Sudbury writer ‘reshaping’ science fiction, horror and fantasy

By Hugh Kruzel
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Sudbury Star

With his 2018’s Moon of the Crusted Snow garnering attention, Waubgeshig Rice naturally thought of the next wedge of the story.

“Moon” can be seen as a stand-alone book, but the characters and the community had more to say. Rice credits some strong editing to bring about a solid second book – Moon of the Turning Leaves – which is now out.

Rice says he was strongly encouraged to make the follow-up happen.

Amazon calls the Moon of the Turning Leaves a “hotly anticipated sequel” to his bestselling novel. The New York Times named Rice as one of the “Indigenous novelists reshaping North American science fiction, horror and fantasy.”

He was nominated for the 2019 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Rice is not unfamiliar with the craft. As a CBC journalist and host for years, he knows the labour that goes into writing scripts. Being on the radio likely contributed to purposeful cognizance of words and intentional choices.

“I was turning this story around in my head for almost a decade. I started writing this in 2015 and finished two and a half years later,” Rice says. “Working full time made it hard to write. I left CBC in May of 2020 (in Sudbury) to focusing research, developing characters and writing every day … setting aside six months to put it all together.

“I write when the kids are in school now. I wouldn’t totally rule out a third episode – not anytime soon – but I need a break. Some of this is emotionally intense.

“When I wrote one part specifically, I had to step away for a week. You will know what I am referring to when you read (it).”

You can also listen. Both volumes are also available as audiobooks and actor Billy Merasty narrates. Libraries across Canada can give you access to many perennial favourites, as well as new releases.

“Billy was my first choice as a narrator,” Rice says.

With Moon of the Crusted Snow, Rice admits “I had no idea what to call the book” and indeed, if you go searching for those specific words, you have to go deep into the story.

“I didn’t know that was going to be the title until I wrote those words,” he says.

It is not your typical book about an apocalypse.

“It was intentional to not even use that word until way into the story.”

And it is used sparingly; perhaps only once.

We can only speculate on what happened to the world outside. The mystery is never revealed and that adds to the texture. Being written pre-pandemic, we might have found it risible that all systems could break down. It was a sunny August day when the power went out in 2003 across much of North America that triggered Rice’s reflections about the end of the world.

“The northeastern blackout set the stage for thoughts about a short story, that story grew, and yes, I read The Chrysalids’ other stories.”

(The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear story of genetic mutation in a devastated world, which tells of the lengths the intolerant will go to to keep themselves pure.)

The timeline for Moon of the Turning Leaves two takes us 12 years forward from when the lights go out. Called an “epic journey to a forgotten homeland,” Rice is now on a cross-country promotional and reading tour for his new book.

Could the two books (or maybe a trilogy) become a movie?

“I can dream. I would love to see it someday.”

There is a growing resonance with awareness of Indigeneity and story-telling, he says.

“Sudbury is quite a writers’ community. This is a very talented community and I am proud to be part of it,” Rice says.

Author and journalist Waubgeshig Rice has recently released his newest book of fiction, Moon of the Turning Leaves, a follow-up to his 2018 novel Moon of the Crusted Snow. – Local Journalism Initiative photo