In 1984, Chantelle Mansfield started writing a novel. She was 19 years old when she wrote the first pages of what would become an 800-page work of science fiction. She worked on it for 25 years.
The story takes the form of a journal, written by a teenage girl named Mary Elizabeth Quinn in the year 2025. Mary was five when the world ended, and raised in isolation by her mother at a cabin in Ontario. The story chronicles Mary’s attempt to get off the planet and onto the utopic space colonies circling the ruined Earth.
The journal is footnoted by a historian named Mansfield McKee who uncovered it at an archaeological dig hundreds of years in the future. McKee has a theory: that the first Keeper of History of the new age – who saved countless books and other pieces of history in caches around the North American continent in the years after the Destruction Time that ended the world – and scrappy, foul-mouthed Mary Quinn are one and the same. His theory is that this is the journal of Keeper One.
In 1993, Chantelle had her first child. Keeper One became the backdrop to her daughter Brontë Mansfield’s rural childhood: her house was filled with books about nuclear fallout and O’Neill Space Cylinders, she and her brother acted out fictional fight scenes for their mother to watch and describe, and family vacations to Space Camp and Mammoth Cave were quiet research trips for her mom’s book. Chantelle’s fictional world bled into reality. She braced for Y2K with stores of food and water, and a hand-pump for well water. Last Christmas, she gave her daughter a “bug out bag” stocked with rations, a portable water filtration system, foil blanket, and map with walking routes back from Chicago to Wisconsin. “Just in case,” she said.
Chantelle finished the book in the late 2000s, but it was never published. Now, a decade after Chantelle finished writing, Brontë is turning her mother’s work into an audio story. In addition to sharing the text of the unpublished novel, the podcast will explore the story of the novel's creation: the deeply personal story of a mother and daughter and the work of fiction that shaped their lives.
Chantelle Mansfield was born in Rockford, Illinois in 1965. In the 1980s, she studied English literature and creative writing at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and started writing a book. In the 90s, she had children, and raised them on a nutritious diet of Stargate SG-1, Aliens, Dunkin’ Donuts, and crystals from a nearby New Age bookstore. While her children were small, she would wake up at 5 AM (what she calls “the ass crack of dawn”) to squeeze in a couple hours of writing before her kids got up. Her home in rural Wisconsin is filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and posters of William Faulkner. She feeds all her children and the entire population of her town (all 100 of them) with her carefully-planned garden. For more than twenty years, she has met with the same writing group and gone to the same hairdresser, Larry, to dye her blonde hair to match the season: red for Christmas, a subtle pink for Easter, and orange for Halloween. Her favorite book has always been and always will be Huckleberry Finn.
Brontë Mansfield is an audio producer, writer, and journalist based in Chicago. Her audio work has been showcased at UnionDocs and the Independent Filmmakers Project. She has worked for institutions like the Art Institute of Chicago, producing sound and field recordings for museum exhibitions. She has a cat named Buffy, so that tells you a lot, I think.
BRIAN FABRY DORSAM
Co-Producer, voice of Mansfield McKee
Brian writes, draws, and produces a podcast called Character Creator in Chicago, where they live with their two cats, Jimmy and Kali. Their downstairs landlord thinks they only have one cat, so when you come over, please call them 'Jimmy' and 'Jimmy'.
Voice of Mary Quinn
Savannah is a born-and-raised Chicago artist. She most recently appeared in Pretty-Soon's short film for New Zealand Fashion Week. Other credits include a Chicago production of Rent and music videos for Airlings ("By Thorns”) and Joey Purp ft. Chance the Rapper ("Girls @"). Between teaching dance to Chicago Public School youth, acting, and modeling, you can find her doing yoga with her sweet pup River.
Cher is a Chicago-based science teacher-turned-audio producer, currently as an Audio Producer for One Illinois. She is the cofounder of Postloudness, a collective of audio shows featuring people of color, women, and/or queer-identified hosts. Cher has produced stories for Gimlet Media, MTV News, Spotify, Buzzfeed, WNYC, WBEZ, and The New York Times.
Brian is a sound and video artist based in Amsterdam. His exploratory music project, Names for Sounds, features a rotating cast of collaborators and spans genres from folk and collage to post-rock and atonal ambient. While not composing, you can find him tending to his aquaponic garden or sprinting after a disc in front of the Rijksmuseum.
Elyse is a multimedia artist and audio producer for radio, podcasts, film, and space. Based in New York, she collaborates with artists, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, and nonprofit organizations to produce immersive and narrative-based media. She is currently a fellow at UnionDocs and audio producer for Brown Planet Productions. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally in various publications, galleries, and film festivals, from The New Yorker to Tribeca. She has a Master's in Oral History and a Bachelor's in Human Rights, Environmental Science, and Choreography.