What if Descartes had died young?

Book cover: To Climates Unknown by Arturo Serrano

Recently, I interviewed my husband, Arturo Serrano, about why he kills off René Descartes in his very shortly forthcoming alternate history novel, To Climates Unknown. The interview is on Prof. Bob Lane’s Episyllogism blog. Please check it out there!

To Climates Unknown is available for preorder. It will be released on November 25, 2021, the 400th anniversary of the first mythical U.S. Thanksgiving.

“In this alternate history, the Mayflower was lost at sea, and the English Separatists were disheartened from further colonization of North America. The United States were never born. The centuries that follow will see the emergence of rival empires that will split up the world between them. One will become the terror of the seas. One will rampage with carriages of steam. One will take to the skies. And the people caught in the middle will fight against the colonial system to bring an end to all empires.”

—From the book description

2021 Gatsby reboot: ‘The Pursued and the Pursuing’

Book cover of "The Pursued and the Pursuing" by AJ Odasso

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby entered the public domain in the United States this year, making space for this sequel by AJ Odasso, The Pursued and the Pursuing. In this version, Jay Gatsby survives the bullet from Myrtle’s husband, and during his recovery he rekindles his old feelings for Nick Carraway (who narrates the original novel as well as this sequel). Jay and Nick reveal to each other that, in addition to having tried to settle down with women, they had brief affairs with other men, but they have never stopped thinking about each other.

That the newspaper has already run an obituary for the socialite Jay Gatsby gives him an opportunity to reinvent himself as—or, more accurately, revert himself to—his James Gatz identity. He and Nick have lots of sex, live as partners, and are cavalier about their obviousness, so people in close proximity tend to pick up that they are a couple. Meanwhile, Jay’s old girlfriend Daisy Buchanan gets back in touch. Jay and Nick don’t much care for her or her husband Tom, but they adore her teenage daughter Pam, who has her own sexuality and gender journey and becomes like a surrogate daughter to them. Thus they spend the 1930s.

Odasso’s voice in this novel is different from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, especially in the homoerotic escapades and related discussions which feel much more modern, but neither is it entirely dissimilar from Fitzgerald’s. It’s an homage, and there’s some artistic continuity in the setting, the language, and the rhythm of the sentences. It’s a good balance between familiar and speculative, breathing new life into old characters.

Do we need a gay Gatsby? Yes. Yes, we do.

The ending draws the novel gently to a close. At that point, the story feels not quite wrapped up, but perhaps nothing needs to be wrapped up. Instead, the ending draws us to a very particular place we need to be.

I received a free advance review copy from NetGalley.

‘Double vision’ in ‘Make Your Home Among Strangers’

In her novel Make Your Home Among Strangers, Jennine Capó Crucet presents a young woman protagonist who is developing a sense of self.

She perceives herself as relatively accomplished, as, while teen pregnancies seem to be the norm in her family and high school graduation is the bar to meet, she unexpectedly lands and accepts a spot at an elite private university. On the other hand, she feels that she has somehow betrayed her family by moving away (because they tell her so), and, because of her Cuban heritage, she is treated differently than the rest of the majority-white student body. Home and school are alternatingly appealing, but neither is perfectly safe, and neither is exactly what she wants.

It’s a choice between what feels most “authentic” despite knowing that all choices are engineered anyway, that outcomes are not predictable, and that everything has a price. It isn’t a resolvable problem, as those of us of a certain age have already found out.

The protagonist becomes increasingly self-conscious about how people perceive her. She can’t control what they see, in part because she hasn’t yet decided what image she wants to project or whether she should have to go to the effort of projecting an image at all. Near the book’s final pages, she introduces the term “double vision” for this: one part of her is living her life while another part is sitting aside, detached, evaluating and criticizing herself from a distance in anticipation of what others will say.

‘I Didn’t Break The Lamp’ is out!

My short story “Exit Interview” is included in the anthology I Didn’t Break The Lamp: Historical Accounts of Imaginary Acquaintances, published today by DefCon One. I hope you’ll buy a copy of the book, as it’s quite entertaining. I’m honored to be included among these 25 other talented authors.

I Didn’t Break The Lamp is available in print and eBook.

“Exit Interview” was a difficult story to write. It took years to develop in my imagination, and, although it never really happened, some of the details have roots in a nonfiction book I’ve been working on concurrently. It is deeply meaningful to me, and I’m glad to be able finally to share it.

I hope you will give this anthology a try. Who among us doesn’t need to call on an imaginary friend now and again? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book. It’s available from Kindle and other retailers.