There are so many sources of dismal news, so many depressing scientific developments; I think it’s crucial to look for a light in the darkness, to emphasize that we as a species still have a chance to chart a course to a better future rather than a dystopia.
Welcome to a new year and a new newsletter! I run Dragonfly.eco, a site that explores wild worlds and words, rewilding the novel, and genres dealing with ecological and climate changes. As many might guess, there's a lot of books within these genres that seem hopeless and dystopian, but equally there's many novels with redemption arcs, marginal voices as heroes, decolonization, solarpunk (and other punks), Indigenous and other futurisms, alternative histories and reimagining, and more that look toward a better world we can make possible. It might not seem possible to always change the tide, but it is hard to change anything if we are gloomy and uninspired. Stories can motivate us to do something, to look up. I have always drawn my inspiration from The Flight of the Hummingbird - a Quechen story.
One day in the jungle a fire broke out in the jungle
All the animals ran out of the jungle fearing for their lives
Suddenly the Jaguar saw a little hummingbird head (q’inti)
The Jaguar asked him what he was doing and the Q’inti said
“I am flying to the lake and get water to help put out the fire”
The jaguar laughed at him and said, “You’re crazy, you can’t put out this fire!”
The Q’inti replied, “At least I am doing my part.”
This January, Dragonfly's newsletter moves away from Substack and to Buttondown, the former of which has so far not blocked Nazi content or monetization. It's increasingly hard to find social media that has an ethical platform on which to share your work, so thanks a ton to Justin at Buttondown for that light in the darkness: he has built a fair and kind newsletter space that doesn't allow hatred, discrimination, and dangerous ideology. Note that the older newsletters are archived at Buttondown, but the images aren't properly imported. I'm still checking on this.
This month we travel to Japan with author Emily Grandy to forage for wild, edible plants and get close to native food systems. The main character Winona (Win) is struggling with a food disorder when her mother decides to send her overseas to stay with a friend in the Japanese countryside. Here, she learns how to grow her own food and cook in concert with the seasons. For the first time, Win begins to understand something she never realized before: food connects us with every other living thing.
Blending flashbacks with a tender love story, Michikusa House is a work of literary fiction that draws on the author’s own experience with recovering from a psychiatric disorder. This award-winning debut takes a critical view of contemporary nutrition science and American food culture while also exploring the transformative power of illness.
Thanks to Atmosphere Press and author Eric James Fullilove, author of Overlord, for their patience while I doubled up January features on the heels of holiday time off and otherwise being busy.
In a chilling and thought-provoking glimpse of a terrifying near-future, author Eric Fullilove’s Overlord explores the catastrophic consequences of climate change if it were to happen tomorrow…Full of heart-stopping action and heart-wrenching moments, Overlord is a haunting exploration of a possible future that will leave readers questioning the impact of climate change on our planet and our way of life.
Instead of a book of the month, I will highlight a game. Larian Studio's Baldur's Gate 3 won the 2023 Game of the Year award, along with Best Multiplayer Game, Best Role Playing Game, Player's Voice Award, Best Performance, and Best Community Support, and that's just the Game Awards. I remember long ago trying out BG1 and being terrible at it. My husband Morgan and I began playing the game in July but didn't have significant time to sink into it until the December holiday break, and we've had so much fun. Thanks to Morgan for the many valuable lessons in d&d rules and giving me hints on how to understand a different game interface than what I'm used to.
I play a druid (of course) with bonus feats or spells in Nature, animal handling, and ability to speak to animals. My jaw dropped at the pristine mountains, forest, oceans, and rivers (though they are, like in the real world, threatened by corruption). I was completely immersed in and overwhelmed by every single aspect of this game: amazing voice and character acting, witty and unique dialogs, graphics and cinematography, building my own story, dancing myconids, the profoundly beautiful music and score (particularly [spoilers] Alifira's bard song). It feels like I'm in a movie interacting with places and people. We've already discussed going through the game again with different classes. I might do a rogue, bard, ranger, or monk next time.
I've got some reading to do this year, along with some exciting interviews lined up! If you haven't yet joined the Rewilding Our Stories Discord, it's never too late. One of the admins, Sara Davis, set up a 2024 book challenge and added it, and its categories, to Storygraph.
I have James on order and can't wait to see it from his perspective while also reading a wonderful, classic river story. We set up threads on the Discord to discuss our reads as well. Note that there are many categories to choose from, and Sara set up the challenge to be 24 books this year, but readers can read as many or as few books as they want (my goal is 12). The challenge is related to nature or environmental books, but both fiction and nonfiction are acceptable.
I've recently added some new books to the site, though am constantly researching more:
In case you’ve missed these exciting resources at Dragonfly, which are constantly being updated, check ‘em out!
Copyright 2024 Mary Woodbury