Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Page 69 Test: The Fourteenth of September

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....





In this installment of Page 69, 


We put Rita Dragonette's The Fourteenth of September to the test!





What is The Fourteenth of September about?

In 1969, as mounting tensions over the Vietnam War are dividing America, a young woman in college on an army scholarship risks future and family to secretly join the antiwar movement, and is ultimately forced to make a life-altering choice as fateful as that of any Lottery draftee.


Set up Page 69 for us:

This page is the end of a letter that the main character—Judy—originally wrote to her mother, who has now returned it to her edited with caustic comments. Her mother was a World War II nurse who pushed Judy into applying for the army scholarship, which is causing Judy great angst. Her concern is, if by taking the army’s scholarship money, she is complicit in the escalating war that she is beginning to feel is unjust.  Judy knows her mother won’t be sympathetic to her dilemma…and that she will have to face her at some point. Judy’s initial letter was an attempt to soften her mother up a bit by offering a hint of her concerns.  It’s clear to Judy in this scene that her strategy has backfired, and she’s succeeded only in making her mother angry and suspicious.


Does this page give an accurate sense of what the story and theme are about?

The scene capsulizes the background of the choice that Judy eventually feels she has to make—her Coming of Conscience.  Her mother has been at her throughout her childhood about the necessity of going to college and was tremendously relieved when Judy won the scholarship, confident that her future was settled.  But Judy feels trapped in this military solution. Not only is she following in her mother’s footsteps, but more significantly, the world is very different than how her patriotic mother sees it. Judy has bargained with herself, through the Tet Offensive, the Chicago Democratic Convention, and more. But now that she’s away from home, among others who are actively protesting the war, she begins to realize she may need to break away from her mother and their joint plan for her future. This  scene is the beginning of that rift.





~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PAGE 69
THE FOURTEENTH OF SEPTEMBER





What’s going on?

Her breathing sped up again, and she braced herself as she opened the letter fully and then recoiled, as if from a slap. Her original letter was written over with lines, circles, exclamation points, and question marks, a mosaic of clashing handwriting and violent annotations.
She couldn’t tell where to start and turned the letter sideways to read a sentence written down the margin. She touched the script, feeling the indentations, and pictured her mother’s long fingers strangling the ballpoint.

You’re in your last year before transferring and now, you decide to send WRITTEN communications like this!

She could barely read the comments for all the markings, but it was pretty easy to find the offending sentence, circled heavily: “I haven’t told anyone this semester about the army thing. It’s getting a little uncomfortable, if you know what I mean?”

No, I don’t know what you mean!

She felt what she had written had been pretty mild, actually. She had just tucked the two lines in, after the news about how Maggie was getting better about stretching the phone cord out into the hall and closing the door when Danny called after ten o’clock.

She had followed it with a diverting message about how she got a B+ on her chemistry exam though she felt she would have been lucky to get a C, and how much she liked her new dorm, which was co-ed with lots of students from the city.

She scanned the rest of the letter, seeing big circles around the words co-ed and city.

Watch yourself and who you’re associating with!

So much for trying to soften her mother up. She should have known better. Judy moved down to the comments at the end.

You’re questioning the very institution paying for your education? After all we went through? Am I going to have to listen to this all year?

“No, you won’t have to listen to a damn thing,” Judy answered out loud, vowing never to write again. What’ll you do then, Mom, take out an ad in the CIU Clarion announcing my name, rank, and serial number? She ducked inadvertently, then shook herself, annoyed that even though she knew in advance the button her mother would push, she let it get to her anyway.

Judy was about to refold the letter when she noticed way down in the corner a scribbled Mom, as if her mother had nearly left it unsigned and then thought better of it.

She leaned back against the tree and watched the light flicker across the water leading back toward campus. She knew she would be expected to write something in return to acknowledge “message received.”  She toyed with two-word responses: “Got it!”  Or even, “Roger that!” But then she thought she might just stay silent and let her mother twist. She stood up, brushed the damp autumn leaves from her butt, and followed the lights back up the hill to the dorm.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~







Rita Dragonette is a writer who, after spending nearly thirty years telling the stories of others as an award-winning public relations executive, has returned to her original creative path. The Fourteenth of September, her debut novel (She Writes Press 9/2018), is based upon personal experiences on campus during the Vietnam War, and she is currently at work on three other books: an homage to The Sun Also Rises about expats chasing their last dream in San Miguel de Allende, a World War II novel based upon her interest in the impact of war on and through women, and a memoir in essays. She lives and writes in Chicago, where she also hosts literary salons to showcase authors and their new books to avid readers.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Audio Series: Finding God in Ordinary Time



Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.




