Author: Isaac Yuen

Dear Ursula,

When I first began writing seriously a few years back, I enrolled in a local creative writing intensive program. During one of the workshop sessions, we were asked to read something we loved in order to figure out how great writing sounds. Naturally I settled on your writing and found a passage in my battered Ace trade paperback edition of The Left Hand of Darkness. Chapter 18 begins: “Sometimes, as I’m falling asleep in a dark and quiet room, I have for a moment a great and treasurable illusion of the past. The wall of the tent leans up against my face, not visible but audible, a slanting plane of faint sound. The susurrus of blown snow, nothing can be seen. The light emission of the Chabe stove is cut off, and it exists only as a sphere of heat, a heart of warmth. The faint dampness and confining cling of my sleeping bag, the sound of the snow. Barely audible, Estraven’s breathing as he sleeps. Darkness. Nothing else. We are inside, the two of …

Sunflower Briar Patch

The Briar Patch, The Sunlight Press

Happy to have a short piece published in The Sunlight Press, a literary journal for new and established voices: “…With the site prepared, you and your friends begin to forge something new. There are no master plans, no plans at all. A wire fence, they say, to keep out the rats. Some wood chips to lay, to mark down the paths. You throw yourself into tasks that fill body and mind, and over the course of an easy spring, hard work gives rise to small beginnings. Radish seeds and sweet peas spool forth soft threads, greedy for light. Butterflies wink in and out to drink sugar syrup from trumpet flowers. A new commonwealth sprawls forth above ground and underfoot. Yet part of you still yearns for the manic patch of old, wild and invasive, all-consuming…” Exploring the healing power of a garden over the seasons, “The Briar Patch” is a piece that fits with the publication’s desire to explore the many ways “people turn toward light and hope”, and also of epiphanies “born from the …

Emperor Penguins

On Pools and Penguins: Zoomorphic’s Brave Bird

Just in time to wrap up the year, I’m pleased to announce that my short meditation on emperor penguins is out in Zoomorphic: In Celebration and Defence of Wild Animals: “While doing laps at the pool one day, I came to the conclusion that the penguin is the most courageous and admirable of birds, because swimming is a meditative act, and a cleansed mind occasionally entertains notions of avian mettle. Not the eagle, I decided, which coasts by on piercing looks but is secretly not above scavenging, nor the owl, whose fame for foresight is wholly unearned, bested in wit by any parrot or common crow. No, I concluded as I flipped and pushed off into another length, it is the penguin I revere in all its awkward, earthbound glory…” The germ of the essay originated during a routine pool session back when I was still disciplined enough to go regularly; somehow movement, especially repetitive acts like walking or swimming, seems to help facilitate the flow of ideas. The piece also ends with a personal resolution …

2047: Short Stories from Our Common Future

I‘m honoured to have a piece included in 2047: Short Stories From Our Common Future, an international climate fiction anthology released last week. My interest was initially piqued when author Tanja Bisgaard approached me with the collection’s premise: 30 years have passed since the release of the Brundtland report, a landmark document from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development that introduced the idea of sustainable development as that “which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.” What will the world be like 30 years from now? With the perception that climate fiction (or cli-fi as it’s now called) tending to be weighty and depressing, I decided to inject some levity into my contribution. “NuVenture™ TEMPO-L QuickStart Guide” is satire through and through; the story takes the form of an instruction manual for the world’s best selling budget-model time machine, poking fun at capitalism’s worst impulses taken to their logical extremes. “So I gathered a group of authors and asked them to write their vision of …

Arctic Iceberg

On the edge, calling back: An interview with Barry Lopez

I had the recent pleasure of reading a great interview with Barry Lopez that I would like to share here on Ekostories. I’ve long admired Lopez’s writing; Arctic Dreams remains one of the most perceptive and spellbinding books I’ve read in recent years. In the interview, Patrick Pittman chats with the celebrated author on “ethics, hope, death, and the importance of good people in times that are not.” Lopez comes across as someone who has lived life deeply and reflected upon it a great deal, especially in the last stages of his life, but what I find equally interesting are Pittman’s probing questions on nature, writing, and legacy. I’ve included a few of them below: On the responsibility that comes with naming: “You write about places that are relatively untouched by the human hand. Of course, nothing’s untouched, but there’s an idea of land being at least unspoiled. In capturing these places, you make them a known place. There’s a danger in that; there’s got to be some sort of care and obligation when you write about these spaces.” On the perils …

Lungwort Lichen

Regarding Lichen, Tin House Online

Happy to announce that my short story “Regarding Lichen” has been published on Tin House Online as part of their Flash Friday series. “Lichen” was inspired by the stylings of the late and great Donald Barthelme, in particular one of my favourite story of his titled “Concerning the Bodyguard” which is similarly built on questions hinting at an underlying narrative. “Lichen” takes a different tone and is written as a love story: “What are the odds of the lichen settling on this rock? This tongue of rock, jutting out from a sea of permafrost? Is the lichen aware of other lichens, borne on other winds, clones of itself, diaspores settling on bleached shores, on exposed outcrops, or drowning in bogs?” I hope you enjoy it. I apologize for not posting more in recent months. It’s partly due to the fact that I’m working on a bunch of different projects (like this one) and partly because after a hundred plus essays, I’m running low on stories I want to explore on a deeper basis. But rest assured, …

6 Degrees of Interconnection

Six Degrees of Interconnection, Orion Magazine

I’m pleased to have another short essay, “6 Degrees of Interconnection”, published in the latest Orion. Despite the title of the piece, I promise it is 100% Kevin Bacon free. Here’s a description on the rest of the issue: “In this issue, Robin Wall Kimmerer explores how language can affirm our kinship with the natural world, and John Landretti considers where the line lies between what is real and what is perceived. Other features include Jeremy Miller on an ecological experiment to create a wilderness area, and Anjali Vaidya on what it means to adapt in a post-colonial world. Also: poetry by Sierra Golden, Kimiko Hahn, Joan Naviyuk Kane, and James Thomas Stevens; plus Simen Johan’s lush photographs of wild animals and Jesse Chehak’s photographs of luminous water and ice in the North and West Atlantic.” I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Bread Loaf Orion conference with Anjali Vaidya, so I’m naturally delighted to have my work featured alongside hers. Titled “Native or Invasive”, Vaidya’s essay navigates two tangled histories, one personal and …