As such, I invite you to read this recent chat between two pretty cool women writers, Laura van den Berg of Find Me, now in paperback, and Emily St. John Mandel of Station Eleven. Both novels deal with one HOT recurring theme in contemporary literature: dystopias. Farrar, Straus and Giroux’s Work in Progress details their cross-Atlantic correspondence on “open space, the aftermath of catastrophe, and the end of the genre wars”:
Dystopian novels authored by women has also been a recent topic of conversation. Both our books were referenced in Sloane Crosley’s most interesting essay, “It’s the End of the World as She Knows It,” in which she argues, “What’s curious is that female writers take an overwhelmingly different—and interior—view of the same landscape.” I think of Find Me as a deeply interior novel, so this line of thinking made sense to my own experience with the form, but I was curious to know how Crosley’s ideas struck you?
EStJM: I liked that essay a lot. I was particularly intrigued by her suggestion that women tend to take a more interior angle in our postapocalyptic fiction, because the condition of feeling physically unsafe just isn’t a particularly novel or noteworthy occurrence for us. Did that idea ring true to you in the context of Find Me? Most of the post-apocalyptic action of Station Eleven is set two decades after a societal breakdown, really just because that was much more interesting to me than writing about blood spatters and cannibalism. I hadn’t really analyzed why writing about violence and physical menace just wasn’t all that interesting to me, but when I read Crosley’s essay, her suggestion made perfect sense to me—I found myself thinking, “Right, of course. Feeling a sense of menace as I walk down the street isn’t a postapocalyptic situation, it’s the baseline condition for going for an evening stroll in any neighborhood.”
Swing by Center for the Reader for our month-long display of dystopia and apocalyptica by women.