Stelliform Press is going to publish my novella, Arboreality this autumn. It’s an expansion of my novelette “An Important Failure,” which was both challenging and wonderful. I got to return to characters and places I love, and explore the possibilities of a world that’s falling apart. Because new things grow out of the crumbles, don’t they? After the wild fires, the fireweed. “An Important Failure” was about a craftsman trying to preserve something precious while the world changed around. Arboreality has a few characters like that, but also characters who are picking up the remnants and making them into something new.
Stelliform publishes fiction about climate change that rejects apocalyptic visions– or visions that are exclusively apocalyptic. Their mandate is hope, and they celebrate resilience, both ecological and human. And not just resilience, but the ways we might all flourish in a re-made world.
I admire this. Having grown up on the nuclear apocalypses of the 1980s, where destruction was absolute and doom inevitable, it is a welcome challenge to write hopefully about the future, and to use the tools of speculative fiction to imagine beauty. I want to be a good ancestor, and to write about people who resist despair (even if they, like me, are inclined toward gloom). Arboreality is about the small ways we might be good ancestors, leaving tools and messages behind for people we won’t ever know, in a world we can’t imagine.
Like a lot of my work, the novella is set in the Cowichan Valley. It’s about people and trees: the Garry oak savannahs of the southern Salish sea, arbutus trees growing out of the rocks around Saanich inlet. My mother is a painter, and she’s been studying these trees for her whole adult life, leaving a record of these marginal landscapes, narrow ecological niches that are easily disordered, and so very beautiful. These are some of her paintings of Arbutus menziesii on the south coast of Vancouver island. Arboreality takes place under these trees, and on these rocks: