I met Michael David Lipkan a few years ago at the Solar Fiesta (New Mexico has a fiesta for everything), an event primarily aimed homeowners looking to install rooftop solar panels, but which also included things like an electric car race, a solar oven cookie bake-off, and educational panels about sustainable architecture, climate change, and other green topics. Michael's presentation on Linear Cities gave me tons of ideas about how solarpunk cities could look and work. So when I started planning the Solarpunk Anthology Translation Kickstarter, I tracked him down to ask if he'd be willing to offer a concept consultation—my hope was that a couple of solarpunk writers might take advantage of his vast knowledge to better inform their own worldbuilding!
Below, please enjoy a brief interview with Michael David Lipkan, in which we talk about sustainable technology, and what kinds of conflicts might still arise in a solarpunk world.
Sarena Ulibarri: There’s a ton of information about sustainable cities on your Imagine Cities website! Can you break down what you think are the most important principles for a sustainable future city?
Michael David Lipkan: Perhaps the most important principle for building a sustainable future city is the ability to live close to the food supply. That idea is integrally linked to many other systems that are part of the processes or supported by the processes that provide food for the citizens.
Renewable energy in all its variety of forms should be integrally linked to the performance of the city. Solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass conversion are high on the list of renewables we should be using.
SU: Have you seen/read any science fiction movies or books with cities that look like the future you envision?
MDL: I have not read or seen any books that are like the kind of city I envision for the future. As a child I remember reading a story I believe, by Isaac Asimov, about what I call glidewalks. Airports use glide walks to speed passengers along their concourses. Basically, they are moving conveyor belts that people can walk on. I believe we should use many more of these kinds of devices in the future.
SU: Stories still have to have conflict to be interesting, even those set in beautiful eco-friendly cities. What kinds of new conflicts do you think might arise in this kind of a future world?
MDL: I believe certain kinds of conflicts will probably be inevitable despite the humane and eco friendly nature of any city we build. That is because there are conflicts that are a result of emotional disturbances and are not controlled by rational thought.
By reducing design-provoked stress, we make the city easier on our emotions. For me, overhead telephone poles, power lines, and advertising signs have been stressors throughout my life. In the 1970s, main arterial streets packed with business signs seemed like an artist’s nightmare of mismatched juxtapositions of form and color. Hot parking lots, non-point source toxic pollution cocktails caused by environmental contamination, and noise are a few more.
I like to think we can build egalitarian cities in the future. Individual wealth and power would be determined by using a standardized, comprehensive test of mental acuity and physical health. From first grade on, students are taught that doing well in school is paramount to future success in life. This is made believable since pay would be determined by comprehensive test scores and not a person’s job or occupation. The extreme gap between the highest and lowest paid people is reduced enough to cause a universal sense of economic justice. This reduces crime.
Despite efforts to help everyone believe the “Comprehensive Test” is fair, some may believe otherwise and steal to gain more wealth. The concept of self determined pay I am suggesting works within a controlled economy. Simplifying all manufacturing to the point of greatest workability aims to reduce ridiculous variety of similar products while mass producing higher quality for any items made. This is an egalitarian principle.
Healthcare is a right achieved by nationalizing healthcare for all. Healthcare should not be about making profit. That is contrary to the Hippocratic Oath. Additions to the Constitution encourage the consolidation of all healthcare providers. There is no greater reason for government to exist than caring for the people.
Crimes of passion will probably be more difficult to control than greed. The “Seven Deadly Sins” may be with us until enough social control factors are put in place. (Better healthcare for all reduces this probability.) Regardless of how close we come to building a “Justopia” (a portmanteau of justice and utopia) there will probably always be some who think they know better and prefer using violence instead of discourse to get their way.
SU: When did you first become interested in sustainability and alternative energy?
MDL: I have been concerned with concepts relating to sustainability since I was very young. I grew up believing it was wrong to be wasteful. When studying Physics in college I came to believe linear cities could help avoid much wasted energy in our transit systems. That epiphany started a schema in my mind that has grown with me as I learned about new problems. Nearly every problem from global warming to solving world hunger can solved or at least mitigated by building linear cities.
SU: What are some of the newest developments in sustainable technology that you’re most excited about?
MDL: There are many sustainable technologies that should supersede existing practices because they do more with less or accomplish a given job with better results. Higher quality with less muss and fuss. (Less entropy with similar results.)
Vertical farming techniques, under cabinet drawer refrigerators, electric automobiles, water desalinators, 3D printers, modern cell phones, LED TV’s (not LED backlit LCD TV’s), battery storage technologies, geopolymer bricks, light field photography, high speed computers, are an extreme understatement of sustainable technologies worth developing. Nearly everything we do or use as a tool can either be improved upon or eliminated as we consciously evolve toward the future. Everyone plays many parts as the future unfolds. The ideal society encourages everyone to be the best they can be.
Originally from Charles City, Iowa, Michael David Lipkan now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After visiting Arcosanti, an experimental eco-village in Arizona, he became profoundly aware of the dysfunctional nature of our cities, and has spent more than thirty years thinking, writing, creating images, and finding answers to correct our city problems. He is a board member of the New Mexico Solar Energy Association, and is the author of Imagine City: Dream the City Sustainable and Farming in the Sky, both available for free from the iBookstore. Find out more at www.imagine-city.info
Today is release day for Sunvault, a new anthology from Upper Rubber Boot. In Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation, you can find optimistic sci-fi stories by authors such as Daniel José Older, Nisi Shawl, Lavie Tidhar, A.C. Wise, and many more.
Check out my interview with the Sunvault editors, and then pick up a copy of their book at Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, or IndieBound.
