My review for Tex Gresham’s Heck, Texas is on Heavy Feather Review. You can read this book in a couple hours and it will leave you with years worth of far-out quotes. If you’re a fan of Harmony Korine’s film “Gummo” then this book is for you. Gresham is a keen observer, especially for people communicate in rural communities. Writing on walls, gossip, overheard snippets, Craigslist missed connections, and more a collaged into a hilarious, dirty too-real-yet-surreal portrait of a rural Texas. I highly recommend it.
I’m very excited that my novella, “Please Listen Carefully as Our Options Have Changed,” is featured in Running Wild Novella Anthology Vol. IV, Book 1. I started writing this story while I was writing my dissertation and the amount of bureaucratic nonsense I had to deal with was derailing my efforts to finish. The constant deadlines, interruptions, requirements, and plain-old nonsense was driving me crazy and I vented my frustration on a poor guy living in a future version of Woonsocket, Rhode Island name Carlos. Carlos’s life is controlled by “legal” requirements that perpetually disadvantage him.
To write the story, I looked at current trends – education costs, job availability, debt – and the ways our loose concepts of consumer and citizen protections create so many opportunities to be victimized for profit. I’ll touch on an example. While it horrifies me that, in the United States, we rely on for-profit, employer-provided healthcare as a form of blackmail. Work, or suffer physically. Work, or die. However, there are so many pro-insurance, pro-hospital loopholes, that even people who work and obtain “good” insurance must be repeated victimized in the process of gaining the benefits they pay for. The idea that we have “choices” that countries with “socialized” medicine don’t have is true – we can choose to eat or buy medicine, we can choose to pay medical bills or for our children’s educations, we can choose to go to the hospital or doctor our insurance tells us we can go to instead of someone we trust. When usury and debt control a population, choice is a cruel joke.
In my story, none of this has changed. The US is even more usury based than it is currently. It hurt me to imagine that, but it’s possible. In fact, we continue to become more obscenely usurious all the time.
The point is that if we allow ourselves to be interpolated as consumers and producers our whole lives – rather than citizens and human beings – nothing will change. In fact, the longer we wait to acknowledge and address that the United States society is fully defined by usury, the more deeply entrenched the usury becomes. The less likely we are to survive it. The more complicit we all become in the suffering it causes to those who can’t fight back and those who do fight, and pay for it.
I hope you will read “Please Listen Carefully as Our Options Have Changed” and reflect on the ways we give up freedom to become consumers. When do we begin exploring option to deal with usury, both legal and through economic civil disobedience?
You can purchase the novella here – https://www.amazon.com/Running-Wild-Novella-Anthology-Book-ebook/dp/B08R7XJ7C1
Thanks to Frankie Rollins, Sandra Shattuck, and, of course, Erin Aldrich, for this help with this story!
I’m very excited that my story, “A Heliograph to Kin Kletso,” is in the newest issue of Weber: The Contemporary West.
My birthday falls mid-December and so several years ago, Erin arranged for us to visit Chaco Culture National Historic Park in northwestern New Mexico to observe the winter solstice. Chaco Canyon features several large, brick structures built by pre-Colombian, ancestral Puebloan people. If you’ve never been to Chaco or Mesa Verde in southern Colorado, you may persist in believing that pre-Colombian people in the continental United States never developed complex, multi-story, permanent architecture. One visit to either place will disabuse you of that misconception. Chaco’s kiva’s and houses were every bit as brick as a New England mill.
Native people from the area, like Pueblo and Diné people, recognize Chaco as an ancestral site. Academics consider the residents of Chaco a mysterious lost culture. The National Parks Service hosts a solstice event that allows early-risers to observe the sunrise from the ruins and see firsthand how the structures align with the sun. Of course, it was cancelled in 2020 because of Covid-19, but hopefully we can watch it again in the near future.
I wrote “A Heliograph to Kin Kletso” after visiting the solstice sunrise. The way time and light converge at Chaco fascinates me. I know Weber eventually posts their issues online, so I will share the link to the story when it’s available. For now, you can get a physical copy here. There are some great poems in this issue and the other short story was terrific, too.
