Flash Fiction Flashback: “Seed” by N. V. Binder Wendy Nikel
March 2012. Gas prices in the U.S. had reached $3.83 per gallon. The Midwest was dealing with record-breaking heat. The first Hunger Games movie premiered. The Encyclopedia Britannica announced that they’d no longer produce print versions of their books.
And here at Flash Fiction Online, we published a climate fiction story by N. V. Binder entitled “Seed.”
When I started looking for a story in our archives to fit this month’s theme of Wishes & Dreams, I kept coming back to this piece. Neither the word “wish” or “dream” appears in the text, but it still manages to evoke the same sense of longing and hope that one feels when blowing out a birthday candle or releasing dandelion seeds into the air. Through the narrator’s eyes, we see all that’s gone wrong with the world, and yet rather than despair, we see optimism. We see people working together and doing all they can and hoping, wishing, dreaming, that together we can solve these problems. Together, we can build a better future.
“Seed” by N. V. Binder
I remember how the sky looked, in the early days, when we called our time Austerity, not Collapse. I was eleven years old and Huntsville, Alabama was at the peak of the weather boom. Ninety-one degrees in January, everything turning brown, ice and snow a fairy story for every kid under the age of thirteen.
The sky that year was brilliant yellow and red and orange from the dust — even at noon on a clear day, and they were all clear days. Huntsville was a big city then. The weather boom was economic, not meteorological. Great towers were going up all over the place; new water ’cyclers and refiltration systems were being produced on a planetary scale. And Redstone Federal Arsenal was the flickering heart of the entire jump program. The parabolars, those silver marvels, went up every month with hundreds of jumpers.
FFO: In the years since your story was published in Flash Fiction Online, what other writing goals have you accomplished? Which publications, awards, or successes are you most proud of?
NVB: “Seed” was part of a larger collection of flash fiction on global warming, climate change & dystopias, but I really liked the way it ended up standing alone. Most of my fiction is really personal and I haven’t found many projects I want to publish. I have done a lot more behind the scenes work in editing and assisting other writers.
FFO: Looking back on your story, is there anything about it that surprises you? Anything that you would have changed or done differently if you’d written the same story now?
NVB: I was surprised (and pleased!) to learn that a few school classes had picked it out to work on! I would have liked to make better connections with the teachers and students. Now I would plan a virtual visit. I think writers should expect their work to have wide-ranging impact, and make plans to answer questions, give more information, share about the process, etc.
FFO: What do you think are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned about writing in the years since this story was published?
NVB: A lot of writers think their work is not good enough to publish, or feel like rejections are a really terrible setback or a judgement. In fact, almost all stories have some good qualities, many writers are quite talented, and rejections have a lot more to do with the market or the publisher than the writer. Most publishers simply don’t have time to workshop something with potential. I think writers should have more-self confidence, submit widely, and also make sure they are submitting finished, polished, confident works.
FFO: How have you changed in the years since this story was published—as a writer and as an individual?
NVB: So much! I would say that “Seed” is a story from the perspective of a young person who is hopeful about the future. There are a few hints that it doesn’t really work out that well, but it’s about those moments when you think things might be OK.
Now that I’m a little older, I think those moments of hope are even more important, even if the reality ends up being different. That is something that art can provide for people.
FFO: Are there any writers, poets, artists, or other creators whom you’d like to recommend to those who enjoy your work?
“Seed” is a cli-fi story, which was a smaller genre at the time. If that’s a topic you’re interested in, Paolo Bacigalupi has written pretty prolifically in this area. He has adult and YA novels. For art in this vein that is fun and inspiring for me, I love Simon Stålenhag’s Tales from the Loop, though I think the books are much better than the Netflix series. I think now is a good time to pick up Carola Dibbell’s The Only Ones. I also keep coming back to Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway, about building a better nation.
FFO: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers that we haven’t asked?
Preparing for the future requires a lot of imagination and creativity—not only to imagine the awful consequences of not taking action, but also to imagine hopeful solutions and just think about how people might live and thrive under these circumstances. So many dystopias are incredibly dark and sad without a lot of relief. I want to encourage many more people to write near-future science fiction and submit it to publishers and encourage publishers to seek out stories that are encouraging.
FFO: How can readers support you in your current endeavors?
NVB: Keep your eye out for new work from me, and also support your favorite artists and writers by not only subscribing to their Patreons, but also advocating for more arts and arts education funding at the state and federal level. Reach out to your elected officials and tell them how much you value the arts. Arts advocacy is especially important right now.
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