And, if you want to support even more solarpunk fiction, check out the Kickstarter to fund the translation of the earliest solarpunk work from Brazilian Portuguese into English: www.kickstarter.com/projects/262808239/solarpunk-anthology-translation
Sarena Ulibarri: Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation was your first time editing an anthology, right? How did that process go? Was it harder or easier than you anticipated?
Brontë Christopher Wieland: It was! The process has been long, and we’ve done a lot that I used to imagine was unachievable. Like… Phoebe and I ran a Kickstarter that raised over $6000??? Isn’t that territory for people way more adept at the publishing world than I am? Ultimately, the process went much more smoothly than I had anticipated, and I think that was largely because Joanne Merriam of Upper Rubber Boot Books is a powerhouse. She seemed to know the ins and outs of just about everything, and Phoebe and I both learned a lot from her over the last two years.
Phoebe Wagner: I second that about the wonderful, amazing Joanne Merriam. She works so hard to make the SF world a better place, and it was a privilege and important learning experience to work with her at Upper Rubber Boot Books. The anthology was a new experience, and totally rewarding by the end. Reading submissions was fun and exciting (if not exhausting), but I definitely wasn’t sure how to go about helping on social media, which is still a mystery to me. The hardest part was rejecting stories that we liked but weren’t right for the anthology.
SU: Can you give a couple of teasers about some of the stories we’ll find in Sunvault?
BW: How do y’all feel about generation ships, burgeoning sentience in refuse collection droids, solar sails, self-sustaining smart buildings, oil struggles, community-centered educational systems, asteroid mining, reforestation, and planet- and society-saving genetic engineering?
PW: Everything from AR resistance to Strandbeests to genetic modification. Without spoiling the story, one that I think about a lot is “Death of Pax” by Santiago Belluco. It deals with ideas of evolution and genetic modification and the story changed my ideas on GMs and their utilization.
SU: What does the “punk” in solarpunk mean to you?
BW: So so so so so much. This is an important question, because “punk” in a genre name often connotes an aesthetic derivative of cyberpunk’s techno-orientalism, something that is mostly lacking in solarpunk. Solarpunk is still punk as hell, though.
To me, the root of a -punk genre necessarily needs to be countercultural. In a very basic way, solarpunk responds to and challenges SF and Hollywood’s recent spell of “gritty reboot” stories. More deeply, though, solarpunk manifests a counterculture in the ways that it is community-focused, anti-capitalist, decolonial, inclusive, etc. Solarpunk presents an alternative. Every piece in Sunvault is in some way a response to the artists’ concerns for the world around them and a little nugget of hope.
PW: This question comes up a lot from people exploring the solarpunk community, which does have an optimistic element that many seem to consider un-punk. To me, solarpunk is all about resistance, and what’s more punk than that? A resistance of consumerism, capitalism, environmental destruction, selfish individualism, racism, ableism, homophobia, sexism, specisim, and on. Solarpunk has a strong DIY and community aspect that always attracted me to “punk” in general.
SU: What do you most hope to see in new books and stories following the solarpunk tradition?
BW: This sounds corny, I know, but I want to see what more and more new voices bring to the genre; I want to see solarpunk reimagined and reborn with every new story. I want to see what solarpunk looks like to those of cultures, classes, faiths, places not represented in Sunvault. I especially want to see solarpunk become ever more decolonial, and I would love to see indigenous voices from around the world become central to the genre.
PW: Hopefulness, joy, new ways of resistance, community. Speculative fiction has a way of shaping the future (from the early conception of Sunvault, Star Trek and how it inspired the cell phone has been in the back of my mind). Right now, SF is predicting a pretty bleak place. Let’s imagine change and inspire people to create solutions. Like Brontë said, I hope solarpunk gets decolonial AF. I’d love to see more international voices and more connection with the science communities. I day dream of a collaborative series of solarpunk stories/poems/art where the artist and scientists work together to create and inform the solarpunk ideas.
SU: What’s next for you, either as writers or as editors?
BW: First I have to cry a lot, then I have to finish my novel! After that, who knows? Hopefully, I can finally write some solarpunk of my own.
PW: I’m finishing up my graduate thesis right now—a YA novel that, while not solarpunk, does deal with climate change in a non-dystopian way. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.
Phoebe Wagner grew up in Pennsylvania, the third generation to live in the Susquehanna River Valley. She spent her days among the endless hills pretending to be an elf and eventually earned a B.A. in English: Creative Writing from Lycoming College. Follow her on Twitter: @pheebs_w
Brontë Christopher Wieland is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing & Environment at Iowa State University, where he thinks about language, storytelling, nature, history, community, and their intersections. His fiction has previously appeared in Flash Fiction Online and Hypertext Magazine and his poetry in FreezeRay. Follow him on Twitter: @beezyal
Recently, I've had the opportunity to do a number of interviews, mostly about my publishing company, World Weaver Press. (Oh, and one that's totally about yoga, because I've started teaching again.) It's always a little tricky to decide what to say—I want to give a lot of information, but I know people don't want to hear me ramble for too long. It's fun, though, to peek out of my isolated writer/editor cave and talk about what I do and what I love.
If you're interested, there's a lot of information in these about who I am and what I do. All of these are text interviews except for the last one, which is about a 20 minute video.
Here they are:
Underground Book Review: Shelfies
Fantasy Faction: Small Press, Big Stories—World Weaver Press
LitReactor: Why Do So Many Indie Presses Fail?
