“Family Tree” — David Barr Kirtley

David Barr Kirtley has been described as “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His work frequently appears in Realms of Fantasy, and he has also sold fiction to the magazines Weird Tales and Intergalactic Medicine Show, the podcasts Escape Pod and Pseudopod, and the anthologies New Voices in Science Fiction, The Dragon Done It, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year. I’ve previously published him in my The Living Dead and The Living Dead 2 anthologies and in my online science fiction magazine Lightspeed. Kirtley is also the co-host (with me) of The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Everyone loves treehouses. Our distant ancestors lived in trees, of course, so maybe it all goes back to that. In fact, the Korowi people in Papua New Guinea still live in tree houses, as protection against a neighboring tribe. Some modern treehouses reach rather spectacular levels of scale and luxury, but nothing like what you’ll see in our next story.

“I was visiting my grandmother,” Kirtley says, “and she uses a computer program called Family Tree Maker. When I glanced at the box for that, it gave me this idea for a literal tree that the family lives in, where each branch of the tree corresponds to a branch of the family. (Good fantasy ideas often come from literalizing metaphors.) Then I got the idea that if a line of the family died out, their branch of the tree would wither and die as well, which immediately started suggesting possible conflicts. It’s hard to come up with a fantasy idea that hasn’t been done a million times already, and this was one I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. It took me a long time to work out exactly how things would unfold. I spent a lot of time drawing tree diagrams.”