What inspired the premise of people being Forgotten in your story “We Came Home From Hunting Mushrooms”?
I wanted to explore the idea that loss without the opportunity for grief may be more grotesque than the sensation of grief itself. Suffering is debilitating, but it can give rise to determination, understanding, and resistance.
I wrote “We Came Home From Hunting Mushrooms” prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but the story has become more poignant for me over the last several months. It was informed by the same sense that we’re witnessing a systematic erasure of human beings on multiple fronts. I’m a paramedic serving a largely marginalized community, and I see patients every day who are treated like garbage by the US healthcare system. The Forgotten are deemed so unworthy that all evidence of their very existence is obliterated, and the survivors go on without an awareness of what has been lost. That’s the world in which we already live.
What do you think it’s like to be Forgotten? Are the Forgotten angels? Ghosts in limbo?
I don’t have a clear picture of what the experience of being Forgotten might be like; I never did. I wanted to focus on the experience of those who survive, the people who are forced to make sense of a world in which their memories and history are being destroyed.
Your choice to have the President communicate God’s plan to Forget people is interesting. What is your reasoning for that?
I wanted to suggest that the forces orchestrating the Forgetting were driven entirely by human intention. This isn’t a random supernatural event. Political forces have weaponized it against the population. Denying people knowledge of what they’ve lost is a means of control.
Why did you choose mushrooms as a potential ward against being Forgotten?
In times of fear and uncertainty, people often cling to any manifestation of hope that’s presented to them. In this story, one character is nearly poisoned by their effort to survive the Forgetting. The talismans we use to suppress our fear can be as toxic as the danger we seek to ward off. Fearful people are more susceptible to twisted narratives that offer false hope.
That said, I didn’t want this to be a deep dive into hopelessness. I wanted to suggest that even in a time of great loss, the mushroom hunt still offered an opportunity for the characters to connect in a way they never had before. The fact that we pursue hope with such determination is one of our redeeming traits. It urges us to look for the good in each other.
Where can we find more of your work? What do we have to look forward to?
I’ll have a story in the upcoming anthology Glitter + Ashes from Neon Hemlock Press. “A Sound Like Staying Together” is about rogue Foley artists in a landscape of hallucinogenic toxins made of the pulverized dust of our civilization. I think it’s going to be an amazing collection of stories, and I’m a big fan of many of the writers whose work will appear in it, so that’s very exciting for me.
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