Landscapes Present… and Not

This past weekend we went hiking with our friends the Lattimore Family and Joan Saberhagen in one of Albuquerque’s gems: the Rinconada Canyon section of Petroglyph National Monument.

Wait! Before you run screaming, this is not going to be another description of the New Mexico landscape. At least not too much so. However, those of you who have read my fiction have probably already figured out that I like both archeology and being outside. Going hiking to various archeological or historical sites combines those interests nicely.

My interest in archeology pre-dates my marrying an archeologist. I had the idea for The Buried Pyramid (which is set in 1870’s Egypt) long before I knew Jim as more than a guy in my gaming group. However, I must admit that knowing Jim and living in New Mexico have given me opportunities to nourish my interest.

Petroglyph National Monument has three sections and, although Jim and I have hiked all of them repeatedly, Rinconada Canyon is our favorite. The petroglyphs in all three areas are both prehistoric (that is, pre-dating European contact) and historic (post-dating European contact, but excluding modern graffiti). The petroglyphs themselves are evocative and often religiously symbolic: masks, hand prints, bear paws, snakes, stars, cloud terraces, shield figures, and even full masked dancers.

Although The Buried Pyramid is the only one of my novels to be built around my interest in archeology, several of my short stories have permitted me to explore my interest.

“Hell’s Bane” in the anthology Battle Magic is set in large part right in Rinconada Canyon. It also features the Three Sisters, as the dormant volcanoes on the western edge of Albuquerque are known.

“Jeff’s Best Joke” in Past Imperfect is the only story I’ve ever written where people I know are the main characters: in this case, my husband, Jim, and his frequent co-director, Jeff. You might say I couldn’t separate the archeology from the archeologists, but it would also be accurate to say I couldn’t separate the tricksters from the tricks.

“Out of Hot Water” in Earth, Air, Fire, Water also owes quite a bit to my knowing Jim. It’s set in the Ojo Caliente valley where he directed a project, and where I went out and volunteered several times – mostly by taking notes to free up the more skilled folks to dig and map out grids.

History and archeology are sides of the same coin. “Three Choices: The Story of Lozen” in New Amazons expands on the true story of the Apache war chief Victorio’s sister, Lozen. My forthcoming story, “Like the Rain,” in Golden Reflections is based on the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Archeology doesn’t need to be “real” to show up in my writing. “Ruins of the Past” in Far Frontiers and its sequel “Lies of Omission” in Silicon Dreams are pure science fiction – and yet are inspired by my pleasure in reading about the great archeological discoveries of the past.

So when I go hiking, I never quite know what I’ll discover. Archeologists walk through landscapes that combine their interest in the present and the past. Writers walk through landscapes that are both present – and are not.

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4 Responses to “Landscapes Present… and Not”

  1. Rowan Says:

    Sounds hiking with you and Jim is good times!

  2. Jane Lindskold Says:

    We do enjoy hiking. Jim takes his camera (by the way, we’re going to try to add a picture later), but I just kick back and look.

  3. Tori Says:

    I had no idea that archeology had inspired so many of your stories, aside from THE BURIED PYRAMID and “Jeff’s Best Joke.” I know that NM draws a lot of writers – do you think the archeology is a big factor?

  4. Jane Lindskold Says:

    Good question, Tori.

    I’m not sure archeology specifically, but certainly the mixture of cultures and long history do. Another factor I’ve heard mentioned as attractive to writers is the fact that high-tech science (as in Los Alamos and Sandia Labs) exists side by side with living “traditional” cultures. The contrast is fascinating.

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