* Winner of the Sator New Works Award. * "A Most Anticipated Book" —Lambda Literary, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Tor.com, The Chicago Review of Books, LGBTQReads, Ms. Magazine, The Mary Sue
My Volcano is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a menagerie of characters, as they each undergo personal eruptions, while the Earth itself is constantly shifting. Parable, myth, science-fiction, eco-horror, My Volcano is a radical work of literary art, emerging as a subversive, intoxicating artistic statement by John Elizabeth Stintzi.
On June 2, 2016, a protrusion of rock growing from the Central Park Reservoir is spotted by a jogger. Three weeks later, when it finally stops growing, it’s nearly two-and-a-half miles tall, and has been determined to be an active volcano.
As the volcano grows and then looms over New York, an eight-year-old boy in Mexico City finds himself transported 500 years into the past, where he witnesses the fall of the Aztec Empire; a Nigerian scholar in Tokyo studies a folktale about a woman of fire who descends a mountain and destroys an entire village; a white trans writer in Jersey City struggles to write a sci-fi novel about a thriving civilization on an impossible planet; a nurse tends to Syrian refugees in Greece while grappling with the trauma of living through the bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan; a nomadic farmer in Mongolia is stung by a bee, magically transforming him into a green, thorned, flowering creature that aspires to connect every living thing into its consciousness.
With its riveting and audacious vision, My Volcano is a tapestry on fire, a distorted and cinematic new work from the fiercely talented John Elizabeth Stintzi.
Winner of the Sator New Works Award The Sator New Works Award, selected by Two Dollar Radio editors, goes to an author who identifies as transgender or non-binary for a book-length work of fiction or non-fiction. This publishing prize was made possible by Sator Press, a nonprofit publishing company operated by Ken Baumann from 2009-2019.
"A boy in Mexico City transported to 16th Century Tenochtitlan. A Mongolian shepherd transformed into a hive mind by a bee sting. A volcano growing out of a pond in Central Park. John Elizabeth Stintzi’s strange new novel is a dizzying spiral through time, space, and lives. Punctuated by the names of real-world victims of police brutality and hate crimes, My Volcano is a harrowing, yet hopeful, meditation on our present and our future." —Travis, staff pick, Bookshop Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
"A fever dream that whirs together homicide statistics from 2016 with an array of outlandish science fiction tropes. An allegory about the mutability of all things. An unsettling meditation on the 21st century’s strange reality. An apocalyptic phantasmagoria where bizarre kaiju roam the lands and wreak havoc. A lyrical treatise on volcanoes as metaphors. A wild ride. Future students of My Volcano... will offer myriad theses about the true nature of the author’s stupendous book. The unfettered abundance, uniqueness and irreducibility of My Volcano will likely encourage as many interpretations as the book has readers." —Brett Josef Grubisic, The Toronto Star (Read the full review of My Volcano)
“When it comes to John Elizabeth Stintzi’s novel My Volcano, a volcano bursting from the ground below Central Park manages to be one of the less weird aspects of the plot. Stinzi’s novel also includes time travel, folktales, and a character transforming into a being with a steadily growing hive mind. This is not a book that lacks ambition.” —Tobias Carroll, Tor.com "Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for March and April 2022"
"Time travel, bodily transformations, and uncanny folktales—this novel looks like it has it all. (And that’s before we get into the massive volcano looming over Central Park.) For a novel where the scale of ambition meshes perfectly with the array of imagery on display, My Volcano has plenty to offer." —Vol. 1 Brooklyn, "March 2022 Book Preview"
“A strange rock in Central Park grows into a two-mile-wide, active volcano within three weeks. Flittering around this eco-horror story are fragments of other moments for people worldwide experiencing shifts in the natural world. Of the many stories, some include involuntary time travel, PTSD from civilians living through war, a common injury gone awry, writers’ block, and fiery folkloric studies.” —Alyssa Shotwell, The Mary Sue “The Mary Sue Book Club, March 2022”
