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Beyond the thin, fragile fringe of light afforded by the fire is a vast forest, wrapped in a darkness that is unimaginable to those who have passed their lives in cities and towns. -John Atcheson
The above quote is by a writing friend who passed away. This month I’d like to acknowledge three people I’ve worked with who have sailed that boat to the west, each leaving behind a huge legacy. One is John Atcheson, whose quote in the newsletter byline is from a bear story he told me once, which ended up in an interview where we discussed his great novel A Being Darkly Wise. John died in a car accident in January 2020. My long-time friend Michael Rothenberg passed away in November 2023 after a struggle with cancer. We had worked together for decades, and last summer I reviewed his most recent book of poetry, In Memory of a Banyan Tree. A month after Michael’s death, poet and Wisconsin democrat Tom Hibbard passed away. We had worked together nearly as long as I knew Michael. I published excerpts of his poetry to Dragonfly occasionally and a few years ago published his poetry chapbook, The Sacred River of Consciousness (now out of print). It’s hard to say goodbye, especially when you don’t get to because of the sudden nature of tragedy and happenstance.
Each of these writers made an impact on me, and they imbued their stories with the power, awe, and even fear of the wilderness around us. The bear story John told me, and the novel he wrote, remind me of deep summer and the twilight zones we enter at midnight when a campfire licks our faces and a billion stars hang above and the bourbon has flowed, enlivened with fresh mint from the meadow. I like these times with friends and family during the deep summer time, but knowing that that they can flicker out at any given moment also gives way to the notion that we should appreciate them always.
I loved meeting and talking with Julie Janson, author of Madukka the River Serpent, which takes place in a fictional town in New South Wales. The author is a Burruberongal woman of Darug Aboriginal Nation. She is also co-recipient of the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Poetry Prize, 2016 and winner of the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, 2019. Serpent is an Indigenous crime novel about the disappearance of a Murri environmentalist, Thommo. The crime is not taken seriously by the police; the only one who takes action is Aunty June, a Gamilaraay elder. Faced with a host of corruption—including endemic racism, police brutality, and water theft—she wonders if her people will ever have a true chance, and she fights for it. Into the story she weaves various ecological aspects of the Darling (Barka) River, which is running out of water, and the stark landscapes of southeastern Australia.
Recommended book of the month
Speaking of things once lived but now threatened or gone, language is such an entity, and in my new role as an editorial advisor at Climatelit.org, I’m always on the lookout for children’s nature books. A Day with Yayah, by Nicola Campbell (interior Salish and Métis)—illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree-Métis)—is the picture book that I’m reading now.
A grandmother named Yayah teaches her granddaughter the Nlaka'pamux words for natural items found in their British Columbia home, including those found in traditional food gathering. It’s a beautifully illustrated book, sure to teach anyone the meaning, pronunciation, and importance of words like wild celery, lightning mushrooms, wild sunflowers, silver willow, our land, and even thank you.
Rewilding Our Stories Discord is voting on a book-club read starting today (July 15), and it’s not too late to join us. If you’re new to Discord, you might want to read this post about how to join and what to do after joining. We’re up to nearly 300 members and it’s become a part of my day to go there and see what’s new. The books we’ll be voting on are:
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
Under the Sea-wind by Rachel Carson
Weird Fishes by Rae Mariz
A Door into the Ocean by Joan Slonczewski
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
Coral Bones by EJ Swift
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Le Guin
Seeds for the Swarm by Sim Kern
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Thus Spoke the Plant by Monica Gagliano
I’ve posted several new books, films, and games at Dragonfly since last month:
The Girl Who Broke the Sea by A. Connors
Wolfish by Christiane M. Andrews
Stolen by Ann-Helén Laestadius
The Forbidden Territory of a Terrifying Woman by Molly Lynch
Haven by Emma Donoghue
Mother Nature (graphical novel) by Jamie Lee Curtis
Moon of the Turning Leaves by Waubgeshig Rice
The End We Start from by Megan Hunter (film news)
The Fifth Season RPG (based on N.K. Jemisin’s multiple Hugo Award-winning Broken Earth trilogy).
On July 11, Electric Lit announced the 2023 shortlist for the Ursula K. Le Guin awards.
At the end of 2022, I wrote that I was trying to find a new look for the site, and I’m happy to say that, thanks to my husband Morgan, who designed the child theme and makes the book database possible, Dragonfly has a new design and reading experience. I’m still modifying small things on and off to improve readability, but I like how it’s looking now. It’s less busy and cleaner.
If you’re on Mastodon, EnoraVFX seems like an interesting artist to follow. One of their recent posts is, “I'm Enora Mercier. I've worked as a concept artist for clients such as Riot Games, 20th Century Fox, and as an illustrator for Magic:The Gathering. My work often involves Eco-punk themes and I am now working in partnership with scientists to illustrate articles, books and papers on the climate crisis and eco-games.” Going to watch for that!
In case you’ve missed these exciting resources at Dragonfly, which are constantly being updated, check ‘em out!
LinkTree: Find out more about me.
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!
Climate Lit: I’m a new editorial advisor at ClimateLit.org, a resource hub for building young people’s climate literacy with literature, film, and stories in other media. Their mission is to promote universal climate literacy and climate literacy education as a means to transition to an ecological civilization.
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 over 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.
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!