Rebecca Roanhorse

Years ago, during a stressful time at work, I started reading Robert Jordan’s novels in “Wheel of Time.” Increasingly turgid, I retained little but couldn’t seem to stop. I just needed to escape. My son-in-law Tim took me in hand and plied me with livelier swords and sorcery, steam punk, and Terry Pratchett. My reading life improved and has stayed that way.

Enter Rebecca Roanhorse. My daughter Isabel found “Trail of Lightning.” Wow! Here is a post-apocalyptic near future set on the Navajo Reservation-a place that has changed much less than the west coast, which is now under water. Monsters have awakened, as well as supernatural human powers. Heavy drinking, heavily armed, and heavy-hearted Maggie is the heroine—a killing machine but also a complicated woman.

Roanhorse has an insider/outsider perspective on the Rez. She is married to a Navajo, but comes from a complex multi-cultural background that lets her create a variety of characters who move between different worlds. One believable detail—even covered in gore Maggie is worried her water rationing won’t allow for a full shower.

“Storm of Locusts” is the next in the series. It is actually stronger than the first, with more nuances in the characters and conflict that is clearer and less horror-driven. There are some great details as Maggie and her crew head for the remnants of Route 66—“Bad men called it I-40.” And the fate of the Park Service is one I believe: detached from a failed federal government they have become sacred land protectors who no one will harm. And when the Glen Canyon Dam leaks…well, it’s a great climax.

The first book in an earlier series, “Black Sun”, might be the best of all. Set in an Aztecan universe that isn’t confined by any resemblance to reality it roams freely between city states on a sea that links and divides them. There is the corrupt priest hierarchy, the heavy drinking etc. woman sea captain, the godlike prophet, criminal minds, and more. The multiple storylines work well. Best of all, it stars very large very magical crows.

So if you are looking from some speculative fiction to absorb, maybe watch the Robert Jordan series but read Rebecca Roanhorse.

Monday Feature by Michaela Kahn: A dream, a prose poem, an alien, and David Bowie

A dream, a prose poem, an alien, and David Bowie:

A little trip into the strange …. This started as a dream than and then morphed.  Kind of a sci-fi prose poem.

 

 

Bowie Dream

 

 

It was David Bowie’s alien that caused the chaos. After it was caught, it died, melted down into a little pile of goo and one very dense spot – a diamond. And Bowie kept it in a glass aquarium. He stood on a step stool and gazed down into the searing diamond-light. Then people started to get sick. The visible symptom was the hard, beak-like growth that emerged just under the collarbone.

But none of us knew the alien had caused it. And the military started to round up the sick and herd them into camps. Finally, David (it’s a dream, so I can call him David) shows me a live satellite image of the earth. There is this brilliant light beaming up into space. I look for the origin; the picture of North America is like a map. The light comes from the alien-diamond. Anyone touched by the diamond-light is infected.

In the dream, Bowie is smaller than I would have imagined. Very thin. A gentleman, polite.

They make people strip, take their clothes and shoes and put them into piles. The children can’t take their dolls with them. Most are cooperative, quiet. A boy starts to cry and every head turns – not toward the cry, but away from it, embarrassed.

As more and more are packed into trains, shuttled off to barbed-wire camps, I think – but we are all infected, the whole world, or soon will be, so why are only some of us being taken? I tell a corporal that I am infected too, even if I don’t have the telltale beak in my chest. Like me, David Bowie is infected but it doesn’t show. For the ones like us, there are a thousand, a million tiny beaks, but inside – living in the blood.

Another train pulls out of the station. David and I stand together on the platform, which is suddenly deserted. In the stillness I study his profile: the sharp nose, the one blue eye.

He smiles, taps his chest and says, “Eventually they will realize we are infected too. And then there will be more in the camps than out. Finally, the whole world will be a camp.”

“I don’t understand,” I say, “What do the beaks want? What will the disease do?”

“Listen,” he says, “Just listen.”

Together we stand on the platform and I close my eyes, listening to the thousand-thousand beaks inside me opening and closing. I realize each beak makes a sound, a call, infinitely faint. All together, sound added to sound, they begin to make a kind of music. Following the music, listening more intently, I realize I can hear the tiny beaks inside of David Bowie singing too. And then more – I can hear, all over the world, these tiny creatures all calling out. The whole world has become a finely tuned beacon, singing out to the stars.

Looking for My Novel on the Colorado Plateau

I wanted to take this road trip on the Colorado Plateau…to be here. But I also had another reason. I’ve been working on my futuristic utopian novel (yup, used to be a novella, but it is getting longer). In it, a society loosely based on the ancient cultures of the Plateau, mostly Anasazi, exists in a non-technological future. Hope this isn’t too confusing already, because there a lot of levels of time travel in the book. But as speculative writer Suzy McKee Charnas says: a new story needs new ways of telling it. So, I’m trying.
But I wanted to see the landscape, right now, freshly. It’s only a few thousand years in the future, there is less water in some places but the terrain is close to identical. I’ve been jotting down notes of things to add, and writing chunks of description. Here are things that the landscape has reminded me of that ought to go in to the book.

So far:

dead trees, species die off among pines etc.
a dog bitten by a rattle snake
chalk formations like the White Place
cactus, and a needle in the palm
cap rock
sand
natural bridges
dry stream
abandoned ruins
herds of mule deer
the feminine curves of the earth in canyons and crevasses

I don’t have to add petroglyphs, however, as they are a focal point in the story, and I’ve been studying them for a long tie.
I hope to have a rough draft by summer.
It’s gotten clearer and clear to me. It was funny when I realized I was writing about a community of artists, fairly egalitarian, gossipy, not into organized religion, pro-women, where people love children and dogs, a comparatively secure class in a world where the edges are menaced by war, starvation, and fanaticism…and realized I was actually writing about a social strata in Santa Fe.

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