This Labor Day weekend, my family took a road trip through North Cascades National Park. Along the way, we stopped in the small town of Winthrop, WA, to grab a snack and stretch our legs after a long drive. Things went downhill almost as soon as we got out of the car.
Winthrop, it turned out, was under siege by bees. Bees were everywhere, dive-bombing us when we tried to enjoy an iced chai at an outdoor cafe, popping up unexpectedly from under the boards of the wood-plank sidewalks, and swarming us when we dared to stop in a creekside park for lunch. In the end, we gave up, packed up, and drove an hour farther into the mountains to eat in peace.
Our experience wasn’t all that unusual, but it left me wondering what would happen if a town really did get taken over by bees. How would the residents react? How would tourists rate their visit if they were constantly under threat of being stung by oversized and increasingly organized honeybees?
I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. So, I started writing. The end result was a weird, experimental little story in the form of a series of online reviews — to say anymore would be spoiling it.
I’m pleased that the editors of Creative Colloquy enjoyed it enough to publish it on their site. You can read “Reviews of Sanctuary Creek Honey Farm” now:
If you like the story, let me know by leaving a comment below. If you’re a writer in the South Sound with a story or poem that’s ready for publication, check out Creative Colloquy. They’re always looking for local scribes to feature. Thanks for reading!
A few weeks ago, I got to sit down with the friendly folks at the Grit City Podcast to chat about my work as a writer, podcast creator, and filmmaker. We talk about my podcast “The Adventures of Captain Radio,” my involvement as a member of the Creative Colloquy board and as a contributor to Grit City Magazine, and Tacoma’s amazing arts community. See the post below from Obscure Studios to listen to the episode. Thanks to Scott, Justin, and Jeff for having me on the show!
This week, you can catch Obscure Studios president Jonny Eberle on The Grit City Podcast! The Grit City Podcast has a simple premise—in every episode, the hosts sit down with Tacoma-based creatives and entrepreneurs over a couple of drinks to learn more about them and their projects. In this episode, Jonny joins the crew for […]
I first heard of Juneteenth in 2015, when I was working at a YMCA that served one of the most racially diverse zip codes in Washington state—and one of its most impoverished. I couldn’t believe that I had lived in this country for twenty-five years and never known the full story of how the institution of slavery finally came to an end.
On June 19, 1865, two months after the conclusion of the Civil War, Union troops marched into Galveston, Texas and issued a decree that all slaves were free. It was a momentous, arriving two years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery did not end that day (in fact, it persisted in the so-called Indian Territories until at least 1866), but it was a turning point and cause for celebration in the Black community, becoming the root of the holiday we know today.
I am ashamed that I didn’t know this history. But it should not be surprising, since I grew up and was educated in a country that is in many ways still reeling from the fallout of that war and still fighting over its legacy. Black people did not automatically achieve equality with whites on that hot, humid summer’s day in Texas. That struggle continues. But I am heartened to see Black artists starting to get the recognition they deserve and Black businesses thriving. That is cause for celebration, even though we have a long way to go to atone for the sins of America’s past.
On this Juneteenth, I’m reminded that I have much to learn. The more I listen to and read narratives by people who don’t look like me, the better off I am as a person.
A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to try to decolonize my reading list, to deliberately seek out books by women and people of color before I reach for books written by white men. It has been an incredibly humbling and enriching experience.
I’ve recently been on a speculative fiction kick, including Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and N.K. Jemisin’s How Long ‘Til Black Future Month, and I’m looking forward to diving into the works of Nnendi Okorafor, P. Djèlí Clark, Tade Thompson, and others—especially stories that imagine a better future for historically oppressed communities.
What other books or authors should be on my reading list? Shout out your recommendations in the comments and happy Juneteenth!
Way back in November, while insanely sleep-deprived from caring for a one-month-old, I made a fateful—and you might say crazy—decision: I decided to take a crack at writing a novel.
This was far from my first attempt at writing a novel. My computer’s hard drive is littered with abandoned first drafts I had every intention of finishing. I can come up with ideas at the drop of a hat, but following through on those ideas has always been a struggle for me. This time, something was different.
