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D E L I V E R Y (Delivery)

Brown, Damian (2021) D E L I V E R Y (Delivery). Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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D E L I V E RY is a novella about a futuristic world that essentially works fine, and a woman forced to find out why. The story is set in a Pacific nation, the Sol Coast Republic, in a future so distant that the United States is an embarrassing memory, but with technology that is only slightly more advanced than we see around us today. We, humanity, have achieved universal peace and plenty, and yet Ciara Way, the protagonist, still chooses to have an actual job. She is a courier, and she hand-delivers packages to reclusive clients throughout the southwest, and one day finds herself caught in a conspiracy of self-driving cars, wiry robotic monsters, and intelligent racoons. This novella has a long developmental history. Its earliest seed was planted in a few writing exercises in Erin Stalcup’s undergraduate fiction workshop. One piece was a hybrid poem/story/computer code about a woman in a lilac dress executing a robot, the other scraps of an outline about an eccentric woman training pet racoons to unlace shoes. The hybrid piece was submitted in my application packet for MFA programs, which I hope helped convince the NAU program to accept me into theirs. Almost two years later, in the Spring of 2020, I revisited the concepts in a hasty draft for Dr. Nicole Walker’s environmental writing class, and then expanded that into the first few chapters in Chelsey Johnson’s fiction workshop, where I hoped to restructure the narrative into something that contorts the classic hero’s journey into a more woven, wavey series of events that do not necessarily leave the reader with answers, but instead lay out clues that invite them to practice the hard work of resolution in the face of calamity themselves. I have been feeling the burden of the impending apocalypse, in both life and in literature, and wanted to write a story from the perspective of a world that overcame it. The principle writing of the piece straddles the consequential divide from before and after the COVID-19 pandemic began, and while not directly speaking to that national shame and global tragedy, I hope the work imparts the precarity of humanity, and the struggles we face to maintain our balance between peace and justice. When I set my story in a utopian future, my intent was not to allow myself to simply worldbuild away a global reckoning with the injustice spurred by centuries of colonial violence, or to plaster over the imminent struggle of climate change. Instead, I hoped to present an audience with a lens with which to see another world where those wounds have become scars, and the turmoil that comes from both their prolonged existence, and hopefully one day, sincere attempts at healing. My reaction to contemporary climate science fiction and the classics of u/dystopian literature informs the character, plot, and themes of D E L I V E R Y. The long time of history explored in works like the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov (introduced to me by Dr. Karen Renner), and more recently in N. K. Jemisen’s The Broken Earth series, informs my dissection/creation of the competing cultures that vie for philosophical dominance in the Sol Coast. In my interrogation of the tool of violence that pervades the cyberpunk future in works like Neuromancer by William Gibson, and is still ongoing in popular cli-fi works like Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife, I hoped to present a more straight-faced ideological struggle for my human characters to overcome. Two more works, whose inspiration speaks to the value of the NAU M.F.A programs commitment to cross genre and hybrid exploration, is Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World and Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, both of which gave me a non-fiction grounding for the complexity of the ecological and social narratives that shape our world on which to base my elaborate science fiction machinations. As much as I love my worlds within worlds, the setting and character work that demands the sentences of prose fiction, I could not help but sprinkle my other passion for words within words, as fostered especially by Nicole Walker’s poetry workshops. I hope that my fanciful phrases and etymological symbologies do not distract but enhance the contemplative tone of the novella. I also was heavily inspired by the aesthetics of the Vaporwave digital music genre as a foil to the industrial, orientalist roots of the cyberpunk genre D E L I V E R Y hopes to contend with, and by my life growing up in desert of the Phoenix, Arizona valley, desperately hoping to escape the heat. My peers in my MFA program, as well as my professors, including those not yet mentioned above, Sherwin Bistui, Lawrence Lenhart, and KT Thompson, have been an invaluable source of inspiration for not just D E L I V E R Y, but all of my recent writing. Special thanks to Dr. Ann Cummins, who taught my very first fiction workshop in the Spring of 2014, and tricked me into doing this writing thing when she praised my story about a kid stuck in a Jeep with their smoking dad, driving off-road through the Arizona desert, and finding an old, rusted shack.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: climate change; fiction; novella; southwest; speculative; uptopian
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Arts and Letters > English
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2022 16:30
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2022 16:30
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5734

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