If you don’t know who John Metcalfe is, you should, because — perhaps against your will — he will make you care about wastewater treatment novels. Know him. Love him. He recently wrote in The Atlantic about Dodge Winston’s self-published thriller The Wastewater Plant in terms so reverent they’re either earnestly heartfelt or induced by heavy drugs:
But if the name’s fake, Winston’s passion for wastewater is wholeheartedly real. Tell him that trouble at the sewage facility isn’t a gripping story line, and get ready for a fact-slap upside the dome.
Let me back up. Winston spewed out his fourth novel based on his experience working in a wastewater treatment plant in greater San Francisco. I know, at first I was like “Why write a book about watery poo?” which is unlike me, because usually I love that stuff. Turns out wastewater treatment plants have just as much atmosphere as your everyday CSI set:
“When I work the graveyard shift it can get eerie,” he says. “It’s real quiet out there with the water dripping and chains swinging around and dark places that are underground and no one can hear you…. And if you have a creative imagination and like to write, it doesn’t help,” with the freaky heebie-jeebies, says Winston.
In the book, a horrific monster emerges after a freak rainstorm, terrorizing the employees at the wastewater plant and even snuffing out a life or two in the facility’s bathroom (NEVER PEE ALONE). The book includes a map of the plant “so readers can follow the suspense and action,” Winston’s site says.
But writing the book wasn’t just an idle distraction from his day job. Winston is trying to get the word out that although wastewater treatment plants may sound like a boring mouthful, they’re actually vital to our survival. “Wastewater is the original ‘green’ job,” he told Public Works Magazine. Not a fan of cholera and typhoid? Then it’s time to redneckognize. As he writes to his coworkers in the acknowledgements:
This book is my way of getting your hard work out to the world. You all deserve the kind of recognition firefighters, police officers, and health care staff get. You help keep civilization safe from the things no one can see or really ever want to see. High fives all around!
If that isn’t fucking noble, I don’t know what is.
A novel approach, Public Works Magazine.
The Best (and First?) Sci-Fi Novel Ever Set in a Wastewater Treatment Plant, The Atlantic.