All posts filed under: Featured Ekostories

Hawaiian Island Topography Large

Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will

The first place I ever felt at home in was on an island. My grandparents lived on Cheung Chau, an island ten kilometers southwest of Hong Kong. Literally translated as “long isle”, Cheung Chau is shaped like a dumbbell, its two granite masses joined in the middle by a sandbar. As a child I spent weekends and summers there fishing and swimming, and even now the scent of saltspray and sewage sends me back to that grimy old fishing village. This fondness for islands stayed and deepened. When I moved to Canada and started to read English I found myself drawn to Earthsea, the fantasy archipelago world of Ursula K. Le Guin. On each of her conjured isles laid not only magic and adventure, but moods intrinsic to and defined by geography. I connected to Astowell, last land before the open sea; Gont and its snow-capped peak rising up like a sharp spire; Osskil, raven realm, icebound and alien. Many times I have sailed in my mind to the shores of Selidor at the westernmost edge of the world, that …

Hong Kong Cityscape

Place and Memory: Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

I’m not sure how to describe Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It isn’t traditional fiction on a structural level, having no story arc or a defined ending. Nor is it conventional fantasy, doing away with the worlds it creates almost as soon as it forms them. Even the broadest definitions of historical fiction and magical realism don’t quite fit, as Calvino blends real and imagined details into a concoction of seemingly irreverent tales. Invisible Cities is a travelogue to places that do not exist. It is a work that brushes aside conventions of form and narrative to ruminate on ideas of memory and place, touching on everything from trajectory of civilizations to the limits of communication. At times delightfully whimsical and intensely melancholic, Invisible Cities is a testament to the power of an author at the height of his powers to provoke, enthrall, and connect.

On the Evolution of Nature Writing

When it’s due to interest or temperament, I’ve always been drawn to nature writing. For many, its mere mention conjures up certain associations – bucolic landscapes, nostalgic meditations, longings for golden ages, of days lost. But nature writing has never been a static genre, and increasingly it transcends the standard pastoral narratives. Last month, I had the pleasure to listen in on a live chat with critically acclaimed authors Rebecca Solnit and Robert MacFarlane as they delved into the evolving form of nature writing. In this entry, I’d like to summarize a few points I connected strongly with. You can listen to the entire talk below: Robert Macfarlane and Rebecca Solnit on Nature Writing If you want to follow along the timestamps I have provided in the post, you can also access the discussion directly on Orion Magazine’s website.

Star Trek TNG Darmok

Of Myths and Metaphors: Star Trek TNG’s Darmok

Several weeks past, I attended a workshop on the use of storytelling for effective social engagement. Sitting at my table was a doctoral student interested in better ways to communicate concepts of ecological economics to the public. As we chatted about the various metaphors embedded within conventional economics, particularly around growth and development, I started thinking about stories that focus on the challenge of communication and the power of metaphor. Searching my mind for examples, I found myself returning once more to the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation for inspiration, this time to an episode titled Darmok.

Changing Planes Nna Mmoy Language Word Cloud

Changing Planes: The Nna Mmoy Language

I downloaded the audiobook version of Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin before a trip so I had something to listen to on a flight. I couldn’t resist the purchase upon reading the premise of the short story collection: The airport serves not only as a space to wait for connecting flights, but also as a place where savvy and knowledgeable travelers can explore other planes of existence.  “Changing planes” thus takes on a whole different meaning. Changing Planes is written in the style of a travelogue, providing brief ethnographic vignettes of different fictional civilizations and cultures. The narration deserves a special mention: Gabrielle de Cuir’s dreamy ethereal voice lends itself perfectly to the fantastical voyages found in Changing Planes. Each of the short tales showcases the power and breadth of imagination that is inherent to the speculative fiction genre; Le Guin asks “What if…” and allows the narrative to take shape around the question. What if there was an island of people who never die? What are the consequences of having random people …