“I’m trying to contribute something to imagining different ways we could live in the future, and different ways we could think about our relationship to nature.”
During Readercon weekend, Christopher Brown rejoined the show for our first conversation since the 2020 release of his novel FAILED STATE. We talk about the nonfiction project he’s working on, tentatively titled THE SECRET HISTORY OF EMPTY LOTS, the surprising reach of his FIELD NOTES weekly newsletter, tribes’ creation myths and how they manage to justify dominion over the land, why the outdoors is one of America’s most segregated spaces, and why he thinks calling Washington, DC “The Swamp” is an insult to swamps. We get into the differences and similarities between his fiction and nature writing, the impact of Tesla and the Gigafactory on life in/around Austin, TX (esp. for its neighbors in unincorporated land), the tensions of child-rearing at a time of ecological disaster, what it means to read science fiction through nature-lens (esp. Annihilation and Neuromancer), the natural world’s response to COVID lockdowns and capital’s post-COVID snapback, and what it was like to vacation in South Padre Island, TX during the hottest week in history. Plus, we discuss the fun of coming back to Readercon, the old semi-hip days of psychogeography, our backup plans to bug out of the failed state, and plenty more. Give it a listen! And go subscribe to FIELD NOTES!
“I’ve never felt like a native to the world of science fiction community. I feel like a welcome expat.”
“With a lot of nature writing, there’s a lot of solitary white male walking around the world, and you have to interrogate that. . . . Nature and the outdoors in this country is the most segregated space we have.”
“This summer, I feel the climate is really settling in with a lot of people in a much more profound way.”
“Everybody knows it’s time to evolve beyond this mode of living and working, into something different. I don’t think any of the systems of authority are really acknowledging that in any significant way, because they’re so invested in the way we live.”
About our Guest
Christopher Brown is a writer and lawyer living in Austin, TX. His 2017 debut novel, Tropic of Kansas, was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for best science fiction novel of the year. Rule of Capture, the first in a series of speculative legal thrillers, was published in 2019, and followed by 2020’s Failed State, which was nominated for the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. He also writes the popular urban nature newsletter Field Notes, and his stories, nonfiction, and criticism have appeared in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies. He was a 2013 World Fantasy Award nominee for the anthology he co-edited, Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic.
He’s also taken two companies public, restored a small prairie, worked on two Supreme Court confirmations, rehabilitated a brownfield, reported from Central American war zones, washed airplanes, co-hosted a punk rock radio show, built an eco-bunker, worked day labor, negotiated hundreds of technology deals, protected government whistleblowers, investigated fraud, raised venture capital, explored a lot of secret woodlands, raised two amazing kids, and trained a few good dogs.
He lives in Austin with his family, in the edgeland woods between the river and the factories, where he works in a 1978 Airstream trailer. His next book is tentatively titled The Secret History Of Empty Lots.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Marriott Boston Quincy during Readercon 2023 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Chris in blue jacket by me; photo of Chris & a rusty impala by Dave Mead. It’s on my instagram.