July 2015 · paper edition 56pp · Ebook ISBN 9781618731173
LCRW #33 approaches its theme of humanity’s relationship with the earth with a little humor, a touch of horror, and seventeen different kinds of understanding. Includes multiple award winner Sofia Samatar, Nebula and Shirley Jackson award nominee Carmen Maria Machado, and World Fantasy Award nominee Christopher Brown among others.
D. K. McCutchen: “Sex tells us a lot about the living world. JELLYFISH incorporates all my daydream and nightmare material.”
Deborah Walker: “Humanity’s a frog being slowly boiled in a saucepan”
M.E. Garber: “‘Doomed’ is such a bleak term. Are we ‘doomed’ if we have to live differently than we have in the past? If we have to adapt to radically changing situations? If many of us on the planet die, while others struggle onwards? I think not, and yet others would argue yes. Then again, as I said earlier, I’m a bit of a closet optimist.”
Nicole Kimberling: “I forgave the trees for their indiscriminate air-based sperm-cell distribution. After all, they can’t help it.”
Giselle Leeb: “I worked in the Karoo, a semi-desert, counting plants for a botany lecturer during three of my summer holidays, and that’s when I discovered a conscious love of the earth.”
Carmen Maria Machado, “I Bury Myself”
Alena McNamara, “Starling Road”
Giselle Leeb, “Ape Songs” [interview]
Michelle Vider, “For Me, Seek the Sun”
Deborah Walker, “Medea”
D. K. McCutchen, “Jellyfish Dreaming”
Sofia Samatar, “Request for an Extension on the Clarity”
M. E. Garber, “Putting Down Roots”
Eric Gregory, “The March Wind”
Christopher Brown, “Winter in the Feral City”
Nicole Kimberling, “Cook Like a Hobo” [interview]
Leslie Wightman, “The Sanctity of Nature”
Ingrid Steblea, “Another Afternoon in the Garden”
Kelda Crich, “Child Without Summer”
Peter Jay Shippy, “Singing Beach”
Guest Editor’s Note
Michael J. DeLuca
The Humanity Versus the Earth Issue
The Earth Saves Itself from Humanity Issue
The 30% Non-Dead-Tree Issue
The Crying Indian Is Actually Italian Issue
The Women Turning Into Trees Issue
The What the Mushrooms Told Me Issue
The Jellyfish Inherit the Earth Issue
The Critical Mass Issue
The There Is No Such Thing as Critical Mass Issue The Change Is Inevitable Issue
The Inevitability Is Change Issue
When Gavin and Kelly let me hold the reins an issue themed something along the lines of the above was the first thing that came to my head. It’s no watershed moment, much as I’d love it to be; Conjunctions just did one they were even-keeled enough to call “The Nature Issue.” And there have been anthologies, and even the occasional novel-length text, every few years since the anthropocene started: ideas in narrative form I’d probably never have thought to lump together into anything until I spent a month reading submissions for an LCRW issue I claimed would be themed on “humanity’s relationship with the earth”.
It was gratifying and calming to learn that people other than me and not just the talking heads do think about these things. In fact, the experience bordered on the sublime; it restored (some of) my faith in humanity. This is what art, speculative literature in particular, is for: unrestrained thought in a form that if we let it will touch every part of what makes us human and thereby foment more of the same.
I asked for optimism, I expected cynicism, I got both. We’re not going to make it through this thing without a sense of humor. I tried to find complexity and overlook the easy answers.
Read. Look. Think. Be changed. I hope it makes you feel what it made me feel.
I Bury Myself
Carmen Maria Machado
Here is what you do when you need to choose the end. First, find a person who knows your body, and fuck them for three days.
Then, drive to a meadow, where there is so much life.
There, dig a hole long enough and wide enough for your body to fit.
Next, climb in.
Winter in the Feral City
In the winter I learned that I am better at smelling death than my dogs.
