46 Comments

LOVE this piece, Claudia. So well done. I know I'll be thinking back on this one for a long while.

I can't remember if I've already recommended Julia Watson to you, but upon reading this piece, as well as your replies throughout the comments, I thought her work might be of interest:

- Lo-TEK: Design by Radical Indigenism by Julia Watson... https://www.taschen.com/en/books/architecture-design/04698/julia-watson-lo-tek-design-by-radical-indigenism (I recently picked up a copy of this book and am loving it so far)

And then...

- Julia Watson on the Time Sensitive Podcast... https://timesensitive.fm/episode/anthropologist-landscape-designer-julia-watson-indigenous-technologies-transform-our-planet/

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Thank you for the recommendations! I didn't know Julia Watson but it looks like I will love her work as well.

I am so happy that you liked the story, it felt the most comfortable and natural to write because, at heart, I love writing poetry and I think I am more of a poet than fiction writer.

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Jul 3, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Hey Claudia:) The concept of The Museum of Life is just fascinating and really interesting, can't stop loving the picture of "The memory of me pulsating in every atom", makes me think how we're going to transform from this life to another!

Amaizing writing, thank you:)

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Aug 2, 2023·edited Aug 2, 2023Author

Hi Peter, thank you so much! I really appreciate the feedback. Last year I read a book about water and learned that it was formed outside of earth and traveled here via meteorites and I was fascinated by the fact that we’ve had the same water on Earth ever since. It made me see water as this alien being entering and exiting things and beings, changing shapes forms and states. And I wondered if it carries in it even at an infinitesimal level something of the places in which it has been, which it has helped come into existence even if temporarily.

I’m glad that you enjoyed the story.

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Aug 2, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

It's just mind blowing how infinte knowledge is out there and how you talneted writers can use it and create something even more interesting, it's just really really great:)

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Thank you, Peter. Really appreciate this. There's glimpses of this and that stuck in my head and I try to put them on paper. For a long time I thought that nobody cares about my take on life but ultimately I decided that it's not important. I should just express my take on life. I'm happy to know that it resonates.

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at least with me you know it will be genuine ok genuinely off-beat

i sense you could handle that

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I am open for any kind of feedback. That's why I'm here, to learn and to improve the craft. Bring it on!

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so interesting!

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Thank you. Human Island is the first in the collection of short stories followed by this story. And I also have an exploratory short story set in the timeline of the upcoming novel: https://claudiabefu.substack.com/p/welcome-to-gulmohur

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i will definitely get to that i mean it

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Looking forward to your feedback! Enjoy 😉

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this is straight up seductive sci-fi inn every respect....bend it to your will hell if i couyld come up with this idea i'd ride it into sunset and never look back even if its STILL rainy and cold

in Austria lol

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You’re laughing but it’s the end of June and it’s still rainy and cold 😕

Do you mean the idea of the museum of life?

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yes yes its gotta be out take for a project right? at first i thought it was real ie your own husband and daughters but somehow that didnt add up.....

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It’s part of a collection of linked climate fiction stories that will be followed by a novel that will take place approximately 2000 years later than this story. I still need to figure out Shia’s role in the novel. She will be a secondary character in any case.

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Jun 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

I think you've successfully walked the line between prose and poetry with this out-of-body / out-of-mind piece. I can also see the link to our earlier exchange on notes! The advent of a 'digital mausoleum' may come much sooner, as the first digital generations abandon both their social and physical planes.

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Love the 'digital mausoleum' - didn't think about it this way. It creates a slightly different image of my museum of life, but I like it.

I started by writing poetry and I think it comes more natural to me than prose.

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Jun 19, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

I sometimes find unrelated poetry popping into my head whilst writing a novel's scenes. I have to open another Scrivener project to note it down before it disappears. I tolerate these distractions because I believe such thoughts positively influence my prose, improving rhythm and offering a degree of alliteration. Oddly enough, this seems to work best with high-tension scenes!

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This is so interesting. I wonder about the associations that your brain makes when it comes up with those poems apparently unrelated to your prose.

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Jun 19, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Who knows how any brain really works when it ideates and creates? Mine, at least, is a mystery both to me and anyone who knows me!

