Fifteen months ago, when Toronto was entering its first lockdown and I had recently turned in Dealbreaker, I embarked on writing a series of novelettes set in the same universe as the books but a little bit further back in the timeline. “The Hazmat Sisters,” is one of these, and I am proud to say it is now out in Asimovs.
“The Hazmat Sisters” is set in the same universe as Gamechanger and Dealbreaker, during a period I call the Clawback, a period of this century when pandemics start spreading across the globe (I swear, I wrote Gamechanger before our current pandemic had erupted!) and the infrastructure of many national governments starts showing the cracks and strain of the VUCA era.
(VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.)
In my previous Clawback piece, “The Immolation of Kev Magee,” I home in on the scramble among super-rich corporate oligarchs to hang onto power in the face of a global reassessment of the value of capitalism. This takes comes through the eyes of three kids who are refugees of a civil war in the U.S.A., over gun ownership and national disarmament. “The Hazmat Sisters,” on the other hand, is also about young people trying to survive that conflict… but they’re not nearly as far away from the shooting. Wilmie, Tess and Fee are trying to get to Chicago from Missouri in time to reunite with their mother and start the school year. But putting up with your sisters is hard at the best of times, and now they’re camping, and suddenly there’s a boy in the mix. The story’s got got plucky girls on the road, cool robots, sisterly love, allergy attacks, missile attacks, a smidge of violence, and lots of banter.
Gamechanger and Dealbreaker are hopepunk books and they depict a universe that, I hope, a lot of readers would like to build, live in, and bequeath to future generations of humans, as well as all the other living beings on this planet. They’re cheery, even aspirational, and they take place in a period whose name reflects it: the Bounceback. The Clawback, on the other hand, is the plunge before the resurgence. These three novelettes come from the historical moment when humanity hits rock bottom. It is the peering-into-the-abyss moment and the reckoning, the point where ever more people come together to climb out of the environmental, economic and systemic holes we’ve dug ourselves.
This makes the timeline for the stories and books I’ve set in this universe:
- Freezing Rain, a Chance of Falling
- The Hazmat Sisters
- The Immolation of Kev Magee
- Cat Ladies, forthcoming in F&SF
Anyway, it’s a novelette. If you like it, it has all these literary kin.
As the summer unfolds, I am planning to get back into posting more writing essays on my A.M. Dellamonica website, where most of my fantasy and horror fiction lives, and I’m going to start folding more Alyx news into The Lexicon, my periodic newsletter. This seems like a sensible move, since my dual identity as Beckett and Dellamonica is no longer secret, as it was when Gamechanger came out. I’m also, therefore, going to have the occasional pitch for subscribing to my Curious Fictions feed here on the Beckett site, and for my Ko-Fi.
The first of these writing essays is live now and is about when and how much to revise a story to make it more palatable to markets with PG-13 sensibilities. I hope you’ll check it out.