"Packed with astonishing imagery, poetry, ideas, and true weirdness, this book begins with one concept—a volcano in Central Park—only to continuously 'elevate' from there—on every single page—yet always keeping masterful control." —Michael Narkunski, Booksoup (West Hollywood, CA)
"Holy shit! Do NOT sleep on this book... My Volcano has barbs that dug into me, and I wasn’t sure which way it was going to whip me from section to section… it had me hooked and I was all the way in." —Joseph Edwin Haeger, The Big Smoke (Read the full review of My Volcano)
"My Volcano is a novel as bracing and fractured as its title. Part parable, part science fiction, part eco-horror, Stintzi takes readers on a whiplash-inducing ride from modern day New York and Greece to the ancient Aztec empire that’s not easily shaken off after the turn of the final page." —The Chicago Review of Books "12 Must-Read Books of March"
"I will read anything that comes from JES’s twisted imagination and love it. This ingenious, insightful, unconventional and expansive eco-horror is no exception." —Karla J. Strand, Ms. Magazine "Most Anticipated Reads for the Rest of Us 2022"
"John Elizabeth Stintzi’s deranged Mobius-strip of a book is perhaps most likely to remind readers of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation." —Arlene McKanic, BookPage (Read the full review of My Volcano)
"The chaos of current events takes on a supernatural dimension in John Elizabeth Stintzi’s novel My Volcano. In the summer of 2016, all over the world, there are strange occurrences. The most spectacular event of all: a volcano sprouts in the middle of Central Park and keeps on growing, destroying large sections of New York City... My Volcano is a captivating novel about the consequences of letting obvious dangers fester and grow." —Eileen Gonzalez, Foreword Reviews, starred review (Read the full review of My Volcano)
"Bodies are queer, time is weird, the Earth is fucked. Got some major eco-horror Jeff Vandermeer vibes with this one with much more extra queerness. It reads like a high-speed ride on a terrifying rollercoaster, and you never know where the next turn will go but you also can't stop riding. Very weird, utterly off the charts." —Anton Bogomazov, Politics & Prose Bookstore (Washington, Dist. of Columbia)
"Climate change, time travel, startup culture, and volcanic eruptions intertwine in this sui generis outing from [Stintzi]... Told in a series of buzzing numbered fragments, the narrative whirls around a volcano rising in Central Park that looks like Mount Fuji. As the volcano grows, Stintzi builds out the wide-ranging narrative with jump cuts... That Stintzi keeps all these plates spinning is a wonder; that they transform the chaotic present into a fiery, transcendent vision of the future is even more impressive. It’s a brilliant achievement." —Publishers Weekly, starred review (Read the full review of My Volcano)
"A genre-bending novel that circles a volcano mysteriously rising from the Central Park Reservoir... Among the narrative sections, Stintzi intersperses the dates and victims of real-world violence in 2016, including the Pulse nightclub shooting and the shooting of Alton Sterling by police officers in Baton Rouge. At times, this ambitious novel can feel unwieldy, with its weighty subject matter and complex, formal innovation. However, Stintzi has a gift for meticulously crafted worldbuilding and captures the tender drama of human (and, in this novel, extrahuman) relationships. Patient readers will be rewarded by their arrival at the book’s dazzling conclusion. A vibrant ecosystem of a novel that deals honestly with the beauty and horror of human and ecological connectedness." —Kirkus Reviews (Read the full review of My Volcano)
"Author JES creates an alternate world where the looming terror of a newly emerged volcano in New York's Central Park is at once a metaphor for the looming 2016 election (though never mentioned) as well as a literal doorway to Mt. Fuji and, perhaps, an alternate dimension. Writing in a cyclone of temporal inversion and expansiveness, JES creates worlds that jump off the page to inhabit our own world as well as other books'. I have found myself continually referencing back to events that take place throughout My Volcano while reading and thinking about other novels. This type of inception hasn't happened since Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves, which is both an apt reference point and one that is completely inaccurate." —Jesse Hassinger, The Odyssey Bookshop (South Hadley, Massachusetts)
