Q&A with Resident Crystal Smith

 
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To whatever extent you’re comfortable, can you share about your project?

Day of the Mermaids is going to be an illustrated adult novel and interactive app that takes place fifty years in the future, where all of our predictions have come true and the world is fighting a battle with the environment. Lack of resources and a growing divide between economic classes leaves many at the mercy of climate change.

The story follows two sisters who have been displaced when their city sank under rising seas, and now scavenge on the beach to survive. They’re shocked to discover a mermaid on the shore, and soon discover that mermaids are showing up all over the world with a message: Stop destroying the ocean or face a war.

With a one day deadline, people are forced to find their voices, choose sides, and face the consequences of past generation’s actions.

 

What do you find alluring about your medium? What capacities does it offer that complements your project?

I’m really excited to tell a story as an interactive and somewhat immersive experience. I think that novels and stories for adults (and YA) can be visual without being considered juvenile, and that the illustrations can enhance the story.

Interactivity gives the reader a chance to discover details and side-paths in the story and characters that may not fit into a streamlined novel, and hold more meaning when they are “stumbled upon” rather than given point blank.

As soon as a story is in an app or online, there’s the opportunity to blend it with other platforms such as social media, news, etc. Creating parallel stories, experiences and information through secondary outlets such as these can really complement a story and characters.

 

In what ways do you hope/expect 212 will help to develop your work?

I hope that working with 212 will help focus the ideas, provide advice and experience that I don’t yet have, be a sounding board along the way, and help me to set realistic goals towards finishing this project.

 

Part of the 212 program is that you are assigned a mentor who will help guide you as you develop your project. What excites you about working with a mentor? Do you have any anxieties about it? How do you imagine it will affect your process?

Having someone with experience and knowledge to help me develop this project can make all the difference, and I’m excited to have the support and realistic-vision of a mentor. My work and career is mainly in ‘being creative’, so having someone to help me attempt to focus that into a project, that is both viable and pushes boundaries, is invaluable. It will probably affect my process by making me more accountable and giving me motivation to work harder, as I will feel more accountable to the project.

 

Day of the Mermaids seems to be a narrative that largely focuses on resiliency, hope, and altruism. Though climate change has not yet progressed to the point of devastation presented in Day of the Mermaids, can you speak some about the importance of cultivating those sentiments in environmentalism and creative production today?

 

I’m wouldn’t say I’m a radical environmentalist, but living on the west coast of Canada has kept me aware of the state of our environment and it’s very much a part of our culture here. Recycling, green technologies and biking to work are presented as part of everyday life and expected to stop global warming. If only…

I think because it’s happened so slowly, with subtle changes rather than life-altering events for most people, we’ve put climate change on the back-burner of our minds and agendas. It doesn’t appear life-threatening at the moment, so we’ll get to it later. Like knowing we need to change the oil in our car, but since it’s not smoking quite yet, we’ll leave it until next week.

Day of the Mermaids asks the question, “What would it take to make us change right now?” If we were faced with the consequences of another civilization being destroyed (and ultimatum of war) would that be enough to make us change our actions, point-of-view and minds?

And even if we do, as a nation or united world, decide to change…will it be too late? In Day of the Mermaids we’ve pretty much destroyed an entire race of people we didn’t even know existed. Is it realistic for us to try to “fix” the oceans at that point? Even if we’re faced with war and other consequences, will we actually have the abilities needed?

In the story, I break people into two groups. Those who are still trying to fix the world despite it’s deteriorating state; and those who have given up because they don’t know what to do, feel powerless, or have just decided to ignore the problem.

Day of the Mermaids is really about an event that starts to give some people hope again. If mermaids really exist, outside of children’s imaginations, then what else is possible? Believing is the real game-changer because it’s the first step towards action. Apathy and hopelessness are the real enemies in the story.

Whether it’s today or fifty years in the future, we have to believe in what we’re doing (whether it’s environmentalism, creative endeavours or anything else) because that’s the real magic. Kids will often carry that flag of hope with them, long past when adults have given up. Mermaids are a symbol of believing in something beautiful but kind-of impossible.

Although it may seem extreme to say that in 50 years cities will be sinking, there are actually quite a few examples of it happening right now. (Not just because of rising sea levels but also because of shifting ground, land subsidence, storm surges, withdrawal of groundwater, changes in ocean currents etc.) Jakarta, Indonesia; areas of Louisiana, US; Manila, Philippines; Newton, Alaska; Caterate Islands in Paua New Guinea. Oceans are predicted to rise 2 feet by 2060 which will flood coastal areas. The background for this story is not far-fetched or make-believe.

To continue working, or fighting, for something that we may not see all the effects of - takes a measure of hope, resilience and altruism. We never know who is going to be effected by our work, but we hope that someone will. In environmentalism that may mean future generations that we never see, and when creating artwork and stories that may mean nameless people that we never meet. Even if it’s just the mermaids, we need to keep believing.