Sunshine States and Crocodile Love
by Jaymee Goh
The title of my story comes from a meme I saw on the internet: “[your last location] of [your birthstone] and [current weather] = your next YA trilogy title”
It was thus initially “A Baseball Field of Sapphire and Horrific Sun” but that didn’t really lend itself to a story. Hence “A Field of Sapphires and Sunshine.”
What would be the sapphires in the sun, though? What glows like sapphires in the sun? Also, what would be unlike sapphires? I chose bluebottle flies. And why would these bluebottle flies be in the sunshine? What would they be attracted to? I chose dead bodies.
There are two stories from Malaysian folklore involving crocodiles that stick with me. In one, he is a greedy liar who is tricked into letting his prey go by the clever mousedeer. In another story, a family of crocodiles devour an old woman’s grandchild, who agrees to help the head crocodile’s grandchild in exchange for a promise to leave the river they live in. (The second story would become a foundation for my short story “Crocodile Tears,” published in Lightspeed Magazine.)
Crocodiles are terrifying creatures, because of their propensity for ambush, their strength, and their looks. They’re giant lizards. They’re practically dinosaurs. And they would totally survive any man-made apocalypse. I had to have them in a story.
There is, or was, a crocodile farm near my childhood home. The signs still say “crocodile farm” and for a time there was a seafood restaurant out there. I never saw it while it was a crocodile farm, but the memory stuck with me. I’ve had crocodile meat—I can’t decide if it has the texture of chicken with the taste of fish, or the texture of fish with the taste of chicken. It probably doesn’t matter because crocodile is crocodile. It is itself. Descriptions can try for approximations, but crocodile meat remains itself. And I love things like that, and writing about things like that.
I am not as much a fan of sunshine as I should be. I come from Malaysia, an equatorial country, hot and humid and sunshiney half the year before the monsoon rains come in. When I wrote the story, I lived in California, famed for its sunshine. I lived inland, in the desert, which was strangely more depressing than it should have been; I spent a lot of time indoors hiding from the sun because it was just so hot, and the sunshine so interminable, and the skies so blue with zero precipitation.
I might have been a bit more favourably disposed towards the whole sunshine thing if I had seen more solar panels.
I simultaneously love and hate airplane travel. I hate economy class on most airlines, which is a miserable state that is the way it is only because airlines are miserly and greedy for profits. When I lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I chose Malaysian Airlines because it had a 23-hour one-stop flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Newark. It was a 2-hour flight from there to Nova Scotia. Also, it had decent food and really good in-flight entertainment. When I moved to California, I started taking Korean Airlines, from KLIA to Singapore’s Changi Airport, to Incheon Airport in South Korea, to Los Angeles. Changi has a butterfly room; Incheon… has free showers.
Airline food quality and airport layover destinations became my top factors for choosing international flights after cost.
But why go through all that if one could return to airship travel, slow but roomy? Does the specter of the Hindenburg still haunt air travel imagination? Imagine an airship envelope made of solar panels. Imagine the comfort of cruise travel in the air.
I was once bumped to business class. I was shocked at the full-service menu, ordered scampi and probably a margarita or two. I was served with porcelain plates, metal cutlery, and my drinks came in glasses. I stared at the Perrier bottle in the tiny bar next to my seat, appalled. In business class, I could recline my seat until I was horizontal. I cuddled up to watch a movie.
It did not make me yearn to be rich; it made me yearn to eat the rich.
Unfortunately nobody eats the rich in my story. But CLOSE.
Jaymee Goh is a writer, poet, reviewer, and scholar of science fiction and fantasy. Her work can be found in Lightspeed Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Science Fiction Studies. She is the editor of The SEA Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia and The WisCon Chronicles Vol. 11: Trials by Whiteness.
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