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Fire & Water

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Fire & Water: Stories from the Anthropocene edited by Mary Fifield & Kristin Thiel.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 

 

 

The Editors & Contributors

 

Mary Fifield’s writing has appeared in Midway Journal, Cargo Literary Magazine, The Write Launch, and others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her short story collection, Last of the Species and Other Stories, was a finalist for the Black Lawrence Press Hudson Prize. Mary lives in Portland, Oregon, with her partner, travels regularly to Latin America, and is working on a novel about the climate crisis.

Kristin Thiel started writing before she knew how to spell, dictating stories to her mom. She now makes her living writing and editing. Her short stories and essays have appeared in other anthologies (Dzanc Books, Seal Press), for which she received the honor of reading at Powell’s Books. kristinthiel.com

Fire & Water includes climate fiction by Tomas Baiza, J. D. Evans, Mary Fifield, Bishop Garrison, JoeAnn Hart, Anthony S. James, Stefan Kiesbye, Jack Kirne, Carlos Labbé, Shaun Levin, Jessica Meeker, Jennifer Morales, Etan Nechin, Vivian Faith Prescott, Kristin Thiel, Jan Underwood, and Tara Williams.

 

About the Anthology

 

Fire & Water: Stories from the Anthropocene is the product of a desire to be the change you want to see in the world. Mary had been longing for more literary fiction about climate disruption when she read Amitov Ghosh’s book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Ghosh’s treatise, which implores literary fiction writers to take on the very real and very current experience  of the climate crisis  as well as the opportunities to change course, inspired an idea that Mary brought to Kristin Thiel, long-time friend, editor, and fellow writer. Over a happy hour beverage on a crisp but sunny fall day in the Pacific Northwest, the two explored the possibilities for an anthology of global fiction exploring a slow-moving crisis that most people are just now starting to wake up to.

They are honored to curate outstanding stories from writers with diverse experiences, voices, and literary styles. The anthology takes readers on a rare journey through the physical and emotional landscape of the climate crisis. Through everyday living and surreal imaginings, memory and dream, grief, bewilderment, loss, even hope and humor, authors in Fire & Water explore how we humans have changed the planet and continue to as well as the possibilities for transformation once again, this time to heal the divisions we have created.

 

Excerpt

 

From “The Doorman,” which starts the anthology, to “A Sea of People,” which appears near the end, Fire & Water centers climate change in stories from the here and now that are as familiar as they are gripping and that are by turns sobering and hopeful.

 

Excerpt from “The Doorman” by Jennifer Morales

That night, Ashley was awakened from his drug-muffled sleep by a loud smack and a crash of glass. He had been dreaming of hitting a home run, the thwack and shudder of the bat still alive in his arms. He peeled one dry eye open, then the other. In the washed-out glow from the streetlamp out front, he picked out a beaver in the lilac’s branches shaking glass from its tail. While Ashley tried to recall how to move his limbs, the beaver jumped through the broken window and waddled toward the same cabinet the squirrel had disappeared into.

“God, no.” He turned on the lamp next to him, just in time to see a cluster of bats swoop in through the broken window and head for the cabinet too. One of them wedged its furry body between the door and the frame and held it open for its companions.

“What the hell?”

He picked up the phone but set it down again: It was going on three o’clock. Who do you call at three o’clock in the morning about a beaver breaking into your house?

From his seat in the living room he had a decent view of the kitchen cabinets next to the sink, but if the beaver and bats were up to anything in there, he couldn’t see or hear it. He got up and moved cautiously into the kitchen, pausing to grab a knife from a drawer near the fridge. Standing off to one side, he opened the door wide and waited. Nothing. He leaned over as much as he dared and looked in. Darkness. Silence.

“Hey!” he said into the void. He knocked the knife blade against the cabinet frame. No response. The animals must have found another way out. That was good, Ashley thought, although it puzzled him how he wouldn’t notice a draft from a gap big enough to fit a full-grown beaver. He would look more closely in the morning when there was better light.

He settled back into his chair before realizing that he would have to do something about the window. Damp night air was dropping in through the empty frame. He roused himself to find an old cardboard box and some duct tape and sealed it up as best he could. It wasn’t a real solid job, and he couldn’t bend to pick up the broken glass glittering the carpet, but it would have to do.

He had only just fallen back to sleep when a series of titters and squeaks startled him awake. A family of raccoons hustled in, busting through his cardboard barrier like it was nothing. They were followed a few minutes later by a pair of herons. Several neon-green frogs with poor timing sprang through between the birds’ feet, and a heron snagged two of them with its beak.

