For all the weirdnesses in my book of linked stories New Sun Rising—e-beasts who rule the world from within Networld, witchcraft, ghosts, and a human warehouse—I couldn’t have written the stories without knowing three New York lakes: Otisco, Skaneateles, and Chautauqua. This is the literal truth: without knowing the lakes I would not have known how to create the utopian community central to the action in New Sun Rising, or how to describe it.
Those lakes feed a thirsty creative soul.
The lake in my fictional world is named Star Lake. It is mostly based on Chautauqua. However, the emerald green color in autumn is from Skaneateles. The sense of “home is here” comes from Otisco, the lake of my childhood.
Star Lake is the first thing described in the first story:
Star Lake is as it has always been: restless, beautiful, and bewitching. I believe it is the source of our town’s various spiritualities. The veil between this world and other dimensions is very thin here. Very thin. For all we know, our lake is a gateway through which unseen beings pass back and forth. I—who have no coherent religion—become mystical when I see the water. We all do.
—From “The Town With Four Names”
A hero’s journey
Dystopias have always been with us. I doubt that any dystopia imagined in science fiction is worse than what people have already experienced for real. In the past, you could prick your finger on a rosebush thorn and get a fatal infection. You could be burned at the stake for practicing the “wrong” version of Christianity. You could see some or all of your children die from diseases now preventable or curable.
The struggle toward utopia is a hero’s journey. Little bits of goodness are realized with tremendous effort. These are not necessarily big things. For example, if you had to spend a good part of your life doing laundry by hand, you might consider the invention of the washing machine as a needful ingredient of a utopian society.
The town by Star Lake has Utopian ideals. What would happen, I wondered, if a girl raised in this community decided to try her luck in the outside world, a definitely dystopian place. The result was New Sun Rising: Ten Stories.
New York dreaming
In the 19th century, the state of New York saw some remarkable events. The Chautauqua Institution was founded at Fair Point on Chautauqua Lake in 1874. Not to be outdone, spiritualists founded Lily Dale in 1879 on Cassadaga Lake. In 2015 both communities are still alive and more or less true to the principles on which they were founded. Lily Dale is the largest spiritualist community in the world. Chautauqua continues to answer the human desire to reach higher, know more, feel more, and be more.
There was the Oneida Community, which was dedicated to “perfectionism.” Its survival for 33 years (1848-1881) was extraordinary. Utopian experiments tend to fall apart quickly because trying to realize a utopia is the hardest work on earth. The Oneida Community has a lasting legacy: Oneida silverware, though it is not made in the USA anymore.
In 1848, a convention was held at Seneca Falls on the subject of women’s right to vote. This right was made a plank in the Liberty Party Platform. Seventy years later US women got the vote.
Every civilizing step, every bit of scientific progress or ease or comfort we know is achieved with great effort against the contrary pulls of brutality, indifference, and Murphy’s Law. Utopia beckons us forward like a shimmering vision.
There was the Cardiff Giant, too, in 1858, but he was sort of silly.
About New Sun Rising: Ten Stories
These are linked stories, in the spirit of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. They are about a sixteen-year old girl, Kedzie Greer, who was raised in a utopian community and leaves home to make her way in a dystopian society. The year is 2199; the place, the Reunited States.
The ten stories represent nine points of view. In the mix are the 90-year-old descendent of the founder of the utopian community, Kedzie’s frightened parents, her cynical co-workers, her corrupt boss, two of her neighbors, the puppet politicians who govern the Reunited States, a malevolent group of e-beasts named the Dreadful Night, and of course, Kedzie herself.
The idyllic town where Kedzie grew up has had a long strange trip from its beginnings in the late nineteenth century, when it resembled the Chautauqua Institution, to 2199.
Chautauqua science fiction – this is a first.
The snack-sized version of New Sun Rising
The first two stories are available free:
Lindsay Edmunds’s ambition is that her stories be true “in the way that stories are true,” to quote Nancy Willard, who wrote the wonderful novel Things Invisible to See. She believes that everybody has stories to tell. If you doubt it, get someone talking about their job. You will hear tales of intrigue, heroics, deviltry, and lessons learned. Everybody sees a lot. Everybody knows a lot.
Although she loves New York, Lindsay Edmunds lives in southwestern Pennsylvania.