Book Club Babble: The Inside Scoop on Small Press Publishing
Yoga by Julia: Team Member—Sarena
Black Gate: Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastic Stories in a Sustainable World Kickstarter
Want to know about something I didn't talk about in these? Feel free to ask in the comments, or interview me on your blog!
My anthology Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers is open for submissions today through November 15, 2017. I'm looking for short stories (up to 8000 words) about summertime in a solarpunk world.
What's solarpunk? See my blog about it here.
What does it mean to "edit an anthology"? See my blog about that here.
Writing solarpunk, but your story doesn't match my theme? See other solarpunk markets here.
I've wanted to do this anthology for a long time, and I'm excited to see what comes in to the slush pile. I'm hoping to see a lot of stories about optimistic futures with cool tech and colorful settings. I'm calling this anthology "Glass and Gardens" because those two images evoke the solarpunk aesthetic: glass for solar panels and skyscrapers, gardens for farms and urban greenery.
This is a paying market for writers, but how much World Weaver Press will be able to pay depends on reaching some stretch goals in a Kickstarter that's currently running. The Kickstarter supports the translation of a different Solarpunk anthology from Portuguese to English, and the stretch goals support author payments for Glass and Gardens. Click here to see more about the Kickstarter.
Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers Submission Guidelines
GLASS & GARDENS: SOLARPUNK SUMMERS
Anthologist: Sarena Ulibarri
Open for Submissions: August 15, 2017 - November 15, 2017
Expected Publication: Summer 2018
Story Length: up to 8,000 words
Payment: TBD (Determined by Kickstarter success.)
Solarpunk is a type of eco-conscious science fiction that imagines an optimistic future founded on renewable energies. It might take place in a wind-powered skyscraper or on a solar-powered robotic farm. Often coupled with an art nouveau aesthetic, and always inclusive and diverse, solarpunk stories show the ways we have adapted to climate change, or the ways we have overcome it.
For this anthology, I want to see solarpunk summers. Show me futuristic stories that take place in summer, whether that involves a summer night in a rooftop garden, or characters adapting to extreme heat and weather, or an annual migration to cooler lands. Keep it planet-based (Earth or other), and optimistic. Solarpunk worlds aren’t necessarily utopias, but they definitely aren’t dystopias.
We're a northern hemisphere publisher, but southern hemisphere summers are also welcome!
Need inspiration? Read New York 2140 or Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson, Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation, or Wings of Renewal: A Solarpunk Dragon Anthology.
Submission Method: Send your story as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachment to solarpunk[at]worldweaverpress[dot]com with Submission: [story title] in the subject line. Please include a brief cover letter, but DO NOT summarize your story in the cover letter.
Simultaneous submissions = okay. Multiple submissions = no.
About the Anthologist: Sarena Ulibarri attended the Clarion Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers' Workshop in 2014 and earned an MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her fiction has appeared in magazines such as Lightspeed and Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, as well as anthologies such as Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures and Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction. She has been Editor-in-Chief of World Weaver Press since 2016, and edited the anthology Speculative Story Bites.
Leena Likitalo is one of the fantastic authors I was lucky enough to get to know at the Clarion Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers' Workshop, which we both attended in the summer of 2014. Though many of our cohort have published a good deal of short fiction since that summer (some of it very well received), and a few have landed small press book deals, Leena is the first of our group to be published with a "Big Five" publisher like Tor. THE FIVE DAUGHTERS OF THE MOON by Leena Likitalo is out today, July 25, 2017, and the sequel, THE SISTERS OF THE CRESCENT EMPRESS will be available in November 2017.
I'm thrilled that more people will finally have the chance to experience the wondrous worlds that flow from Leena Likitalo's fingertips.
Inspired by the 1917 Russian revolution and the last months of the Romanov sisters, The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo is a beautifully crafted historical fantasy with elements of technology fueled by evil magic.
Sarena Ulibarri: In a nutshell, what was the path from manuscript to publication for THE FIVE DAUGHTERS OF THE MOON?
Leena Likitalo: The Five Daughters of the Moon came to me, demanding to be told right at that moment, and perhaps that's why everything happened so very fast.
The story came to me first in November 2014. I had just started in a new job and resolved not to work on any novels for the time being. This story didn't care about that! It was so insistent that I had no other option but to scribble it down as a short story.
The good thing about insistent stories is that they pretty much write themselves. The next summer, when I had some time off from work, I jotted down a synopsis for the duology — by then I'd realized the story was too big and complex for one book. It took me around three months to complete the first draft of the novel, and in November 2015, I had a book in my hands.
I'd been in touch with Claire Eddy—my editor-to-be—before about a different project. While she said no to that one, her kind feedback encouraged me to approach her with my new project in February 2016.
Fast-forward to June of the same year, and there I was with a two-book deal from Tor.com, represented by the wonderful Cameron McClure of Donald Maass Literary Agency.
SU: What advice do you have for young writers who are struggling through the first draft of a fantasy novel?
LL: You can do it. You can. Just keep on writing. Word after word. Sentence after sentence. See, put them after each other like that. There's your first page, chapter, and the rest will follow. It's fine if you don't know how the story is going to end. Eventually you'll get there if you just keep on going.
Keep on writing. Write every day, even if it's just a word, even if that word is wrong, or perhaps it's the right one. One sentence a day is a lot. A whole page? You're on the right track.
Finish what you're writing. Cherish it. Toss it away in shame. Both are fine. As long as you feel something toward what you wrote, you're doing it right. If it's bad, you know you should probably try a different thing next time around. If it's good, then great!
