The River


  • First publication
    • Amazing Science Fiction Stories, May 1983


Narrated in the third person, this story it about Siith, the Infinite Stream, a river that cannot be crossed. On one side of the river are the “countries shown on maps”, and on the other side are “lands that no map shows”. Althor-elmil, Lord of Siith, has navies that destroy any ship trying to cross the river from the unmapped region, taking some of their crew as slaves, and casting the rest, including livestock, mascots, pets, and "feral beasts ... that live by stealth" overboard. These castaways, who can turn up on either shore of the river, are described as “strange things drawn from wells, blood-drinkers, and hairy men”. As the story ends, we find that Althor-elmil has been creating flying machines to further his domain, but these are taken by Marhoon, Lord of the Air.


  • The river Siith seems to represent the divide between reality and the known and fantasy and the unknown.
  • "Blood-drinkers" and "hairy men" are probably references to vampires and werewolves.
  • Zachary Kendal wrote on his blog that the relationship between the mapped countries and the unmapped lands is "a lot like the relationship between the planets Green and Blue in Wolfe’s Book of the Short Sun, where Green is inhabited by the inhumi (vampires), and Blue is the refuge of the humans from the Whorl".

Unresolved Questions

  • What do the names "Althor-elmil", "Siith", and "Marhoon" reference (if anything)?