Every day in the month of November, I wrote. And I don’t mean I sat down at my computer with a steaming mug of tea and no distractions while I worked on my masterpiece. I was working full-time, caring for my newborn daughter, and supporting my exhausted spouse as we survived the early days of parenthood. There was no extra time for this creative endeavor. So, I wrote in the middle of the night while rocking a baby to sleep, tapping a story out one-handed on my phone in the dark at 3 a.m., and praying to the autocorrect gods that my words would be intelligible.
November came and went. I kept writing. The Google Doc I was working in groaned under the stress as the novel grew. Soon, the app was crashing every third or fourth time I opened it. But I pressed on, determined to see the project through.
In February of 2022, my wife went back to work and I took leave to spend time with our daughter. So, nap time became writing time. In between juggling parenting and housework, while making sure the dog was getting her walks and putting out a fiction podcast, I soldiered on.
Last week, I typed the final line of the first draft of my novel, bringing my story to a close. I’m taking a break before diving into the next phase: editing. For now, I can at last say that I did what I set out to do. I wrote a novel. At just shy of 100,000 words long and chronicling the ups and downs of a family entangled with the Las Vegas Mob over the course of six decades, it’s no small feat.
Several years ago, I set myself a task of completing a manuscript by the time I turned 30 years old. I missed that deadline by a couple of years, but I proved to myself that it was possible. And having done it once, I’m pretty sure I could do it again. That’s a good feeling. I’m well aware that there’s so much more work to be done. This is only the beginning. But I’m choosing to bask in this pause between the first round of labor and all the tinkering still to come to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
If there’s a message to other artists in my experience of these past few months, it’s that it is never too late. If you’re contemplating a daunting creative project, go for it. Don’t wait for the perfect time, because it will never come. Take the leap. Write it down. Pick up the paintbrush. See how far you can go.
I’m pleased to share that I have a new short story published this month on Creative Colloquy’s website. It’s a piece of flash fiction written in response to artist Steve LaBerge’s installation “Touching Down in Tacoma,” which was a part of the Tacoma Light Trail, an exhibition of light art in downtown Tacoma. For a few weeks this winter, LaBerge transformed the lobby of the historic Pantages Theatre into an alien landscape with a lone illuminated figure sitting beside a suit of some kind and a board of multicolored squares. Also included was an ethereal song provided by the Puget Sound Revels.
Looking at LaBerge’s piece, I was struck by the whimsy and the melancholy in the scene. With that in mind, I set out to write a short story incorporating the various elements of the installation and trying to imagine who the lone figure was and what they were doing there in this bizarre, otherworldly place. The resulting story is “Victorious,” about the last survivor of a devastating future war in the final moments of a world about to end. It appears in this month’s fiction and poetry published by Creative Colloquy, alongside a poem by Erik Carlsen.
Before reading the story, I invite you to look at “Touching Down in Tacoma” and listen to the music. Then, head over to Creative Colloquy to read the story. I hope you enjoy it!
Let me start out by saying that I didn’t intend to create a podcast. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed podcasts, having been a fervent Radiolab listener for more than 10 years, and I regularly recommend shows like 99 Percent Invisible, Levar Burton Reads, The Moth, and Imaginary Worlds to anyone who will listen. But I never thought I would make one. These shows were highly produced works of art. Coming from a film background, I knew how much time and energy that takes to pull off.
But then, the whole world changed.
A deadly pandemic upended my daily routine. I was out of work, alone at home, for days…and then weeks…and then months. I read a lot, but I also dove headlong into every podcast I could find, sampling from genres and formats I never knew existed. I listened all the time—in the shower, while weeding the garden, out walking the dog—trying to shut out terrifying reality with comforting voices in my ears.
All that listening dredged up an old idea. Back in college, I used to joke with my friend and frequent collaborator Will McDonald that someday we were going to make a black-and-white sci-fi B-movie called Captain Radio and the Mutant Mole People from the Eleventh Dimension. For years and years, it was nothing more than an inside joke. Then, in the fall of 2020, something clicked and I realized that Captain Radio wasn’t a movie at all, but a 1930s radio show.
