In Buentoille, colourful outfits and strange dress are commonplace, especially as the City is a point at which a number of cultures converge and mix together. Yet there is no place in the City today where such dedication to odd outfits is displayed as Benthic’s Meeting Palace. Today, the Palace plays host to the Colette Garrick Appreciation Festival, and all attendees are required to dress as if they had just stepped from the world of Colette Garrick.
For those who have somehow managed to pass through life without reading or knowing about them, Colette Garrick is the eponymous character of a long-running series of books, written by Kivlii Frond. The Garrick series are the most popular fiction books to have ever been sold in Buentoille, with each title surpassing the combined sales of both Brotjolf’s Memorandum and The Death of the Yellow Dog. They introduced readers to a brilliant fantasy realm, a work of powerful strangeness and imagination, in which the possibilities for heroic actions and deeds seem endless, but that also seems to hold a mirror to Buentoille itself.
Entry to the Meeting Palace today is conducted in a manner based upon how Garrick gains entry to this strange fantastic land, appropriately called the Mirror World, in the first book in the series, Colette Garrick and the Land Beyond the Mirror; over the doorway are hung two extremely reflective pieces of fabric that look akin to a large mirror when completely still. Revellers pass through the mirror before them, although they probably don’t have quite the same experience described in the book:
‘And looking at the mirror, Colette noticed something she hadn’t before; here there was a small crack in its surface, a thin black line. She reached out to feel it, and noticed, right before she touched it and cut her finger on the sharp glass in the process, that the line fell right across her face, and followed her when she moved. As the blood began to flow, smearing across the glass, the crack opened up further, and further, and before she knew it there was nothing but that dark line, as if she had stepped into the mirror yet she had not moved an inch. She pulled her finger away and sucked it to stop the blood, then looked about her; in place of that old room in her grandmother’s house there was now that same darkness, yet out of it jumped strange shapes and angles that seemed less possible the more you thought about them and yet they were right there.’
Once they have passed through the ‘mirror’ revellers act as if they are inhabitants of the Mirror World until the end of the day. Those dressed as birdwomen peck daintily at the canapés laid out for them, whilst others try to adjust their wrinkly coltrein masks to a more comfortable position whilst nobody is watching. Anyone brave enough to come dressed as a Jinimaster somehow manage to keep their bodies contorted in that strange manner for the entire day. Perhaps it is because the relationships between the characters of the books are so poignant and realistic that the world is so attractive for so many. Perhaps it is merely an escapism to a place so richly described and fantastical; a desire for the different and the exotic. Maybe the more a place seems real, the more the gap between this world at that fictional place is narrowed, the more the desire to narrow it grows.
For many Buentoillitants, the levels of adoration and dedication to a place that is, at its heart, a fabrication, a beautiful lie, seem dangerously obsessive or ridiculous. Many think-pieces have been written for the Buentoilliçan papers which deride the festival-goers as ‘obsessive weirdos’ who need to ‘take a long look at their ridiculous lives.’ Supporters of the fans in turn deride the ‘moral panic’ and ‘hand-wringing’ sentiments of those who speak out against the festival, which is, after all, just ‘harmless fun.’ Incidents like the ‘Garrick murders’ are frequently used ammunition for critics of obsessive fans. More left-leaning publications, usually more understanding and kind towards folks who are generally considered strange have also criticised obsessive fandom of the books, as many frequently see all political events through the lens of the Garrick series. According to the Red Buentoillitant, ‘this perverse reliance on the political viewpoint and philosophy of one individual[, the author,] is tantamount to monarchism.’
In the Meeting Place a number of activities will take place today, including a Underflet championship (a mysterious card game played by many characters in the books) and a Mirrored Ball, similar to the one at the end of Colette Garrick and the Esteemed Scholar, where Garrick famously flirts with the Aimudarian ambassador, her first foray into the romantic, an exciting precedent for those who grew up alongside her.
Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Garrick series is not the celebrations that happen today, nor its impact upon modern political discourse, but the fact that almost ninety percent of Buentoillitants under the age of thirty have grown up reading the same books. It is an important cultural touchstone, a common experience in a City that is so diverse; it is a book about a girl who is so different and alien to the world that surrounds her, yet who slowly learns to find her place, to accept that she is not alone.
Other festivals happening today:
The Festival of Heated Debate
Carespun Acvilites’ Festival of Worldly Suffering
A Quiet Gathering for the Songs of Late Linda