Google. Google your favorite author and how they got where they are now. Read forums on how to become a writer. Learn the trade. Blog post after another, websites, too. Standard manuscript format, synopsis, query, publishing deal anatomy, foreign rights. You want to know all about them. Just in case one day…
So you have a novel in your hands? I'm so happy for you! Is it ready go or do you want to work on it still? It's ready? Then it's time for the next step on your journey.
Query agents. Get rejected. Cry. Get over it. Submit again. Rinse and repeat. This is writer's life.
Put the first novel into a drawer. Start a new one. Rinse and repeat until success follows. It might take only one iteration. Or then nine. But eventually, one day, maybe one day your writerly dreams will come true.
SU: What books, authors, or films most influenced you when writing THE FIVE DAUGHTERS OF THE MOON?
LL: I've always loved Russian literature. When I was fourteen, we read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in school. I was the only kid in my class that cheered on the assignment. But darn, that language, the impeding melancholy… that's my cup of tea. And if you want to read a novel with the most fabulous cast of characters ever brought to life, try War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Around the time The Five Daughters of the Moon came to me, I wanted to brush up my Swedish. Maria Turtschaninoff had just won the prestigious Finlandia Junior prize for her novel Maresi, and so I decided to try that one.
Maresi is a quiet and dark story that builds up slowly and stays with you months and months after reading the last page. The women in the story are strong, each in their own unique way. This novel inspired me to seek new dimensions in the stories I had to tell -- I realized that it was possible to write tales where women are in control of their own fates even if the world is set against them.
Now movies, you ask? Gimme historical dramas. I like the aesthetics of Downtown Abbey – the dresses, the country houses, ridiculous dedication to etiquette. Another favorite of mine are the Hercule Poirot movies. The best one is of course Murder on the Orient Express.
SU: What’s your favorite memory from the Clarion Workshop?
LL: Ah, Sarena, you should know that there are too many to name just one!
I think the utmost best thing about Clarion was making connections that last for years and years to come. We're still in touch with my group, and it's been immeasurably valuable to me! No one understands writer's pain and anxiety like another writer… And to see my fellow classmates selling stories and becoming editors – it's a fabulous thing to witness!
SU: How many stories did you write at Clarion, and what became of them?
LL: I had decided that I would write six stories in Clarion, and while I did stay true to my decision, I think I might have been better off with just four or five.
My Week 1 story was not good at all, and I knew it even when writing it. The sole purpose of that story was to remove the writerly blocks lingering in my blood and get going with the actual business of telling tales.
My Week 2 story, Operating Santa's Machine, was a hit amongst my Clarion classmates — but let's just say that there's not much market for naughty Santa stories.
My Week 3 story, Give Your All to the Cause, started as a silly car-ride conversation about buying political favors with organ donations. It took me half a year to finish this story, but once it was done, I was very happy with it. This one found home at Galaxy's Edge magazine and I think it's one of my best scifi stories to date.
My Week 4 story, The Village At the Shadow of a Sleeping Cyclop, crushed me. It spiraled out of control, and I couldn't finish it in the way I wanted. I'm still thinking of fixing it, because I like the imagery and concept. But there's so many stories I really want to tell, that this one might need to wait a few more years still.
After Week 4, I was sure I couldn't piece another story together. And then this epic poem came to me pretty much out of nowhere, and so Ocelia, Ocelia was born. Jeff VanderMeer bought it for weirdfictionreview.com, and there's a Finnish translation available, too, coming out hopefully this year still.
And then there was Week 6 — rather than letting an idea come to me, I decided to go with an idea I'd been toying with for some time already. The end result was crafted rather than organic. Not my finest piece.
SU: Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you?
LL: Worldcon 75 will be organized in Helsinki — my very hometown. I'll be participating in a panel there, and hanging out in countless others.
You can find more about me and these events in www.leenalikitalo.com.
Leena Likitalo hails from Finland, the land of endless summer days and long, dark winter nights. She lives with her husband on an island at the outskirts of Helsinki, the capital. But regardless of her remote location, stories find their way to her and demand to be told.
While growing up, Leena struggled to learn foreign languages. At sixteen, her father urged her to start reading in English, and thus she spent the next summer wading through his collection of fantasy and science fiction novels. She has fond memories of her "teachers": J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Roger Zelazny, and Vernor Vinge.
Leena breaks computer games for a living. When she's not working, she writes obsessively. And when she's not writing, she can be found at the stables riding horses and playing polocrosse.
You can visit her online at www.leenalikitalo.com.
Since solarpunk stories are (usually) science fiction, you can send your solarpunk story to any of the big science fiction magazines: Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, F&SF, Strange Horizons, etc. If the story’s good enough, and it fits what they’re seeking for their next issue, they might publish it. I’d love to read more solarpunk stories in the professional SFF magazines! But what are the magazines and anthologies that are actively looking for solarpunk right now? Below are ten paying markets, either themed issues, themed anthologies, or solarpunk-friendly magazines that might be interested in publishing your solarpunk story.
Just starting to submit your fiction to magazines and anthologies? Check out my Six Step Sequence for Submitting Short Stories for tips about how to make a good impression on editors. Not sure what solarpunk is? Check out the reference guide.
Know about solarpunk magazines, anthologies, or contests I left out? Leave the info in the comments!
Anthology, Published by Afrocentric Books
Submission Window: closes September 30, 2017
Length: 1,000 to 7,500 words
Payment: $0.01 per word
Futurism is a broad umbrella, encompassing many elements of science fiction and fantasy. For this anthology, we are most interested in science fiction. Time travel, space travel, cultures far advanced from our own. This world, other worlds, space stations, the setting doesn’t matter.