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😂 that’s how it is. When I write I struggle so much because my brain likes to write in one go about things that I know. So I have to tell myself my stories in my head over and over to be able to write them down. This works terribly with longer pieces which need to be written and edited in chunks. The mysterious workings of the brain.

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Jun 19, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Your stories are very well researched with lots of attention to cultural detail, as with the Japanese seaweed farmers. I think you have to 'go with the mind's flow' whenever possible.

I suppose my technique is similar to memorising a series of playing cards, where you create a story with each card being a character. Of course, it's much easier when it's already a story! So I play and replay my WIPs like movies in my head whenever I'm in the gym, or shower, or half-awake in the quiet hours after dawn. So the writing comes easily most times, and the characters have already told me what they want to say.

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Thank you for this interesting meditation. "The snapshot of a singular existence." is beautiful poetry.

As a human I am preferential to a human-centric world view. Technology enables us to survive and live long and happy lives. We cannot deny that technology is a profoundly human focus (medical care, food production, etc.). I would prefer a child not go hungry than a blade of grass not be trampled.

I wonder if you share my worldview. When you say 'earth-centric' world view, do you really mean a better balanced set of priorities that still prioritizes humans first but takes intelligent accounting for the world upon which we rely on for survival?

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Jun 14, 2023·edited Jun 14, 2023Author

Thank you for your feedback and the thoughtful comment.

I have one thought to bounce back at you: technology does indeed enable us to survive. But before technology there is something else that enables us to survive, something without which there is no chance of survival for the human species: nature.

An earth-centred view of the world is the understanding that we cannot survive without nature, that the ecosystems in which we live need to be protected and respected, that we need to stretch our imagination and understand that nature is not just a resource to be mindlessly exploited for our own benefit, that it has intrinsic value beyond its use to humans, and it is much more than what we are capable of observing and concluding about nature with our scientific view. It's about reducing somewhat the importance we give ourselves as humans, and enhance somewhat the importance of nature.

Even if we look at it with the reductionist view of 'nature is important for our survival' and ignore its intrinsic beauty and mystery and the fact that is was here long before we came into the game and will continue to be here long after we will exit the game of life, it's essential that we change our view of the world if we want to survive.

This being said, I agree with you in many points. The problem is that, if we continue to destroy our natural habitat there will come a point when a blade of grass will be more important than a child because it will be the last blade of grass. I don't want to live in such a world.

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Hi Claudia

I very much agree with you on a personal level. I am awed, humbled and amazed by the magnificent wonder of nature that surrounds us from an atom to an ant to a galaxy and everything in between.

I suppose the reason I wanted to comment on your post is that the ideas of some climate change gospel seem to me to be tinted with a self loathing. I am certainly not saying you have any self hatred, I don't know you and would not make such an assumption about anyone. But the genre of cli-fi as a whole seems to focus on humanity as a scourge against the planet.

I suggest that this is not a useful way to approach climate change and humanity's relationship with it. Climate Change is real. There is no doubt about that. And people need to be aware of it. No doubt about that either.

But I think a more healthy view is that people come first, and their health and happiness is a function of how well they shepherd and symbiotically live with nature. To do so requires more technology and more people. These people need to work, think and collaborate more. This requires modifying the natural world to suit those people. And this certainly must be done with more care and appreciation for nature.

Do you see this kind of focus/trend in Cli-fi? If not what do you see as the focus of Cli-fi?

Thank you for your detailed response, I appreciate deeper insight into your point of view.

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Jul 22, 2023·edited Jul 22, 2023Author

Hi Michael, I absolutely agree with you. I actually wrote a piece recently https://claudiabefu.substack.com/p/allow-me-to-get-rich-and-i-will-save in which, at some point, I address exactly what you mention in your comment: 'seeing humanity as a scourge against the planet'. This is not the complete picture on the relationship between humans and nature. Looking at modern life and the values by which we live right now, one might feel inclined to see humans as a sort of virus on this planet. But it hasn't always been like that.

If we look back at human history there were times in which we played a crucial role in greening the planet. A lot of the natural wealth that we've been enjoying in the past say 2,000 years is a heritage from human societies that saw themselves as the stewards of nature. I think that we can learn from these societies to live better lives, to build a different connection with the world around us, to go back to our roots. Their work and example leave me in awe.

