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Point of View: Shit City

shit city bricks - deposit photos

I’m feeling a bit shaky this morning.

I’m not sure if it’s my never-ending pile of work that I just can’t seem to get through, or coming down off a day of being “on” for book sales at Davis Pride yesterday. Maybe it’s all my worries about the world, as the Dow plunges into bear market territory, the January 6th hearings churn on, and inflation keeps inflating.

Most likely it’s a combination of all three. Some days, I forget how to hope.

Still, I have a freakishly optimistic spirit, and worries rarely keep me down for long. I’m like one of those buoys in the San Francisco Bay – push me under water, and soon enough I’ll pop back up.

One of my ways of dealing with all the negativity in the world is to find ways to put a little good out into it. I do this via numerous channels – through the various groups I run, via my stewardship of SFWA’s indie author committee, and in smaller but equally significant ways, like taking some time to enjoy life with the hubby, away from the office.

One way I’ve tried to respond to darkness with beauty is to create a new hopepunk anthology series. Called “Writers Save the World,” it’s filled with intentionally hopeful stories about things we might do to mitigate or repair some of the damage we’ve done to our planet.

After last year’s successful Fix the World, our second entry will be out in just over a week. Save the World is one is focused on climate change, and contains twenty amazing stories about how me might try to turn back the tide, in ways both small and large.

Which brings me to Shit City.

As I was taking submissions for the anthology, I was also working on my own new story to go in it.

I wanted to do something about how we might turn something negative that we have in abundance into something positive, and hit upon the idea of, you guessed it, shit.

What if there were a way to transform it via biological methods into inoffensive building blocks that could be used to build homes and offices? Something like adobe blocks, that would have the added benefit of providing fantastic insulation.

And what would you call a city built with such bricks?

Shit City was born.

The country that’s falling apart due to a variety of factors – horrendous weather, disease, and societal unrest. When Jason Vasquez is plucked out of the storm-wracked San Francisco Bay Area and sent up to a camp in Nevada on a train, he’s sure his life (and plans to become an engineer) are both over.

But new friends and a surprising challenge give him the chance to show off his talents, and to fine-tune a process that will help humanity become a little less, well, wasteful.

It was a joy to write a story about things going right, for once – something changing for the better in this turbulent world we live in.

It reminded me to look for things in my own life that buck the trend… like the wonderful friends I have in our local writing group who all showed up to sell a few books and spend a few hours together under a purple canopy on a Sunday afternoon.

Or the lovely (and delicious) pear tomatoes growing just outside our back door which are already ripening into golden goodness.

Or the amazing man who chose to marry me on a late-fall day fourteen years ago, on a wide terrace overlooking the San Francisco Bay, as the ran cascaded down in buckets just outside our sheltered perch.

There was a quiet moment, just after the ceremony, when we were all alone together at the back of the terrace. He was mine and I was his. We put our heads together and whispered “We did it,” and I was filled with a sense of joy and peace that I have rarely felt before or since. I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life.

It’s these small victories, dreams, and stolen moments that add up to a lifetime’s worth of joy.

That’s what I am trying to capture with Shit City and all the other wonderful stories in Save the World – that there is still light and life and love and beauty in the world.

And hope.

I hope you feel it too.

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