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Christopher Brown

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Fiction and Excerpts [1]

Tropic of Kansas

|| The United States of America is no more. Broken into warring territories, its center has become a wasteland DMZ known as “the Tropic of Kansas.” Two travelers appear in this arid American wilderness: Sig, the fugitive orphan of political dissidents, and his foster sister Tania, a government investigator whose search for Sig leads her into her own past—and towards an unexpected future.

The Persistence of American Folklore in Fantastic Literature

In the summer of Wonder Woman, we haven’t heard much about Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, the woman who could wrestle alligators, run faster than a wildcat, beat up all nine of her older brothers, and be so nice that the bears would let her hibernate with them and the hornets would let her wear their big nests as Sunday hats. Maybe that’s because traces of Sally Ann from Tennessee are already there behind the golden tiara of Diana, Princess of Themyscira, hiding in plain sight. Wonder Woman may have a golden lasso, but Sally Ann made her own—by tying six snakes together and using it to pull helpless Davy Crockett from a tree.

It’s a writers workshop truism that great storytelling, especially in fantasy and science fiction, often draws on classical mythology. Wonder Woman isn’t the only adaptation of Greek myths to contemporary settings—Rick Riordan has built his own pantheon of Olympian-American kids, and burlier versions are all over the superhero comics. Norse mythology is the taproot of English-language fantasy, from Tolkien to Stan Lee’s Thor, the power of the sagas and characters recounted in Michael Chabon’s essay on D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths and Neil Gaiman’s new nonfiction book Norse Mythology. And everyone knows how the hero’s journey monomyth distilled by Joseph Campbell from all of the above and more provided the core architecture of Star Wars—and countless other efforts to update the oldest human stories. But for Americans there is another body of heritage stories out there worth considering, one so deeply embedded in popular culture that we tend to forget it.

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Tropic of Kansas

The United States of America is no more. Broken into warring territories, its center has become a wasteland DMZ known as “the Tropic of Kansas.” Though this gaping geographic hole has no clear boundaries, everyone knows it’s out there—that once-bountiful part of the heartland, broken by greed and exploitation, where neglect now breeds unrest. Two travelers appear in this arid American wilderness: Sig, the fugitive orphan of political dissidents, and his foster sister Tania, a government investigator whose search for Sig leads her into her own past—and towards an unexpected future.

Sig promised those he loves that he would make it to the revolutionary redoubt of occupied New Orleans. But first he must survive the wild edgelands of a barren mid-America policed by citizen militias and autonomous drones, where one wrong move can mean capture… or death. One step behind, undercover in the underground, is Tania. Her infiltration of clandestine networks made of old technology and new politics soon transforms her into the hunted one, and gives her a shot at being the agent of real change—if she is willing to give up the explosive government secrets she has sworn to protect.

As brother and sister traverse these vast and dangerous badlands, their paths will eventually intersect on the front lines of a revolution whose fuse they are about to light.

Christopher Brown’s Tropic of Kansas is available July 11th from Harper Voyager.

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