Next up on the Butler/Banks Blog Tour is Carole McDonnell. Read about her authorial exploits here:
I have been a book and film reviewer. My reviews have appeared in some of the following: The Peekskill Herald, The Quarterly Black Review of Books, Christian Spotlight on the Movies, Christian Spotlight on Video Games, www.blogcritics.com curledup.com compulsivereader.com and Fantastic Stories website.
My short stories have appeared in various anthologies, such as So long Been Dreaming, edited by Nalo Hopkinson; Fantastical Visions III; Jigsaw Nation edited by Ekaterina Sedia; Fantastic Stories of the Imagination edited by Warren Lapine; Griots, Griots II: Sisters of the Spear, Steamfunk, edited by Milton Davis. My stories have placed in contests such as New Mass Medias, Westchester Weekly, and the Annual Contemporary Western Fiction Contest.
My writing honors and credits include being a Poetry Judge at the annual NAACP ACTSO. I’ve been a participant in NYC’s The Women’s Caucus for Art. I’ve read at many venues including the AfricanAmerican ReadIn a national literacy cable project , Mercy College, Trinity School, Purchase College.
I was a Teaching Assistant at Peekskill High School as a finishnotfail teacher. I came from Jamaica to the United States when I was eleven and lived in Brooklyn until I was seventeen. Then I went to SUNY Purchase. I stayed there until I graduated in 1981. I’m married with two children. In the past, I was a Sunday school teacher and a neighborhood Bible class teacher.
I’m a fantasy writer, primarily. This is my novel, The Constant Tower
This is my novel, Wind Follower
Occasionally I dabble into contemporary fantasy humor. This is a ghost story from my short story collection, Spirit Fruit
But if you want Science Fiction, here is one of my attempts. Please note, though, that Science Fiction is not something I do well. Probably because I generally don’t believe in it. For me progressive joyous Science fiction is not true, not likely to be true — whereas fantasy always has a truth to it because fantasy does not speak of the physical world.
This is How You Make a World
by Carole McDonnell
To the left was a small planet, gray, apparently lifeless, about one eighth the size of the destroyed, forsaken earth. To the right, about three million kilometers from Searcher 871, was a large planet, green, blue and gold, reminiscent of the old earth — but eight time its size— populated by humans with various stages of civilization development. The Searcher had stopped in between both planets, equidistant from both. Inside, its aging inhabitant debated the pros and cons of the terraforming the smaller planet or sending their children into the populated world.
Terraforming would take six months. Not long, considering the ship’s inhabitants had been in space for eight years, since the blighted earth had died.
But the artificially created air, food, light, was already taking its toll on the children. The damaged children, children born with limited mental and emotional and physical abilities because of the tainted foods, pharmas, and air of the old earth. Their parents too were fading, on their last legs — as the old earth maxim went.
But the other planet, the one that shone like a big aqua marble in the dark sky presented other problems. True, its inhabitants had their share of petty wars. But, as far as the aged navigators could tell, chances of atomic bombs and other damages wrought by science were not little. The planet was large, resources varied and many, and tribes — who were as varied as those in the craft— were scattered across the planet. The travelers of Searcher 871 could place their damaged children in a small wood — a natural Eden, if possible— and the children and their future descendants would not be found for hundreds of years to come. But there were fears and questions, especially among the darker-skinned inhabitants of the craft, about conquest and racial discrimination. The humanoid inhabitants of the planet had features the earthers did not have, and vice versa.
Both planets were the first they had encountered that could take on human life, their shared sun life-giving and rare for human life.
“I choose to terraform the asteroid,” Lily, the African-American woman navigator said.
“Why put our children in a world that will challenge them? We have the skill to make the asteroid suitable for them and their needs.”
“A whole year?” Denny, the Irish Captain replied. “Can they survive? Can any of us survive that long? And if we terra-form, won’t we be using up our resources even more? Our ability to recycle the air, the food, will be taxed.”