This healthier way of looking at the relationship between humans and nature together with technology could bring humanity to the next level. But it is of utmost importance that we change our attitude towards nature, the ecosystem, the other living beings that also have a right to live on this planet and, more, are essential to our own survival. I do believe that this new blueprint of living cannot have humanity at the centre. We cannot live in a world where everyone is equal but some are more equal than others. We don't want to have 'Animal Farm' going on in our future societies. All beings living on this earth are equally respected, as they were not made to serve us and be used by us. We will of course still need to consume other beings in order to exist, this is the cannibalism of life, it's how any living being exists on this Earth. But we must learn to do so respectfully. Mindfully. Without any waste.

Beyond that, technology can help us do amazing things with this planet when it comes to conserving other species, re-greening, I do believe that we can do that.

I am definitely here to write a new cli-fi. And I will try my best to put well-thought ideas out there, full of hope, but I will also question the status-quo a lot. Ultimately, I am just one person and my thoughts are but a drop in an ocean of opinions, but I think that each and everyone of us should make their contribution, reflect and learn.

Thank you so much for your comments, they really helped me question some of my ideas and read more.

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Aug 1, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

I am not a writer just a reader. I enjoyed it...am enjoying it. I had not heard the term cli-fi but assume it means climate fiction. In fiction I feel like you can write whatever you like without making a political /climate statement . I see it as just a unique engaging cli-fi story. I've loved it so far.

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I agree, fiction with an activist agenda turns into propaganda like the movie Barbie and nobody likes propaganda. I’m glad that you enjoyed the story.

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Hi Claudia,

I am glad to hear it! You are very welcome. Thank you for engaging me on this very interesting topic. It would have been very easy to dismiss my challenges to some of these cli-fi ideas and I very much appreciate the dialogue and commend your willingness to question.

I wonder how much of the changes from 2000 years ago are correlated with more people spending less time intimately engaged with the land today (not farming, there being less wild land).

Another angle of this that I find very interesting is that: let's say most people already are generally respectful of nature in intent. This is not 100% true, but in the modern, wealthy societies, most people are aware of the importance of nature and want to live in concert with it. Given this (and it may not be true, but it may be true enough), why do we still have unsustainable practices with nature? What are the societal pressures that prevent people who agree with the importance of human-nature balance from implementing that belief?

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Jun 4, 2023·edited Jun 4, 2023

Hi Claudia,

A joy and a suprise to wake up and see there was a new story from you.

A really beautiful and meditative read, especially as I transition through waking up (currently with tea, not coffee; though no Dried Shrimps ;))

I get a real sense of wisdom from Shia, which isn't surprising given she lived to 78 and then had her consciousness uploaded 1000 years ago. A lot of time to ruminate on existence, I would think.

I love all of this, but especially this line: "I am the blueprint of a constellation of atoms and molecules held together by finite time."

That notion that we are all stardust has always given me calm, rather than existential dread. You've captured that--and the fact that when we die we give back by letting our unique combination of atoms go free back into the universe--so well here. Amazing. Thank you for the read and mediation on life and death and person.

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Jun 5, 2023·edited Jun 5, 2023Author

Hi Nathan,

Thank you! It came also as a surprise to me that I finally wrote Shia's letter from the future. 😅 I thought about it a lot, read my book and then thought again and then one morning I stood up and it was there.

A very close family member died when I was very young. Thinking about the meaning of life and death has been a constant in my life. And a couple of years ago I read a book about water and I learned that we've had the same water on Earth since 4.5 billion years circulating through different states, in and out of myriad beings. Water is really like this alien being. And it made me wonder if it carries with it the energy of the places, people, beings through which it goes. On a metaphysical level, of course. I also found it interesting that we see matter as perishable and the 'spirit' as lasting, when it's the other way around. I think that the existential dread comes from the fact that we see the universe as devoid of life, when it's everything but that. It's the human disenchantment with nature.

