Not too long ago I entered into a very special writing contest: 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest hosted by Arizona State University.
Not only was it a good way to jump start my writing that had been a little stale lately but also it was an opportunity to have my work read by one of my favorite Science Fiction authors: Kim Stanley Robinson!
As from the Wikipedia link above details, Robinson is one of the greatest modern sci-fi authors and overall fiction authors of the 21st century. His books are both captivating and epic in scale. He covers every aspect of a topic with the utmost dedication.
For example, his pan-Antarctic adventure, ANTARCTICA, was so incredibly precise due to the fact that he actually spent 6 months down there and almost lost his hand due to frostbite while writing this amazing book.
His Mars Trilogy (RED MARS, GREEN MARS, and BLUE MARS) are Hugo award-winning seminal works that are considered the most accurate fictional account, scientifically speaking, of what it would truly be like to explore and terraform the planet Mars.
His take of ecological science that pervades all of his books are the final word in how to write about climate change.
But Robinson never lets the science, politics, or plot get in the way of writing about some of the most amazing characters in the genre.
So when I found out that HE was judging the contest, I had to…had too…submit a story!
So I wrote one called: THE NITRITE PARADOX.
In a future Earth where humanity is all but extinct. Those scant few that remain, live on a mostly lifeless world that seems destined for sterilization. This is the lonely story of Millie Li. An aging Asian-American woman who struggles to plant her garden in the midst of blights such as solar radiation and dwindling water resources. Man’s recklessness and shortsightedness led the world and its inhabitants to an Eco-apocalypse that ruined all that was good on Earth.
Millie faces day in and day out challenges just to stay simply alive.
However, one day, when all seems utterly lost, she sees something so truly amazing that it shakes her to her very core—restoring life into her once lifeless heart.
What is it?
Well, you’ll have to wait until after the contest to read the story.
I’ll be including it in my collection of short stories titled: COGNITION RHAPSODY.
Here are the opening paragraphs:
Heat and dust are the things that she avoided with the utmost care when it came to her garden. They kill just about everything Millie Li planted into the ground. The soil was bad enough, virtually devoid of nutrients, and commercial fertilizers were absolutely non-existent nowadays. She probably would have had better luck trying to plant on the surface of Mars!
She was a forty-something Asian-American woman, black hair wrapped up in a tight bun, worn and torn gardening clothes that hadn’t been washed in years clad to her wrinkled skin, and a dusty aging face that was thoroughly abused by the very same sun that used to give life to the Earth.
Yet on Earth was where she was.
When? Did it matter? Not to Millie. Not anymore. She had long ago stopped counting these desolate years. All she knew was that it had been a decade or more since she last saw another human being.
It wasn’t for lack of trying either. During the winter months, she would spend days, sometimes weeks, trudging through the wind-swept landscapes looking for any sign that there were still people on this God-forsaken planet. But since Old Joe Castle’s death some eleven and a half years ago, she hadn’t seen another soul—and the unwanted solitude was certainly getting to her. Half the time she thought she was reliving conversations with old friends and family only to realize she was just simply imagining them.
So out of necessity and therapy she tirelessly worked on her garden. Day in and day out; from sun up to sun down, she planted and harvested what she could.
But it was no easy task. For years she played this game with the soil: keep it fresh (so to speak), keep it hydrated, fertilize it with her own waste, and keep rotating the plots and plants. And every year she saw diminishing returns on her endeavors.
Millie knew what the issue was but there was simply no way to overcome it. Years and years of climate ruining greenhouse gases and humans’ poisonous activities to the land, sea, and air have taken their terrible toll on the Earth.
The land was ghostly, mostly arid, silent, and sad.
Every time Millie looked up at the queasy sky, she saw not the beautiful shining life-giving yellow sun of her youth but a hazy copper demon in a murky blood-red firmament that always mocked her best efforts to eek out a paltry existence on this all but dead world.
Wish me luck with the contest!
Update [April, 2020]: I didn’t win the contest. And that’s okay. They had over 700 submissions and probably most of them were superb. Especially one in particular: The Grandchild Paradox by Daniel Thron.
Daniel “Dan” Thron is one of my best friends in the whole wide world. There are only two others that are as close to me as BFFs as he. So when I say that I am truly happy that he made it as a finalist and got his story published, I mean it.
It was a great story: sublime in its concepts, poetic in its execution, and emotionally poignant in its climate change message.
He did a great job!
This novelette will BLOW YOUR MIND!
Here is a short description:
Ida, a young programmer, tries to bring an illegal AI to life – and it forces her to confront the experiences that formed her own identity.
Update 2 [April, 2020]: I entered this year’s ASU climate fiction contest called Everything Change.
Stay tuned for a separate blog post on this submission!