ELIZABETH F. SHEARLY

Dread Spring

Computer science saves lives

I wrote and set Dread Spring on the unceded land of the Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin), Anishinabewaki, and Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk). I am a settler here. Colonial place names are commonly used in the region, and I have used them throughout this book. Please see the full Land Acknowledgement for more information and recommendations of post-apocalyptic sci-fi books by Indigenous authors from the region.

Years after nuclear armageddon, Chloe is ripped away from her domestic routine in a desperate search for the uncontaminated food that will mean survival for everyone she loves.

Dread Spring is a post-apocalyptic adventure about love, loyalty, and building the life you want.

“I did enjoy this dystopian adventure! […] Something a little different so good as it keeps your interest! I will look for more by this writer!”

Sam via Goodreads

After nuclear armageddon, Chloe’s days have fallen into a routine: wake up from the nightmares at four a.m., farm chores with Vishesh, schooling with the kids, fight with Monty, and then an early bedtime. As long as their vegetable patch stays viable, they can avoid a slow and painful death.

But this season their field is contaminated. Short of asking for help from the walking towns—mechanical hulks developed to decontaminate land and water—there’s no recourse. Chloe risks going behind Monty’s back to contact the towns, but the response isn’t at all what she expected. Now that she knows there are bigger problems out there, she can’t just leave well enough alone. But what can a former computer scientist hope to do in a world of seeds and soil?

Content notes contain spoilers; peek at your own risk!!

Content notes: Domestic abuse (parent-child emotional abuse, parent-child physical abuse (brief: holding the child’s arm and pushing them to the ground), psychologically abusive romantic relationships), Pregnancy (not a major plot point, no complications, second trimester), Death of family member (pre-book death of thirteen-year-old’s mother), Occasional use of obscenities (f*ck, sh*t, d*mn, godd*mn, h*ll, one instance of J— C—, *ss), Gunshot wound (not life-threatening).

Land Acknowledgement

I set Dread Spring where I live: on the unceded land of the Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin), Anishinabewaki, and Kanienkehá:ka (Mohawk).

I am a settler on this land. I grew up in Ottawa, and spent my childhood roaming the Gatineau Hills, hiking, and swimming. The closest I ever got to learning about the Indigenous peoples who were driven from this area was a historical project that made Indigenous peoples seem like an artifact, disconnected from the present. That could not be further from the truth.

This is unceded land, which means that the land rights of the Algonquin people were never signed away. The Crawford Purchase covers most of the land that appears in the book, but there were no Algonquin signatories to that agreement. For centuries, the Algonquin have been petitioning the government to assert their rights, so far unsuccessfully.

I am a settler on this land. My ancestor, Philomen Wright, settled here in 1800 and began to destroy the local ecosystems to make a fortune in the lumber trade, a trade that quickly took over and destroyed the wildlife of the Ottawa Valley. You’ll recognize the name “Wright” from the Alonzo-Wright Bridge, featured in Dread Spring, as Alonzo was Philomen’s grandson; the original colonizers’ legacy continues to be unjustly honoured and upheld even now as an ongoing act of colonization. No rights agreement was signed, either at that time or at any point since, between any of the settlers or their governments and the Algonquin people. Though members of the Algonquin Nation at the time attempted to warn the government about the absolute decimation of the environment and disappearance of the local wildlife due to the lumber industry, the government ignored them.

In 1853, the Algonquin inhabitants were forcibly removed to Kitigan Zibi, so that settlers could colonize the fertile lands of the Ottawa Valley. The reserve lies in an area in the Gatineau Hills that would have historically been an occasional hunting ground for the Algonquin, not a permanent home; as stated in Dread Spring, the arable land up there is limited. For a century, Kitigan Zibi inhabitants were forbidden by the colonial government from hunting, cutting wood, and voting, and the school on the reserve was a federally run day-school. In the past few decades, the members of the Algonquin First Nation who live at Kitigan Zibi have transformed the reserve into a vibrant community, having gained hard-won control over their own health, education, and police services after decades of effort.

Throughout Dread Spring, I used the colonial place names for the Kichesippi and Tenagatino Zibi (now called the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers). During a fruitless search for the Algonquin name for Farmer’s Rapids, all I found was an itemized list of everything the titular Farmer brought with him from England (apparently that knowledge is deemed valuable through the lens of colonization).

I would encourage anyone who enjoyed Dread Spring to read books by Indigenous authors as well! In the genre of post-apocalyptic science fiction and from my area (Ontario), I can recommend a few to get you started.

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice. The book takes place as the apocalypse is unfolding. We’re in agreement that taking care of little kids during the apocalypse wouldn’t be much different than taking care of them now.

Take Us To Your Chief and Other Stories by Drew Hayden Taylor, particularly A Culturally Inappropriate Armageddon, the most apocalyptic of the stories. The collection is so wide-ranging, it somehow covered all of sci fi, thoughtfully and playfully.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. This one is set a little further out from the apocalyptic event, and I found it to be a little darker in tone. The ensemble cast has a delightful range of distinct characters and personalities, set against a stark dystopian world.

Dread Spring on the blog