Tag Archives: jessup’s run

Remembering Black Sunday

Today is the 80th anniversary of Black Sunday, widely regarded as one of the worst days of the Dust Bowl.

I’ve been fascinated by the history of the Dust Bowl since I first saw one of the iconic photographs of a “black blizzard”.  Though the Dust Bowl was an environmental disaster with man-made roots*, there’s a nearly supernatural quality laced through the images and accounts of the time.  Maybe it’s that most of the written and oral accounts were coming from people who lived very closely with the land, and felt as though a friend had betrayed them.  Maybe it’s that nothing of the sort had ever been seen before, and the relentless assault didn’t ever seem likely to end.

I’m captivated by the idea that the environment could be quasi-sentient, and with a landscape so unpredictable that it’s easier to assume there are forces at work other than air currents and a lack of rain.  150,000 words of fascinated with it, but that’s a (long) story for another day.  In the meantime, you can check out what GhostsofNorthDakota.com has to say about Black Sunday.

*-Though most experts agree that a poor understanding of farming practice and the effects of erosion, combined with a drought the likes of which had never been seen, played a role in the creation of the Dust Bowl region and weather, there is growing skepticism about how much of the problem should be laid on the farmers of the time.**

What We’re Working On Wednesday

A project list- we have one!  It’s been tweaked and edited, and appears roughly in order of current priorities, though that could change at any moment, and the fact that solo projects appear at the bottom doesn’t indicate that they rank lower than co-written stories.

Michelle and Reesa


Peripheral People (Ylendrian Empire #3) – We’re currently re-reading with fresh eyes, incorporating a lot of feedback from our awesome pre-reader group, and knocking this one back into shape.

A War for Ghosts (Ylendrian Empire #4) – Lewis Jacquard has a fast ship, a charmed life, and a missing chunk of his youth, lost to indiscretions unbecoming the heir to the largest media conglomerate in the Empire. He’s also got a lover who talks to ghosts, and a wayward wife who’d like to string him up by something he’s rather fond of.  Still, nothing he can’t handle, until his past starts unraveling, leaving him fighting in the remains of a war he doesn’t remember volunteering for.


Gifts Too Fine – Ylendrian Empire short story/novella – Kellen Frey is about to come up against a problem he can’t charm his way out of: a visit to the in-laws. Thank goodness Heston Gruin is willing to step in and distract him with a job, even if it’s not one he wants anything to do with.

Far From the Tree Ylendrian Empire short story/novella – Post-Peripheral People, Inspector Corwin Menivie is called home to Kaleia, where between the family who disowned him, the “help” of Agent Westley Shears, and the restrictive society that doesn’t play by Imperial rules, he finds the murder of an anthropologist is about the least of his problems.

With Knives – Vanya Reyes never knew her father, at least until an argument with her mother sent her marching for his doorstep.  He’s not the most welcoming of long-lost parents, but he’s willing to help her find a place in the Imperial Court.  When she falls in love with the Imperial Princess, Vanya’s betting that’s not the position he had in mind.

Changing of the Guard – Sometimes, the battle keeps going long after the last shot is fired.  Tal Serafine isn’t sure he wants to be the one pulling the trigger anymore.


Who Remembers? – Journalists putting together a book about America’s abandoned places stumble across one with a personal connection neither of them is expecting, and their only hope might be a reclusive innkeeper.


Not Actually the Title Of This Story (Jessup’s Run #1) – Post-apocalyptic fringe rebels trying to save their friend from a disease must use their hidden, mutated powers to infiltrate the corporate city that offers their only hope of salvation.  Caution: Contains murderous mutant river otters, a lack of speed limits, one little girl who swears too much, and the crazy notion of a future worth fighting for.

Dear Superior Person, and the Unexpected Apocalypse

I’d never read this person’s blog before yesterday.  (Cleaning out my google reader and filling it with relevant blogs is gonna happen Real Soon Now.) I don’t know how they respond to other questions, to other issues, but this post, this moment of time and words, is pretty much perfect to me.

The Rejectionist – Dear Superior Person

“I want us to be so loud and so angry and so visible and so terrifying that we cannot be mistaken for anything other than the future, a future that looks like us. In all our kinds of bodies, in all our kinds of love. Waiting for the time when none of us are angry anymore because the only thing left is the world we want to live in. When the hardest thing any of us will know is teaching ourselves how to live without anger altogether.”

Naturally, I’m stealing the best lines, but the entire post is well worth your time.  They’re talking about current events, about Jonathan Franzen, and  how ridiculous it is to tell someone else what they “should” be angry about.  I, being of a less profound bent, am using it as a jumping off point to talk about writing an unexpected apocalypse.

Part of the reason I’ve always staunchly believed I don’t enjoy the post-apocalyptic genre is that there is no happy ending.  Nothing good will happen that eclipses the very big bad that has already been.  When I started writing my current book, nobody was more surprised than me to find it set after a war and a plague, in the middle of a wasteland that used to be the United States.

The change for me was that I finally understood that the story I wanted to see wasn’t about fixing the world that had been, but making the new one better.  It was about creating a future when the past failed, and yes, anger.  Taking the kind of anger that could sustain someone through the death of family and friends, through the repeated assaults of the world around them, and turning that into fuel to keep going in the face of near-overwhelming odds.

There’s a certain conditioning, at least the way I was raised, to believe that anger is always bad.  A flare of temper is okay, but sustained anger weakens you.  I actually agree with that to a point;  I think sustained, long-term anger with no outlet tends to seek one, and will almost inevitably turn back on you if you can’t find one.  But I don’t think that’s the kind of anger the Rejectionist is talking about, and it’s not the kind of anger that DOES something.  That kind of anger makes you feel like there is no point in fighting, because you can’t win.  It’s impotent and ultimately defeating.

I think the anger in many post-apocalyptic and dystopian works, and one of the underlying reasons that we’re seeing more of them lately, is the kind of focused, productive anger that reminds us that the same people who want you to believe you’re powerless are the ones who are taking your power from you.  Particularly in dystopian fiction, that overwhelming, almost omniscient governor (be it fear, consequence, or actual government) is nearly as important a character as the protagonist.  What makes the protagonist fight?  What brings her to the point where “enough” is both not, and more than?  Anger.  Anger, and love, and many times, the realization that his anger is the only thing that will make the world into one where love can hope to exist.

Once I understood that what I wanted out of post-apocalyptic fiction wasn’t about unmaking the problems of the past, but taking what was left and using the fire of anger to forge something new, something better, the apocalypse wasn’t so unexpected anymore.  And maybe it wasn’t before, either. I think I looked at it, and mistook the power of a future created from anger for a future where only anger could survive.  There’s a balance between the two, and a reminder in there that anger is worth more to my characters if it’s fuel for a bomb that remakes the world into one where their struggle becomes the need to adapt to a life where it isn’t vital for survival.