I started writing. Soon, I had dashed off three scripts bursting with rocket ships, ray guns, robots, mad scientists, rapid-fire dialogue, melodrama, and (of course) a valiant hero. It was silly stuff, popcorn fare of the highest order, but it felt good to write something hopeful in the midst of a global catastrophe. I needed the escape, and I suspected others did, too. So, I pitched the show to Will and asked him to come along as the star and co-producer. For some crazy reason, he agreed. Together, we assembled a talented voice cast from across the country, many of whom we knew from Theatrikos Theatre Company in Flagstaff, AZ.
After a lot of work finalizing the six-episode story, organizing recordings, learning my way around Audacity, creating sound effects with random objects lying around my house (wine glasses, bags of rice, and a wet sponge among many others), the first episode dropped on December 31, 2021. Chapter 4 is out now and as we rocket toward the season finale in a couple of weeks, I’m proud of the work we’ve done and hope listeners have enjoyed coming along for the ride as much as we’ve had fun putting it together.
If you’re interested in checking out the show, you can find The Adventures of Captain Radio in all the usual places you consume podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you enjoy the show, please take a moment to leave a rating and review telling others one thing you liked about it — that helps us immensely. You can also buy merchandise featuring artwork and quotes from the show, or you can skip all of that and make a monetary donation on Ko-Fi to help pay the bills. You can learn more on the Obscure Studios website if you’d like to dig deeper.
I didn’t set out to become a podcaster, but here I am. I’m so excited to be sharing this spacefaring journey with you. Thanks for listening.
Right now, the Internet is awash in think pieces on the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. One year ago, the world changed overnight, but not in the ways I thought it would. By early March 2020, where I live in Washington State, it was obvious that we were on the precipice of some kind of disaster. The first documented coronavirus case in the United States had appeared just 60 miles north. I was wrapping up my certificate program, where my final project was a plan for communicating a COVID-related closure of my workplace. There were rumblings that we would need to quarantine for 2-3 weeks, so I went to the grocery store and stocked up on shelf-stable food, frozen meals, Theraflu and toilet paper. I woke up on Monday morning to discover that my office was closed until further notice.
I remember being worried about the future, afraid of contracting the virus and terrified that I wasn’t sanitizing my door handles enough. But in the back of my mind, I was also primed to expect a very specific kind of catastrophe — the kind I had seen and read about in movies and books for years.
In the 2007 movie I Am Legend, loosely based on the novel by Richard Matheson, the last human in New York City lives under constant attack from vampiric mutants infected by a re-engineered measles virus. In the 2014 novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a troupe of Shakespearean actors travels on foot between isolated communities after a flu pandemic has wiped out much of humanity. Without a real global epidemic in recent memory, these were my templates of what to expect in a pandemic: a fast-moving virus devastates the world overnight, society crumbles, and the survivors are left to wander the wasteland.
This has been a very different kind of pandemic. Society didn’t collapse, but it did fray around the edges as we confronted a chronically under-resourced public health system, political divisions between those who believed the virus was a threat and those who dismissed its severity as hundreds of thousands of people died, and systems of inequality that insulated those with privilege from dangerous exposure to the epidemic at the expense of marginalized groups who were already at higher risk of complications. It may not have been the apocalypse as we imagined it in works of fiction, but it exposed our vulnerability and exacted a terrible cost in human life and livelihood.
Everything is different now. Physical reminders of the reality of this pandemic are scattered around our house. There’s a pile of freshly laundered cloth face masks on top of our dresser. I keep an extra mask and a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my car. I follow the one-way arrows in the grocery store aisles, though it feels like I’m the only one. A package of Clorox wipes, purchased at great expense in those confusing early days sits mostly untouched in a closet. The world didn’t end, but it did change.
I’ve written before about my fascination with dystopian fiction, but now that I’m living in an actual dystopia, I’ve realized that these stories don’t have to accurately predict the future to offer valuable insights. At their core, these stories aren’t about killer viruses, they’re about humanity and how we cope with the unimaginable. Our real-life pandemic isn’t over yet, but fiction can still help us imagine how we can rebuild, preserve our humanity and find hope in hopeless situations.
After a year of living under the specter of COVID-19, I could use a little hope. I think we all could.
Against all odds, for the first time since I started making birthday resolutions well over a decade ago, I accomplished all of my goals last year. To be sure, most of them were pretty vague: take better care of my body, write more short fiction, and read to expand my horizons. My thirtieth year of life did not go as planned, but despite the many personal, professional and existential crises that threatened to derail me, I accidentally did everything I set out to do in 2020.
