Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the past for future inspiration or on her blog: deborahwalkersbibliography.blogspot.com. Her stories have appeared in Nature’s Futures, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into a dozen languages.
In the guest post below, she discusses the inspiration for her story “Medea” and poem “Child Without Summer”, both of which appear in LCRW 33.
Humanity’s a frog being slowly boiled in a saucepan. Most of us in the developed world are too busy to feel the water heating up, to notice that we’re being gradually boiled alive. ‘Medea’ and ‘Child Without Summer’ (written by my alter ego, Kelda Crich) explore this near-sighted tendency, this blindness to events that don’t impact immediately on our stressful day-to-day lives.
Peter Ward’s Medea Hypothesis imagines Earth as a mother intent on killing her multicellular children in an attempt to return to a microbial-dominated state. In my story ‘Medea’ I was interested in portraying an ordinary person’s response to a desperate environmental situation. Heck, if we’re having to supplement the very air we breathe, the situation is pretty grim. Yet I imagined my character as being more interested in the footie than in discussing philosophy and environmental theory with his philosophical customer. What moves people, how we’re inclined to live in the now rather than face the consequences of the future are interesting questions to me. But despite portraying such a grim state of affair, I also provided an end note of hope in the form of a famous sporting quote.
‘Child Without Summer’ was inspired by Ragnarök, my go-to eschatology. Fimbulvinter is the three years of extreme cold preceding the Viking End of Days. The poem blends ancient belief with elements of science fiction. It’s another optimistic piece: when push comes to shove I’ve imagined that humanity will find solutions. Again, it focuses on an ordinary person. My narrator (female in my head, but not necessarily so) admits that she was blind to the dangers of environmental catastrophe and laments the fact that she’s now living in a frozen wasteland. Yet this catastrophe has been transformative for my character. For the sake of her child she’s risen to the challenge. She’s filled with determination, imagining herself as a jötnar, an ice giant striding across the frozen landscape to embracing the challenges of the environment for the sake of future generations.
For LCRW’s ‘Humanity’s Relationship With Earth’ issue, I wrote about frogs in the saucepan enduring temperatures a little bit hotter than the heat we’re facing today. Michael asked me if I thought that fiction and poetry are able to influence the reader’s thoughts and feeling about environmental issues. I think it’s a rare bit of writing that can change a reader’s mind. Rather than providing answers, I like asking questions with my fiction. And any answers I give in my stories may or may not be my own opinion.
But maybe, just maybe, writers can ask the right questions to help people understand that it’s getting warm in this pan. Questions are important. Questions are an opportunity. Questions can make you think.
Is it just me, or is it getting hot in here?
Peter Ward (2009), The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?
Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 33, a theme issue about humanity’s relationship with the earth guest edited by me, is available in 30% recycled dead tree form from Small Beer Press and indie bookstores near you. The ebook version is at Weightless Books.