We want adult science fiction stories in diverse settings, featuring diverse people. The “in the future all people are a uniform color of café au lait” trope does not interest us. While it is not necessary for you to describe the physical features of all your characters, we do want to know that one of your main characters is of indigenous African descent.
Note: This is specifically a call for Afrofuturism, so a solarpunk story featuring characters of indigenous African descent could fit their needs.
2. Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns
Anthology, Edited by Rhonda Parrish, Published by Tyche Books
Submission Window: closes August 15, 2017
Length: up to 7500 words
Payment: $50 Canadian (non-Canadian authors welcome)
Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns will be filled with stories about every kind of fiery creature you can imagine, not only those listed in the subtitle. We’re looking for phoenixes, ifrits, salamanders, lava monsters and fiery beasts no one has ever heard of before. And of course this anthology will not be complete without at least one demon, dragon and djinn!
Note: In the editor’s Manuscript Wish List for this anthology, she specifically mentions wanting “a fiery solarpunk story.”
3. FutureScapes: Blue Sky Cities
Submission Window: closes October 13, 2017
Length: up to 8,000 words
Payment: $2000 first prize, $500 for 5 runners up, + publication in anthology
We’re seeking stories set in a near-future city where significant strides have been made toward improving air quality, climate adaptation, or even net positive impacts on climate and air quality.
We want to see your vivid ideas and concepts, but don’t forget the basics of story: strong voice, compelling characters driven by real desires, facing serious obstacles that sum to an engaging plot and story.
You need not paint us a utopia – we don’t really believe in those. We believe that at any given time, depending on individual perspective, every city has dystopian and utopian aspects. The key is to show us a solution, but don’t strip it of realistic political, scientific, or logistical obstacles, and don’t neglect the possibility and ramifications of unintended consequences from even the best solution.
Note: The first entry to this contest is free, but it costs $24 to submit a second story.
4. The Future Fire
Magazine, Edited by Djibril al-Ayad
Submission Window: ongoing
Length: up to 10,000 words
Payment: $20 per story
The Future Fire publishes beautiful and useful fiction and poetry that focuses on the social-political elements of imaginary, futuristic, fantastic, horrifying, surreal or otherwise speculative universes. We are particularly interested in feminist, queer, postcolonial and ecological themes, writing by under-represented voices, and stories from outside the Anglophone world.
Note: The Future Fire has also been collecting a list of recommendations for optimistic science fiction books.
5. Glass & Gardens: Solarpunk Summers
Anthology, Edited by Sarena Ulibarri, Published by World Weaver Press
Submission Window: August 15 to November 15, 2017
Length: up to 8000 words
Payment: Ranging from token ($10) to semi-pro (see guidelines for details)
Solarpunk is a type of eco-conscious science fiction that imagines an optimistic future founded on renewable energies. It might take place in a wind-powered skyscraper or on a solar-powered robotic farm, in a bustling green-roofed metropolis or in a small but tech-saavy desert village. Often coupled with an art nouveau aesthetic, and always inclusive and diverse, solarpunk stories show the ways we have adapted to climate change, or the ways we have overcome it.
For this anthology, I want to see solarpunk summers. Show me futuristic stories that take place in summer, whether that involves a summer night in a rooftop garden, or characters adapting to extreme heat and weather, or maybe an annual migration to cooler lands. Keep it planet-based (Earth or other), and optimistic. Solarpunk worlds aren’t necessarily utopias, but they definitely aren’t dystopias.
We're a northern hemisphere publisher, but southern hemisphere summers are also welcome!
Note: Full disclosure, I’m the primary editor for this project.
6. Hyperion and Theia
Anthology, Edited by E. O. Smith, Published by Radiant Crown Publishing
Submission Window: December 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018
Length: 1001 to 40,000 words
Payment: $0.01 per word
Year Two Theme: Rebus
Language offers up a whole new world if one can decipher the many meanings hidden within a word. Year Two of Hyperion and Theia wants stories and poetry that runs the gamut of genres and offers to the reader a rebus of sorts, filled with cryptic messages. Submit a sci-fi caper featuring humanity thwarting an alien invader with the use of signs and symbols. Dazzle us with a comedic horror in which communication with the dead takes on a whole new meaning.
Note: In their “Of Interest” section, they list: “Dieselpunk, Solarpunk, Weird Westerns, Cyberpunk, Magic Realism, Gothic Horror, Retrofuturism, Afrofuturism, Wuxia, Romantic Suspense, Historical, Capers, Gothic Romance, Neo-/Noir, and lesser known sub-genres”
7. Rebellion and Refuge
Anthology, Edited by Laura Harvey, Published by Pen and Kink Publishing
Submission Window: October 1 to November 30, 2017
Length: 1000 to 15000 words
Payment: $10 + copy of the anthology
This anthology will explore resistance and rebellion within a romantic context—because sometimes love has to take a stand—but it will also include stories of refuge because you can’t fight all the time, and sometimes love is the only thing that brings you peace (or at least a place to breathe).
We want stories of feisty park rangers fighting the good fight, couples falling in love at protest marches (bonus points if they start out on opposite sides of the issue) and people forced to choose between what is right and what is easy. We want stories where a character’s only emotional refuge is within the arms of their lover and ones where couples work together to do the things they believe will make the world a better place.
We’re open to stories at every heat and kink level, and any sort of pairing (or more-ing) that you can imagine. Stories must have a real conflict and tension with a HEA or HFN ending.
Note: This is a romance anthology, and most stories included will likely be contemporary or historical, but a near-future solarpunk romance still has a good shot at fitting what they’re looking for.