Ashley felt pinned to the recliner under the combined weight of his fear and curiosity. He tensed, but the animals didn’t approach or threaten him. They went straight for the cabinet without a glance in his direction.

It went on all night. Ashley was terrified when a group of rattlesnakes slithered in off the lilac bush and right down the face of his TV, but even the snakes didn’t pay him any mind. A soundless parade of fireflies drifted by, some blinking white, some yellow. Next came a bunch of possums, a clutch of rabbits, a long black trail of ants, and then, around daybreak, six eagles.

He was surprised by the awkwardness of the giant birds’ gait. He thought of them only in flight, inspiring and majestic, but on his kitchen linoleum, they were clumsy, their feathered shoulders hunched like hoodlums up to no good. Still, he couldn’t help feeling that the eagles were some kind of sign, arriving at the start of a new day. He was a patriot, after all. It made him think that, whatever it was these animals were heading off to do, maybe he shouldn’t get in their way.

He waited out the day in his chair, half-watching TV. His head abuzz, his thoughts scattered and incomplete, he felt as if he had drunk too much coffee. Ashley was unsurprised by the occasional flick of the curtain as a finch or two slipped in, then a pileated woodpecker. He thought the woodpecker looked like the one that was trying to knock through the wall weeks before, but it was hard to tell. How long had these animals been planning this?

He shook his head. Animals don’t plan, you idiot.

 

Excerpt from “A Sea of People” by Shaun Levin

 

M and Esteban are, for these moments, tourists in the city, standing at the railing, sampling different flavors: peanut butter, raspberry, blueberry. They watch the barges, the lights, the clock above the Savoy approaching midnight, the water rising, a seagull on the surface abandoning itself to the river’s current. Esteban points his camera at M, tells him to smile. Around them the entire city is awake, intent on participating in this heatwave, or uneased by it, tossing and turning with memories and longing.

M smiles for the camera.

“Careful,” Esteban says, pointing to the water that’s leaking over the edge of the wall, just a trickle, making a puddle at their feet.

They move away from the railing, but the water follows them, creeping along the embankment. The kids have lost interest in the pigeons and are taking off their shoes to skip in the expanding puddles that slowly cover the paving, half an inch, an inch, people laughing, relieved to be cooling their feet, looking at each other, does anyone know what’s going on, phones out to take pictures, an event for tweeting and retweeting, every moment a potential once-in-a lifetime, definitely this one. The water flows across the walkway into the skateboarders’ pit behind them. The young men move to higher ground, hold onto their boards, jump between raised sections of concrete as if across stepping-stones. Everyone’s moving to higher ground; the woman with the crutches is balancing on a bench with her daughter.

“Vamonos?” Esteban says.

“Not yet,” M says, the water now at their ankles, their shoes in their hands.

It’s cold and fresh, and it keeps rising.

“I’m going in!” one of the skateboarders shouts, throws down his board, takes off his shirt, his pale body reflected in the water, then dives in.

People laugh and cheer. The young girl in pink shouts, “Mummy, can I swim?” and the mother looks over at M and Esteban, and they shrug and smile, what can you do, and the little girl stretches her arms out above her, hands clasped together like she’d seen on TV during a recent swimming contest, and launches herself into the cool moving water. The river covers everything, submerging chairs and café tables outside the National Theatre, people streaming out like balloons being released, like in a clip M had seen where millions of shade balls are released into an LA reservoir to stop the water from evaporating. We are the balloons, he thinks. We will cover this water! He and Esteban lift with the water as it rises toward the bridge.

Barges and clipper boats help those who don’t want to swim, and it’s cool and fresh, and the serious swimmers take it seriously. At last! A race along the Thames. Race you to Canary Wharf; race you down to Battersea. Buses stop on the bridge, and passengers join those standing at the edge looking down, unsure whether to rescue the swimmers coming toward them, floating away from them, or to dive in and join them. Someone in the water shouts toward a couple standing on the ledge: “Do it! Jump!” And so, roaring with delight, they do.

The river is a vast outdoor swimming pool, and everyone is swimming, paddling, breaststroke, freestyle from one bank to the other. This is how you cross a river. They laugh, and M thinks that, yes, we’re definitely not drowning here, none of us, all of us lifted above these streets, moving between buildings, peering through windows as we swim like we’re flying, all finding a way to stay afloat, holding onto buoys, hitching a ride, laughing, egging each other on, heading for dry land but also avoiding it, letting go into the cool constant pull of the current, all of us here in the city, calling out to each other, waving.

All of us waving.