Humbled and honoured to contribute a short story to the latest issue of Shenandoah Literary Magazine. I had the good fortune of working on “Our Museum of the Future” with editor Beth Staples, whose new vision for the venerable publication is one I find compelling:
“…I consider it my job to privilege voices that don’t fit into that category, not just because it’s the right thing to do to counteract many years of established practice, but because reading is one of a very few ways we can jump into the mind of someone else.”
The fundamental purpose of literature in Staples’ view is “to expand the reader’s sense of the world and their place in it. It should also be one of our goals for being alive: stepping into another person’s shoes and practicing radical empathy.”
“Our Museum of the Future” grew out of the conceit that there exists a public space where words are showcased and curated in the same fashion as bones:
“Welcome to a museum of words instead of bones. Where sentences take the shapes of skeletons. Where nouns and verbs replace ribs and vertebrae. We believe words can evoke in ways bones cannot. That they are easier for the mind to hold and make come alive. This is the premise behind our museum of the future.”
The story was partly inspired by Robert MacFarlane’s The Lost Words, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Nna Mmoy Language, and by reports from those working on the frontlines of environmental conservation. What can one do under the spectre of vanishing species and mass extinctions? Fiction, I hope, provides at least one way of processing such loss.
You can find “Museum” alongside other stories, essays, poems, comics, and artwork on Shenandoah’s newly redesigned website; I’m excited myself to step into the shoes of my fellow contributors.