Magazine, Edited by Michael J. DeLuca
Submission Window: closes September 22, 2017
Length: up to 45,000 words
Payment: $0.06 per word
The short version: fiction preferably at least a tiny bit speculative, nonfiction preferably more creative than journalistic, poetry tending towards the narrative and preferably with some thematic heft, art your guess is as good as mine. But the heart of what I want is your searingly personal, visceral, idiosyncratic understanding of the world and the people in it as it has been, as it is, as it will be, as it could be, as a consequence of humanity’s relationship with the earth.
Note: Focused on stories of “environmental justice.” Darker tales or “pre-solarpunk” may do better here than stories that skip over how a solarpunk society was created.
9. Retro Future
Magazine, Edited by John Carimando
Submission Window: closes September 1, 2017
Length: 250-500 words is especially welcome; longer works may be serialized.
Payment: “We will always meet or exceed SFWA minimum compensation guidelines.” ($0.06 per word)
Issue Submission Themes—Issue #4: Resistance to oppression.
We welcome submissions of art and writing that approaches retrofuturism through a progressive lens. We are looking for forward-looking and optimistic science and science-fiction. Sensitive topics can be part of a good story, but a vision of a future better than our present is the focus of Retro Future.
Note: Retro Future is looking for both stories and comics. Future submission themes will vary, but their request for optimistic science fiction carries over between issues.
10. Seat 14C
Submission Window: closes August 25, 2017
Length: 2000 to 4000 words
Payment: $1500 + trip to Japan, + publication on website
Your short story is a first-person account of the passenger seated in 14C aboard ANA Flight #008. What does this person experience as they arrive in 2037 and explore a changed world? How has emerging (or not-yet-invented) technology altered society for the better, and how does your character discover and interact with this technology?
We are hopeful for our future, and we ask that your story creatively weaves technology and culture, envisioning an optimistic and exciting future for mankind.
Note: This contest is prompt-based, and writers should read some of the other “seats” to see what they’re looking for and what’s already been done. No fee to enter.
Guest Post by K.T. Ivanrest, author of the story "Lightless" in Equus, an anthology forthcoming July 18, 2017 from World Weaver Press
I seem to have a conflict problem. In the first draft of my Sirens story, "Threshold," there wasn’t enough conflict. In contrast, my early drafts of "Lightless" had too much. Below is a section of the first scene from an earlier version of "Lightless," and while I ultimately couldn’t make the fading/crime connection work with the rest of the story, I do like the extra tension it brought and wanted to share it (because what the world needs right now is more conflict, right? Right?...).
(Note: because it’s an early draft, it’s not the best-edited excerpt you’ll ever read. Bear with me.)
[Fulsa, locked in a tower with his slave Phaios, awaits the arrival of the empress.]
He peered down at his hands, but could discern no difference in their glow. It was impossible, here in this prison with only Phaios for company, to tell whether there had been any more change, any further dimming. Beside the lightless slave he always looked radiant, so bright he could almost forget what was happening, and then the empress would arrive for her weekly visit and he would see the truth again.
Her footsteps were soft tps on the polished stone stairway, her presence announced by the gradual spread of light that preceded her up the staircase, pressing away the shadows with proud disdain and careless ease.
“Your Imperial Majesty.” He knelt as she ascended the last of the stairs, the silver fabric of her coat rustling softly on the stone, scattering specks of light like jewels for the less fortunate.
“Fulsa.” Did she practice making his name sound like an insult, or did it just come naturally, a ready accompaniment to her anger and shame? “Another turn of the heavens. Are you, perhaps, finally prepared to make a confession?”
For the briefest moment he considered saying yes, inventing an offense and apologizing and begging her to let him free. But of course it would do no good—the fading would continue and she’d know he had lied, and still she would not believe he’d done nothing.
“No,” he said at last.
Her eyes narrowed to slits, her fury flashing like her ever-present light. “You persist in lying to me. Every day you pale further into night and yet you continue to insist that you are innocent.”
“I am. I’ve done nothing, I don’t know why this is hap—“
“Ridiculous,” she snapped. “I could overlook your crime, whatever it is, but your arrogance and dishonesty are unforgiveable.”
She gave him a long, searching look, perhaps trying to decide whether arrogance and dishonesty were severe enough defects to cause someone to fade. But if that were the case, he thought bitterly, she would have faded long ago, and quiet, dependable Phaios would be sitting on the throne in her place.
He shook his head and forced himself to meet her eyes. “I will not incriminate myself.”
“Then we are finished.” She spun, the glass beads woven into her hair clicking as she moved.
“Please.” He reached after her but dared not touch even her coat. “Please, is there nothing I can do or say to prove myself to you?”
I want to go home.
A long silence, pure and perfect like all the silence here in this desolate place, away from the city, from the stables and his team, from the thousands of citizens lighting the island with their glow.
At last the empress spoke, voice hard as stone. “I will not visit again. When you are prepared to confess your crime, send word.”
She strode forward and he leapt after her, desperate. “Wait, mother, plea—”
By the time she’d spun again he was back on his knees, hot with shame, but the fire did nothing to increase his glow, which instead seemed to dim beneath the empress’ glare.
“Look at you. Cowering like a lightless.” She turned once more and strode toward the staircase, and though he knew exactly what she was going to say next, it didn’t hurt any less to hear it. “You are no son of mine.”
How does it compare to the final version of "Lightless"? You’ll have to read the story and see! </shameless plug>
K.T. Ivanrest wanted to be a cat or horse when she grew up, but after failing to metamorphose into either, she began writing stories about them instead. Soon the horses became unicorns and the cats sprouted wings, and once the dragons arrived, there was no turning back. When not writing, K.T. can be found sewing and drinking decaf coffee. She has a PhD in Classical Studies, which will come in handy when aliens finally make contact and it turns out they speak Latin.
