B. PladekOct 3, 2023
University of Wisconsin Press 2023
Today I talked to Ben Pladek about his novel Dry Land (University of Wisconsin Press, 2023).
Rand Brandt, a forester in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, discovers that his touch can grow any plant or tree. In this tale of Magical Realism, he dreams of using his gift to restore landscapes ruined by the lumber industry, but first needs to test his powers. Gabriel, his fellow forester, and secret lover, finds and saves Rand after he’s pushed himself by spending his nights sneaking into the forest instead of sleeping. It’s 1917 and the foresters are drafted to join in the fight in France. An old friend of Rand’s joins the press covering his unit and helps him cover his tracks. A commanding officer learns about Rand’s gift and demands that he grow forests for the wood needed to win the war, but Rand learns that everything he grows will die within days. Now, he’s keeping two major secrets, either of which, if discovered, could destroy him.
Ben Pladek is associate professor of literature at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His first novel, Dry Land, appeared in September 2023 with the University of Wisconsin Press. He’s previously published short fiction in Strange Horizons, The Offing, Slate Future Tense Fiction, and elsewhere. As a colleague pointed out to him, his short fiction is often set in the near-future and his longer fiction in the near-past; other recurring interests include ecology, messy relationships, messier bureaucracy, and people feeling guilty. He’s also written an academic book called The Poetics of Palliation: Romantic Literary Therapy, 1790-1850, that came out from Liverpool University Press in 2019, as well as a number of articles on British Romanticism. Before getting hired at Marquette, he did his PhD at the University of Toronto and taught for a year in the fantastic Foundation Year Programme at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When he moved to Wisconsin, he fell in love with the landscape and the state’s fascinating history of conservation, including the writings of Aldo Leopold. Ben and his husband have hiked all over Wisconsin. They especially enjoy the Northwoods, Horicon Marsh, and the southwest “driftless” area. In Ben’s spare time you can find him reading, birdwatching, taking long walks around Milwaukee, admiring wetlands, eating peanut butter, and taking pictures of informational signs at historical monuments that he’ll never go back and read.