One of seventeen mini-chapbooks in Sword & Kettle Press’s new Cup & Dagger series, Diana Hurlburt’s Nothing Natural: A Post-Apocalyptic Tempest is a gut-punch take on a familiar Shakespearean comedy. There’s no convenient prince washed ashore to romance this Miranda; it’s impossible for anyone to play savior while adrift in the pine-veiled and withered refuge that Hurlburt’s Prosper lords over.
Instead the narrator–cursed and neglected child of a Sicaria exiled for her rejection of the technology of a new age–and Miranda find love blossoming through their work. The poisoned soil and blighted sky can’t strangle every growing thing, and the pair take inspiration and comfort where they find it–in each other, in their stolen freedom, in their forbidden project. Together, they’ve found a way forward in the resurrection of a cyborg even more abandoned than their fellow exiles, a dangerous gamble that’s nevertheless their best chance.
This chapbook is a testament to rough hope, to a precious future scratched out of the jetsam of a smothered world. The characters are cast off and cast out by the remains of civilization, and yet they persist, forging their own path in the wilderness for better or worse. Hurlburt’s language has the beautiful baroqueness of this new place, cut off and abandoned but still capable of bearing fruit under the careful tending of a new generation. It’s a perfect marriage of Elizabethan flourish and stark economy, with poetry dripping like honey and epithets spat like bile. Dropping soon in print and digital, both graced with gorgeous cover art by Caitlin Cadieux, Nothing Natural is a perfect read for this brave new year.
Available March 2021 from Sword and Kettle Press!