Bugs and Beyond

Good news. My manuscript of short stories, Music from a Strange Planet, is nearing completion. It began as a series of flash fictions exploring the intersection of human and insect existence. It has since evolved, or shall we say, “metamorphosed” into something greater in length and less narrow in scope than its original inception.

For a moment, though, let me take you back to my childhood. I was a dreamy and introspective child, fond of walks in the North Vancouver woods and attuned to the smaller creatures. I was never one of those children who stepped on ants or pulled the legs off daddy-long-leg spiders. (Geek aside: they’re actually called “Harvestmen” and since they have only one body segment and two eyes, not eight, they’re not technically spiders.) In fact, my gardening grandmother often told a story that when I was five years old and she crushed a snail underfoot, I said to her, “Don’t do that. They have every right to live as we do.” So articulate for a five-year-old. May I add that my Swedish grandmother was a great storyteller, so the age thing might be a little embellished. However, the sentiment is not. I was born a lover of all things micro.

I remember creating an elaborate rock cave as a home for some black beetles in our yard and picking up tent caterpillars and woollybears (tiger moth caterpillar) so they could crawl on my arms. In elementary school my sister and I raised mealworms in a bowl until they hatched out as darkling beetles. When the beetles died we buried them in a little cemetery using miniature plastic garden tools. They might even have had tombstones. Insects have been a fascination for me throughout my life. And they have found a place in my story collection. Along with fireflies, midges, moths, crickets and cicadas.

These days I have my own verging-on-jungle garden that houses piles of insects: beetles, ants, wasps, flies, bees, hornets, weevils, spiders, dragonflies, and on and on. I raise mason bees, too, although it’s been a cold spring for the little guys.

So, as you can see, it is no coincidence nor indeed is it strange that I should write a collection of stories with direct or tangential references to the arthropod world. Whether it be an installation artist exhibiting fireflies, a geeky boy who raises tachinid flies, a collector who paints moths for dubious reasons relating to tombstones, or a man who dreams of being various insects while he appears to be lifeless in a coma, this is the world that came to me when I decided to write short stories.

And what do you know, one of those stories involves a quirky little girl who wants to be a darkling beetle.