Anyway, thank you for reading and for your feedback. It's good to know that the message came through. And always great reading from you. I am behind with the reading on your two stories. You're quite fast at spinning up new chapters. Do you write in advance? Or how do you do it? Spill the secrets! 🤣

P.S. Dried shrimp tea is not so bad. Hope we'll share a cup one day. ;)

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Jun 5, 2023·edited Jun 5, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

I just love that one morning you stood up and it was all there. That's the best kind of writing. I hope those moments arise more and more often.

Gosh, your second paragraph is so poetic. "I think that the existential dread comes from the fact that we see the universe as devoid of life, when it's everything but that. It's the human disenchantment with nature." I don't think I've ever actually thought about this in such perfect terms.

My condolences on your loss when so young, too. That can't have been easy.

Thank *you* for writing. I won't lie, I've missed you around here ;) Always value reading your thoughts and critiques and insights, as well as of course your stunning writing.

No secrets, no, haha. I have some fragments that have been written in various forms, but a lot of this is me scrambling to cram in writing every morning between 5:30am and 7am and sometimes at night, too. There's been a weird disconnect though: as work becomes a little more relaxed (teaching semester has just finished), I find my writing cells have whirred down slightly. Not out of any lack of desire, but some intangible sense of *what* to write has been a little harder to tease out. And then recently I re-read the latest Brae and found I didn't like it as much and it could do with more editing :-| Perhaps that's a lesson to not go and reread your own work.

Would of course love to share a cup one day. I've got at least a glass or two of whisky to share with Alexander Ipfelkofer if and when I make it over to France sometime, so it would be genuinely awesome to have a little Substack-European tour of saying hi.

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You know, regarding that paragraph you liked, I was thinking about writing a whole piece about that. But then I thought... who would be interested in reading this stuff... With your feedback, I'm kinda motivated again. I anyway need to gather and articulate my thoughts on 'ecological imagination'. Writing is always good for putting my thoughts in order.

Editing... I have the first draft of my second short story for There Is Hope and I've been putting off editing it for almost 2 weeks... I know that I will have to change a lot of stuff and rework the plot, and it's going to be sooo hard! 😭 But trust me, even after editing, if I read a piece of my writing after a while I'm always unhappy. So don't beat yourself up. Though do write down your thoughts and perhaps you do one last editing once the novella is ready.

Respect for your daily writing schedule, this is really amazing! Especially sustaining it with a demanding full-time job. 👏 You know, I tried to write (almost) daily and it worked as long as I was working on the draft of my second short story. But when I wanted to write the third... I don't know... I have a lot of stuff in my head for this story and then nothing at all. So I decided that I need to read another book as inspiration: 'The Treeline' by Ben Rawlence. It's about the Siberian taiga. I'm so excited! But first I need to do some edits of story #2, otherwise it's all going to be a big salad in my head.

Regarding the disappearing... well, it's hard. Social media gives me a lot of anxiety. It's very hard for me to unplug. I have to pull out the power cable completely. So I won't be as much on Notes or the chat, but I do love reading fiction on Substack and I will continue to do this. So you'll see me more in your comments section. ;)

Let me know if you come to Europe. Would be great to meet if there's an occasion. For tea, whisky or otherwise.

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Jun 5, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

You know, I was even going to say "I feel there's a whole story wrapped into that second paragraph, waiting to fully emerge".

Run with it. (Provided it doesn't add to a brain salad 😅)

Totally get that about needing to unplug, completely understand. I can tell when my mind is getting too frantic and trying to juggle too much. I still prefer the slow static nature of Comments over Notes, though I have enjoyed some dabbling on there and I really like it for promoting people's work. Thanks in advance for any comment section appearances that are made 😁

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Did you have in mind a fiction or a non-fiction story?

It will add just a tinge of seasoning to the brain salad. 😅🥗

Using Notion to promote the writing that we liked on Substack sounds like a very good way of using the tool. I'll think about it. I didn't give up on Notion yet. But I do have a problem with getting too frantic too fast and for too long. Glad to hear I'm not the only one. ;)

See you in your comments section soon!

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Jun 5, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

My brain defaulted to fiction of course, but scoop out some of that salad and see whether it's leafy fiction or earth non-fiction that lands on the plate ;)

I meant to say about that sounds great about the book you mentioned. I'm going to look it up.

PS Lolita has been commenced. Wow that writing. Such linguistic flare by Nabokov.

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