Michael J. DeLuca’s short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Mythic Delirium, and lots of other places. He is the publisher of Reckoning, a journal of creative writing on environmental justice. You can find DeLuca on Twitter @MichaelJDeLuca. and at The Mossy Skull.
Today, he shares six books with us....
James Baldwin's Another Country. It's been in my to-read pile, this seemed like the time. I'm just getting started, but it's already making me profoundly uncomfortable. Which I think is the point, and it's definitely what I signed up for. He's a complex figure, queer and Black, matter-of-factly and pointedly, when that was even harder than it is now, and then thrust into the position of spokesperson for a movement after the murders of King and Malcolm X, but, in his work and I think in his life too, a terribly, often painfully introspective person. The writing is devastating, it raises all these questions I can't answer, and the world he depicts--Harlem and the Village in the early 60s--is almost unrecognizable. The closest to this feeling I can think of in my limited reading experience might be Samuel Delany's Triton.
Christopher Brown's Failed State. I hardly ever read sequels anymore, let alone three books in a row, but I am just so fascinated by the way these books portray people, this country and the world. And this promises to be where everyone who've been struggling for the last two books to push back dystopia with heels in the sand finally get to step away from that labor and make something of their own instead, and I am impatient to know what that looks like and what I can learn from it.
Sofia Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria. It's an amazing book, I was floored by it, I was just goggle-eyed in love with it, which is a feeling I miss from the before times and want back. But also: it's about a revolution sneaking up on a person. And questions of how that works, how critical mass for popular uprising is achieved, what it feels like when it sneaks up on you, where all that explosive energy gets focused and applied, have been occupying a large part of my attention lately. For one thing, I've been working on a novel about that tipping point for five years, and for another, we're living through it.
My kid and I have been reading aloud a bunch, rather aspirationally. He's three, and it's fascinating finding out what will hold his attention long enough for us to actually finish the book. One of those books, a surprise for me, was Michael Ende's short novel Momo, which appeared originally in English in 1984 and works as a tempering of the wildly metafictional phantasmagoric sprawl of The Neverending Story. It's also an anticapitalist fable. This was my third time reading it, and I had hitherto considered it a little bit preachy and heavy-handed, like a middle-grade retelling of Pink Floyd's The Wall. There are these interdimensional time-vampire bureaucrats trying to make everybody's life as menacingly, uniformly gray as they are, sort of like Pratchett's Auditors or the autocratic brain from the end of A Wrinkle in Time. Only now, in the context of a goggle-eyed, somewhat precocious little kid and the immanent collapse of Western civilization under the weight of its own arrogance, I am just so deeply in love with the ten-year-old Momo, who defeats the time bandits and saves everybody through the power of sympathetic listening, sheer persistence, and refusal to give up on the people she loves. I've been desperate for more characters like this, who don't need to resort to violence to be a hero.
Little, Big. Honestly, I try to keep clear of it these days because its influence on me was so strong. It was the first "modern" treatment of a faery Otherworld coexisting with our own that I got caught up in as a young adult, it pandered spectacularly to my personal sense of place--a magical, ageless, idyllic New England--and it gave me a tantalizing example of what would grow to be my favorite kind of ending, unsatisfying in that it won't let me out of the world of the story. Finishing it, I will always want to start it again. Crowley is one of the few writers by whom I've been completely star-struck.
Night Roll, a novella, comes out in its own little standalone edition from Stelliform Press in October; preorders are available now. It's a Tam Lin/Nanabozho retelling set in painfully near-future Detroit, featuring an insomniac climate refugee new mom. Abandoned by her partner, struggling to survive and find community, she ends up in a bike race to save her neighbor from an ancient, otherworldly entity, the true genius of Detroit. I think it's awesome because fiction--including fantastic fiction--doesn't often acknowledge the heroism of motherhood. And because even though I turned in final edits on the manuscript the day before we went into COVID lockdown, months before George Floyd's murder and antiracist uprising, to me Night Roll still feels intensely relevant. It's about race: about the sustaining legacy of systemic racism in the absence of a public safety net, and in the gulf between perception and reality. It's about a community forging its own safety net in the absence of help or even acknowledgment from above. It's about how much it means to have somebody in your corner you can hug when things get hard.
Night Roll is only the second title from Stelliform, a brand new small press focusing on stories of climate justice. I've loved working with them and I can't wait to see what they'll do next.
It's also my first book, my first piece of published fiction in physical form with my name, and only my name, on the cover, after fifteen years selling short fiction. That's pretty exciting for me.
Detroit is my own adopted city. I started writing this story when my kid was three months old, when nobody in our house was sleeping through the night. So this is a very personal story for me.
Plus, I think it might be the best thing I've ever written.
Posted by Phoebe Wagner. She currently studies at University of Nevada, Reno. When not writing or reading, she can be found kayaking at the nearest lake. Follow her at phoebe-wagner.com or on Twitter @pheebs_w.