Today, a
uthor, public speaker, and educator Christine Eberle reads an excerpt from her book Finding God in Ordinary Time, which releases on 9/17. Christine passionately explores the connections between Scripture, spirituality, and everyday life.  Her 25-year career as a college campus minister has given her countless opportunities to ask her favorite question (Where is God in all this?) and to listen for answers in surprising places.  Christine is a gifted public speaker, retreat leader, and church cantor, and performs dramatic interpretations of Biblical women.  In person and on the page, she invites us to encounter a God who has infinite compassion for people in pain, but little time for pious platitudes.  She currently serves as the Director of Campus Ministry at Gwynedd Mercy University near Philadelphia, PA.  You can follow her at christine-marie-eberle.com.









Click on the soundcloud image below to hear Christine read an excerpt from her book: 







What it's about: 


Take a wide-eyed look at your life--the commonplace, joyful, and even heartbreaking events--and discover the presence of God, hidden in plain sight. Forget bowing your head and closing your eyes. The secret to prayer is what happens when you're not trying to pray.

This is the invitation of Christine Eberle's Finding God in Ordinary Time. Each daily reflection contains a true story and a nugget of spiritual insight, accompanied by thought-provoking questions and a memorable Scripture quote. Together they reveal a God who is playful and affectionate, merciful and compassionate, and always relevant. Warm, accessible, and surprisingly funny, Christine offers spiritual nourishment to people skeptical or weary of religion, while still giving the faithful something to chew on.

Simple enough to be devoured in one sitting, this intimate little book is best enjoyed slowly. Each piece deserves to be savored and revisited through the unfolding of each ordinary, extraordinary day.



*TNBBC and its contributors take no stance on god or religion. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Where Writers Write: Jennifer Spiegel

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!



Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 






This is Jennifer Spiegel. 

She is the author of three books, The Freak Chronicles (stories),  Love Slave (a novel), and And So We Die, Having First Slept (forthcoming in December from Five Oaks Press). She’s also half of the book-reviewing duo, Snotty Literati.For more information, go to www.jenniferspiegel.com







Where Jennifer Spiegel Writes
Part Deux



Am I the only writer who’s doing this twice? Yes, I wrote about my place before. Check it out here! It looks like I’m pretending to write in panty-hose. Really? Where’s the brie? Get me some shrimp!

Actually, it wasn’t as off as I anticipated. We moved since my last publishing bout. My “office” seems to be the hottest room in the new/now-old house (Why Do We Live In Arizona Again?), and so now I write on the couch, on my laptop, surrounded by miscellaneous pets. Different ones. My blog was (is) called “Bosco’s Going Down,” named—Pathetically? Sweetly?—after my cat, Bosco, who finally went down. Man, Bosco was a great cat. RIP Bosco.



So I write on the couch. (Kids at school, coffee in tow, music off.)



I did write almost the entire first draft of my new novel at a Starbucks in North Phoenix. Things got sad, though, and I left. First, I would’ve preferred a funky, local, downtown-ish coffeehouse, but I live in North Phoenix, home of Walmart/Sprouts/CVS/Starbucks. Second, I started to get sad when I realized I was waaaaayyyyy more attached to my local baristas than they were to me—like I loved them and, to them, I was just another loiterer, albeit white (Sorry! I couldn’t help myself!). Third, I got breast cancer and went through chemo, which resulted in me hiding out for months, bald—a routine I’ve yet to reverse in any real way, though I now have hair.

So, the couch.




Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Where Writers Write: Nicole Rivas

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!


Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 







This is Nicole Rivas. 

Nicole is from Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. She earned a B.A. in English from California State University, San Bernardino and an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Alabama, and now lives in Savannah, GA, where she teaches college English at Georgia State University. Her prose has been published in The Journal, Passages North, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She can be found at www.nicolemrivas.com.












