can look out of three slim glassless windows shaped like chess bishops. A grey, damp sky steals in, a burgling fog climbing up toward her, a hundred million kinds of grey swirling together, and the stars behind, waiting. Pietta remembers the feeling of the first day of school. She goes to the window and looks out, looks down. Her long hair hangs over the ledge like two thick vines. Black, seedless earth below, dizzyingly far. As close as spying neighbors across a shared alley, a sheer, knife-cragged mountain stretches up into the dimming clouds and disappears into oncoming night. The mountain crawls with people. Each carries a black lantern half as tall as they. A man with a short, lovely beard chokes on the smoke puking forth from his light, but even as he chokes, he holds it closer to his mouth, desperate to get more. Their eyes meet. Pietta holds up her hand in greeting. He opens his jaw far wider than any bone allows and takes long, sultry bites out of the smoke.

When she turns away, a bindle lies on her bed of stone and straw. A plain handkerchief knotted around a long, burled black branch. She looses the cloth. Inside she finds a wine bottle, a pair of scissors, a stone figure of a straight-backed child in a chair, a brass key, a cracked, worn belt with two holes torn through, and a hundred shattered shards of colored glass. Pietta picks up one of the blades of glass and holds it to her breast until it slices through her skin. The glass is violet. The blood never comes.


Two and Two is Seven (excerpt)

Maribel lived alone in the Valley of N.

She preferred living alone and she preferred the Valley of N to any other state of being or geographical happenstance she could imagine for herself. It seemed to her that she and the Valley of N had been made to suit one another, like a six-fingered glove and a six-fingered girl. Such a glove would be useless to anyone with five fingers, or three, or eleven, and such a girl would find a glove designed for a two, four, or seven fingered person impossible. Except for her ninety-nine misfortunes, she considered her existence complete and perfect.


Down and Out in R’lyeh (excerpt)

In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu farts in his sleep.

If you’re dank like me, you gibber up the Old Fuck’s brainspout, crouch in there full gargoyle on his raggedy roof, wrap your gash around the slime-lung chimney, and huff that vast and loathsome shit like the space-curdled milk of your mama’s million terror-tits. Up you get, fœtid freak-babbies of the ultradeep! The nightmare beyond time and geometry and madness has an upset tum-tum. Whiff up those gargantuan gastrointestinal fugue-bubbles! Clog down the occult emanations of the Elder God! When his antediluvian ass-bombs explode all over your needy neurons, you’ll smell the apocalyptic expanse of frozen galaxies screaming forever into a red and hungry void—and just a hint of fresh eucalyptus.

That’s all Shax and Pazuzu and my own personal self were after that night. Just a couple of eeries looking to get squamous, to swipe a little snatch of wholesome fun from the funktacular funerary fundament belonging to the Big Boss, a hit big enough to drop our brains out the bottoms of our various appendages and forget the essential, unalterable, sanity-shearing truth of our watery and unfeeling cosmos:

R’lyeh sucks.

Seriously. The heaving, putrescent streets swollen with black spores of dementation and the bilge water of a hundred billion nightmares, the crawling hallucinogenic slime choking every unreal gutter and askew alley, the tacky interdimensional shopfronts selling rubbish nobody wants, the ugly, kitschy non-Euclidean central business district brooding and moping up in your face, the noxious monoliths, the howling sepulchers, the best minds of your generation destroyed by madness starving hysterical naked dragging themselves through the gentrified neighborhoods looking for something to do, it’s all just the fucking worst. Trust me. I was born here. I was into nuclear chaos beyond the nethermost outposts of space and time before it was cool.

But anyway.


Snow Day (excerpt)

22. Tea for Three
Published 1934, Harem House Press, 128 pages

Gudrun hated her name, her mother, and bad art. She loved her house, a wild turkey called Murray who had decided to live out his sunset years in her garden, and Cold Palace Brand No. 1 Silver Needle Tea, which, by the time the rest of everything started up, had been off the shelves for sixteen years, its manufacturer bankrupt, its overseas contracts liquidated, and its remaining inventory burned to exquisite ash on the banks of the Min River in Fujian Province as a helpful illustration of the myriad benefits to be found in punctually presenting the correct money to the correct people. Gudrun had not stockpiled. Why should she? Her lifeblood had waited loyally for her in Mr. Abalone’s shop since the first time her mother dragged her into the village for a guilty relapse into cigarettes and beef jerky, stacked in delicate tins with white peonies embossed on the mirrored metal like aching frost. It always would wait for her. Cold Palace Brand No. 1 Silver Needle Tea was a fundamental element underlying the known universe. Until it didn’t, and it wasn’t, and then it was too late to do anything but curl her face into a ferocious, animal sneer when the black-eyed man behind the counter suggested Lipton instead, it’s all the same, you know, plants is plants.

Gudrun wanted a color television, to live forever, and to have a child. But she was about to turn forty and all of human civilization was about to end, so only one of those seemed vaguely realistic anymore.


The Lily and the Horn (excerpt)

War is a dinner party.

My ladies and I have spent the dregs of summer making ready. We have hung garlands of pennyroyal and snowberries in the snug, familiar halls of Laburnum Castle, strained cheese as pure as ice for weeks in the caves and the kitchens, covered any gloomy stone with tapestries or stags’ heads with mistletoe braided through their antlers. We sent away south to the great markets of Mother-of-Millions for new silks and velvets and furs. We have brewed beer as red as October and as black as December, boiled every growing thing down to jams and pickles and jellies, and set aside the best of the young wines and the old brandies. Nor are we proud: I myself scoured the stables and the troughs for all the strange horses to come. When no one could see me, I buried my face in fresh straw just for the heavy gold scent of it. I’ve fought for my husband many times, but each time it is new all over again. The smell of the hay like candied earth, with its bitter ribbons of ergot laced through—that is the smell of my youth, almost gone now, but still knotted to the ends of my hair, the line of my shoulders. When I polish the silver candelabras, I still feel half a child, sitting splay-legged on the floor, playing with my mother’s scorpions, until the happy evening drew down. 


Galen Dara
Catherynne M. Valente
Deluxe Limited
376 pages
United States
Subterranean Press
Out of Print