“Obstruction” is filled with lovely imagery, particularly in the opening when the new world is forming. Can you tell us how this story came about?
In Karuk tradition, the world was originally populated by Ikxaréeyavs (spirit people). When it was time for the People to come into the world, the Ikxaréeyavs transformed themselves into all the features of the natural world and the knowledge to care for these gifts.
The germ of the story came from the idea, what would immortality look like for an Ikxaréeyav who refused to change? I knew she would struggle with the disconnect from her home place, but it took me awhile to figure out what would make her go back.
I do legal support on behalf of Tribes and run across this friction between tribal traditional use and non-Indian use, which could be commercial/industrial development or, as in this story, recreational use of a sacred site. Colonizer law provides for protection of religious rights, but not all religions are treated equally. Tribes lose access to or see their sacred sites damaged or destroyed. This isn’t something from history. It’s happening right now. Those thoughts inspired the rest of the story.
Having said that, the geography and issues in this story are fictional.
The story strongly centers themes of belonging, and while we get the sense that Nellie loves her tribe, something pulls her away. Can you talk about what that is?
I think we can all relate to balking in the face of a major life-changing decision. In the moment, she can’t help but run from responsibility. She’s not thinking about the consequences; she’s reacting to a future she isn’t ready for.
Is Mak based on mythology? Can you tell us more about him and what he represents?
I took his name from a place on the Klamath River that is near a roaring rapid, but he is not a character in Karuk mythology.
When Nellie makes the choice to go with Travis, does she do so with the intent to join Mak, or is that decision spontaneous?
What a great question. On the one hand, what better way to stick it to the interlopers than use the opportunity to transform to create a PR disaster for the recreational users, losing a tribal member in pursuit of their amusement. On the other hand, it’s kind-of romantic that Nellie is ready to leave up until the moment she’s in the river surrounded by Mak; then she wants to stay home.
What are you working on now, and what can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Since almost forever I’ve been working on an Indigenous contemporary novel set in my home place on the Klamath River. It has a slight fantasy element or maybe you’d call it a slight alternate history element. I’m also working on some short “Indians in space” stories. I am excited to have one forthcoming in the Apex Magazine Indigenous Futures issue.
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