By Samuel Roberts
August 23rd, 2010
The Outspoken Author series, for those unfamiliar, allows writers to present one of their short works with some background detail about the author – in this case, the insight into Arnason’s political beliefs are essentially as interesting as ‘Mammoths Of The Great Plains’ itself. The short story presents an alternate tale of American colonisation, as we know it, with the hunted mammoth symbolising the persecution of Native Americans.
This take on one of America’s darker periods showcases Arnason’s ability to pack an entire novel’s worth of high concepts into a relatively lean 79 pages, with entire decades of history relayed convincingly in mere paragraphs. It’s presented as a generational story passed down between members of a Lakota family, faced with the ongoing struggle of preserving the mammoth species after a continent-wide cull by ivory poachers. Smartly, each twist or plot device relates to the scientific boundaries of the real world at that time. ‘Mammoths Of The Great Plains’ really is the main attraction, though, and not all readers will reap the same benefits from the additional materials.
This remaining half of the book is divided into two sections – the first is an essay about the escalating troubles of the real world and how akin these circumstances are to that of a sci-fi premise, while the second is an interview exploring everything from Arnason’s background to her writing technique. Again, fascinating for long-time fans of her short story writing, but not necessarily a great fit for everybody else. Outspoken Authors remains a good series for anyone wishing to understand the motives behind an acclaimed sci-fi writer’s work.