By Margaret Killjoy
Hey you guys. Climate change is going to kill us. We are going to fight each other to the death in violent uprisings and wars over water. Of course. But have you considered the role that antifascist Norse warrior ghosts (don’t call them vikings) might play in the world of tomorrow? How about lesbian mermaids? And how are those Free Orcas of Cascadia going to handle it all? Oh, you haven’t considered that? Well Margaret Killjoy has, in her new book We Won’t Be Here Tomorrow (and other stories), a post apocalyptic medley that can be described as being Netflix’s “Black Mirror” in book form.
Margaret Killjoy is a trans woman, an anarchist and a musician. She is most well known for writing two books in the Danielle Cain series which wikipedia describes as featuring a group of genderqueer, anarchist demon hunters in the American heartland. In addition to her writing, she has two podcasts, “Cool People Who Did Cool Stuff” which she describes as exploring the great rebels and weirdos of history, and “Live like the World is Dying” which she describes as exploring individual and community preparedness.
You can also catch her crushing the piano in Feminazgûl, a three-piece feminist black metal band. She currently lives in the Appalachian mountains but this collection echoes the PNW throughout. Wherever you live on the I-5 corridor, you’ll recognize the settings of many of these stories, from a grocery outlet in NE Portland to the douglas firs of the Cascade range; her writing sings of her experience in the Northwest.
Killjoy presents 21 short stories, all between two and 22 pages in length, that examine the bleak world we face ahead of us. She doesn’t have much optimism for the direction we are headed but this collection shows a variety of hopeful ways humanity may react to and recover from what is coming. Her first offering slaps you with a riveting tale that is reminiscent of “Stranger Things” if it met “Stand By Me,” Stephen King’s IT, in a short story. From there you will read stories highlighting such themes as the repercussions of using artificial intelligence as an ethical judge, or how we might best return to an uninhabitable Earth.
She brings the outcasts and the outsiders to the front, giving them voice and power. Occasionally she peeks into the panoply of pagan polyamory. How many different ways are there to love, even when faced with the end of all that you have known? Her protagonists battle Lovecraftian monsters, and modern ones, as they struggle with identity, destiny and drone networks.
Her masterful writing style combines effortless foreshadowing, glimpses here and there that keep us flipping pages until we solve the mystery from the hints she has sprinkled in. She mixes mundane details with startling characters to provide stirring stories in dystopian futures. Get ready to have your expectations subverted and to ponder the Great Questions at every turn. Is history just a cycle of people who want power over others, fighting those that don’t? What story would you tell if you saved a dark witch and then she set you free? Can we find the meaning of life by believing in some shit we just made up? Pretty light stuff, really.
Some books and stories will try to provide some kind of moral or an answer to an ethical quandary. But life isn’t quite that clear cut. Sometimes there is no moral, just a story about little evils and big evils and the choices we make, written by an insightful, talented woman.
Will Smith is a ranger, writer and naturalist who works seasonally in roles involving environmental stewardship and community planning.