"Nonbinary author Stintzi’s science fiction / eco-horror novel is an ambitious, global tale that begins with the discovery of an emergent volcano in Central Park. An eclectic group of characters, from Mexico City, Tokyo, Nigeria, Greece, Mongolia, and more grapple with their personal changes and transformations as the earth undergoes its own." —Casey Stepaniuk, Autostraddle (Read the full list of "Queer and Feminist Books Coming Out Winter 2022")
"A volcano has formed in Central Park. A Mexican child finds himself in the wrong century. A nomad in Mongolia is transformed by a bee-sting. A trans writer in New Jersey imagines an impossible planet. In their second novel, poet and educator John Elizabeth Stintzi offers a globe-spanning and enigmatic romp through the strangeness of our world." —Andrew Woodrow-Butcher, Quill & Quire (Read the full list of "2022 Spring Preview: Fiction")
"It pulled me in. I admit it took me a while to get used to this novel, but by the end I was riveted. My Volcano is... about fluidity and connection and disconnection, and about how things that look as if they could never fit in with all the rest in fact change shape and meaning—until the surprise is not that they are connected, but that I ever thought them disconnected in the first place." —Octavia Cade, Strange Horizons (Read the full review of My Volcano)
"My goodness—what is this thing!? It’s all over the place! Oh, but the places it goes. The 2 mile high volcano that shows up in NY’s Central Park is a real shocker. But that’s not the end. These are stories from folklore; stories about time travel to the downfall of the Aztecs in Mexico; stories about transformation (ala Metamorphosis), writers having trouble with their stories, nurses dealing with their trauma while they deal with the trauma of others. In short, this is a story about normal people in weird situations. I’ll tell you what it is… it’s a wonderful, thrilling dive into the imagination of one heck of a writer. Read it. You’ll never be the same!" —Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore (Spokane, Washington)
“With the panoramic scope and astute sharpness of Samanta Schweblin's Little Eyes and the eerie chill of Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach trilogy, John Elizabeth Stintzi's My Volcano immediately grabs you by the shirt and doesn't let you go. Structured like a spiral moving through time and space, and deftly mixing history and myth and vision with poetic prose, this dread-inducing book will keep you up at night until you get to its last devastating, but ultimately, I think, hopeful line." —Alicia Elliott, bestselling author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
"A kaleidoscopic, contemporary folktale with added acerbic juice, like when Dylan went electric. Stintzi somehow funnels the tumultuous present into a sprawling novel of collision and connection that’s both timely and timeless. This is very weird shit indeed." —Hazel Jane Plante, author of Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian)
"My Volcano is a fast-paced, gripping, singular novel that belongs to the new wave of eco-horror yielding to no conventions." —Fernando A. Flores, author of Tears of the Trufflepig
"John Elizabeth Stintzi’s new book exudes real ambition." —Maurice Mierau, Winnipeg Free Press
BOOK CLUB & READER GUIDE: Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. My Volcano’s opening paragraphs introduce us to the first sighting of the mysterious Central Park volcano. In describing the jogger and her most pressing concerns that day, the media and their coverage, the public and their reactions to the news and the jogger: why do you think the author chose these elements to be the start of the novel? What tone does this set for the book? What other social commentary did you notice throughout the novel?
2. On June 2, 2016, two important events occur: a volcano sprouts from New York City’s Central Park, and Dzhambul—a central Mongolian nomadic herder—is stung by a bumblebee dusted with unusual pollen that is “near-luminescent purple” (page 12). What do these two very different events have to do with each other? How does this early mention of the color purple tie in with other events in the novel?
3. Shortly after the novel begins, we are introduced to the first of several concise nonfiction vignettes that recount the dates, names, ages, and manners of death of violent murders that occurred in the United States in 2016, during the exact same time as the fictional volcano’s timeline. What do all of the murders have in common? What overall effect do you think they have on the novel?
4. Reconsider the epigraph the author chose for My Volcano: “Reality is nothing but the opinion of power.” What do you think this means? How does it tie in with the themes of the book?
