Papers, SFF

The Impoverished Landscape

I have a new paper out! My first 2023 paper, and it’s called “The Impoverished Landscape: Navigating Absence and Ecological Resilience in Speculative Fiction.” You can find it in issue 33 of Hélice: Critical Thinking on Speculative Fiction, which is a special issue on speculative landscapes.

I focus on two texts in the paper: Locust Girl: A Lovesong by Merlinda Bobis, and Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley. Both books are set in what are increasingly impoverished landscapes, as ongoing biodiversity loss produces an environment that is ever more difficult for humans to survive in. As texts, they are both extremely different. Sweet Fruit is a dystopian realistic piece set in the near-future UK, whereas Locust Girl is a dreamy, magical realist fantasy that is no country in particular, being set in an ambiguous and unrecognisable location that is mostly wasteland. They both, however, engage with landscape in complex and interesting ways, and it’s often interesting to approach the same element from very different directions.

Impoverished landscapes like these often can’t provide sufficient resources for the people living in them to have sustainable and reliable food supplies, for instance. The distribution and allocation of these resources is controlled in unfair and exploitative ways, and the landscapes are often associated, therefore, with deprivation. My paper argues that they can also be interpreted as sites of resistance, and of re-imagined relationships between the human and the non-human.

If you’re not very interested in the paper, or in academic writing, please consider reading the books. They’re fantastic!

SFF, Short stories

Pink

I have a new story out! “Pink” is more than a bit creative nonfiction as well as short story, and it can be found in issue 106 of takahē magazine.

A couple of years back I was down in Christchurch, visiting a wildlife reserve (mostly to see the takahē there, to be honest, so this story clearly went to the right place) and a display about birds informed me that we used to have flamingos in New Zealand. Not any time recently, but millions of years ago when there used to be a lake at St Bathans in Central Otago. They dig up all sorts of fossils there now, and one of them was an ancient relative to the flamingo.

New Zealand is very much bird country, so I couldn’t help but wonder… what would it be like if the flamingo had survived? What change, if any, would it have made to our culture and conservation? “Pink” is that very hypothetical. It’s a fun little piece, and it’s going to be part of the series of essays on NZ ecology I’m due to put together later this year, when I’m down at Canterbury University as their writer in residence. Can’t wait!

Articles, Poetry, SFF, Short stories

Reckoning 7

I have a new book out! Or, more honestly, I am one of a number of people who have contributed to a new book being out. Reckoning, which published creative work on environmental justice, was kind enough to let me sign on as fiction editor for their issue 7, along with Priya Chand (nonfiction editor) and Tim Fab-Eme (poetry editor). Together the three of us, with the help of a number of excellent editorial readers, put together this year’s issue of Reckoning, which we themed around oceans and the global water system.

Each of the several dozen pieces that we picked will be available to read for free online throughout the year. You can see the menu and the publication schedule here. If you’d like to purchase the entire wonderful issue, however, the ebook is available now, and the print release is scheduled for July; details are at the link. There’s over 250 pages of excellent writing there! And that cover, Drua, by Elsie Andrewes, is gorgeous.

Speaking of the fiction writers included in this issue… their work is incredible. From the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the local swimming hole, from dolphins and sharks and burials at sea, these are hopeful stories of people working to make our watery world a more just and sustainable place. Please take a look.

Horror, SFF, Short stories

Chickenfoot

I have a new story out! It actually came out a couple of months back, but I’m still playing catch-up here. “Chickenfoot” is available to read in the anthology Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga, edited by Lindy Ryan from Black Spot Books.

When I saw the call for stories for this I knew I had to send something in. Not, I have to admit, because I’ve got any great love for Baba Yaga. But her house… that’s different. I’ve always found the house fascinating! The way it stalks about on its chicken legs. Any why a chicken? Let’s face it, hens have many marvelous qualities, but if I’m going to stick bird legs on a house a chicken is not the animal that immediately comes to mind. (What does come to mind? I’m not even sure. I suppose it depends what kind of environment the house is traveling through. If it’s swampy you’d want a water bird, and so on.)

That’s what inspired the story. The chicken in “Chickenfoot” is dead, and Baba Yaga’s looking for a replacement. She keeps a diary of her experiments, and they do not go well.

“Chickenfoot” isn’t a very long story; it’s not that much bigger than a flash, I think. I’m tempted to keep going with it, however… add more birds, and more creepiness, and bring out the backstory of the chicken. A project for the future, maybe.

Papers, SFF

Image and the Tree in Middle-Earth

I have a new paper out! “Image and the Tree in Middle-Earth” came out in issue 23 of the BFS Journal. Technically it came out a couple of months ago, but it doesn’t quite feel real as the issue, while posted, hasn’t arrived here yet. It takes an age to send things to New Zealand! (When my most recent book came out, and my Canadian publisher sent me copies, they took five months to get here.) I don’t know why the postal system’s so very slow, but I’d like to post this in the same year the paper was published, so here we are.

I actually wrote the paper over a decade ago, I think, in a class on fantasy literature. It stayed, in its school-draft form, on my hard drive for ages before I decided to pull it out and see if I could make it publishable. I sent it off to the good people at BFS Journal, who have published some of my academic work before, and happily they took it – but they also took it before the new Tolkien tv series came out, so if you’re expecting any mention of that in there, don’t.

It was a fun paper to write, in that my primary research was reading Tolkien over and over again (such a chore!) and I do that anyway, so it was killing two birds with one stone. How tree imagery reflects throughout Middle-Earth, and how it reflects historical tree imagery in Europe, is a particularly interesting topic, at least it is for me, so I’m glad to be able to share it.