I enjoyed the use of second person narration, which played with our expectations of the story and the feeling of loneliness. Why did you choose this particular POV (feel free to drop spoilers!)?
This was actually my first attempt at creating a story with second person narration. I was reading some of Merc Rustad’s work, I think it was “Monster Girls Don’t Cry,” and they’re just brilliant in what they can do in second person. I also liked the feel of the work that second person helps to create, which is removed, remote, and lonely—but also connected, in a way. The present tense of the story amplifies that feeling and makes it a little foggier, a little more surreal. The combination worked perfectly for this story, which is about someone who lives very much in the present, is quite alone, but is also at peace with that.
There seems to be a theme between solitary existence and being surrounded by life and watchers. I liked how solitude didn’t make “you” feel alone, but in fact, watched and connected (sometimes with nature, sometimes with threats). I’m curious how you think of solitude as a value.
I love being alone, especially when I’m alone in the middle of nature. One of my favorite things to do is to get up early and go climb a nearby ridge, so I can sit on top of the rocks overlooking the valley below, and be entirely alone. I’ve always liked going for long walks in the woods or wherever I might happen to be. Being alone like this is, for me, very peaceful. My body sheds any sort of social weight society puts on it, and becomes the machine I inhabit that moves me to where I want to be. When I do this, I feel connected to the world around me, to nature, and to my own physicality and consciousness.
I was once something of a chameleon; I would change based on who I was interacting with or who I was near. Being alone helped me understand who I am when no one is watching. I like that person: She climbs a lot of mountains and swears constantly.
Survivors’ stories tend to generate sympathy from the get-go, yet there’s also the subtext of “why them?” which creates dread and curiosity. Do you have any favorite stories of this type?
When I was a kid, I had this illustrated, for-kids version of Robinson Crusoe that came with a cassette tape with someone reading the story. I listened to it over and over. I’m pretty sure that’s where my interest in both survivor stories and stories about being alone in the wilderness come from. I realize that this is probably not how I was supposed to interpret the story, but I thought being totally alone on an island would be great. I wouldn’t even need to make a volleyball friend like Tom Hanks!
How did your own views on the relationships between people and the environment shape your telling of the story?
Humans can obviously be connected to the environment and/or incredibly destructive towards it. But even if humans stop existing, if we wipe ourselves out, are driven to extinction, or just up stakes and leave, the environment will go on. It doesn’t need us nearly as much as we need it.
I wrote this story in response to my own fears of nuclear war, which are a primal thing for me. I grew up in the 1980s when the possibility of a nuclear exchange with the USSR was still quite real, so that has lurked in my own psyche for many, many years. After I wrote this story, though, I felt a lot better, in a strange sort of way. It’s comforting to know that even after we’re all gone, the planet spins on.
Spread the word!