Our latest story
“Fennel,” Mama called up from the kitchen. “Breakfast’s near ready.”
“Coming, Mama,” I yelled back as I pulled a simple, blue dress over my head. I tied my hair back tight, laced up my shoes and then ran down the stairs to the kitchen.
Mama was heavily pregnant again. She was stirring a large pot that bubbled away on the stove, filling the air with the aroma of milk and oats. Sage, Lentil, and Chilli were crawling around Mama’s ankles, squealing. Strawberry, Colander, Rosemary, and Tommy sat at the table, spoons in hands, waiting for their porridge.
Mama had the birthing disease. “When you have the birthing disease,” Mama would say, “you don’t have time to dilly dally picking out the perfect name for your little uns. I like to look at what’s nearby when the baby comes and pick a name that way.” Mama had been cooking just before I was born on the kitchen floor. Mama had been cooking before most of our births.
Pa sat at the head of the table, stiff backed. His raw, cracked hands rested in bowls of ice and his stone-grey eyes watched the children. I gave his hard shoulder a squeeze as I walked past him and made my way to the opposite end of the table.
Pa had laid-to-waste disease. He worked in demolition, destroying buildings with his rock-hard hands. When he was young, those hands had been harder than diamonds. But not anymore. As he grew older, it was like the hardness in his hands had begun to leak from where he needed it and, instead, it was spreading slowly but surely up his arms and across his chest and face. The money was too good to stop working, so Pa persisted, despite the toll on his body, despite the stiffness in his joints and the limited movement. I guess it made me sad, though Mama said it shouldn’t. We all have to bear our diseases, the good and the bad.Read more
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Q: How does writing speculative fiction affect your daily life (not as a writer, but as a person)?
A: For me, speculative fiction is a way of engaging with metaphor. Often that involves different ways of writing and thinking about science. I think if you want to attract more people to science – more than just the logically-minded, for instance – you’ve got to provide a different sort of pathway, a different means of engaging. I find science fiction in particular helps me to perceive science more broadly, from a place of imagination as well as method.
Most of my adult life I lived in New York City. I marched in the first Gay Pride Parade in 1970. After leaving music, I supported myself writing how-to books in finance, and textbooks in music; my formal education was in music theory and composition (UNT and Princeton). I’m an old man now, and I live in a small Texas town where I’m very out of place. I was accepted into and survived the Odyssey Writers’ Workshop in 2010. That’s where I really learned to write.
Q: What is your favorite word?
A: Tintinnabulation is my favorite word. How musical it sounds. How magical. For me, this word always evokes a picture of fairy bells ringing in the breeze.
Octavia Cade has a PhD in science communication. Though seaweed was her first biological love, she’s currently researching the germination triggers of New Zealand’s only seagrass.