Kayla Jenkins and Gaynor Jones have been chatting about her story in our 2022 short story anthology:
Hello Gaynor! Just a few questions about your story in our newest anthology, Of Myths and Mothers. We’ll dive right in.
Q So, I know we discussed it briefly during the podcast, but I just want to touch on it again - motherhood is one of the central themes within ‘May We Know Them’. The decision to have a child isn’t as straightforward nowadays as it was years ago - I was curious about why you think this is?
A I tell myself that parents throughout history have gone through worries about their children – and that their children have been put in far worse scenarios than my daughter is currently – but I do feel that climate change, and the inescapable impact of it, might be affecting some of these decisions. I didn’t really consider it while I was trying to get to pregnant, personally I wasn’t as connected into current affairs and world news then as I am now. Then a few years ago when my daughter was a toddler, I felt this overwhelming guilt and anxiety about bringing her into a world that feels at times on the edge of destruction. I have no opinion (and no scientific knowledge of population effects on climate change) on whether people choose to have children or not, but I know for me the question of ‘should I have done this?’ has pulled at the edges of my conscious more and more.
Q ‘May We Know Them’ is set in a dystopic future where climate change has ravaged the world that we know, with fires that burn weeks at a time and random flooding…there’s also the obvious policing of a woman’s ability to have children. What did you set out to achieve, or explore, with this dystopia?
A Honestly I didn’t start out by considering the wider picture, I just had a flash of an idea: what if two people found a baby and had totally opposing views on what they should do? And then I thought, what if that baby was special somehow? Which eventually led to, what if it was one of the last babies ever born? And the world that Helen and Juliana inhabit spread out from there. So for me, what I set out to explore was opposing views on parenthood initially, and then it became a much more personal exploration around the desire to have children – or not. The dystopia grew out around the central relationship, although my work often does touch on women’s bodies and issues of control.
Q There were some moments that really hit me with a pang (Two in particular - I won’t spoil what though). You’ve managed to create such an emotive and enthralling world in such a short number of pages. Where did this emotion come from - was it something that came naturally to you or something more technical for an evocative effect?
A This piece was emotional for me to write, because, really, I’m writing about my daughter – what my fears and hopes are for her, what could possibly happen in her future. So any writing that draws on that is clearly going to be emotive for me. I also spent five years thinking that I couldn’t have a child, which was incredibly difficult and painful and so some of my personal experience of that has spilled over into the text. Interestingly, it was suggested by a trusted reader that I might cut the final section of the story, and in truth it is a little sentimental, but I felt strongly that I wanted to keep it in, to counterbalance some of the darker emotions that had come earlier.
Q. Lastly, I think this is a story that can be interpreted in a number of ways depending on the experiences of the reader. What’s the one thing you hope people will take away from this story?
A. I’ve absolutely no idea how to answer this! In short fiction, I often write for myself – I call it writing as therapy. Perhaps I want people to understand the pain of longing, perhaps I want people to consider what the future might be like, perhaps I just want people to read it and feel something, that’s all I ever hope for with my work.
Or from Blackwells here