There were eighteen adults of all races, of pleasant enough dispositions. They knew how to accommodate themselves to others and to the world. Before the earth died, most parents — those who were actually fertile— had children who were “damaged” and labeled as mentally “limited” or “developmentally slow.” Yet, these children were viewed as a blessing because children themselves were so rare. The year the earth died, ten thousand ships had departed the earth, each with about five hundred crew members. Over the years, most of the crew of 871 had died, or gone stir crazy and suicidal (another American earth phrase.) It had been difficult to explain the deaths to the children — who were both young and “limited.” But the crew had managed, telling the children that the dead crew members had really gone to worlds along the way. The children — if they missed the dead at all— believed the crew’s protective lies. But now, as the remaining elders looked at each other’s wrinkled faces and at the faces of their children, they knew their limits. Death would come soon. Puberty would appear.
Lily often wondered if puberty would be natural. Would the children “know” what to do? Would “nature” take its course? Some of the children were astute enough to understand many things. They would share their knowledge no doubt. Others could barely feed themselves. But these are the last of Earth humanoids, Lily thought. Unless some others have survived, we are all that’s left. And even if others have survived, aren’t their children as wounded and “limited” as ours?
As the old travelers looked on their children, they could only come to the decision that terraforming might take a year, but their children would not survive in a world that was not specifically meant for them. Terraforming it had to be. The year went by. No longer did they see the stars passing past them (or vice versa.) No longer did they use the great craft’s power to move forward. All its energies were used to create a perfect land for their children. During that year, five of the eighteen parents died. But their children lived and were taken care of by the others. And each day, the planet took on its form.
A great dome was built around the planet — the laser technology creating a new atmosphere. The ice at the poles farthest from the sun were melted and pushed toward the equator where lakes —not deeper than a man’s foot, not wider than a mile—were built. The seeds of non-genetically-modified non-poisonous plants, the frozen larvae of insects and embryos of animals that would bow to humans were planted in green forests, cold artic poles, and deserts.
At last, the day came when the parents landed their craft on the new world. Some eighty children exited the craft. Lame, halt, mute, mentally limited — a joyous kind new breed of humans, incapable of hatred or pettiness. It was not known if the damage to their bodies and minds was mutagenic. Nor was Lily sure how long she and the old ones would live in that world. The children sat on the grass in front of her — their minds not really focused on the sex video she was showing them. But how could they focus? They had never seen a lake before, or little bunny rabbits, or sheep or bees before.
But Lily stood there and pointed to the dolls, then at the sex video. “This,” she said, hoping some would understand and would teach the others, “This is how you make a world.”
Call me a cynic but here are a few facts:
One hundred years ago, the death rate from cancer or diabetes was about 1 in 100,000. Now one in three people in the US will get cancer.
Cancer, Diabetes, Arthritis, and so called degenerative diseases (which mostly attack the aged) are now affecting children with about one in ten childhood deaths attributed to cancer.
In a recent health consortium, it was declared that we are the last generation that will live longer than our parents. (Of course people have always lived to be around 70, but yeah.)
Autism now touches one in every 88 children in the US
So, as a realist, I really think health issues will preclude all kinds of positive science fiction. So I wrote this little scifi piece. I wouldn’t call it a short story because it doesn’t use any storytelling elements.
Here’s an interview with Carole on Compulsivereader.com:
Carole McDonnell Interview on Compulsivereader.com
So, your second book has come out? Your first was Wind Follower, right? But. . .five years between your novels?
Yeah, I really am the queen of procrastination. Watching way too many videos on youtube, or playing solitaire. However, I often do some creative procrastination. So I managed to get some good stories written during that time.
And were those stories published?
Most of them, yes. Here and there. In some very good and prestigious anthologies, and in smaller indie collections. I collected some of them and put them in a short story collection, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction by Carole McDonnell.
And they’re mostly speculative fiction?
Pretty much. With all my concerns. Race. Religion. Politicis. Feminism. Fantasy. Steamfunk. Science fiction. Fairytales. Ghost stories.