I recently had the opportunity to be one of the judges for the New Mexico Book Association's 2017 Southwest Book Design and Production Competition. Unlike most book contests which evaluate the quality of content, this one is solely focused on the quality of design: the cover art as well as the interior layout and production materials. I'm fairly new to the New Mexico Book Association, so they don't really know me or my company. But I passed around some of the World Weaver Press books at one of their luncheon meetings, and I guess the board members thought they looked pretty well designed.
But here's my confession: I'm a graphic design school dropout. It's true—I took a year of graphic design classes many moons ago, but never finished the program. When I took over WWP and suddenly found myself with the fate of many books' covers and layouts in my hands, I dug out those old textbooks, resurrected those old skills. I discovered that Photoshop was not all that different from the QuarkXPress my classes had used, and that I'm perfectly happy sorting through a thousand different fonts and color tones to find just the right match. I haven't always gotten things quite right, but with each book it gets a little easier, a little more intuitive.
It was a whole lot of fun to hang out with other people who understand book design, and boy, did they. We had conversations like:
"The kerning is off, and it would be better if the chapters started on the recto."
"Yes, but the crimp binding is nice, and Helvetica Thin was a good typeface choice."
"Does it bother you that the lead paragraphs are indented?"
"Not as much as this heavy drop-shadow bothers me."
"It's great paper quality, though."
"True. And the gloss finish really makes those photographs stand out."
That's a dramatic re-enactment, of course, and doesn't reflect any one particular book we looked at. But the two other judges and I definitely did geek out over typography. We criticized, we praised, and we came to a unanimous decision about which book would be the winner for each category.
A couple of weeks later, the NMBA convened at a beautiful Santa Fe home to present the awards to the winners. Sometimes the author was there to accept, but more often it was the publisher or designer. As one of the judges, I helped present the awards, so I could only snap a few pictures, above.
The full list of winners is here. A few of the standouts are listed below.
Blood Rose Rebellion is the debut novel by Rosalyn Eves, and it landed on shelves March 28, 2017. The first in a new YA trilogy, Blood Rose Rebellion is historical fantasy set "in a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place."
Rosalyn Eves is another of the amazing writers I met through PitchWars, along with others such as Hayley Stone and S.D. Grimm, whom I interviewed last year. I asked Rosalyn to join me on my blog today to talk about her road to publication and the challenges of writing historical fantasy.
Sarena Ulibarri: In a nutshell, what was the path from manuscript to publication for BLOOD ROSE REBELLION?
Rosalyn Eves: I started writing the book that would become Blood Rose Rebellion in the fall of 2012 (wow—so long ago!). It took me about 9 months to write, and another 9 months to revise. I started querying just before I got into Pitch Wars, so I stopped querying and hunkered down for an intense revision (I cut 27k from the book and added another 24k or so). Pitch Wars really jump started the agent hunt though—I wound up with 16 or 17 requests, plus a few agents from prior contests were waiting for the Pitch Wars revision. I got my first offer about two weeks after sending out my PW novel, and signed with Josh Adams the first part of December. (He wasn't one of the PW agents, but I'd met him at a conference that spring and he requested the full when I'd finished revising). BRR went on submission in mid January, and sold mid February.
Laid out like that, the process (once I finished writing) seems pretty speedy and smooth—but there were plenty of trunked novels before this one!
SU: What kind of things did you learn from your PitchWars mentor when you were getting your PitchWars manuscript ready to query?
RE: I learned that I can be long-winded, and sometimes I need to sacrifice historical accuracy for the sake of the story. For example, the middle was dragging because I was trying to keep the Hungarian revolution on the actual date (3/15/48), but those winter months before the revolution were taking too long to get to the point, so I had to move the rebellion forward a few months. (The opening date, around the start of the London season, was less negotiable). Though I'd been hearing this from other readers, my mentor (Virginia Boecker)'s feedback is what really motivated me to cut and rewrite the middle section.
SU: BLOOD ROSE REBELLION is historical fantasy that takes place at the height of the Austro-Hungarian empire. What was it about this place and time period that made you want to write about it?
RE: I've always been fascinated by the nineteenth-century, so I was automatically drawn to that time period. I'd lived in Hungary for about 16 months in my 20s, and fell in love with the language and culture. When I decided to set the story in Hungary, that automatically narrowed the time frame for the story, because the revolutionary era was so dynamic.
SU: How much research did you have to do to get the historical details right, and what gaps did you have to just fill in for yourself?
RE: I did a lot of research for this book—as much as possible, I tried to rely on real historical details for the world (though obviously, the magic is invented). Food, dress, social customs--I got all those from books. I read history books to get a general feel for the revolution and other historical context, but I also read lots of novels, especially English translations of Jokai Mor, a Hungarian writer who had a fantastic eye for detail, lived through the revolution (and was friends with many of its leaders) and wrote multiple novels about his contemporaries. I also read several travel narratives written by British travelers to Hungary mid-century, who helped me understand how a British transplant might see her new homeland. And of course, I have Hungarian friends who helped me with some of the translations and answered my questions. The hardest research involved Romani culture, as most nineteenth-century records were written by outsiders, not the Romanies themselves. I read as much historical research as I could, talked with experts, and extrapolated some from 20th century ethnographies and first-person narratives by Romanies.
SU: What advice do you have for writers struggling through the first draft of a new fantasy novel?
RE: Keep going. One of my favorite bits of writing advice is that first drafts just have to be finished to be perfect.
