Alumna Ashley Shelby '02 Releases Chapbook 'Muri'
BY Zoe Contros Kearl, August 6, 2019
Muri, a climate fiction chapbook by nonfiction writing alumna Ashley Shelby '02, was published by Radix Media. In this reimagining of Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno, the polar bear population has dwindled, and the remaining pods have been relocated to the east coast of Antarctica in an attempt to save them using a process called “assisted colonization.” The last pod of Baffin Bay bears has boarded the Precession icebreaker, captained by a man who is keenly aware that previous crews on this run have gone mad.
Futures: A Science Fiction Series utilizes the chapbook format—a saddle-stitched pamphlet—as a vehicle to explore the stories more fully. While the first project in the series' publishing program was an anthology, collecting a variety of stories into a single book, they have decided that this format is more intimate. The chapbooks are thinner and lighter, and "when you turn the final page, your journey with that individual story is complete." Through this format, the series hopes that the reader is more immersed in the stories themselves. Futures: A Science Fiction Series believes that good science fiction reflects the dreams and nightmares of the present day. By exploring the issues contained in these stories, they hope that the reader gains a better understanding of the world today so that they can build the future they want to see.
“Using Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno as a backdrop, Shelby reimagines the classic tale of madness, isolation, and revolution for the modern age. With the detailed urgency that would appeal to readers of Margaret Atwood, Allegra Hyde, or Jeff VanderMeer, Shelby’s seminal work confronts head-on the myriad attitudes toward climate change and all the hope and despair at the very heart of ‘the Impact,’ tightly wrapped in brisk, energetic lyricism. Timely, accessible, and precise, this ticking time bomb of a story will wrack you from page one, and will leave you commandeering a line from the book to describe Shelby, herself: that she is the “Paul Revere of Impact," riding forward to warn you to wake the hell up before the lantern goes out.”—Leah Angstman, editor-in-chief of Alternating Current Press and The Coil, and editor of Undeniable: Writers Respond to Climate Change.
Shelby is a prize-winning writer whose fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in Slate, The New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Review, J Journal: New Writings on Social Justice, and other literary outlets. She's received the Red Hen Press Short Fiction Award, the Enizagam Short Story Award, the Third Coast Fiction Prize, and has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her debut novel, South Pole Station, published in 2017, received praise from The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, Time, LitHub, and Booklist. The novel was also named a New York Times Editor's Pick and an Indie Next Pick, as well as a Best Book of 2017 by Shelf Awareness. South Pole Station also received the 2017 Lascaux Prize in Fiction. She received her MFA from Columbia University.