In “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand” (1973), the Nebula Award-winning novelette that became the first section of Dreamsnake, Vonda Neel McIntyre introduces her protagonist Snake, a young traveling healer who uses her knowledge and her genetically altered snakes to treat illness and suffering. Snake is called to help a family whose son is dying of a large tumor. To comfort him, she leaves Grass, her treasured dreamsnake, on the child’s pillow while she prepares Mist, her cobra, to treat the child. When she returns from a strenuous night of altering Mist’s venom into a medicine against the child’s cancer, she finds that the parents have killed her dream-snake out of their desert-bred terror of snakes.
Without her dreamsnake, whose bite eases death, Snake is handicapped as a healer. She becomes afraid when she is called to a patient’s side: Will the patient be dying and ask Snake for the help she can no longer give? Dreamsnake, which won both Hugo and Nebula awards, expands the original novelette by tracing Snake’s quest to obtain a new dreamsnake and continue her career as a healer.
Snake first directs her steps toward the healers’ “station,” the home community where she was trained. She intends to ask her elders to forgive her error in judgment and give her a new snake, knowing that the scarcity of dreamsnakes makes it unlikely that her request can be granted. Along the way, people call on her as a healer, not...
(The entire section is 504 words.)