Where Nicole Rivas Writes




I sometimes envy writers who have clearly-defined workspaces and production schedules. I never have, though I suppose I enjoy it that way. Some weeks, the only things I write are grocery lists or uninspired text messages. And you're more likely to find me writing lying belly-down on a soft surface than sitting at a proper work station. Still, my desk at home contains some writerly essentials, like a printer, a typewriter (which I rarely use for fiction and more for spur-of-the-moment letters or postcards), and loads of pens and pencils that I like to use for marking up drafts of stories. My desk is also the home of my beloved Djungarian hamster, Cavo.






Writing and revision can be a daunting task, so it's nice to have a friendly rodent in the vicinity when I'm sitting down to work. Plus, I'm a writer who needs the room to be relatively quiet when I eke out sentences, so having a tiny, mostly-nocturnal creature around is up my alley. (Only occasionally do I have to oil that squeaky hamster wheel.) I also like to write by windows when possible--both for the sunlight and for viewing the interesting activity of passerby, both human and otherwise. I live across the street from a popular burger joint in Savannah, Georgia, so when I feel like observing a bit more vivacity, I simply open the blinds. It's much better than T.V.






But again, a desk isn't always my thing. In fact, it's probably not even my thing 50% of the time. A lot of my prose writing takes place in my living room using a combination of the couch and coffee table. I found this bean-shaped table on Facebook Marketplace, and I love that it has two surface areas. When I'm working on a large project, I can spread my laptop, books, notes, and whatever else on its two levels and have plenty of space to create, research, and revise with my feet up.






One thing that you'll always find on my coffee table or desk is a notepad and a Timex watch. If I have any sort of writing regimen at all, it's supported by these two objects. They give me a greater sense of place, grounding, and focus than most other objects. I use the notepad for my daily to-do lists, and also as a place to jot down notes about books I'm reading or ideas I have. (I admit, it's not the best organizational method, but it keeps me productive.) The Timex is for compelling me to write. While I don't have a set schedule for writing each day, I do press myself to write something when I have the time, usually for 30 minutes. Running the chronograph setting on this wristwatch makes the task feel achievable, and with my two cozy writing setups, I'm usually able to write well-past my goal time.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Indie Spotlight: Sarah Ward and Aesop Lake

Sara Ward is the author of the recently released Aesop Lake. In today's Indie Spotlight, Sara explains why it's critical in this day and age to teach our young adults how to combat and overcome bullying and intimidation in an environment that currently appears to encourgage it....






Why Aesop Lake is Relevant Now 
by Sarah Ward




When is the right time for a young adult novel about bullying, harassment and being an ally? In our current political climate, our leaders act like bullies, intimidating others, and dismissing those without power, teaching our youngest generation of adults that the only way to get things done is to use force and coercion.

So, when it is the right time? That time is now.

We have an opportunity to offer stories of ally-ship, confronting the bullies, and standing up in unity.  Aesop Lake is such a novel. Leda Keogh, the 17-year-old protagonist must face the challenge of doing the right thing after witnessing a hate crime against a gay couple.  She can protect her boyfriend and her family, or face the forces that control her, and help bring justice to a terrible situation. All too often we are faced with challenges without the guidance and support of others who can help us navigate to a positive outcome.

In Aesop Lake I’ve used three of Aesop’s Fables to frame the story.  These fables are simple messages that bring us back to core values about being human, might doesn’t make right, gentleness can be more persuasive than force, and there is strength in unity. Without standing on moral high ground, the characters in Aesop Lake must confront each other with words, and actions, and find the strength within to change the future.

Even if you don’t write novels, there are many ways that we can raise our kids to be able to stand up for others and help young adults learn to speak up and be allies to their peers.


