Dustbaby

small-sept-previewAfter a vast and echoing silence, I’m thrilled to say I’ve got a new story up today at Shimmer Magazine (the delightful crew of editors and readers who I definitely haven’t hypnotized/bribed to publish me once before).

If you’re interested, follow this here link to find an odd little story about changelings and loss and the Dust Bowl. You should also check out the rest of the issue, with stories by K.L. Owens, Stephen Case, and Rachel K. Jones.

If you do follow that link, and end up scratching your head and wondering how a story like that came into the world, here it is:

It was born, like most stories, through a Frankensteinian process stitching together odd bodyparts from several origins. Some of it (the skeleton, say) was stolen straight from old changeling stories–especially Selma Lagerlof’s and Helena Nyblom’s Swedish versions (yes, I stole their names. Apparently in fiction we call it “paying homage” and not “identity theft”).

The heart and soulstuff of the story comes from my own ugly, nonsensical, recurrent nightmares about miscarriage. There’s no actual reason I should be afraid of it, but something in my deepdark brainmeats definitely is, so I did what you’re supposed to do and chewed up the nightmares and spat them out on the keyboard.

But the musculature of the idea came mostly from graduate school courses in American environmental history. As any budding young environmental historian will tell you, the Dust Bowl looms large in the field because Donald Worster’s Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (1979) was one of the first books to successfully reshape our understanding of American social history based on environmental analysis. He demonstrated that the Dust Bowl was not a natural disaster, but a man-made one, caused by over-plowing and mechanized agriculture and, essentially, unfettered capitalism.

And so anyway, that narrative has always stuck in my head. The Dust Bowl as a moment of…comeuppance, of environmental revenge writ large. And I thought: What if it never ended? What if the land itself rose up and shook off industrialized agriculture the way a dog shakes off fleas? And something older came back to the West?

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8 comments

  1. I’m fascinated. I’ve always been intrigued by the dust bowl since reading Grapes of Wrath but adding changlings adds another level of curiosity completely

      1. I read the story and found it beautiful. It definitely captures the time and is original. The only comparison to Steinbeck is the timeframe. It is its own story

  2. Reminds me of a certain scene in God Dies by the Nile, only without the horrific ending (this is an advantage, on your part–I prefer a glimmer of hope over unrelenting bleakness).

    1. I’ve never read it! But you’ve forced me to add another title to the BOOKS TO READ SOMEDAY excel sheet…thanks very much for reading, and commenting. Nothing quite so lonely as the crowded internet, right after you publish something…:)

  3. Wow…just finished reading. Exquisite. Felt to me as though I were reading poetry. I love the way you express/find beauty in the gritty common world. Thank you.

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