Dogs have a nose for life and a gift for extinguishing it. You can see it when you watch them police the perimeter of the human habitat, doing the core task we have bred into them over the millennia—eliminating our competition from other species. You can watch the way they read the secret olfactory language of the forest, tracking their way to all the burrows in the ground you would never notice. If you let them, they will kill whatever they find and leave it for you to decide what to eat. They are our truest familiars—mediators who articulate the blood-soaked truth about our relationship with wild animals….
Another Afternoon in the Garden
“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” –Genesis 2:19
Adam grips the tool loosely in his left hand, poking at the dirt.
He cocks his head and studies it, backing away, brow furrowed. “Trowel,” he says. Then, “Spade.” Eve watches from the quince grove where she has just finished grafting the shoots of a new cultivar onto rootstock. Hands full, she scratches an itch, rubbing her forehead against tree bark.
It has been a long day. She rose before dawn.
While Adam slept beneath the fragrant frangipani, she checked the stakes of the fruit trees, the branches for signs of canker.
She made the morning meal. He pushes figs into his mouth with his thumbs, his jaw working like one of the cows in the cornfields, muttering, “Chew, chew, chew. Munch, crunch. Masticate, ruminate. Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw.” …
The man slumped on my mother’s threshold, pain and hunger paling his already light skin. The whiskers of the winter’s first storm blew snow against his soldier-green coat.
A woman my age bent empty-handed over him. Her quick, uneasy glance caught mine, helpless: she had been half carrying him before he fell. The light from our fire made her brown skin rosy, as it did mine, but her scraped-back hair showed her a woman from up-mountain—past the Empire’s furthest claim on these slopes.
I might have stared all night, but the soldier groaned and shifted, and I saw his face.
“Mother!” I called. Our neighbors peered from the warmth of their own doorways, glad no doubt this trouble had not landed on their laps. “Our soldier’s back!”…
They sent out the parade with the Ape of the Earth. Hands tied, he went up front. They had tied his hands since the time that he had tried to dig without permission. Likewise, they had taped his mouth shut so that he could not sing. The time that he had started to sing, cracks had appeared in the earth.
No one could guess the Ape’s thoughts; even untaped, his mouth was a stiff gash with no ability to turn up at the corners. They had made him in an age of advanced plastics when elastic, realistic skin was a cheap option; but they did not want him to be perceived as real: he was made for a distinct purpose….
For Me, Seek the Sun
– yesterday I couldn’t leave my bed till like. after 2pm. and that was a struggle. and I wasn’t asleep, I just. couldn’t be outside the bed
– also I’m gonna be tmi for a minute SORRY….
It was the dead time of the afternoon. There was just one old boy nursing a beer at the end of the sports bar. But at least the footie was on: Ipswich Town versus Norwich City. And it was 2-1 up to Ipswich. It was going to be a walkover. This was a sweet job and no mistake. “Need any oxygen?” asked Simon, tapping the canister on the bar. Head Office had been on at him to push more oxygen to the punters.
“I’ll make do.” Unfortunately the old guy took Simon’s question as encouragement. He shuffled along the bar to a seat close to Simon. “The writing’s on the wall, and none will see it,” he said. “Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin.”
A fragment of poetry floated, unexpectedly, into Simon’s head, “The moving finger writes; and, having writ / moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit, / shall lure it back to cancel half a line.”…
Child Without Summer
I cannot give you the sun or the moon
only grey overcast, blossoming sky’s ash.
All civilizations fade,
but we were the only ones to take the sun with us.
It is an unkind inheritance….
D. K. McCutchen
“This is the way the world ends . . . .” T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”
Jack in the Marketplace
I wait (like always) scuffing along the boardwalk, spitting in the surf, watching plastic bags swirl like a memory of octopus’ tentacles in the surge. I’ve heard rumors and I have questions. So I wait until the thin man shows up at the Trash Café with his larger, squarer companion. Then I wait for them to leave again. It’s dull.
