Daniel Ausema and the Meaning of Place in Fiction

Meadow to forest to pond, ecotones are everywhere.

Today, Daniel Ausema, contributing author in Ecotones is here to talk about his story of place in SFFWorld.com’s fourth anthology.

The first time I heard the word Ecotone, it was for the literary magazine of that name. I didn’t know its meaning, only that the journal’s tagline was “a journal of place.” Place to me is vital, both in real life and fiction, especially the natural surroundings—whether that’s the deciduous woods and glacial lakes where I grew up or the mountains outside my door today. When we moved here I cared more for the view of those mountains and the prevalence of hiking, biking, and running trails than I did about the quality of restaurants and nightlife.

In writing, I’m often told that my stories have a strong sense of place, that people feel present within the imagined confines of the story. Even when that setting is surreal or out of the ordinary, readers sense that care I have for the physical surroundings. One of the joys of reading fiction of any kind is being brought to an unfamiliar place (or seeing a familiar one made new); one of the joys of writing speculative fiction especially is conjuring such a place out of words.

So when the anthology’s theme was announced, I liked it even before I’d read the explanation. An anthology about place, an anthology of stories that take note of and celebrate their settings and the physical world around them? Sign me up.

Then I read the definition of ecotone and the full explanation of the theme and found it to be different: not about place per se but about those border zones where one real or metaphorical place blends into another. If anything, this made me like the idea even better.

First, there’s a long tradition in fantasy and folktales that the border between regions is important. Dawn and dusk, the shoreline, the cusp of adulthood, the edge of the forest, the turning of the year. These are key places (and times) where magic often seeps through.

The more I thought about this, the more I began to see all the possibilities. Borders are everywhere, literal and metaphorical places and times that bleed into each other. Those ecotonal zones are such a powerful place for a story to take place. I might even be tempted to say that at some level they become a key part of Story to make it real.

Add to that the ecological aspect. I grew up in a family that placed a high value on science and the natural world. We traveled to scenic places and even at home noticed the details of nature. My older brothers ended up with degrees related to ecology and biology, one as a teacher and the other as a park ranger. And I have been both involved in various environmental education settings.

So the theme of the anthology is a great fit for my interests, and add to that the keynote writers: I didn’t know the full list of great writers who would be in the anthology, but I knew it’d be a great lineup. The chance to join such a group of excellent writers was one I couldn’t pass up.

Want to read Daniel’s story of a special magical place? Want 13 other great, ecotoned stories from professional and amateur writers from around the globe?

Enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card by posting a link to this post on Twitter or Facebook. Remember to use the hashtag #Ecotone and come back here to let us know you promoted our anthology (provide link). The winner will be contacted via the email address used to comment. And we’ll announce the winner at the end of the blog tour (December 5th, 2015) on SFFWorld.com’s main site.

If you are curious, check out what other contributors have to say on this Ecotour check out the links below: