Not long ago my third published story, Karma Garden, appeared in Papercuts Magazine. It was an exciting accomplishment for me in a number of ways. You can read it online here, and I’ll take this opportunity to share some background.
Obviously, as the title implies, the concept of karma plays a role. I’d like to believe that it exists. Not just as hipster-appropriated philosophy, but as the unminted currency of the Universe, managed in quantum blockchains and dispensed as earned.
When I seriously renewed my writing efforts in 2015, karma was one of the subjects swimming through my storming head. I wanted to write meaningful stories; not heavy-handed, but enlightening. Writers understand that we often convey subject matter better through fictional rather than literal lecture form, and with power of publication comes a responsibility to advance the social good.
I’m also an unabashed tree-hugger, and that’s going to naturally come through my work. Not just in stories listing “garden” in the title, but even those set on inert platforms or in frigid vacuums. As anyone whose city has been overindustrialized can attest, at the very least, green makes a comforting counter to grey.
So when I ran across articles in 2015 describing the discovery of flowing water on Mars, I just had to green the Red Planet up.
But as I began writing, and immersing myself into the character of lonely Diane Sasaki, I experienced a growing guilt. I was well aware of mounting problems with modern agriculture. Who was I, this manufactured botanist, to abandon a ruined Earth to garden Mars? Was Diane an unwitting tool of a locust-like expansionist cycle? Render Eden into Hell and then flee to the next Eden?
Because I’m going to level with you: Earth is on the edge of agricultural collapse.
In my story, volcanoes provide the final breaking point, but we’re doing enough through manmade means as it is. Monoculture crops, fertilizer runoff, soil depletion, habitat development… all these factors and more are contributing to an eventual failure of our current modes of farming. And we don’t seem to be paying due attention.
A perfect storm is brewing.
Admittedly, I didn’t delve deeply into all this scary stuff in the story. It was an underlying theme, sure, but the focus was on the escapist Diana and how she came to be personally redeemed in a most peculiar and wonderful fashion.
But don’t kid yourself: the flight and plight of a Diana Sasaki wouldn’t depend on volcanoes. If we don’t get smarter and more responsible in our approach to feeding the world, Karma with a capital K is sure to kick our collective asses. And I highly doubt we’ll have Mars to save us.