I’m often asked, “what influenced your creation of a dystopic future in Heart Wood ?” Although I’ve read speculative novels by amazing authors (think Margaret Atwood), my answer is always the same:
The three dystopic novels forever branded into my memory are:
“Earth Abides,” “The Great Bay,” and “Feed“
Each novel influenced how I wove the 2075 journey of great-granddaughter Amisha into my vision of the future. Coincidentally, two of the authors described a great pandemic that wiped out most of mankind – a premise that now gives me chills. That wasn’t the premise of Heart Wood, although I did mention “the flu” as something Amisha often endured as a child. In Heart Wood though, there’s a sense of something else….
“EARTH ABIDES” by George Stewart. Written in 1949, Stewart details the earth’s transition and rebuilding after a virus wipes out most of civilization. Saved by the venom of a rattlesnake bite, the character Ish survives the virus and wanders through Northern California in what civilization has left behind. In vivid detail, Stewart describes the waves of transition the earth experiences, now freed from mankind’s influence. This book helped me let go of what I assumed is vital for the future. “Men go and come, but earth abides.” (Ecclesiastes, 1, 4)
“THE GREAT BAY” by Dale Pendell. Written in 2010, the late Pendell who lived in Nevada County, details the Great Collapse in California from 2021 to 16,000 years later. This takes place after a global pandemic in 2021 kills most of mankind – more than 200 million die in the U.S. in the first month alone. Chillingly prophetic! Pendell moves forward decades and centuries at a time with detailed stories of survivors and maps that show the steady filling in of Central California to form a “Great Bay.”
“FEED” by M.T. Anderson. Another prescient book written in 2002. Although this Young Adult novel was written before smart phones (introduced in 2007), Anderson absolutely nailed how insidiously this communication technology would infiltrate and control our lives. Like the Nib in Heart Wood, almost everyone has a chip implanted in their brain that connects them to “The Feed.” I listened to this as an audio book first and was hooked.
About Heart Wood – From Sandra Rockman, Theater Director
“Wow! What a feat! A really good read, mammoth detail and impressive imaginings with the Nibs, etc. Although sobering to read right now in the midst of the pandemic and the election – such an important story and sensibility. Thank you for all your work on it. The world needs this book right now.“
Heart Wood – Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future
The perfect gift for holiday giving; the perfect read for the times we’re in.
You can purchase your copy of Heart Woodat all local bookstores.
The sun hides its fiery crimson ball behind the gray pall overhead and I can hardly make out the ghostly outline of pines beyond my window. Friends report the sky over San Francisco is a dystopic burnt orange. We’ve all been breathing smoky air for days along the entire west coast and as I write, the Air Quality Index in the Sierra is Hazardous at 303.
So much for my original plans for this Blog: Is Elon Musk Musk’s controversial Neurolink the precursor to Heart Wood’s Nib? I’ll come back to that later. Today I want to write about something more pressing: Is there anything we can do to lessen these massive wildfires, or should we and our children’s children expect to live with them from here on out? Here’s what I’ll cover: 1) Wildfires in California’s future – my artistic literary vision and some scientific projections. 2) How the Paris Agreement is designed to help us locally and world-wide (which the president withdrew the US from, but many states are pushing ahead anyway) 3) One tangible way to impact how our legislators vote for the environment.
So here we are. It’s mid-September and I remind myself that wildfire season in California has only just started. As much as I’m grateful we’re not one of the tens of thousands who have lost their homes to this season’s wildfires already, and I’ve sent donations to the Red Cross to help those who have, I’m so aware that we all share in the destruction of our air quality, respiratory, and environmental health.
I “saw” an eerily similar scene years ago when I was writing about the future in Heart Wood and envisioned Amisha moving about in San Francisco in 2075:
The old vase on her dresser was shimmering red the next morning when Amisha raised her head from the pillow. Most days started this way. Though the rising sun was rarely seen, its warmth caused micrometal particles suspended in the air to scintillate in a vague morning glow, casting a sense of dawn across the city. (Heart Wood, p 14)
“Micrometal particles” suspended in the air? Though I left the details up to the reader’s imagination, it’s not hard to envision a ghastly mix of wildfire smoke and the toxins emitted from a burning civilization, as well as pollutants from industry and indestructible micro-plastics.
By 2075, wildfires have already burned most of the Sierra as Amisha and Charlie head up into the Sierra:
Amisha took another swig, then returned the canister to its hiding place. “What’s up there?” she asked, pointing to the hint of peaks in the distance. “You askin’ ’bout hills? Not much.” “People?” “They’ve come and gone, mostly farther north.” “Oregon?” “Farther. Canada’s still deciding its immigration policy.” “They say fires took out most of the foothills. Anything survive?” “A structure here and there.” “Trees? People?” “Can’t say,” Charlie climbed back into the wagon. “Why are you going up there?” Amisha asked. “Can’t say that either.” (Heart Wood p 93)
These 2075 scenarios were heavily influenced by the study: California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, 2018 sent to me by Ashley Overhouse, River Policy Manager for SYRCL (South Yuba Citizen’s League: https://yubariver.org/) The study gives projections for California in 2100 (temperature, water, wildfire, sea level, public health, communities, and governance). Here’s what they say about future wildfires in California (https://climateassessment.ca.gov/)
Impact: Climate change will make forests more susceptible to extreme wildfires.By 2100, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, one study found that the frequency of extreme wildfires burning over approximately 25,000 acres would increase by nearly 50 percent, and that average area burned statewide would increase by 77 percent by the end of the century.