I hate to end this post this way, but, of course, Chaco Canyon and the area surrounding it are threatened by mining and fracking. High Country News has been following the story. Unfortunately, efforts to protect Chaco have been terribly complicated by the pandemic. Actually, the federal government is using the pandemic as an opportunity to push through drilling plans in Chaco while Diné and other native people are fighting Covid. The Navajo Nation has, at times, had the highest Covid rate in the country. The pandemic has totally devastated native people. While community leaders are trying to save lives, federal authorities are scheduling hearings on drilling and mining. It reminds me of how early Europeans used small pox to take land from Algonquin and other peoples.
I wrote a story set at Chaco Canyon, but the story of Chaco Canyon and culture is not mine. It’s ongoing, and it’s not going well. You can give to the official Navajo Covid-19 Relief Fund here.
My new story, “Inherit My Life,” is up at Expat Press. It’s the first in my “metal” series to be published and tells the tale of a young Hessian who encounters freedom in the poverty of others.
I’m really digging Expat Press! Check out my story here.
A few months back, my close friend, Sandra Shattuck, interviewed me for Pima Community College’s Community of Writing series. We talk about writing, ecology, educational economics, teaching, science fiction, and more. I discuss some of my stories, too. It was fun to think about Sandra’s prompts and I’m so grateful to her Southwest Literature students for their questions about my story, “A Heliograph of Kin Kletso,” which will be in Weber: The Contemporary West Fall 2020. Thanks to Sandra and Dan at PCC for making this happen!
My flash fiction piece, “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” is featured on The Arcanist. It’s also on Tales from The Arcanist, the corresponding podcast available right on the page with the story or via Spotify.
“Don’t Fear the Reaper” is a short, uncomfortable moment from the future, a piece of science fiction imagining how the mundane will prevail forever. Nothing to do with cowbell. It’s only 650 words, so check it out.
Thanks so much to The Arcanist for sharing my story. They send one story a week right to your inbox if you subscribe.
I’m really happy I had the chance to review Future Tense Fiction (Unnamed Press, 2019) for Full Stop Magazine. The collection brought together writers I’m familiar with, like Paolo Bacigalupi and Nnedi Okorafor, and writers who are new to me, like Mark Oshiro and Deji Bryce Olukotun. Of course, my familiarity reveals little about a writer’s success, and actually all the writers in this anthology are a who’s-who of the best contemporary science fiction writers.
On reason I like this collection so much is that Slate originally published all the stories and paired them with articles from scientists and other contemporary experts, adding a level commentary to the stories. That commentary, along with the collection’s focus on contemporary science and social issues, makes Future Tense Fiction a trove for a college instructor like me who teaches sci fi, literature, and composition. Just this semester I’m using Okorafor’s “Mother of Invention,” Oshiro’s “No Me Dejas,” Olukotun’s “When We Were Patched” and Maureen McHugh’s “Starfish Girl” in my courses. I also teach a Bacigalupi story (The Gambler), though not the one from the collection.
My faithful science fiction book club have also enjoyed the anthology. The stories demand conversation and the writing quality is excellent. Again, it’s a great way to get a feel for the most innovative and contemporary science fiction writers all in one place. I’m looking forward to branching out into these writers’ other work.
Gregorio Tafoya, editor of Little Rose Magazine, read my story in Hobart (Hari Kari) and dug it enough that he invited me to contribute something to his site. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to share my story, Everyday Augury. I found plenty of interesting reads on Little Rose, so check them out.
Everyday Augury takes place in Wal-Mart and involves soothsaying. Hope you dig it.
John Englehardt’s Bloomland is a novel about a massacre at a rural college told in second person and focusing on three characters, a student, a professor, and the shooter. This book is not for the weak-hearted. It is a tough read, but Englehardt writes the student, Rose, and the professor, Eddie, so real you feel like you know them beyond the book. They could be you. Eli, the shooter, feels a little more constructed from journalism. Overall, once you get used to almost every pronoun being “you” for an entire novel, this book pulls you in.
This is the last paragraph from my review:
Bloomland is a powerful, ambitious novel that bravely takes on one of the most perplexing, terrifying, and uniquely American phenomena—the school shooting. The novel won the Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction, a reflection of both craft and thematic relevance. One can only hope future readers will pick up Englehardt’s novel to understand an idiosyncratic period of our history when we abjured our safety and the lives of our children. For now, perhaps Eddie and Rose and their suffering will indict us through empathy so that we work toward a nation where Bloomland is truly fiction.
You can read the whole review on Heavy Feather Review here.