When the pandemic shut everything down, I found solace in my daily walks around the neighborhood. And when Jura, our puppy, came to live with us, those walks became longer and more frequent. At one point in the fall, I was averaging almost four miles a day and feeling better, stronger, more energetic.
After a months-long creative rut (during the aforementioned existential crisis of living through a global pandemic), I started writing. My output this year was more than it has been in years. I published three short stories and one article in various journals and periodicals, which still feels like an incredible feat. I also dove into a long-neglected project of editing a collection of linked short stories I wrote with some friends back in our high school and early college days. In it’s final, printed form, it will be over 500 pages long and will commemorate a wonderfully formative and creative time in our lives.
Finally, I set myself the challenge to read and learn more. Just one week before COVID-19 upended the world, I completed my Strategic Communications and Public Relations certificate. Throughout the year, I read heaps of books — over 4,000 pages worth of fiction and nonfiction. Along the way, I learned a lot from journalists and academics by reading probably hundreds of articles throughout the year touching on subjects as diverse as systemic racism, geopolitics, history, and quantum mechanics. This year, I was reminded of why I love books so much and how much comfort the written world can provide during times of stress and uncertainty — whether it’s through new information or pure escapism.
So, how do I plan to top those birthday resolutions this year? It won’t be easy. But I hope to use the momentum of last year to catapult myself to new heights in the year to come. Because what is the past if not a booster rocket, lifting us into a higher orbit in the future? Here’s what I’m resolving for 2021:
This is a tough one for me. Last year was personally difficult. I lost my job, lost out on vacations and events and seeing friends. Even though I’m an extroverted introvert by nature and don’t mind spending time along at home, there were times when I was so worried about the future that I couldn’t imagine a scenario where anything got better, ever. I realized that I wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I may have been attending to my physical needs — sleeping, eating, exercising — but I was neglecting my mental well-being. Things eventually did get better, but I know that I need to do a better job of caring for my whole self, physically, mentally, and emotionally. That will mean knowing when to stop doomscrolling, when I need to talk to my spouse, and setting healthy boundaries for myself. 2020 was a wake-up call I intend to answer.
Follow My Creative Whims
Last year, I wrote a lot and broke out of my shell a bit more as a writer. I started to incorporate more speculative elements in my fiction and people seemed to enjoy that aspect of my work. In the past, I’ve often kept my pieces intended for publication rather grounded, but letting go of reality (or at least, loosening its grip on my creative freedom) allowed me to follow my instincts in exciting and unexpected directions. I also experimented more with stories that comment on timely issues, like the pandemic and climate change. This year, I resolve to trust my writerly intuition; to worry less about what someone else might define as “literary” and worry more about what kinds of narratives make me want to keep reading. If I enjoy writing it, chances are someone will enjoy reading it.
Bake the Perfect Loaf of Bread
A few years ago, probably as a result of binge-watching the Great British Baking Show, I started to learn how to bake bread. I made some progress and had a few good bakes, but this year, I want to take it to the next level. Not to merely bake something adequate, but to create a flavorful, crusty masterpiece to rival the best bread I could buy at my local bakery. I declare this the year of pre-ferments, long rises, kitchen scales, proofing baskets, and steam-filled dutch ovens. This year, I shall bake the perfect loaf of bread. So say we all.
For the first time in a long time, I have no preconceived ideas about what this next year of life will bring me. Last year has taught me that the status quo can change in an instant. The year ahead is filled with challenges I can’t begin to anticipate, but I hope to face each one with courage, determination, and a sense of wonder.
It’s publication day for my newest short story! All Worlds Wayfarer is publishing my story “Firemaker” in their December 2020 issue, now available to read online for free or available as an ebook from Amazon. I’m beyond excited that this story has finally found a home. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read the story yet, I hope you will before reading much further, because this is the point of no return if you wish to avoid spoilers. I love a good time travel tale. It’s a familiar trope for good reason — it allows us to imagine our reality in surprising ways. If we had a machine like the one my protagonist has at his disposal, I think we’d all be tempted to see what tomorrow had in store for us, or long to correct what once went wrong. But what happens once you’ve seen and done it all? Where would a weary time travel go to escape the sweeping currents of history? That’s the question at the heart of “Firemaker.”