The other thing I'd suggest is to read nonfiction--history and culture and economics and anything that can help you flesh out your world. You probably won't be able to lift any details directly (doing so runs the risk of cultural appropriation), but understanding how economics affects government, etc., can help you build a more believable world.
SU: Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you?
RE: I just got done with a short book tour and some local signings, but I will be at Salt Lake Comic Con in September. Readers can always reach me on social media: @rosalyneves (Twitter and Instagram), and https://www.facebook.com/rosalyneveswriter/
Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.
She has a PhD in English from Penn State, which means she also endeavors to inspire college students with a love for the English language. Sometimes it even works.
Website * Facebook * Twitter
This week, I'm wrapping up my reviews for the stories in the anthology Wings of Renewal: A Solarpunk Dragon Anthology.
Did you see parts 1 and 2 of my Wings of Renewal solarpunk book review? You can click here and here to see my reviews of the first 15 stories.
I definitely have favorites, and I definitely have criticisms, but overall, this book has been an enjoyable read. With so few options out there for books and stories that identify as solarpunk, this is a good place to start, and to gather ideas for your own solarpunk stories.
Morelle and Vina by Sam Martin
A couple of kids find an old airplane in the off-limit ruins, and, through some salvage work and genetic engineering, build it into a living dragon. The imagery of this story is absolutely gorgeous: elevated bike paths made from sea shells and shaded by solar panels, a central vertical garden draped in greenery; streets designed with colorful mosaic tile. This is also the best example in the book of a co-operative, post-capitalist society. It seems like a lovely world to live in, but it doesn't feel like a static utopia—things are not perfect, and there are consequences for pushing boundaries the way our main characters do. Unfortunately, we never actually get to see those consequences, because the story ends so abruptly. It lacks resolution, ending right at the climax, and on quite a negative note. One of the key things people are looking for in solarpunk is optimism. Does that mean solarpunk stories have to have happy endings? If not happy, I think, then at least hopeful. This story, though it had many beautiful moments and ideas, ultimately left me on a sour and unsatisfied note.
Wings of the Guiding Suns by M. Pax
One of the few stories in this book told from the point of view of a dragon, this a galactic guardian sent to rescue the last remaining humans from Earth before the sun is destroyed—if only the humans will agree to be rescued. Overall, the writing is strong and the imagery is great. The premise is intriguing, though I think vastly oversimplified. Still, it's a nice tale of the complexity of human nature and perseverance against great odds.
Seven Years Among Dragons by Lyssa Chiavari
Mixing fantasy and science fiction can work, but the rules and limitations of the world need to be established and consistent. (Have you noticed my primary criticism of stories in this anthology is usually worldbuilding?) This one does not feel consistent at all. The sci-fi and solarpunk aspects seem tacked on to what would otherwise be a coherent fantasy story, and could be extracted and replaced with lower-level fantasy tech or magic—both of which already exist in this world, though there's little explanation for why one is used rather than another for any given reference. Still, there are a lot of things to like about this story. It's a unique twisting of Snow White. The writing is vivid and engaging, and the author has an excellent knack for tension and pacing. I would have liked this one a lot better just as a fantasy story. The solarpunk themes feel forced, and the technology is unexplored.
One Last Sweet by Claudie Arseneault
A sweet story (no pun intended) about a boy who wants to do something nice for a dying dragon that helped his village become self-sufficient. There's not a lot at stake, and there's a lot of "telling" exposition, but overall it's a nice story with interesting tech, likeable characters, and good disability representation. The final scene is vividly rendered and memorable.
Community Outreach with Reluctant Neighbors by Kat Lerner
If we accept solarpunk as an aesthetic or a mode rather than a genre (as I suggested in my Part 2 review), then this is a solid example of solarpunk fantasy. On the tech and setting level, it's light, but it's there. Two important scenes directly involve solar panels, and there are several mentions of algae lamps. But in terms of solarpunk themes—environmental balance, community and cooperation, accepting others, hope and optimism, etc.—it has those in droves. This is one of the better written stories in this anthology. A Leslie Knope-type community organizer makes it her personal mission to get the anti-social witch on the hill involved with community activities. It's a lovely story of mutual redemption, and really, the anthology is worth buying just for this story alone.
Wanderer's Dream by Maura Lydon
To be honest, I didn't entirely understand the plot of this story, but it has something to do with a couple of "Wanderers" (which seems akin to the aboriginal "walkabout") who help a dragon and a dragon-lady. The stakes are high—humans and dragons are not allowed any contact, on penalty of death—but seem arbitrary. The background and logic of this law are never explained or explored. Though, maybe that's part of the point. Maybe, like much paranormal romance, it's a metaphor for "forbidden" types of love (i.e. queer relationships or kink). I'm not sure. But while the plot didn't hold together for me, the characters and interpersonal relationships were well drawn and kept me engaged. This is another fantasy story with a solarpunk overlay, and while nothing is lost from that overlay, I don't think much is gained from it either.
The Last Guardians by J. Lee Ellorris
This is a wonderful story, and a perfect end to this anthology. I may have teared up a little bit... In a world where dragons have come to Earth to be caretakers and guide humans back to the right path, the last two guardian dragons have reached the end of their lives. But as her partner prepares for death, the last one seeks a miracle that will ensure they are not actually the last. As solarpunk continues to develop, I'd love to see it focus on how humans can save ourselves, without aliens or magic or divine intervention, but even though dragons save us in this story, the themes of environmental stewardship and cooperative responsibility are crystal clear. And if we must be saved, then I can think of no better saviors than gorgeous, kind, queer dragons. This is a world I would definitely love to live in.