What Does A ‘Pre-Apocalyptic’ Future Look Like?

Three years ago, author Claire Vaye Watkins burst onto the literary scene with her acclaimed short story collection, Battleborn. On September 29th, readers can finally get a copy of her much-anticipated first novel: Gold Fame Citrus, a blistering tour de force set in the drought-blighted California of a near future.

A dried lake bed due to drought at Big Bear Lake, California (Image: AP)

A dried lake bed due to drought at Big Bear Lake, California (Image: AP)

In Watkins’ future, the conditions of today have given way to a desertification so vast and powerful it’s almost sentient. The Sierra snowpack is depleted, the scant remaining water is protected by the National Guard and rationed by the Red Cross. A worst-case drought scenario has resulted in an unstoppable salt-sand dune sea, called the Amargosa after the first mountain range it subsumed. Despite the best efforts of technology, FEMA, and human stubbornness, the Amargosa is grinding away the inhabited Southwest in its wake.

In this near-future world, we meet Ray and Luz, two “mojavs” squatting in “Laurelless” Canyon. They are trapped inside withered California by closed borders, armed thugs, and above all, bureaucracy. After adopting a mysterious child named Ig, they attempt escape across the Amargosa. Their journey puts them directly in the path of the indifferent desert and its inhabitants: a colony led by a charismatic “dowser” with a miraculous ability to find water where none exists.

Read more: Think Progress

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