A guest post by
In my life have been three New York lakes: Otisco, Skaneateles, and Chautauqua. I couldn’t have written the stories in New Sun Rising without them. This is the literal truth: without knowing the lakes well, I would not have known how to create the village central to the action in New Sun Rising, or how to describe it.
The lake in my fictional world is named Star Lake. It is mostly based on Chautauqua. However, the emerald green color in autumn is from Skaneateles. The sense of “home is here” comes from Otisco, the lake of my childhood.
Star Lake is the first thing I describe in the first story:
Star Lake is as it has always been: restless, beautiful, and bewitching. I believe it is the source of our town’s various spiritualities. The veil between this world and other dimensions is very thin here. Very thin. For all we know, our lake is a gateway through which unseen beings pass back and forth. I—who have no coherent religion—become mystical when I see the water. We all do.
From the day it knocked Garvis Stillwater to his knees and got him praying to God for direction, Star Lake has had a way of getting people’s attention.
The beginnings of the lake in glacial upheavals are unknowable. Native Americans had a name for it that could not be coherently translated. “When you see me, you will know me” was one stab at it.
On a clear night, the lake mirrors the night sky, as all lakes do. Therefore, early white settlers named it Star Lake.
Star Lake is more than 1300 feet above sea level. Its altitude protects us from the worst heat of the lowlands, but the winters are hard. Sometimes the lake freezes so quickly that individual waves turn into ice sculptures, just like that. A glorious sight to see. In autumn, the lake turns emerald green, with fall colors reflecting in the water. Spring brings refreshment. Summer brings the luxury of long days. When people devoted to progress—meaning personal wealth—tore up everything, they overlooked our small part of the world.
—From “The Town With Four Names”
Dystopias have always been with us. I doubt that the dystopias imagined in science fiction are worse than anything people have already experienced for real. In the past, you could prick your finger on a rosebush thorn and die of it. You could be burned at the stake for practicing the “wrong” version of Christianity. You could see some or all of your children die from diseases now preventable or curable.
The struggle toward utopia is a hero’s journey. Little bits of goodness are realized with tremendous effort. These are not necessarily big things. For example, if you had to spend a good part of your life doing laundry by hand, you might consider the invention of the washing machine as a needful ingredient of a utopian society.
The town by Star Lake has utopian ideals. What would happen, I wondered, if a girl raised in this community decided to try her luck in the outside world. The result was New Sun Rising: Ten Stories.
New York dreaming
In the 19th century, the state of New York saw some remarkable events. The Chautauqua Institution was founded at Fair Point on Chautauqua Lake in 1874. Not to be outdone, spiritualists founded Lily Dale in 1879 on Cassadaga Lake. In 2015 both communities are still alive and more or less true to the principles on which they were founded. Lily Dale is the largest spiritualist community in the world. Chautauqua continues to answer the human desire to reach higher, know more, feel more, and be more.
There was the Oneida Community, which was dedicated to “perfectionism.” Its survival for 33 years (1848-1881) was an extraordinary achievement. Utopian experiments tend to fall apart quickly because trying to realize a utopia is the hardest work on earth. The Oneida Community has a lasting legacy: Oneida silverware, though it is not made in the USA anymore.
In 1848, a convention was held at Seneca Falls on the subject of women’s right to vote. This right was made a plank in the Liberty Party Platform. Seventy years later US women got the vote.
Every civilizing step, every bit of scientific progress or ease or comfort we know is achieved with great effort against the contrary pulls of brutality, indifference, and Murphy’s Law. Utopia beckons us forward like a shimmering vision.
There was the Cardiff Giant, too, in 1858, but he was sort of silly.
Mary Pat Hyland’s lake is Y-shaped Keuka, and my three are elsewhere, but you don’t have to explain lake love to anyone from upstate or central New York.
About New Sun Rising
The year is 2199; the place, the Reunited States. The stories are about a girl who was raised in a utopian community and then tries to make her way in a dystopian society.
New Sun Rising: Two Stories is the “appetizer” version of New Sun Rising: Ten Stories. It is inexpensive in terms of both money (99 cents) and time (43 pages on the Kindle).
New Sun Rising: Ten Stories is available for preorder now and for purchase on May 25, 2015. For the first month, it will be a good buy at half price of $1.99. It will eventually cost $3.99 and will stay at that price for quite awhile. There will also be a print version.
Lindsay Edmunds’s highest ambition is that her stories be true “in the way that stories are true,” to quote Nancy Willard, who wrote the wonderful novel Things Invisible to See. She believes that everybody has stories to tell. (If you doubt it, get someone talking about their job.) Everybody sees a lot. Everybody knows a lot.
Although she loves New York, Lindsay Edmunds lives in southwestern Pennsylvania.