Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Maureen McVeigh Trainor, M.F.A.

Committee Member

Merry Perry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Luanne Smith, M.F.A.


Ashlanders is a science fiction novel that takes place in post-apocalyptic America. After the Yellow Stone Caldera explodes, the continent is covered in a permanent cloud of ash. The novel starts in medias res with Michael, a smuggler looking for a package that he will exchange for his family’s freedom. When Michael returns, he encounters an old friend named Vex. However, the real Vex is dead, and an android has taken her place. As the chapter closes, both Michael and the android are taken hostage. The ensuing chapters alternate between three different viewpoints – Vex, Michael, and Michael’s oldest sister, Zee. In the android’s chapter, Vex attempts to infiltrate Michael’s smuggling ring. Zee’s chapter explores life outside of The Derelect and is heavily inspired by works such as N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, where citizens from post-apocalyptic societies must work together to overcome their greatest enemy: mankind. In Ashlander’s final chapter, Zee attempts to free herself from imprisonment with the help of a Scavenger named Sahar.

Much of the novel takes place within a prison known as “The Derelect,” where government dissidents are sentenced to harvest ash for the government’s profit. The Derelect has several real-world influences, including the Trump administration’s policies on illegal immigration and the imprisonment of young children as well as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Ashlanders explores themes such as the prison-for-profit system and the effect incarceration has on young children. Overall, Ashlanders’ goal is to serve as a cautionary tale for future generations.