About Stacy Carlson

Stacy Carlson

My work springs from forgotten details of the historical past. Scientists once believed swallows hibernated at the bottom of lakes; Russian monks aboard a ship in the arctic claimed they saw Judas Iscariot adrift on an ice floe; Harlem was once a savanna, and PT Barnum once hosted a devious buffalo hunt in Brooklyn. Who were those monks and what were they doing in the arctic? What, exactly, was in a scientist’s 18th century cabinet of wonders? What manner of wildlife wandered the Harlem grasslands? I catch details that flash with this poetic possibility and harness the imaginative worlds that spring up around them. I build novels for these worlds to live in.

Antebellum America is a period so far removed from us that I consider it in the realm of folklore. The northern half of Manhattan Island was still covered by farms and marshland (and savanna). In the lower half, the Five Points was a terribly fascinating nest of vipers just around the corner from a primordial Wall Street. Between these two poles, PT Barnum peddled dreams in a labyrinthine museum whose resemblance to Pandora’s box I try not to belabor. I was fascinated by the fictional possibilities of Barnum’s museum and inspired by the confluence (or collision) between the encyclopedic world view of the 18th century and the modern age of science and entertainment. Among the Wonderful is the result of this fascination.

My fiction and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin House, Post Road, In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing, and Inkwell. I was awarded a 2010 artist residency at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and received the 2003 Dana Portfolio Award, given for three book-length manuscripts. I have an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.

I grew up in Seattle and now live in Oakland, California. When I’m not writing novels I may be found working as a freelance historical ecologist  and writer/editor specializing in book development and all levels of technical and literary editing. My background includes work as a historical ecologist, in a fish cannery, as a hot springs caretaker, a field biologist on a bird refuge in southeast Alaska, and an assistant wilderness guide in arctic Alaska and Big Sur, California.