Cover Reveal: Cynthia Zhang’s After the Dragons

Cover of After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang

We’re pleased to reveal the cover of After the Dragons! To be published on August 19, 2021, this is a first novel for publisher and author alike. The cover art is by Chinese Canadian artist Wang Xulin, with design and typography by Yu-Lobbenberg Rachel, who also did the art and design for Octavia Cade’s The Impossible Resurrection of Grief. This cover reveal is in tandem with Locus magazine, which featured Zhang’s book on their Twitter and Facebook feeds, as well as in their newsletter.

Cynthia Zhang’s After the Dragons is now available for pre-order here.

About the Book

Cynthia Zhang’s After the Dragons is a queer science fantasy ⁠— that is, a story based on scientific ideas, but with fantastic elements⁠ — set in Beijing. In this book, researcher Elijah Ahmed and activist Xiang Kaifei join forces to save the city’s beleaguered dragons and find a cure for Kai’s illness. Grief hangs over their relationship and Eli and Kai must confront hard truths if there is any hope for themselves or the dragons.

This is a tender story, appropriate for readers interested in the effects of climate change on environments and people, but who don’t want a grim, hopeless read. The novel is beautiful and challenging, focused on hope and care, navigating the nuances of changing culture in a changing world.

Don’t miss any After the Dragons news, giveaways or events! Sign up for our newsletter here:

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Advance Copy Giveaway Contest! (Now Closed)

📢It’s time to give away some advance copies of Octavia Cade’s THE IMPOSSIBLE RESURRECTION OF GRIEF!🎉 This contest is open to anyone, worldwide. It will run from Friday March 12 – Friday March 19 2021. Winners will be announced March 20.Octavia Cade's The Impossible Resurrection of Grief Book giveaway contest poster

How do I enter the contest?

The contest is on our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. To enter the contest, follow us + like and share posts on any platform. Report any follows, likes, and shares on the contest post on any platform. Multiple entries are allowed and encouraged!

How to get the most entries

🎟️🎟️2 entries for a newsletter sign up here.
🎟️🎟️ 2 entries for a share/retweet on any platform
🎟️1 entry for a follow on Twitter, on Facebook, or Insta
🎟️ 1 entry for following @OJCade on Twitter
🎟️1 entry for a contest post like on any platform

If you do ALL THE THINGS you get 15 entries!

Be sure to report your entries on the contest posts here or on FB or Instagram. Honor system applies! On March 20, we’ll randomly select 5 winners. Good luck to all! We can’t wait to send this beautiful book out into the world!

Contest Post Quick Links

Access the contest posts here:

Update

We randomly selected our 5 winners on March 20 and 5 copies of Cade’s novella are now making their way across Canada and the United States. Congratulations to the winners!

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Review: “The Rememberers” by Rachel Heng

This post is the second in a series of short reviews about individual stories from McSweeney’s 58 Climate Fiction issue. The first post, on Mikael Awake’s “The Good Plan” is here.

The focus of this review is “The Rememberers” by Rachel Heng. Heng is the bestselling author of The Great Reclamation (forthcoming in 2022) and Suicide Club  (2018). Born and raised in Singapore, and now living in Austin, TX, Heng has fiction in The New Yorker, Best Small Fictions, Kenyon Review and many other venues.

“The Rememberers” is set in a future Singapore in which society has been upended by sea level rise. Encroaching water is kept at bay by the sea wall, but many are left unprotected in the decommissioned zones. The “lucky” ones are buried in stories-deep underground apartments which make room for the privileged on the surface but deprive most of fresh air and sunlight.

In this beleaguered society, the Ministry recruits members of the older generation to recount their childhood stories, including details about the location and description of buildings, schools, relationships, and day to day life. With this information, fed into a developing algorithm, the Ministry hopes to find the link between the old way of life and the new. But for Ma, the narrator’s elderly mother, remembering — a process which brings memories to life for the rememberer — becomes a reason to live in a world she barely recognizes and which promises only exponential upheaval.

Cover of McSweeney's 58: 2040 A.D., the climate fiction issue.

Like Mikael Awake’s “The Good Plan” (reviewed here), Heng’s story makes memory a crucial element in successfully bridging the chasm between a pre and post climate change world. For Ma, the memories she relates of her childhood, of the people she cares about, and the places she loved, give the present day meaning. When she is removed from that — through memory loss due to Alzheimer’s, through the displacement of her home to an underground bunker, and the subsequent loss of community — she becomes destructive.