The docks are more interesting. I check out the catch as it comes in; buckets and crates full of jellyfish, nets ripped from flotsam, decks scattered with inter- esting debris. The ocean coughs up jellyfish and plastic rubbish these days. The Fisher folk are hard men and women from a dozen different races and places, tough survivors of every catastrophe the world has thrown at them. They ignore me or stare hard until I wander on. They’re busy enough shifting the catch without getting stung by the odd boxjelly, they don’t need a Warehouse tramp distracting them, maybe nicking something. But now and again they’ll give me or the other Warehouse kids a small square of tatty tarpaulin wiggling with seaworms or nematodes, or sometimes a basket of the odder-looking jellies to eat, in exchange for mending nets. They supply improvised gloves of layered plastic and cloth—whatever washes up—to pro- tect from unfired nematocysts tangling in long skeins, clinging like nerves to the weave of the nets. But they watch carefully so’s we don’t run off with the gloves….
Request for an Extension on the Clarity
I am writing to request an extension on the Clarity. I would like my term extended for twenty years. I’ve received two other extensions—one for two years and one for ten—but I’ve never managed to get a twenty- year term.
I’ve decided to contact you directly instead of going through my supervisor, in the hope that, once you’ve heard my reasons, you will grant my request.
Now you’re thinking: well, this is unconventional! Keep in mind that you have not hired me to do a conventional job. You have hired me to live almost alone and I live almost alone and my work is excellent. The Clarity has run for thirteen years without a pause. She is my boat and my cottage and my cocoon. Cocoon is not the right word. Coconut? Coffin? That was a joke.
Dear X, I wish I could see you. I wish I knew your name. But you are veiled in the obscurity of the highest rung of the Program. So I make do, despite my disadvantages, despite the fact that I know nothing about you while you know everything about me….
Cook Like a Hobo
I think almost all of us have, at one point or other, attempted to cook with a campfire only to discover that our skills fall far below modern expectations. So, what makes the campfire so difficult? I cooked in a restaurant with a wood-fired oven for over a decade, which means I spent hundreds, perhaps even thousands of hours igniting, tending and using cooking fires.
Here are the main difficulties:
Fires are hot. A camp-sized fire can still singe all the hair off your arms from six feet away….
Putting Down Roots
M. E. Garber
To: Buvaneswari Delall
I wasn’t trying to hide from you, but this has been hard to deal with. I just put my head in the sand, you know? (Which seems ironic, considering.) I’m sorry—I should’ve reached out to you sooner. You’ve always been my bestest friend, even before our crazy AT throughhike. I still miss the Appalachian Trail, our trip there. All my stress fell away. I could use that now.
Jared moved out yesterday. Can’t blame him—he’s moving on. Whereas I, apparently, won’t be moving for long.
They’re running tests, doing experiments. I feel like a lab mouse in a cage, and I hate it all. I want to run away, but can’t. I know they’ll figure it out. They have to. Until then, I dream impatiently. Can’t wait to get my life back….
Peter Jay Shippy
After I left home, I worked
in a store on the coast
that sold little hurricanes.
They were kept in cobalt
canning jars with lightning lids….
The March Wind
“Up here,” said Shanna. “Stop at the station.”
Bright as spotlights in the backroad dark: a twenty-four hour Stop-n-Go. Caroline parked, leaned on the wheel, and peered at the other two cars in the lot. They’d brought her hybrid Highlander for the extra
space, but now it felt conspicuous.
“Well,” she said. “No crowd.”
No laugh. Shanna had dark circles under her eyes.
She tugged her hair back into a ponytail, then let it out again….
About these Authors and Artists
Christopher Brown writes science fiction and criticism in Austin, Texas, where he also practices technology law. He coedited, with Eduardo Jiménez Mayo, Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic, which was nominated for the 2013 World Fantasy Award. Recent work has appeared in The Baffler, the MIT Technology Review anthology Twelve Tomorrows, 25 Minutos en el Futuro: Nueva Ciencía Ficción Norteamericana, Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, Castálida, and The New York Review of Science Fiction.
