Since my last Milford attendance, I’ve retired and spent more time writing. I have had short fiction and poetry accepted by online and print publications. (A partial list is available on my website at www.wenonahlyon.com)
I have two hobbies: writing and politics. The writing is fun; the politics depressing.
I joined Zoetrope.com, a writers’ site. Critique five short stories or flash fiction pieces and post your own. I strongly recommend Zoe – I learned a lot about writing by looking at other people’s work, at what worked and what didn’t. I also made some very good online friends.
Then my YA novel, Dream Nexus, was accepted by Dreaming Big Publications, an independent press.
Dream Nexus compares two times, two places, and the possibilities structured by time and place.
Jeannette and Stephen are in a hospital ward in London, recovering from polio. It is the beginning of WWII. Jeannette has been abandoned by her family, and hopes she never has to leave the hospital: she has nowhere to go. Stephen, exceptionally intelligent, has a scholarship to a private school for boys from the East End of London.
Jean Marie, in modern Houston, lives with her single parent mother. Her best friend, Sophie, several years younger than Jean Marie, lives in a trailer park with her mother. Sophie doesn’t fit in because of her intelligence, poverty.
Separated by time and space, Jeannette and Jean Marie dream of each other’s lives. As they learn to communicate intentionally, they realise that the characters and conflicts in Jeannette’s past are re-created in Jean Marie’s present. Jean Marie’s knowledge of the past allows her warnings to be used to change Jeannette’s present. How does this influence Jean Marie’s present?
The time and place where someone lives is as important as more unique, individual, qualities. I’m a retired anthropologist, and on tests I gave students a question for extra credit. I asked them to choose any of the different groups and cultures we had studied and write a first person account describing their life. Students always wrote the “extra question” and wanted to talk about it in class the next day.
I didn’t learn to swim until I was an adult. My mother was terrified of polio. Swimming pools were a place where the disease spread. So I didn’t go swimming. Then Jonas Salk developed a vaccine and polio slowly disappeared. (Salk did not patent it – anyone could make it. I saw an estimate that he could have been a billionaire.)
Swimming pools became very different places, post Salk.
Today, we are in the middle of a pandemic. We cherry pick science just as we cherry pick religion.
Some assume that people working in laboratories somewhere will find something that will fix everything. They still ignore everything scientists say about cutting the spread of the disease. They also ignore warnings about subsequent pandemics, global warming, deforestation, and the possibility of a Sixth Mass Extinction.
Others assume a deus ex machina, where something crashes in and solves everything. It’s as if human beings, around 1995, gave up on human ability to take care of problems. Instead, something or someone would save us all. It’s an interesting plot device for fiction but, like many fictional solutions, better not relied on.
Science fiction takes science and extrapolates: if we know this, what are future possible consequences? Science fantasy looks at ethical questions.
Ultimately, in Dream Nexus, Jeannette and Jean Marie must make an ethical decision. And, ultimately, we as a species are forced to react to this pandemic by making vaccinations possible for everyone – poor countries that cannot afford it. Global warming has resulted in creating deserts, fires. Will we attempt to feed people? Allow immigration?
Corvid 19: we’ve seen the best and the worst of what human beings can do. Other pandemics will come. We’ve had extreme weather. Will the rich north share with the poor south?
The next ten years will be interesting.
I’m looking forward to writing about it.
Wenonah Lyon is a retired anthropologist.. In addition to academic publications, she has published short fiction in In Posse, Dead Mule, Quantum Muse, Maps, flashquake, Unlikely 2.0 and other online and print journals. (The essay in Unlikely 2.0 has been included in cityLit Berlin.) Dream Nexus, YA fiction, will be published by Dreaming Big Publications.