5. My Volcano features a plethora of imaginative fantastical elements, both physically—large boulders animating into a destructive headless golem, a magical opal, a tent with octopus legs—as well as psychologically—mirrors of selves, past and present time crashing into each other, inhabiting others’ bodies. Which elements had the strongest effect on you? Did the use of these surreal lenses help you reconsider any real-world issues in a new way?
6. Write down on a piece of paper what you think the 3 main themes are of My Volcano. Take turns sharing your opinions and explaining why each stuck out the most to you. After hearing from everyone in the group, did your original opinion on the themes remain the same or change?
7. Duncan and Hitomi’s work in Japan has them busy trying to uncover the origin of a folktale with versions existing in multiple languages and countries: “The tale is simple, short, without a maxim or a clearly identifiable moral. In every version, a stranger-figure… comes down from the peak of a volcano… and slowly destroys everything.” (page 40) How does My Volcano explore mythology and storytelling through the various characters, settings, and time periods?
8. Young Angel, having time-traveled to Moctezuma II’s Aztec city-state of Tenochtitlan, 500 years in the past, physically unites with “a small wisp of a cloud, gray and crackling with little lightning bolts” (page 18) who helps Angel to speak the language; when the startled Mexica people ask Angel who he is, “the voice had him say, in Nahuatl, that he was a child of Chantico” (page 29). According to Wikipedia: “In Aztec religion, Chantico is the deity reigning over the fires in the family hearth.” Why do you think the cloud describes Angel as “the child of Chantico”? What connection does this have to other elements within My Volcano?
9. Many characters in this book are described as being “angry,” such as both the lightning cloud and Angel on page 38: “All I know for sure is that whoever I am, I am always angry. Just like you.” Who else is experiencing anger? Why do you think this emotion is occurring as a connective thread throughout the novel?
10. The character Makayla works at Easy-Rupt in San Francisco, a start-up that offers “discreet emotion-managing services in the form of secure, soundproof booths that clients could rent for thirty-minute sessions, starting at $150 for the bare minimum, with some packages charging as much as $2,000 and up… to discreetly, safely, and comfortably emote, usually in private” (page 50). Who has access to this service and why is it in demand enough to be a viable business? What do you think the author was trying to say with this element of the book?
11. The novel focuses on a small diverse set of characters, from all over the globe, showing us their particular perspective of the potentially life-ending catastrophe occurring on planet Earth. What was the effect of seeing the events unfold through the very different characters’ perspectives? What statement do you think the author is making on the topic of global interconnectivity through these characters, despite being siloed from each other by factors ranging from language, nationality, profession, age, sexuality, race, class, and more?
12. Volcanoes erupt—either slowly and quietly, or quickly and violently—when there is some manner of shifting and built-up pressure from within. Through the lens of volcano as metaphor, discuss each of these core characters from the novel, and what “personal eruptions” each is experiencing and why: Aithne Elgin Akutagawa Hitomi Angel Barros Vargas Ash Griffis Dr Duncan Olayinka Galina Sadykova Jahan Mokri Joao Favero Makayla Brooks Ramineh Niazi Therese Lusk-Lawther white trans writer
13. How are these various core characters connected to each other? Draw a diagram showing the connective threads between them.
14. How are bodily transformations explored in My Volcano? Which characters experience discomfort in some way with the body they are in? Did the wildly different explorations affect your thinking of how people experience living in their bodies?
15. The idea that there can be many versions of one thing, be it a person, a city, an event—is explored in multiple ways in My Volcano. In the case of Ash Griffis, how is the idea of duplicity of self explored in the present setting of Hilo and New York City? How is the idea further explored in the past setting of his life 15 years prior, as an NYU student watching out the window as planes hit the Twin Towers, when Ash thinks: “It wasn’t until another face appeared beside his, staring groggily out the window, that he realized that the sight from his window was wrong. The shape of the face—which was part of an entire being that had an orange hue—was almost unrecognizable to him as his from fifteen years ago.” (page 188)? What other examinations of duplicity stuck out for you in My Volcano?
