The Four Profound Weaves
by R. B. Lemberg
Print ISBN: 9781616963347
Digital ISBN: 9781616963354
Published: September 2020
“The Four Profound Weaves is the anti-authoritarian, queer-mystical fairy tale we need right now.”
—Annalee Newitz, author of The Future of Another Timeline
“A beautiful, heartfelt story of change, family, identity, and courage.”
—Library Journal, starred review
Wind: To match one’s body with one’s heart
Sand: To take the bearer where they wish
Song: In praise of the goddess Bird
Bone: To move unheard in the night
The Surun’ nomads do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But aged Uiziya must find her aunt in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.
Among the Khana in the springflower city of Iyar, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter, as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.
As his past catches up, the nameless man must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya—while Uiziya must discover how to challenge the evil Ruler of Iyar, and to weave from deaths that matter.
In this breathtaking debut set in R. B. Lemberg’s beloved Birdverse, The Four Profound Weaves offers a timeless chronicle of claiming one’s identity in a hostile world.
About the Birdverse: The Birdverse is the creation of fantasy author R. B. Lemberg. It is a complex, culturally diverse world, with a range of LGBTQIA characters and different family configurations. Named after its deity, Bird, Birdverse shorter works have been nominated the Nebula, Hugo, Tiptree award, and Rhysling awards. The Four Profound Weaves is the first full-length work set in the Birdverse.
R. B. Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their stories and poems have appeared in Lightspeed Magazine’s Queers Destroy Science Fiction!, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology, and many other venues. R.B.’s work has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, and other awards.
You can find more of their work on their Patreon (patreon.com/rblemberg) and a full bio at rblemberg.net.
R. B. Lemberg Interview by Rick Klaw
How and why did you end up in Lawrence, KS?
I work at KU! When I got my job, people in Berkeley kept asking me how and why I would go to live in Kansas. So here is what I said: 1) I was on a student visa and I needed a job that would sponsor me so that I would not be deported. The freedom of location and occupation people envisioned for me did not exist. 2) I actually wanted the career I trained for. 3) I enjoyed visiting Lawrence, the people were kind, and it felt peaceful during a snowstorm. I still really like Lawrence, despite its many issues!
You’ve lived in a wide variety of fascinating locales. How did those locales color the Birdverse?
I am tempted to say that all of them affect Birdverse in some way, but that’s not quite true. I have not written anything resembling Vorkuta (in circumpolar Russia) in Birdverse, although it is influencing my space opera WIP now. Birdverse comes from my imagination, but some of it is definitely colored by how it feels to exist in some of these places – the feel of the desert at dawn, the smell of a quince, the feel of carved bone and cast brass, and very old music that can be heard when everything else is quiet.
Since English is either your “third, fourth, or fifth (quasi)native tongue”, what language do you write in and even more curiously, what language do you dream in?
Mixed. Increasingly in English now, which is a bit sad, but mixed. I often remember dreams in some of my less-frequently-featured languages, but not in the more common ones!
Your work often has an ethereal quality. Do your own dreams play a part in the creative process?
I often don’t even remember my dreams, but I am often dissociating, or more poetically in a state of reverie, during waking hours. I think that’s where much of my writing comes from. I think as writers we produce work out of our own neurotype. I write the way I think, and I think in a few different styles, but some are more pleasant to me than others!
Do you ever or plan to write books in other languages? Do you hope to translate your English works into other languages?
I do not plan to write in other languages right now. Earlier on, I’ve written poetry in some of my other languages, but I am focusing on English now. It was really tough to choose a language for my writing initially, but I feel that I am committed to English for now. I do want to write more texts with bilingual and multilingual elements. As for translations, yes, I very much hope that my work will be translated to other languages, as many languages as possible. I love translations, and I think that the work of translators is very important. I am not, however, a translator myself, unless you count linguistic glosses and other extremely detailed academic translations for research. I have been dipping my toes into translation studies recently as an academic – it looks like I love to discuss how the translation pie is made, but not to make this particular pie myself.
Even after reading your website (http://rblemberg.net/) and understanding the risks involved with asking this question, do you have a secret (or not such secret) wish to write a piyyut?
Piyyutim are lithurgical poems usually composed in Hebrew, in the Talmudic period and onwards, after Hebrew ceased to be spoken. Piyyutim as a poetic form fascinate me because they are a product of poets who were not themselves native speakers. Hebrew had a post-vernacular status through most of the Diaspora period, which meant that people would not speak it as their first language, but it was in use as a language of scholarship, worship, and religious study. So how do you even begin to write poems in a language that nobody speaks fluently? First of all, you should be a fluent or at least a dedicated and passionate reader of the earlier Hebrew texts; second, you. should become a dedicated and passionate memorizer of your most favorite words and phrases; and third, you should experiment with combining your favorite bits together to create a new whole, in which your and everybody else’s lack of conversational fluency is not as important as your ability to make a new poem from words and phrases that you discovered elsewhere. Of course I want to write a piyyut. I am first going to continue studying piyyutim though. I am fascinated by all the queer voices, all the possible but hidden trans voices, all the women’s voices in this genre. Piyyutim were traditionally written and performed by cis men, as performing in front of men, and/or in front of a mixed audience is forbidden for women (this prohibition is called kol isha, the woman’s voice, which you encounter in my Birdverse worldbuilding for the Khana culture). But many piyyutim have been written by our old friend Anonymous, and some poets were likely not as cishet as they may appear. But now I will stop before I begin reciting something.
Praise for Four Profound Weaves
A Publishers Weekly 2020 Top-10 Fall Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror title
A Book Riot 10 Great Adult LBGTQ+ Fantasy Book of 2020
“The Four Profound Weaves is a balm and a call to arms. R. B. Lemberg reassures us that there’s still time to find yourself, no matter how old you are; and they stir our revolutionary urges to defeat murderous dictators. But this novella is also a finely-drawn, realistic character study of people who love their communities but never quite feel at home in them. And the magical system is a sheer delight. Thoughtful and deeply moving, The Four Profound Weaves is the anti-authoritarian, queer-mystical fairy tale we need right now.”
—Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous and The Future of Another Timeline
“R.B. Lemberg writes with a luminous pen, spraying light all around their words and ideas. They create a universe where carpets and cloaks bear history and the future. A perilous chase, with assassins and gods in pursuit, reveals the fluidity of life by following the threads—both bright and dark—that weave together to create a complex and mystical journey toward friendship, family, and love.”
—Jewelle Gomez, author, The Gilda Stories
“Go read this story, tell it to your friends, and help us get to that future that we so desperately need.”
“R. B. Lemberg’s The Four Profound Weaves tells the journey of a pair of aged and appealing wanderers searching for magic, art, identity, and peace. Thought-challenging points-of-view weave together stark violence, intricate powers, and the musings of long and complicated lives. The Four Profound Weaves contains imagery that glows on the page.”
—Patricia McKillip, author of the Riddle-Master Trilogy and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
“I am staggered by the richness and intricacy of R. B. Lemberg’s imagination. The Four Profound Weaves is an intense and emotional story of a journey of change, growth, and courage.”
—Kate Elliott, author of the Court of Fives trilogy