Questions for “Dreamers of the Grail,” by Dale Geraldson:
1) What do you think the Grail actually
is? Are the definitions of the
chalice at the first Mass or the magical Cauldron sufficient? Must it be one or both of these, or is
it something else? You might
consider the most recent and controversial interpretation of what the Grail is:
a bloodline, from none other than Jesus himself, with the story going that he
and Mary Magdalene are wed or at least lovers. After the Crucifixion, she flees to Narbonne, a religiously
tolerant province in southern France, and has their child (or triplets, in some
renditions), perhaps even influencing the future monarchies of Europe with this
genetic base. This line of thought
avoids the need for drinking or serving vessels, and can even benefit from the
distraction of having people aimlessly search for objects. This is also the story told in the
recent hugely successful novel, The
2) Why does the author make Galahad a
woman? Sir Galahad is a literary
creation of the later medieval period, and is described as sinless, even a
Christ-figure and the only one who can directly approach the Grail, with the
more flawed Lancelot as his father.
Why bother making one of Arthur’s knights female, and why this one in
3) Does the historical influence of the
Arthur legends matter, or should tales like this remain fantastic? Are there perhaps necessary overlaps
between the two? (Most recent
Arthur novels attempt to be plausible candidates for historical fiction, and
their authors want them in the Literature section of bookshops, rather than in
the Fantasy/Science Fiction shelves).
The author’s own concluding section admits that he is focused far more
on the elements of fantasy than on the details of 6th-century
Britain, reversing this recent trend.
4) Discuss the philosophical elements of the
Arthur legends. As a cue, you
might consider the political philosophy of the Round Table and Camelot, the
ethics of chivalry and courtly love, and the aesthetics of the Arthur legends
as they appear throughout the arts.
The Round Table is egalitarian, while Camelot is described as entirely
just but still demanding feudalistic foundations. Chivalry, which includes notions of fairness, sportsmanship,
and protecting the weak and oppressed, received plenty of lip service in the
medieval period, though the historical knights were dedicated killers. And courtly love, the idea that
romantic pursuits could elevate the spirit, and that women might be worth more
than just baby machines and laundresses, existed nevertheless alongside the belief
that in a world of political weddings, true love could still be destructive and
had to be found outside marriage.
Finally, aesthetics considers the value and potential beauty of any art
form: consider Arthur’s influence in poetry, prose, painting, music, sculpture,
photography, film, or any other medium.
Questions for “Packs,” by D. T. Kizis:
Why use wolves to tell a story about ethics and history and the
environment? Should wolves still
be considered a symbol like this, even though they appear as realistic characters
in the novel? Wolves very rarely
appear in any other type of fiction, and non-human characters rarely do when
depicted in truly non-human ways.
Does this unique format help move the story along?
Whose story is it, really: Morgan’s?
Dave’s? Trap-dasher’s? Which of the various characters feels
the most approachable, or with which do you most closely sympathize?
What is the purpose of Kizis using several historical scenes, composed as
self-contained short stories, for the flow of the novel as a whole?
What do you think of David’s overall arguments at the end, either about
immortality, or about wilderness ethics?
Are they plausible and rational?