Kij Johnson has long been one of my favorite short story writers. I first discovered her when I was doing my master and have kept an eye out ever since. She’s low key in many ways, in that most readers don’t know about her, but those who do really enjoy her work. Maybe she has something of a cult following.
Her work is often whimsical or fairy-tale-esk, and this piece, Chenting, In The Land of The Dead, is no different.
So, a scholar is offered a job as the governor of Chenting, a town or village, in the land of the dead. He isn’t dead yet, but an ambassador lets him know that he will be soon. He takes the job, as it is the only one offered him, and when he dies he goes to Chenting.
Before he dies, however, he has a long talk with his mistress about what Chenting will be like. She thinks it will be a horrible place of fire and brimstone and what we commonly think of as “rather hellish.” On the other hand, the scholar believes Chenting will be a beautiful place and when he arrives he is proven right. It is a wonderful place.
In joy and relief, he sends a message to his mistress to come meet him and live with him in the land of the dead. She comes.
I won’t ruin the end.
This piece is short, concise, and a study of how our expectations oftentimes create the reality we live. A quick and good read. (C+)