Saturday, June 04, 2022

Six books by women writing worlds in crisis

Erin Swan was born in Manhattan and lived there for ten years until her family moved upstate, where she started writing stories and poems. She used her early adulthood to travel, write children’s books, and work for a literary agency before going to teach English in India and Thailand. Swan earned her MA from Teacher’s College at Columbia University and began teaching in New York’s public school system in 2008.

[Q&A with Erin Swan; The Page 69 Test: Walk the Vanished Earth]

While teaching full-time, Swan attended the MFA program at the New School and graduated with a degree in fiction. Her work has been published in various journals, including Portland Review, Atticus Review, The South Carolina Review, and Inkwell Journal, and her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Walk the Vanished Earth is Swan's first novel.

At Lit Hub she tagged "six standout books by fellow women writers, books I believe are must-reads for those seeking to explore this current juncture in history, as we challenge our past and question what our future will bring." One title on the list:
Kim Fu, Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century

I love a good short story collection, and if that collection is packed with sea monsters and experimental technology and bizarre infestations of June bugs, not to mention love and grief and rage, I am sold. Kim Fu’s story collection is an imaginative leap into what it means to be a human being in the 21st century. I adored each one of these twelve stories in turn, but a few felt particularly evocative. Structured as a conversation between a customer and a company representative, “Pre-Simulation Consultation XF007867” presents a grieving daughter who longs to meet with her deceased mother in virtual reality, a desire strictly prohibited by the company, which fears the possible litigation if customers became addicted to such experiences. The young woman’s insistence that she walk with her mother in the botanic garden they once strolled felt acutely poignant in the way it explores the persistent nature of grief.

“Twenty Hours” is another tale that uses technology to examine the depths of human relationships. In this story, a married couple has splurged on a 3-D printer than can recreate a human body after it is dead. The husband and wife use this printer as an excuse to kill each other off when they become bored, and then resurrect their spouse on the printer’s tray when they tire of their brief respite from the burden of marriage. “June Bugs” places a young woman in a house in the middle of nowhere and fills that house with scores of June bugs, a stunning reflection of the horror she experienced in the abusive relationship she has just fled. “Bridezilla,” the collection’s penultimate story, has a sea monster rise from the polluted Pacific on a woman’s wedding day and carry the bride-to-be away. The way her body dissolves into the monster’s back works as a superb metaphor for how what we have wrought on this planet may just consume us in the end.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue