“Truth is a rhizome—an underground plant stem with lateral shoots. You need to dig deep to reach it and, once unearthed, you have to treat it with respect.” -Elif Shafak
Welcome to Dragonfly’s first newsletter of 2023, and thanks for continuing to read. Each month, this newsletter shares an overview of what’s new in the world of ecofiction, a broad and diverse mode of storytelling that reveals our connections with various aspects of the natural world. I run Dragonfly.eco, which turned ten last year and which celebrates and explores such fiction.
Monthly Book Recommendation
I’m reading Elif Shafak’s The Island of the Missing Trees, which I think just might be in my top five favorite novels ever. Partly set in Cyprus and in London, the book draws in the reader with three unique narratives, my favorite being the fig tree’s. We learn a lot about how trees communicate in this novel. But, also, I have enjoyed fiction set in Greece and surrounding islands in the past; probably the first I remember reading was John Fowles’ The Magus. Both Fowles and Shafak aptly describe the islands’ beauty and horror. In Shafak’s novel is a scene at a tavern where honeysuckle vines, chili peppers, lantern lights, a fig tree growing through the roof, a parrot, Mediterranean foods, and patrons drinking wine congregate. It’s a place where wilderness and people mingle, where young lovers find themselves, an atmospheric place I want to be. Place-writing is so important to me, but everything else about this epic novel moving around in time and space is fresh and interesting. I read for these experiences and can’t recommend this novel enough.
New at Dragonfly
This month’s world spotlight is on The Globe and Mail’s Menaka Raman-Wilms and her novel A Rooftop Garden.
It’s the first time in the series we’ve traveled to Germany. Menaka and I talk about her time in Berlin, her fascination of how nature was overtaking fallen built environments there, and a friendship between two characters who knew each other as children and reconnect as adults. Their anxiety about climate change also spans their twenty-year relationship.
For Turning the Tide, Kimberly Christensen reviews the young adult novel Dry, by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman. Dry is a multifaceted exploration of a major drought event in Southern California, set in the modern day and entirely realistic feeling. The book follows five main characters, four teens and one younger sibling, who find themselves in an uneasy coalition to survive California’s Tap Out, caused when prolonged lack of rainfall meets self-interested politics and the water supply to a major metropolitan area is cut off suddenly and without preparation.
For the Indie Corner, I also chat with Sharon Heath, the author of two series: The Fleur Trilogy and The Further Adventures of Fleur. These novels feature the development of Fleur Robins, whose anxious response to early trauma in a household presided over by an alcoholic mother and an anti-abortionist senator father, who hates actual children, weaves itself into an unusual giftedness that makes a significant impact on her world. Fleur is into science, animals, and climate change, which inform her interests.
A new Backyard Wildlife post talks about the changing climate in our part of the world. Since that post, we’ve also gotten a new trailcam and I’ve begun a new channel at YouTube called Meadow Cam. Check it out and see the white-tailed deer—including some bucks—coyotes, fox, raccoon, and various crows caught on camera.
Some new and upcoming books are posted at Dragonfly, with more to come soon:
The Stolen Child, Clara Hume (this is mine!), January 23
The Last Beekeeper, Julie Carrick Dalton, March 7
The Terraformers, Annalee Newitz, January 31
The Deluge, Stephen Markley, January 10
The Book of Rain, Thomas Wharton, March 14
The Last Animal, Ramona Anusubel, April 18
The Light Pirate, Lily Brooks-Dalton, December 6
Out recently are a couple new films that are controversial: Avatar: The Way of Water and Where the Crawdads Sing.
Criticism surrounds the movie Avatar: The Way of Water as being a "white man's fantasy" (Grist). James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water came out on December 16. Here's a CNET interview with Cameron, who stated, "I think the goal of either of my major projects right now, Super/Natural or Avatar: The Way of Water, is to remind us how important nature is to us, and put us back into that kind of childlike perspective where we have this sense of wonder and connection to nature."
I'd never read the novel Where the Crawdad Sings, another title with controversy surrounding it. A recent Den of Geek article talks about its author, Delia Owens, who is wanted for questioning in Zambia for alleged crimes. Within that article is a link to a New Yorker article from 2010 about the Owens’ time in Africa, saving elephants from poachers. It’s a long but great read. I did watch the movie recently, however, and while I cannot support the author of the book in recommending it (I haven't read the book, nor did I like the Owens' "white saviour" complex and treating Africans as inferior), Lucy Alibar’s screenplay of the Where the Crawdads Sing film did away with black stereotypes and focused on the importance of nature in the marsh. I really liked the movie quite a bit.
In case you’ve missed these exciting resources at Dragonfly, which are constantly being updated, check ‘em out!
Rewilding Our Stories: A Discord community, now expanded into a website, where you can find resources, reading, and writing fun in fiction that relates strongly to nature and environment. There’s a new submissions call-out for place writing!
New subreddit: Ecofiction. A place to find almost daily news about novels, articles, news, and films in the field of rewilded and ecological fiction.
World’s biggest playlist? Our environmental/nature song-of-the-week playlist goes back to 2015.
Book recommendations: a growing list of recs.
Eco/climate genres: They’re all over the place, and here’s an expanding compendium
Inspiring and informative author quotes from Dragonfly’s interviews
List of ecologically focused games
List of eco/climate films and documentaries
Eco-fiction links and resources
Book database: Database of nearly 1,000 book posts at Dragonfly.eco
Turning the Tide: The Youngest Generation: Fiction aimed toward children, teens, and young adults
Indie Corner: The occasional highlight of authors who publish independently
Backyard Wildlife: A hidden gem exploring how we are rewilding our own backyard and meadow
Artists & Climate Change. This is an extraordinary resource delving into all kinds of the arts focused on climate change. For a while now they’ve been rerunning my world eco-fiction spotlights. I’m a core writer for their team, and I’m both honored and grateful. Look for my “Wild Authors” series there. Note that this site is indefinitely paused at the moment, but the owner let me know that the content isn’t going away.
I’ve been helping with the social media at Climate Fiction Writers League. Check them out!