For the full interview, see it on The Rumpus.
Originally published on May 27, 2020.
When I finished Julian K. Jarboe’s debut short story collection Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel, I was struck by how well they captured a world that was ours, but not quite ours. All the fears, anxieties, and terrors were painfully real, but transposed onto a universe that was both familiar and not. Immersed in Jarboe’s stories, I had that sense of being in a dream––one where you know you’re in your childhood home but it doesn’t look like the house you grew up in. I both recognized and didn’t recognize the places in Jarboe’s stories: a gentrified neighborhood now under water thanks to climate change felt a lot like Boston’s Seaport district, a version of the early 2000s where kids can time-travel back to try to rescue parents from the Twin Towers on 9/11, an America where the job market has become so dire that people are emigrating to the moon to find work, a rural home surrounded by fairies who steal human babies and replace them with changelings while parents wonder if maybe not vaccinating their babies would stop the fairies.
By the time Jarboe and I spoke on the phone a couple weeks after I’d finished reading, though, I was having trouble recognizing the world I lived in. Handshakes, hugs, and kisses were things of the past; people were bumping elbows instead, then keeping six feet apart, then avoiding each other all together. I was communicating with friends who lived down the street through Google Hangouts. I couldn’t see my parents and grandparents even though they only live a couple towns over. Doorknobs, light switches, phones, keys, elevator buttons, credit cards, and mail had become dangerous. Everyone was wearing gloves and masks. Stores were depleted of the most basic goods. Many of us were now working from home, exclusively communicating through screens; the most vulnerable and poor still had no choice but to continue going to work. It was a place I at once recognized but also didn’t; I felt as if I had been transported directly into one of Jarboe’s stories.
It seems appropriate that Jarboe’s publication date for Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel was March 5, in the middle of this pandemic. This collection of stories is more than a clever take on the world we live in, reimagining our everyday problems with fairies and monsters, science fiction and myth. We spoke recently about how the places where we grow up influences our work, how to make sense of the world we live in now, and how to imagine a new and better kind of universe.
To keep reading the interview, head over to The Rumpus.