I started tinkering with this idea about three years ago, when I fell down a rabbit hole of information about linguistics. I remember reading about linguists searching for an ancient “mother tongue,” a lost language theorized to be the ancestor of today’s Indo-European language family. This missing language, dubbed “Proto Indo-European” can be extrapolated by looking for common words that may indicate a common root in the distant past. According to some theories, scraps of this language embedded in our modern lexicon may be the only surviving evidence of a hunter-gatherer society that existed more than 15,000 years ago. From that starting place, I began to imagine this society as a small band that did not survive the Ice Age, leaving behind nothing but their language. A dead-end civilization, cut off from us by a climactic disaster.
Some time later, this idea merged with another one that was rolling around in my mind. I was thinking about time travel as a plot device, about the nature of time, and where a time traveler who’s tired of roaming might go. How might such a traveler retire after untold decades exploring every corner of history from the dawn of the dinosaurs to the destruction of the Earth? Where would I go if I wanted to avoid making disruptive changes to the timeline and simply be? In that position, I might want to find a quiet corner of time where I knew I couldn’t alter the flow of history, among people who would eventually disappear from the historical record. Perhaps an Ice Age civilization destined to die out.
These two threads came together in an early draft of a story titled “Amber.” In that first version, the Traveler goes into the distant past to escape from the responsibility of knowing how everything would turn out. In that story, the Traveler came across as cold and detached, weighing the impact of his every action before committing to anything. In the story, he saves a boy from drowning, but only after deciding that doing so will have no adverse affect on history. It was an interesting thought experiment, but it lacked emotional stakes.
So, I made some changes, put it away for a year or two, and then pulled it out again to fine-tune it. In the final story, the Traveler is much more impulsive and driven not by a sense of duty not to screw up time, but love for a woman with the potential to ensure her people’s survival as ice sheets bear down on their valley. “Firemaker” is a lot more fun than its earlier incarnation because of the protagonist’s willingness to throw away his whole life in order to get himself to Immaru ahead of schedule. But it also incorporates an undercurrent of uncertainty about whether or not we can ever understand or manipulate time. In the end, I honestly don’t know if the Traveler’s actions constitute a paradox or if that’s how it was always supposed to be and free will is an illusion. And I don’t know if the Traveler made it back to the tavern to order the drinks or if he ever existed at all. That’s the fun of time travel, and I hope you enjoyed the trip.
“Firemaker” is now available to read on the All Worlds Wayfarer website. All Worlds Wayfarer publishes quarterly on the solstice and equinox, so you have until March 20, 2021 to read my short fiction there before the next issue is published. If you’d like a copy you can keep forever, please consider supporting the lit journal by purchasing the Kindle version on Amazon. Thanks for reading!
Sometime in late April, I fell down a rabbit hole of links learning about the history of the plague in Europe. It was a dark impulse in the middle of a modern-day pandemic, but I became fascinated by the plague doctor costume, a head-to-toe covering designed to protect the physician from infected patients. Through my research, I learned that the costume itself may not have been widely used, but those who adopted it reflected a new wave of understanding infectious disease in the West — the personal protective equipment of the day.
The mask, while turning the wearer into an ominous looking bird, was meant to filter out contaminated air (“miasma”) with strong-smelling herbs and spices. The gloves and robes prevented the doctor from physically touching their patients and the staff may have allowed them to give direction from a safe distance.
Over the years, as our understanding of disease prevention and treatment evolved, so did the protective garb employed by doctors and nurses to mitigate infection. Gradually, the plague doctor uniform disappeared…
…but what if it didn’t? That was the starting point for the short story that been published this month by Creative Colloquy. In this story, I update the plague doctor for today’s COVID-19 pandemic. Now, I know we’re all awash in coronavirus anxiety, so I promise this will be my only pandemic-themed fiction for a while. But, I hope you enjoy my twist.
Please let me know what you think in the comments, thanks for reading, and please wear a mask and wash your hands. Thanks!
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Jonny Eberle lives in Tacoma, WA with his wife, three typewriters, and a puppy. His fiction has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the monthly newsletter for exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.