All posts filed under: Fiction

Ekostories from fiction.

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 …

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, …

marcovaldo-artwork

Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo: Seasons in the City

Bedridden with the flu on a recent writing retreat, I had resigned myself to focus on recovery rather than to get any writing done. I had not expected, between the coughing fits and the fever chills, to find new inspiration from a familiar source. But there it was, sitting eye-level on the third shelf of a corner bookcase at a stranger’s vacation rental, all 128 pages of glory: Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo, translated by William Weaver. My experience with Calvino is uneven. On more than one occasion, my awe of the Italian author’s way with words outpaced my ability to keep up with the quickness of his intellect. I gave up halfway through The Castle of Crossed Destinies because my mind could no longer hold the labyrinth of interconnected narratives together, and while I admired and strove to emulate the stylings of his Cosmicomics, many of those journeys across time, space, and imagination remains beyond my comprehension. Yet when Calvino’s work connects, he leaves an impression upon me unlike any other author. Even as I have professed …

mahogany-clam

Mind of a Clam: Driftfish, A Marine Life Anthology

In light of International Remembrance Day for Lost Species, I’m proud to be a contributor of Driftfish, a new marine life themed anthology put out by Zoomorphic, a UK magazine and micropublisher dedicated to writing that deepens our connection with wildlife and the more-than-human world: “From the hundreds of submissions that we were privileged to read from poets and prose writers from all over the world, we have curated an anthology that we hope reflects Zoomorphic’s core principle: to defend non-human species, we must reconnect our imaginations to them.” – co-editors James Roberts and Susan Richardson My short story, titled “Mind of a Clam”, is inspired by Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, in which the late and great fabulist takes a germ of science and spins a tale around it, and by Roderick Sloan, a seafood supplier and diver from Norway who was featured in one of my favourite shows called Mind of a Chef – from which this story took its name. An excerpt: “…The entrée won’t be coming for a while, so we have time. Time. Putting up the …

Ekostories Reconnect: The Farthest Shore

While A Wizard of Earthsea was a major childhood touchstone for me, it is the sequel The Farthest Shore that I return to time and again. Over the years I have found both comfort and strength within its pages during times of loss. For death is what the book, even though it is a YA novel (a National Book Award winning one at that), is really about: “The Farthest Shore is about the thing you do not live through and survive. It seemed an absolutely suitable subject to me for young readers, since in a way one can say that the hour when a child realizes, not that death exists – children are intensely aware of death – but that he/she, personally, is mortal, will die, is the hour when childhood ends, and the new life begins. Coming of age again, but in a larger context.” – Dreams must Explain Themselves, The Language of the Night And so inspired, here’s my tribute to the tale of Ged and Arren as they travel beyond the farthest shore, into the dry …

Ekostories Reconnect: A Wizard of Earthsea

I think it was the sheer awfulness of this cover that persuaded my eleven-year-old self to pick A Wizard of Earthsea out of the class bookbox during reading period. Expecting a time wasting filler like so many others before, I had no idea at the time that I had just stumbled upon one of my most treasured and revisited stories in my life. Bless that ugly cover! Unlike the cover art, Ruth Robbin’s small but intricate illustrations that marked the beginning of each chapter made a positive lasting impression on me. So, as tribute to Robbin’s drawings and in time for BBC Radio 4’s recent dramatization of what is regarded as one of the seminal fantasy series of the 20th century , I present my sgraffito Wizard of Earthsea ceramic coasters! “It was only the dumb instinctive wisdom of the beast who licks his hurt companion to comfort him, and yet in that wisdom Ged saw something akin to his own power, something that went as deep as wizardry. From that time forth he believed that the …

Dispossessed Laguna Miscanti - Antofagasta Chile

Crossing the Wall: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed

My honeymoon with The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia was an intense and extended one. Ursula K. Le Guin’s Nebula and Hugo-winning novel proved immensely alluring to me – its rendition of post-capitalistic civilization; its probing into the nature of revolution and power; its look at the possibility for change. The novelty and power of its ideas captivated me so much that I devoured an essay collection dedicated to them, and The Dispossessed quickly became one of my favourite novels of all time. When I recently returned to the story through the audiobook narrated by Don Leslie, I found the infatuation that had so arrested me had faded. The ideas, once so vivid and vital in my mind, had lost their lustre, becoming old-hat and common sense. At the same time, I began to notice the novel’s shortcomings, despite my best efforts not to: There was an awful lot of exposition, its real world parallels were obvious and dated, and Le Guin’s prose, while still beautiful, contained neither the mythic flourish of The Left Hand of Darkness nor the …