Here are Five Ways to Help Young Adults be Allies in the Face of Confrontation


1. Talk about why it’s important to be an ally and what that means. Being an ally means recognizing oppression broadly and standing in solidarity with anyone who experiences oppression—whether or not the ally also belongs to a targeted group. Here is a great list from tolerance.org

- Do listen and ask how you can help / Don’t expect another person to educate you about their identity. 
- Do accept criticism thoughtfully /  Don’t broadcast your qualifications for being an ally.
- Do speak up when you hear biased language / Don’t apologize for the actions of your identity group.
- Do seek support from experienced allies within your identity group / Don’t expect credit for being an ally.
- Do acknowledge intersectionality /  Don’t selectively support one group over another.


2. Demonstrate how to stand up for others, if you don’t know yourself, learn:

- Recognize the feeling in your gut when something is not okay. When your stomach tightens up, your pulse quickens, you can hear the tone shift in a conversation, where someone is trying to exert power over another, verbally or emotionally.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Who else is around? What is your location? If you decide to act, can you reasonably assure your safety and that of the other person?
- Take a deep breath, and center yourself. Finding the courage to step out of your comfort zone and speak up requires some confidence. Many parents actually tell their children to mind their own business, don’t get involved if someone else is causing a problem. As a parent, a social worker and a youth group leader, I’ve talked with many teens who want to do the right thing, but don’t feel well equipped to even try.
- Speak clearly and directly to the person being threatened. Make eye contact with them.  Ask them, “Are you okay?” Do you need help?” Or, “May I talk with you for a moment?
- Wait for them to reply, and if the bully tells you to get lost, you could say, “Excuse me, I am talking with this person.” And then turn your attention back to the victim and repeat your question.
- Ask them to step away and once you have put some space between you, ask if they are okay. What can you do to help?”

3. Get involved in social issues, shining a light on injustices in your community. Participate in events such as gay pride parades, Black Lives Matter events and Take Back the Night marches. Helping young adult see that there are other people in their community that support these issues will build their confidence in standing up for someone. 

4. Set the expectation that they should help out if they see someone being bullied or at risk of being harmed. My friend, Rachel recently sent her son off to college with these words of wisdom; “If you see someone is at risk of being harmed or bullied, we want you to do the right thing and stand up for them. Don’t walk away and pretend you didn’t see it.”

5. Manage your own fears of raising an ally. As parents, we must support our children to learn to take some risks, to let their conscience be their guide. From the first time we watch them get on the school bus with the big kids, to helping them move into their first apartment or dorm room, we have our own worries about what might happen. With a healthy perspective we don’t lay those worries on our young adult, but instead, bolster them with confidence, reassuring them that they can do anything they set their mind to. Raising an ally, following the previous steps, will heighten our own fears, but it shouldn’t keep us from taking the next step.


We live in a world divided by hate groups, people choosing sides, turning their backs on each other. But there are also plenty of calls to action, you can stand up for what you believe in, march, protest and write letters…

The time to do so is now.





~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Sarah Ward writes young adult fiction, poetry and journal articles in the field of child welfare. Over a twenty-five-year career as a social worker, Sarah has worked with young adults and families with harrowing backgrounds. She won the 2007 Editor’s Choice Award for the New England Anthology of Poetry for her poem “Warmer Waters,” and she is a member of the League of Vermont Writers since 2008. As a social worker, Sarah has published several journal articles, and was recently a co-author on an article published (December 2016) in Child and Youth Services Review titled, “Building a landscape of resilience after workplace violence in public child welfare.” In her limited spare time, Sarah enjoys a good book, a little yoga and a cup of tea in her home in Williston, Vermont.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Audio Series: Dirty Rubles




Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.




Today, Greg Olear is reading an excerpt from his latest book Dirty Rubles
Greg is the founding editor of The Weeklings and the author of the novels TOTALLY KILLER and FATHERMUCKER, an LA Times bestseller. He has been researching and writing about Trump/Russia since November of 2016. He lives with his family in New York.







What the book is about:


I know we like to build a wall between fiction and politics, as the former provides needed solace from the latter, especially in these harrowing times. The Next Best Book is almost always a novel, right? But what’s happening now, alas, is that the president and his minions have taken over the manufacturing of fiction. And it takes a novelist, ironically, to tell what’s really going on.
DIRTY RUBLES is not a book about politics. It’s a primer on the greatest scandal in the history of this great country—how a loose cabal of mobbed-up grifters and reality-show con-men joined forces with an enemy state to swing the election. Which, indeed, sounds like a novel. A Russian novel, even. But it’s all true.
If you didn’t care about this kind of thing before, after Helsinki, you kind of have to. We are a nation in crisis, and my book explains how we got there—clearly and succinctly. Escaping to the world of fiction is a luxury we all long to return to, but until Trump is excised, it is our moral obligation to stay woke.