Dmitry Borshch was born in Dnepropetrovsk, studied in Moscow, today lives in New York. His drawings and sculptures have been exhibited at the National Arts Club (New York), Brecht Forum (New York), ISE Cultural Foundation (New York), the State Russian Museum (Saint Petersburg).
Kelda Crich is a newborn entity. She’s been lurking in her creator’s mind for a few years. Now she’s out in the open. Find Kelda in London looking at strange things in London’s medical museums or on her blog. Her poems have appeared in Nameless, Cthulhu Haiku II, Transitions, and the Future Lovecraft anthology.
M. E. Garber grew up reading about hobbits, space-travel, and dragons, so it’s no wonder that she now enjoys writing speculative fiction, and dreams of traveling the world(s). She used to live near the home of Duck Tape, then near the home of Nylabone. Now she lives near the home of Gatorade. You can find her blog at: megarber.wordpress.com
Eric Gregory’s stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Betwixt, and elsewhere. He lives in Carrboro, North Carolina, and co-edits Middle Planet with Julia Gootzeit. For sporadic blogging and super-amateur garden photography, see ericmg.com.
Kevin Huizenga just moved to Minneapolis and is also at usscatastrophe.com. He teaches and is the author of several books of comics, including Curses and The Wild Kingdom.
Nicole Kimberling spent twelve years cooking with wood fire. Now she knows all its dirty tricks. She lives and works in Bellingham, Washington.
Giselle Leeb’s stories have appeared in Bare Fiction, Mslexia, Riptide, and other publications. She grew up in South Africa and now lives in Nottingham, UK, where she works as a web developer when she is not writing. giselleleeb.cielo.net @gisellekleeb
Steve Logan is a self-taught fine artist and also my favorite bro. His work has been shown in cities all over the US, including Miami, New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Boston.
Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Granta, The Paris Review, AGNI, The Fairy Tale Review, Tin House’s Open Bar, NPR, The American Reader, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. Her stories have been reprinted in several anthologies, including Year’s Best Weird Fiction and Best Women’s Erotica. She has received the Richard Yates Short Story Prize, the CINTAS Foundation Fellowship in Creative Writing, and the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship, and has been nominated for a Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and lives in Philadelphia with her partner.
D. K. McCutchen is a Senior Lecturer for the UMass College of Natural Sciences. Lack of poetic DNA led to tale of low adventure & high science titled The Whale Road (Random House, NZ; Blake, UK), which earned a Pushcart nomination & a Kiriyama Prize Notable Book award. In a literary attempt to save the world, she’s now writing mostly scientifically accurate, sometimes erotic, gender-bender-post-apocalyptic-speculative-fiction. The series begins with Jellyfish Dreaming—finalist for a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship. She lives on the Deerfield River with two brilliant daughters and a Kiwi, who isn’t green, but is fuzzy.
Alena McNamara lives in Boston and works in a library near a river. Her stories have appeared in Kaleidoscope and Crossed Genres Magazine. She is a graduate of the 2008 Odyssey Workshop and Viable Paradise XV, and can be found online via alenamcnamara.com.
Sofia Samatar is the author of the novel A Stranger in Olondria, winner of the William L. Crawford Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. In 2014 she received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She co-edits the journal Interfictions and teaches literature at California State University Channel Islands.
Peter Jay Shippy’s books of poems include Thieves’ Latin and A Spell of Songs.
Ingrid Steblea’s poetry has appeared in Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, Boxcar Poetry Review, Poem, The Seattle Review, The Southern Anthology, and numerous other journals. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and their two children.
Michelle Vider is a writer based in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in The Toast, Baldhip Magazine, and Pop Mythology. Find her at michellevider.com.
Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the past for future inspiration or on her blog: deborahwalkersbibliography.blogspot.com. Her stories have appeared in Nature’s Futures, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into a dozen languages.
Leslie Wightman is recently out of high school, currently consuming vast quantities of tea, and living on a boat. She is a graduate of the Alpha Young Writers Workshop, and, on the whole, is a little too optimistic for her own good.