During a research expedition to Bermuda for an introductory course in oceanography, Darcie Little Badger jumped in the water and swam in the deep ocean floating hundreds of feet above the Atlantic, ignoring everything below the surface.
“I hadn’t realized how cool and mysterious the ocean was, so I wanted to study and learn more about it,” Little Badger said of the experience while in grad school at Texas A&M. University.
Born Darcie Erin Ryan – Little Badger given in the tradition of the Lipan Apache tribe after graduating from high school – she is a geologist, writer, and graduated in oceanography in 2016. After earning a bachelor’s degree with honors in geosciences from the Princeton University, she wanted to pursue her studies in oceanography and applied to the Texas A&M graduate program.
This love for earth science is evident in Little Badger’s creative writing. Since graduating from Texas A&M, she has authored two books. Little Badger writes about the depths of human grief and violence, but also imagines a world where spirits, ghosts and animals coexist with humans.
In his latest book, “A Snake Falls To Earth,” Little Badger envisions what Texas might look like in the near future. The story follows a catastrophic event on Earth that brings together Nina, a Lipan girl, and Oli, a white-mouthed snake from the land of spirits and monsters. The characters’ worlds collide like they haven’t in centuries, and some will kill to tear them apart.
“Having this (scientific) background allowed me to write a world that, although it’s not a science paper, is a world that exists in the near future,” Little Badger said. “Of course when you think in terms of climate change what you can do is give your best because there is a range of potential futures depending on what we do by then. .”
Published in November 2021, “A Snake Falls To Earth” won Little Badger the 2022 Andre Norton Nebula Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for Middle Years and Young Adult Fiction.
Her curiosity for the natural world, her Texas Lipan Apache heritage, and her LGBTQ+ identity also influence Little Badger’s fiction.
“I’m going to write about characters that grew up in my culture and characters that are under the LGBTQ+ umbrella,” Little Badger said. “I wasn’t sure there was an audience for it, but I wrote it anyway because it’s the stories of my heart. I was hoping someone would read them.
Before her work was published, Little Badger says she had no idea how the public would receive her work. She had never read fantasy science fiction books about Lipan characters, and hardly any stories featuring native characters.
“In Texas in particular, our homeland has been taken away from us. It is an ongoing struggle not only to reclaim this land, but also to survive as indigenous people on our homeland, as climate change will progress in the future, making things like drought and extremely hot days more difficult” , said Little Badger.
At Texas A&M, Little Badger took a variety of classes to “absorb as much as possible”. In earth science, she learned, “everything is interconnected in different ways.” His thesis was on Karenia brevis, a species of plankton that causes a toxic red tide in the Gulf of Mexico.
“With plankton, what I’ve learned is that even though they’re super small and a lot of them can’t be seen without a microscope, they’re so important,” Little Badger said. “They are at the base of the food chain. They perform photosynthesis and affect the carbon cycle on our planet. The more I learned about them, the more I wanted to study them.
Biology professor Alan Pepper helped Little Badger with his thesis, which provides insight into the biology and genetics of a mysterious organism about which much remains to be discovered. Pepper, who worked with Little Badger to sequence part of the plankton genome, said his research shed light on the genes present in the organism and how to switch them on and off.
‘It was a pioneer project on a very strange organism,” Pepper said. “This has allowed further research into the physiology, molecular biology and ecology of Red Tide algae.”
Little Badger is the author of “Elatsoe”, his first novel, and several science fiction short stories. She is currently working on a third young adult fantasy book, short stories appearing in anthologies, and has a series of appearances planned for the rest of the year.