Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: Say it with mastodons

This week, Futures is dipping its toe into the world of romance with Marissa Lingen’s story Say it with mastodons. Regular readers will be well versed in Marissa’s work, but if you’re new to her writing, please check out her website and Twitter feed — as well as the other stories she has written for Futures at the foot of this post. Here, Marissa reveals what inspired her romantic tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing Say it with mastodons — or The romance of dirt

I like flowers.

I like them, but I don’t love them, mostly. Tiger lilies are my favourite. Of the traditional romantic gifts, give me chocolate any day, the darker the better. Books and fountain-pen ink are even higher on the list. A bouquet of roses will make some people feel seen and cherished; others will feel like the giver was just checking off a box on the Romance List, not valued at all. Romantic gifts are not just in the eye of the beholder — they’re in the eye of the beheld.

Which brings us to the mastodons. What makes a person a science-fiction writer is a pretty open question, but I think that you’re at least inclining that way if you start to think about the shape of love story people would have to have for mastodons to be a romantic gift — what kind of people they would have to be, what else that would say about their surroundings. But who could resist mastodons? I mean. I suspect that a large portion of the readership of Nature Futures are exactly the kind of people who would be bowled over by that gift.

I’ve also been thinking about dirt a lot, about soil health. I feel like it’s a topic we haven’t written enough science fiction about. Last month — after I wrote this story, before I write the next five stories — I was fortunate enough to attend a soil-science conference, and the speakers kept returning to themes of interdependence. The benefits of large browsing/grazing mammals to soil health fascinate me. It’s part of the way that environments can’t successfully be taken apart into pieces, part of how everything is dependent on everything else. So it all got wrapped up together: love and dirt and hope and mastodons, and the way that we work together for the benefit of things — and people — we love.

Other Futures stories by Marissa Lingen

My favourite sentienceSeven point twoPlanet of the five rings | Running safety tips for humansThe most important thing | The many media hypothesis | Boundary waters | Maxwell’s Demon went down to Georgia | The stuff we don’t do | Unsolved logistical problems in time travel: spring semester | Entanglement | Quality control | Search strings | Alloy


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