Listen to Greg read an excerpt from Dirty Rubles here: 








Thursday, July 26, 2018

Page 69: Report to Megalopolis, or The Post-modern Prometheus

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....






In this installment of Page 69, 










Set up page 69 for us, Tod. What are we about to read?

Pavo Vale, the god man and ‘son’ created by narrator Aspern Grayling, has raped a twelve year old girl: Aurora, younger sister of Pavo’s wife, Faustina, and daughter of Michaeli, Lord High Chancellor of Arcadia. But Grayling can’t let this interfere with his plan, which is to have Pavo and his descendants eventually rule over the entire world of Arcadia and Megalopolis. Pavo has never yet been able to father a child. Grayling yearns for this time to be different.


What is Report to Megalopolis, or The Post-modern Prometheus about?

The Theme?  That to treat other beings as mere objects leads to tragedy. The Plot? Aspern Grayling, a scientist, has created the god man Pavo Vale, in a race to conquer Nature, and through her, Death. The force that opposes him: the ghost of the Arcadian physicist Devindra Vale, the only woman Grayling has ever loved. 


Do you think this page is a good reflection of the book? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme?

It’s actually a terrific mini reflection of the rest of the book. I was so pleased when I saw where p. 69 of “Report to Megalopolis” falls! Aurora is the charming child who is everyone’s pet, including Grayling’s. His sacrifice of her autonomy and her sanity in pursuit of his goals sums up all that is confused, arrogant, and ultimately tragic in his story and the story of Pavo Vale.







~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PAGE 69
REPORT TO MEGALOPOLIS, 
or
The Post-modern Prometheus



Of course I had my work before me: to calm the situation, and bring it under control. My control. For this, to aid me, I had Michaeli’s terror of scandal, of losing any kind of face in public. That and Faustina’s fastidiousness, which forbade her from complaining in public of her husband, lest any lesser being insult her with censure or, worse, pity. And Michaeli’s wife, whose triviality and, truth to tell, fear of her magnificent son-in-law made her easy enough to tame.


If I felt any twinge of guilt as I went feverishly to work, it was toward Aurora. Used, as she was, to taking my word as gospel, it was all too easy to beat back any attachment she might have to childish feelings of hurt or injustice. She had been honored by a great man with a passionate love. That was how I bade her look at the matter.

Obediently, she tried. She followed. She stumbled, certainly, on the path, but I was careful to be there to catch her, to hold her up and set her feet firmly back on the path. My path, of course. I always made sure of that.

So sweet, Aurora. Always ready to take another’s view as superior to her own. “I know I’m just a girl,” she would say humbly. “But I think…,” and then, faltering, she would be silent, as if realizing, with true wisdom, that her thoughts were neither here nor there.

She was a jewel, Aurora. In truth, she was now as beautiful and silent as the rising dawn that shared her name.

So silent was she, that it was some time before we—before I—became aware that she was soon to have a child.


9.

I tell you, Livia, my heart was in my mouth when I knew of Aurora’s condition. I acted as the girl’s doctor in all this, so it was I who saw the unmistakable signs before anyone else even suspected.

The girl herself was more and more quiet with every passing day. Though if she knew what momentous happening was within her, she gave no sign, said no word, to anyone.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




Rather have Tod read it to you? We got you covered. 
Click below to hear her read the excerpt!






~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~






Tod Davies is the author of Snotty Saves the Day, Lily the Silent, and The Lizard Princess, the first three books in THE HISTORY OF ARCADIA series, as well as the cooking memoirs Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You’ve Got and Jam Today Too: The Revolution Will Not Be Catered. Unsurprisingly, her attitude toward literature is the same as her attitude toward cooking—its all about working with what you have to find new ways of looking and new ways of becoming ever more human.  Originally from San Francisco, she now lives with her husband, the filmmaker Alex Cox, and their two dogs, Gray and Pearl, in the alpine valley of Colestin, Oregon.





