Birthday Reviews: Genevieve Valentine’s “From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvellous, Scheduled for Premier at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)”

Birthday Reviews: Genevieve Valentine’s “From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvellous, Scheduled for Premier at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)”

Cover by Allen Williams
Cover by Allen Williams

Genevieve Valentine was born on July 1, 1981.

Valentine was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story in 2010 for “Light on the Water.” In 2012, her short story “Things to Know About Being Dead” was a Shirley Jackson Award nominee and her novel Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti was a Nebula Award nominee. That same year Mechanique won the William L. Crawford — IAFA Award.

“From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvellous, Scheduled for Premier at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)” was published by Ellen Datlow in Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fiction in 2013. It has not been reprinted.

Genevieve Valentine’s “From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvellous, Scheduled for Premier at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)” is a story told in the form of letters, catalogue entries, and quotations from books about a lost pavilion at London’s Great Exhibition of 1851. According to Valentine, part of the Exhibition was to be devoted to creatures and oddities from around the world: actual mermaids, fairies, and other mythical creatures, but a fire before the opening destroyed the exhibit.

The catalog of these exhibitions is interspersed throughout the story, beginning with the “Biddenden Maids,” a pair of German Siamese twins, but the entries get more inventive very quickly. Letters from Walter Goodall, the artist hired to paint images of the pavilion are also included as the reader is given background information about both the Exhibition and the staff that is handling this particular pavilion.

The plot of the story, such as it is, is essentially revealed in the work’s title. The enjoyment of the story comes from the descriptions of the oddities which would have been found in the pavilion and Goodall’s letters indicating that he is attempting to maintain at least a semblance of normalcy despite the strangeness of his commission. As a story, it works less well, but it is evocative and makes the reader want to learn more about the Exhibition and if anything like the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvellous was meant to exist.

Reviewed in its only publication in the anthology Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, edited by Ellen Datlow, Tor Books 2013.


Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Rich Horton

Genevieve Valentine is a wonderful writer, one of my favorites of this generation.

Rich Horton

And that said, you sure missed an opportunity to promote the legendary Otis Adelbert Kline!

Rich Horton

I’ll be discussing Charlie at some length later today!

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