The ending of this story was a surprise; despite the increasing disorientation and destructiveness exhibited by Ma as she rails against her personal memory loss and her removal from the Ministry program, I was not expecting that violence to be taken up by the narrator. Upon further reflection, however, it is difficult to see another path forward for this family which has been literally buried alive. The Ministry has taken Ma’s memories and now denies her the comfort of those long-ago experiences. In this way, memory is a resource which the state harvests and uses with the same indifference as it did water, wood, metals, and fresh air. The narrator’s violence at the end of the story is drawing a boundary, demanding an end to the careless use of resources, which includes the people who are otherwise discarded.

I wonder how intentionally Heng positions Alzheimer’s disease as a metaphor for how we experience the climate changed world. Ma no longer recognizes her changed surroundings as home, despite the fact that she is surrounded by her furniture and other belongings. For her, the experience of the new world is one of uncanny displacement and as she becomes increasingly agitated she destroys those belongings which link her to her former life. The narrator’s violence at the end of the story, then, could be read in two ways. First, that she is resisting the commodification of memory by the state and insisting on humane treatment; or, perhaps the narrator becomes an agent for her mother and her memories, destroying that which comforts and placates, thereby demanding real solutions to environmental catastrophe. There may be other ways to read the ending to this poignant story and the nuanced precedent suggests that more than one of these or other readings could be a part of Heng’s vision.

Heng’s “The Rememberers” is gripping and troubling and as part of the wider collection from McSweeney’s, argues for an increasing acknowledgement of culture (through memory, stories, and interpersonal connection) in the systems disrupted by climate change.

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February Newsletter

February Newsletter poster graphic, with snowy branches in the background.

Check out our February 2021 newsletter, the first of the year. It contains news about cover reveals, giveaways, forthcoming titles, and a 50% discount on 2020 ebooks.

If you’re signed up for our newsletter, you’ve already received this information via email. The newsletter also includes a link to automatically opt-in to our next book giveaway of Octavia Cade’s THE IMPOSSIBLE RESURRECTION OF GRIEF. If you don’t want to miss future opportunities, sign up for our newsletter here.

Review: “The Good Plan” by Mikael Awake

Cover of McSweeney's 58: 2040 A.D. the Climate Fiction issue.
Mikael Awake’s “The Good Plan” was published in McSweeney’s 58: 2040 AD in 2019.

This review will contain some details that some may consider spoilers. Proceed at your own discretion.

McSweeney’s 58: 2040 A.D. is a climate fiction collection to be reckoned with. The writing is thoughtful and beautiful, and represents an array of perspectives on the climate emergency, conveniently labelled with the geographical location of that perspective. Mikael Awake’s “The Good Plan” is the only story in McSweeney’s 58 that doesn’t identify the location of the author within the margin of the story itself. Instead, the author’s location is cited as “Somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere” which provides some context for the story through what it tells the reader and what is omitted. Awake’s story reveals the experience of climate refugees through its exploration of memory and feelings of belonging and displacement. It is a study in physical, emotional, and psychological displacement and reintegration, one which masterfully gives the reader a taste of that experience in what Awake chooses to disclose or obfuscate about a refugee’s experience.

Remembering and forgetting is central to this refugee protagonist’s experience. In the first paragraph, Awake centres the struggle between remembering in order to preserve something of the person the protagonist was before he became a refugee, and forgetting in order to survive the present within the “plan” imposed upon him. At the core of this struggle is the idea of home — where is home when you leave the only place you’ve known? Can home be remade or recuperated elsewhere? For Awake’s protagonist, home is his dying mother, whom he has left behind and wants desperately to get back to again. Despite this desire, he left his mother to go to the land of The Good People in order to improve his family’s situation.

Relationship is key to survival in “The Good Plan.” But the Good People in the story demand, as a part of the Good Plan, that the protagonist exchange memories for the money he needs to survive. Without memories, the protagonist loses himself, his connections to others, and his sense of purpose. But Awake depicts memory as tenacious. In the land of the Good Plan, the protagonist participates in an economy of memory and experience for security; but he is able to hang on to the memory of his sister. While memories dissolve into the protagonist’s refugee experience, and he gives up still more of his memories in order to appear compliant of The Good Plan, the protagonist is reunited with his family when he is deported.

Deportation is yet another disorientation, but in the community of the Rear (as in, at the back of the line to travel, once again, to the land of the Good People), the protagonist discovers his mother vibrant and healthy and his sister strong. In community, then, Awake’s protagonist recovers himself: at first through regaining the memory and knowledge of familiar foods and music, and then through having a stake in the land and the people who love it. Through relationship, too, “the land … [remembers] itself.” This remembering is no primitivist utopia: the Rear is a fully modern, technological settlement which redefines human relationships to the land.

In “The Good Plan,” Awake’s prose obliterates both geographical and ideological borders and rebuilds the reader along with the protagonist and his community. “The Good Plan” is essential reading for understanding the intersections between environmental justice and migrant justice.

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