You mentioned religion and race. Those matters concern you a lot? Do you think that might put off some people? Especially Christianity. And even with racial issues. Don’t people read fantasy to escape the political stuff in the world?
My answer to the first question is that people often think they will be put off by my stories but when they finally sit down to read them they find the stories pretty inclusive. I’m pretty ambassadorial in my writing. White folks don’t feel distanced, and non-religious people don’t feel put off either. I guess if you really have an intense dislike of Christians or Black people you might find a reason to find something hateful in my stories. One reviewer on Amazon seemed to do just that. But most people see the stories as very accessible. The second answer is that people read fantasy for all kinds of reason and political or not they like seeing themselves reflected in the stories.
Your new novel is The Constant Tower? What’s it about?
It’s about a world where humans have no permanent dwelling. IF they are caught alone in the night outside of a dwelling, they are flung by the night to disparate parts of planet. In order to stay together, they live in longhouses..and these longhouses are called clans. In addition, there are towers that are somewhat sentient which gives them some power to steer their own course to their homelands. The towers are still somewht a mystery and the scientists of those clans — called “studiers of worlds”– are still discovering how the towers work. But the ultimate goal is to find a way to be able to stay rooted to one place. Some clans are more technologically advanced with their tower lore, some not. And there are people who were caught outside at night and who lost their home tower or home longhouse and awake every morning in a different place. That’s the background. The story is about a young lame (and very petulant) prince, a war between two of the larger clans, and a prophecy about the time of the end of towers.
Wow, sounds interesting. How did you come up with the idea for The Constant Tower?
I dreamed of such a world. And the characters kept coming to me so I had to write it after a while.
Yes, it’s fantasy. Epic fantasy. Kings, battles, daggers, chieftains, men controlling women’s lives.
Men controlling women’s lives? So, is that one of the themes?
One of them, yes. But I hope it’s not in your face feminist like that. The largest theme is infighting, how there are battles in the world against great enemies and yet people in certain groups often are fighting against each other. It’s also about how the weak, the disabled, the powerless are often treated. The clan my main male character lives in is a very eugenistic warrior clan. But the hero is a lame prince with polio. Of course they don’t call it polio but that’s what it is.
You often write about warfare. Why? Because it’s epic fantasy and epic fantasy always contains wars and warriors?
Well, maybe that’s part of it. But if you look at my stories, although war is all around, I generally don’t get into describing battles. Partly because I find battle scenes hard to write but mostly it’s that they don’t interest me. I seem to always write about people on the outskirts of war, the collateral damage, people who aren’t warriors but who are somehow involved in war.
Your first book Wind Follower received much critical praise but didn’t sell many copies. Why?
I was a first time author then, and I am published by Wildside which is a small publisher. In addition, there is an element of readership in fantasy who don’t think books by women, minorities, or Christians are really good novels. It’s still around. The warfare this year in the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) about nominating of minorities and women was really horrendous. Also Wind Follower was more overtly Christian. The Constant Tower isn’t like that.
This is my Author Page on Amazon
From there, you can find–
THE CONSTANT TOWER
Paperback on Amazon
And my short story collection, Spirit Fruit
— “Homecoming” – Won first prize in New Mass Media’s Annual contest and was a third place winner in the annual national Contemporary Western Fiction contest.
— “Lingua Franca” – So Long Been Dreaming: Post-Colonialism in Science Fiction, edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan — Arsenal Pulp Press – October 2004.
— “Black is the color of my true love’s hair,” – Fantastic Visions III, edited by William Horner – Fantasist Enterprises – August 2005.
— Homecoming at the Borderlands Cafe – Jigsaw Nation anthology, edited by Kat Sedia – DNA Publications March 2006
The Gleaners — in Black Faery anthology
So Far — in Black Science Fiction Society anthology 2009
Changeling — in Griots edited by Milton Davis and Charles Saunders 2011
Housewarming — in When the Morning Stars Sang anthology edited by Lyndon Perry 2011
A Cry For Hire – Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, edited by Warren Lapine (Not included in this anthology)