Amelia Gorman is a recent transplant to Eureka, California, where she enjoys exploring the tidepools and redwoods with her dogs and foster dogs. Read some of her recent poetry in Vastarien, Penumbric, and the Deadlands. Find her fiction in She Walks in Shadows from Innsmouth Free Press, Nox Pareidolia from Nightscape Press, and the Nightscript series. She’s online at www.ameliagorman.com.
Tell us about your new chapbook, Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota. How did the idea of using invasive species to explore the connection between ecology and human nature come to you?
When I started (and finished) writing this book I was living in a very small apartment in downtown Minneapolis with my husband and our two dogs. So it seemed really important to get out and to green spaces in my free time when I could. The Twin Cities area is really great for that, with a state park and a national wildlife refuge right on the train line, and of course all the lakes. And like a lot of writers I was of course writing about what I was seeing.
The first couple I wrote weren’t imagined as part of a bigger project, they were just some fun little story-poems. I liked writing about invasive species because they turned the purpose of a lot of standard field guides on its head — the ones that are about helping you spot desirable species. They don’t take into consideration many of the plants and animals you actually see, since typically the nature spaces we enjoy aren’t truly a wilderness, they’re all some degree of impacted. Choosing only invasives became a way to write about real climate change, real ecological concerns but also tell these very misfit, weird stories.
Recently, I finished reading Character Development and Storytelling for Games by Lee Sheldon. The author has a long history of working both in the games industry, as well as in television and fiction — enabling him to draw directly form his own personal experience in a variety of mediums.
Sheldon’s book provides a significant amount of interesting detail about character creation (roles, traits, encounters, etc.) and the ways in which games differ from other storytelling mediums. He uses examples from a variety of sources, including classic literature, film, and television, as well as games, in order to provide evidence for the theories on storytelling, theme, and structure that he presents. He makes some interesting connections between these different mediums. However, sometimes his chapters are so heavy with references (many of which I’ve never heard of) that I sometimes found it somewhat overwhelming to process the lessons he is trying to impart.
My copy of the book was the first edition, published in 2004. While discussions of character and story are everlasting, when the book speaks about the future of games, it sometimes felt a bit out of date. Apparently, a second edition was published in 2013, which likely provides a more modern perspective and up-to-date cultural references.
Regardless, one section in particular presented me with a new way of thinking about story — namely, modular storytelling and how it can help blend gameplay and story into interactive narratives. And I was surprised to learn that classic literature could provide an early example of this kind of structure.
In 2021, I read a total of 40 books (thus far) — which is the lowest amount of books completed in a single year in about a decade. Over the past two years in particular, I’ve found it harder to focus on reading and have turned to other forms of media to fill in my entertainment needs.
However, in reading less books per year, I’ve found that the quality of books has gone up. I’ve enjoyed or outright loved the majority of books that I’ve read, which has been a blessing — and has also made it difficult to narrow this list.
Note that the books listed here are not necessarily objectively the best, but they are the books I personally enjoyed or connected with throughout 2021.
Network Effect and Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
Basically, I could list the entire Murderbot Diaries among my favorite books for the year, since I read all six books (most of which are novellas) and then reread many of my favorite scenes throughout various points of the year. The series follows the adventures of a socially awkward android Sec Unit named Murderbot, who only wants to sit back and watch serial dramas, but often finds itself saving humans from doing stupid things that could get them killed.
Sometimes I have bad days, or even weeks. Over the past few years, these bad days have manifested for me in two opposing and yet integrated ways. The first is a deep longing for solitude, a desire to find some far off place away from people and the world, somewhere I don’t have to interact with or perform for anyone. The second is a strong feeling of disconnect from the people around me, bringing on a sense of loneliness that seeps through even in a crowded room and carrying with it the belief that no one would notice if I was gone.
So many people experience such things. Depression, sorrow, and anxiety can feel like being lost at sea, floating on desperate dark emotions with no sign of land or refuge in sight. Sea of Solitude, a game developed by Jo-Mei Games, powerfully expresses these experiences through the exploration and healing of its watery world.