Monday, August 28, 2017

Guest Post: On the Grey Side

We have a great post with Raven Oak sharing about her story that will appear in the anthology Last Cities of Earth with artwork from Jeff Sturgeon. After you read this, you may want to jump over to that Kickstarter and pledge to get your copy.

On the Grey Side by Raven Oak

Post-apocalyptic media has always held a certain draw for me, even when I was young. I suspect it ties into my anxiety, which often imagines the worst-case scenario and ponders the what-next, but some of my fascination stems from old books read during childhood such as Alas, Babylon and On the Beach. All of this led to a lifetime love of the genre, zombies, and plagues, but that’s another blog post.

When I first saw Jeff Sturgeon’s floating cities, particularly his vision of how San Francisco's would rise above the clouds to avoid the after effects of the Yellowstone eruption, my brain spun a million ideas about the how and the why of such a city and its people. I love how it hovers above the Golden Gate Bridge while down below, a mer-person watches a lone airship cross rather ominous looking clouds. There are so many different directions a writer could go with such art before us. But San Francisco wasn’t the only piece to draw me in. The more I saw of Jeff’s Last Cities of Earth art series, the more I was excited to be involved. This is a project unlike any other I’ve seen and worth backing.

In the Last Cities of Earth anthology, my story takes place in Mexico City—or it’s floating city equivalent. After YE (Yellowstone Eruption), Mexico City is a ‘retched hive of scum and villainy’…I mean, it’s a city controlled by drug cartels and gangs. Being a large trading port for pirates and those less scrupulous, I wanted to tell a story about an airship captain whose down on her luck—like most captains tend to be.

I’ve always been drawn to writing gray characters—characters who are scoundrels and anti-heroes. I love characters like Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly) and Han Solo (Star Wars) because they feel a bit closer to the everyday people who make up our world. Humans know it’s wrong to steal, but if they had no other choice, who wouldn’t take a piece of bread to feed a starving child? One of the best parts of being a science fiction author is that exploration of morality and technology, something covered in the expanded universe of this world. Cities rush to survive the coming disaster, whether it be by natural or unnatural means. This changes humanity and its cities in ways that will be explored in the anthology and art book.

My own experiences with Mexico also drew me to the city. Before moving to Seattle (and writing full-time), I was a public school teacher in Texas in inner-city schools. The majority of my students were Hispanic and as many of them were born in Mexico, I spent many years surrounded by the cultures and flavors of this country. On the flip-side of that, I found myself amidst the gang culture and drug-cartels that often impacted the lives of my students in unimaginable and heartbreaking ways. Many of my students had a love-hate relationship with the place of their ancestry. They were proud of it, yet the stain of drugs and crime overshadowed what could be.

My hope is that with my pirate character, I can show how good can come from dark places in dark times, a lesson many of us could use these days.

Author Bio:
Award-winning and bestselling speculative fiction author Raven Oak is best known for Amaskan’s Blood (2016 Ozma Fantasy Award Winner and Epic Awards Finalist), Class-M Exile, and the collection Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays (Foreword Reviews 2016 Book of the Year Finalist). She also has several published short stories in anthologies such as Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology and Magic Unveiled.


  1. Love how your experiences lead you to write a book with a good lesson. Sounds interesting! Thanks for sharing.

    1. I feel like life always leads writers in some form or fashion. How could it not? It's one of the best things about writing in my opinion. :)


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