16. The nameless character referred to as “white trans writer” lives an unhappy life in the New York City metro area, focused intently on writing a sci-fi novel whose main character, Gish, is on a distant exoplanet, vulca-9d, “attempting to adjust to a geologically overactive yet impossibly civilized world.” (page 26). How are the white trans writer and their fictional character Gish similar? What other interpretations did you have of the white trans writer?
17. We learn early on that people—including both Duncan and Aithne—have “life-stream videos” capturing and live-broadcasting their private lives inside their homes. Duncan has multiple cameras in his small Tokyo apartment which his love interest, Aithne, watches, but we learn that hundreds of strangers watch him as well. Makayla is one of them, whose reason for viewing is: “Seeing that man existing in his life, banal as it was, made Makayla feel like she was suspended in the quiet air, or floating on a waveless sea. She felt like so much more was possible for her and the people she loved than pain.” (page 106) Were you surprised by the “life-stream” element in this book? Do you have any new opinions of real-world digital connectivity or sharing on social media? How about in the wake of Covid-19?
18. What happens to Dzhambul after he is stung by the bee? Consider the following lines: “As more humans joined Dzhambul’s ranks, things got easier… All that was clear to Dzhambul was that the sense of the self should be never-ending. That the herd, collected and connected at the fullest bandwidth, was correct.” (Pages 109-110) What are Dzhambul and his network seeking? As the novel progresses and the volcano has erupted, what becomes of Dzhambul’s network?
19. The beverage company Sun Chunk Juice Co. recurs throughout the novel. They have a global enterprise with lemon tree farms in India; they are one of the many businesses that places huge billboards on the new volcano; their many large-budget lemonade commercials are described in detail, and all feature the slogan “WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED”—what were some memorable scenes from their commercials? What role do you think Sun Chunk Juice Co. plays in the book?
20. In this novel, we see a wide range of reactions to an overwhelming global problem: some people try to tackle head-on the issue of a massive, fast-growing volcano in New York City, learning all they can about it; some people deny its very existence; some people try to capitalize on it; some people choose to accept it and adjust to a new life with it. How do these various reactions mirror those that are occurring now, in our own lives? Discuss what you think the author was trying to achieve.
21. We are introduced to an elderly woman named Old Otherwise—living a solitary life, unnoticed, in Homer, Alaska—who is kept busy building a diorama: “As the years went on, civilizations began to sprout. Rough wooden human figures began to stick together in bunches, spread throughout Old Otherwise’s huge shadow box. The first figure she’d carved, the figure of Young Otherwise—her first self—remained and was slowly blended into the communities.” (page 206) Who is this character? What role do you think she plays in the book? How is she connected to the other characters and elements of the novel?
22. The author chose to structure the book into larger sections titled PRIMARY WAVE, SECONDARY WAVE, SURFACE WAVES, and then STILLNESS. What largely takes place in each of the 4 sections? How do the titles and sections connect with the major themes of the novel?
23. My Volcano has multiple endings, on pages 280, 291, and 306. What effect did it have on you, and how do you think it’s fitting for the book and its central themes? Talk about the final lines of the book and your interpretations of them.
John Elizabeth Stintzi is a non-binary writer who grew up on a cattle farm in northwestern Ontario. Their work has been awarded the 2019 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, and The Malahat Review’s 2019 Long Poem Prize. Their writing has appeared in Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Best Canadian Poetry, and many others. JES is the author of the novels My Volcano and Vanishing Monuments, as well as the poetry collection Junebat. They live with their wife in the United States.
TERRITORY: U.S. sales only FORMAT: Paperback (1st printing with gatefold) LIST PRICE: $18.99 PAGES: 330 PRINT ISBN: 9781953387165 DIGITAL ISBN: 9781953387172 RELEASE DATE: 3/22/2022 SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"
Printed in Canada by Marquis, with the following environmental statement: *Printed on Rolland Enviro. This paper contains 100% post-consumer fiber, is manufactured using renewable energy - Biogas and processed chlorine free. *FSC certified paper (inside and cover).
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