Monday, July 9, 2018

Bronwyn Reviews: Downdrift


Downdrift
by Johanna Drucker
Publisher: Three Rooms Press
Released: 2018




reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin





Koalas work in the construction industry. Coyotes run for school board. Armadillos breakdance. Prairie dogs gamble. Lemurs sell jewelry. Silverfish volunteer to take notes for crows gathering oral histories (this doesn’t end well). Giraffes develop a passion for flute playing. They partner with little jerboas that finger the notes by hopping about and pressing their cheeks against the flute holes.

I haven’t laughed so much while reading a novel in a very, very long time. And yet, Johanna Drucker’s Downdrift is completely serious. She sets the tone and intent in an early scene:

“The squirrels are tired of the purpose-driven life, sick of storing nuts against the barren winter. Suddenly they are addicted to the luxury of squandering their energy in useless production and consumption.”

In the “downdrift” of the title, animals increasingly take on human characteristics and behaviors. As the title suggests, this is a move backward in the evolutionary cycle. The “drift” of the title is the haphazard nature of their downward spiral. One species makes a rapid evolutionary leap, while another moves incrementally. In the animal kingdom as on a sandy shoal at the mouth of a river, downdrift is a form of erosion.

The two main characters are a Massachusetts calico named Callie and an unnamed lion on the Kenya grasslands. Something in the downdrift drives them to leave their homes and search for each other. Their journeys are narrated by an archaeon, a genderless single-celled microorganism that is networked around the globe, giving it an omniscient vantage point for observing the downdrift.

“The hyenas are good at many things. They recycle foil with a great passion, flattening its convoluted mass into worried surfaces that they read as if an augury. The rhinos keep them around for amusement, even if they have to police their behavior at times…. After all, the hyenas are helpful to them in many ways. For instance, they have an uncanny ability to assess inventory and are involved in what they consider to be a cargo cult.”

As animals become self-aware, natural law must be replaced with something more formal. Is it right for a lost suburban housecat to hunt down and eat a mouse that has become capable of communicating its emotions through an ecstatic dance on a piece of toast? Laws must be written, regulations promulgated, lines drawn. Under pressures both legal and social, Callie quickly becomes a vegetarian, falling off the wagon in only the most hungry, desperate circumstances, as at a hidden tide pool writhing with minnows.   

Drucker applies concepts from popular culture to animal behavior, at times using the language of bureaucracy to bring it all together in an uncanny absurdity that still seems familiar. In one scene, a goat looks up from the newspaper he is eating to read aloud to a group of beavers about the emerging new narcissism disease:

“The beavers, sounding the alarm and fearing for contagion, scream a warning about the ‘blue-eyed syndrome!’ Callie takes advantage of the uproar to scoop up a few more yams and yellow squash, which helps to calm her homicidal urge to attack the rodents. The goat who started the whole mess takes pleasure in the random chaos of the scene. Though he pretends to be a political pundit, he is really a nihilist at heart, and confusion provides him almost as much pleasure as consuming the last of the news.”

Reading Downdrift put me in mind of Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis (1997) and Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (1925). Both are sci-fi-adjacent, speculative, satirical, brilliant, and heartbreaking. Animals take on our characteristics and behaviors with tragic results that reveal our human failings. What sets Downdrift apart is that humans are almost invisible in Drucker’s text, irrelevant to the story beyond their general evolutionary influences. As the book comes to a close we get one final look at the lion:

“Nobility is ascribed to him by humans, but their love of charismatic creatures spawns from their own aspirations. They adopt the animals as role models, as if the animal kingdom is a metaphor whose purpose is symbolic, not lived or real.”

This is the powerful eco-fiction ethic at the heart of Downdrift. Animals do not exist for our purposes. Their lives have value and meaning beyond our ability to see or comprehend them. Many other animals were here before homo sapiens emerged. They will, unless we make some terribly colossal mistake, remain long after we are gone, living their lives on their terms.


###



Bronwyn Mauldin writes fiction and poetry, and creates zines. She will be an Artist in Residence at Denali National Park and Preserve in summer 2018. More at bronwynmauldin.com.