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Erin Swan

Released Into the Wild: How an Android Taught Me to Let Go

I am a quiet person. I am the one you will find in the kitchen at parties, the solitary sort who has found guilty solace in the phrase “social distancing.” And yet, I also like creating things, and if you create things, you will probably want to show them to somebody. Maybe lots of somebodies. It has been my lifelong dream to publish a book. Now that this dream is coming true, with my debut novel Walk the Vanished Earth poised for release, I find myself in a position at once exhilarating and terrifying. I cannot wait to display my creation, to trumpet, “Look at this marvelous thing I have made.” At the same time, within me runs an undercurrent of fear. I feel like Stephen King’s Carrie before heading to her doomed prom, her mother’s prophetic refrain—“They’re all going to laugh at you”—playing over and over in my head.

Birthing a book is a strange experience. I do not have children and so cannot claim it is like true childbirth, but I imagine both involve a similar leap of faith. As a mother does with her infant, I have formed this thing with the stuff of my being. And yet, it is not entirely me, nor entirely mine. It belongs to itself. And, once it is born, it will belong to the world. I do not know how it will fare in this world. Will it prosper? Or will it stumble, even fail? And if this will be its fate, how can I prevent it?

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5 Books About Fragile Worlds

I recently spent time in the New Mexico desert, which felt very fragile indeed. From threats of wildfires outside Albuquerque to annually decreasing water levels in Elephant Butte Lake to the incredible emptiness of the hills rippling away from Route 25, it seemed a landscape poised on the brink of disaster. It was not just the fragility of the land; maybe it was the stars wheeling overhead or the moon’s startling luminescence when it finally peeked over Turtleback Mountain, but the very air felt thin, as though one merely had to press against it to part the curtain between worlds.

Despite all this, the desert is very much alive, its inhabitants remarkably tenacious. Yucca and aloe plants poke through the soil, lizards scurry over rocks in search of insects, and coyote and cattle companionably share the dusty roads. Humans, too, have made a home here and will likely continue to do so for many years to come. It is this balance between fragility and tenacity that makes not just the desert so fascinating to me, but our entire planet in the 21st century, poised as it also seems on the edge of the abyss.

Here are five books that feature fragile worlds. Though they come from different genres, each one explores this tension between apparent weakness and actual strength, between our known world and others that may exist, if only we can discover how to part the curtain between them.

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Series: Five Books About…

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