TABLE 9 | CLIMATE IMPACTS IN CALIFORNIA UNDER DIFFERENT EMISSION SCENARIOS
Table 9 presents estimated impacts to California assuming compliance with the Paris goals, as compared to a historic baseline and RCP 8.5 scenario. (RCP 8.5 is a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario that would result in atmospheric CO2 concentrations exceeding 900 parts per million (ppm) by 2100, more than triple the level present in the atmosphere before human emissions began to accumulate).
CLIMATE IMPACT IN CALIFORNIA
BASELINE: 1976 – 2005
RCP 8.5 End of Century
PARIS AGREEMENT 1.5°C
PARIS AGREEMENT 2°C
Annual Average Temperature
Number of extreme hot days: Sacramento
April 1st Snow Water Equivalent
Wildfires: area burned
484.5 thousand acres
+ 63 %
+ 20 %
+ 20 %
Sea-Level Rise (2100 relative to 2000: mean values)
137 cm (54 in)
28 cm (11 in)
41 cm (16 in)
Considering the Paris Agreement on Climate Change Mitigation, you may remember that in June 2017, President Trump announced his highly controversial plans to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris Agreement. He wanted an agreement on terms that were fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers – in accordance with his America First Policy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_withdrawal_from_the_Paris_Agreement
No mention of being fair to the health of our environment.
Twenty-four state governors formed the United States Climate Alliance to continue working collectively toward the goals of the Paris Agreement, including California, Oregon, and Washington.
What can one person do? – Start by supporting the League of Conservation Voters and by voting!
I love this group because they work hard to elect politicians “who stand up for a clean, healthy future for America,” and defeating “anti-environment” candidates – at both federal and state levels. The League of Conservation Voters tracks the voting records of members of Congress on environmental issues in its National Environmental Scorecard, and it annually names a “Dirty Dozen,” a list of politicians whom the group aims to defeat because of their voting records on conservation issues, and their political vulnerability. (The group also names a state-level Dirty Dozen.)
You’re invited to an Open House at the newly remodeled website dedicated to my eco-novel: Heart Wood – Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future.
Years ago, when Heart Wood was in its infancy, I created my first website and blog. Having since outgrown the space, I’ve been working with a web designer to give it an updated look with new rooms and décor. Please stroll around and take a look!
There is one last room I want to remodel and I’m hoping readers can help me. If you click on the “Research” tab, you’ll see tabs for Past, Present, and Future. These are where I’m gathering Present data and evidence of mankind’s cumulative impact on the Future, as well as my family’s historical documents from the Past.
If you’ve read Heart Wood, you may share my concern for what we’re doing to our air, water, food, and earth, and the impact on our health and longevity – especially of our children. You can contribute by sending articles and links that I can post. Discussions welcome!
For history buffs, especially my family, I will post all the documentation I gathered about my great-grandparents, Emily and Charles Hoppin of Yolo, California – the inspiration for the characters of Eliza and Silas in Heart Wood. In my research, I found previously unknown speeches, writings, and interviews with Emily Hoppin. She was a woman before her time and now, 100 years later, her voice can be heard! I invite anyone with information about Charles and Emily Hoppin to add to this documentation on my website.
Please sign the guest book by leaving a comment. If you see any corners that need attention, let me know. I’m learning how websites nowadays must work across all types of screens: computers, tablets, and mobile devices – rather like a three-dimensional tic-tac-toe board! My appreciation to Katie (who also grew up in the “Luna Valley”) and her design team at Urban Sherpa Marketing: www.urbansherpa.marketing
Now that social isolation has become the norm, how about curling up with a good book? The coronavirus will continue to alter our lives in unimaginable ways, but at least we can still enjoy reading!
Heart Wood will transport you into the lives of three women of the past, present, and future as they cope with their changing worlds. No viruses, I promise! The most common reaction I do get to Heart Wood is “this gives me goose bumps!”
The ebook version will be available online soon and Heart Wood will eventually be available in local independent bookstores. Be sure and ask for it and support your local indie bookstores!
“To my own surprise, I don’t expect new authors to be so sly or quick in engaging, holding, and enlightening their readers. Whenever I pick Heart Wood up, I always regret having to put it down. Shirley DicKard is extremely good.” – Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet, essayist, environmental activist
Heart Wood– Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future
Deep in the heart of a small oak writing desk is a legacy that mysteriously connects three family women across centuries and generations in their fight for the future.
Shima’a, an ancient woman with disturbing visions of the Earth’s demise, sends a message of warning, and a seed of hope, forward in time within the heart of an acorn to three family women:
Eliza: Post Gold Rush in the Sacramento Valley, late 19th century.
Harmony: Back-to-the-land homestead in the Sierra Nevada, late 20th century.
Amisha: Dystopic San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada, late 21st century.
Writing on the heartwood of the old desk, each woman is influenced by the ancient message as she views mankind’s escalating destruction of the natural world through the eyes of her time. The women learn to listen to the silence, hold the earth in their hands, gather the women, then do what must be done.
Heart Wood is a compelling family saga set in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. Its characters shift from one generation to the next, as do the struggles they face in saving their homestead from the ravages of climate change, fire, and human greed. But it’s mankind that poses the most dire challenges to the land and to those who seek life upon it. Heart Wood speaks of the collective power of feminine energy to protect the Earth. If you feel you’re not doing enough or that it’s already too late to make a difference, Heart Wood may change your mind. An eco-speculative-historical-magical-feminist novel.