New solarpunk story markets are popping up all the time. See my first two lists of places to send your solarpunk stories here and here—some of those deadlines have expired, but others are still coming up, or are ongoing.
Below are ten more magazines and contests that are interested in publishing solarpunk stories. They're organized with the earliest deadlines listed first. Know of a solarpunk fiction market I missed? Please leave a comment!
Magazine, Themed Issue
Submission Window: January 1, 2018 – January 31, 2018
Length: 2,000 to 15,000 words
Payment: (2,000 – 7,000 words): $150 USD; (<15,000 words): $300 USD
Big Mama Nature issue: Everyone knows that you need to respect Mama. We’re looking for stories of Nature and her swift backhand when folks get out of line. Give us your stories of ecological wastelands, futures full of solar powered punks, or natural disasters. Climate fiction is the name of the game, and Big Mama don’t play.
Full Guidelines: http://www.fiyahlitmag.com/submissions/
Note: Submissions limited to stories by and about people of the African Diaspora.
Bikes in Space 6
Published by Microcosm Publishing
Submission Window: closes February 1, 2018
Length: 500 to 8,000 words
Payment: based on Kickstarter, no less than $30 per story
The theme for this issue is: Dragons. Stories can be in any science fiction or fantasy – ish genre: high fantasy, hard SF, space opera, fairy tales, solarpunk, spec fic, slipstream… anything but fanfic. Dragons can be literal or metaphorical, from a specific cultural tradition or entirely of your own invention. Surprise me! All stories must contain bicycles—the story doesn’t need to be about bicycling, but this element must be central enough that removing it would change the story significantly. Same goes with feminism. The story doesn’t have to be about feminism, but it does need to break from tired old gender stereotypes.
Full Guidelines: http://takingthelane.com/2017/10/25/call-for-submissions-bikes-in-space-6-dragons/
Published by The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy
Submission Window: closes February 15, 2018
Length: 3,000 to 10,000 words
Payment: 50GBP per story
For Future Generations (theme): Generation starships establishing new colonies. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Driving back the dark to protect your children. For this issue of Electric Athenaeum, we are seeking genre stories that focus on the issues surounding planning for future generations. We are particularly interested in stories featuring new visions/interpretations of generation starships, the care of fragile ecosystems, and dramatic explorations of balancing the rights of future generations versus the needs of the present.
Full Guidelines: http://csff-anglia.co.uk/ea/subs/
The Moon Magazine
Magazine, Themed Issue
Submission Window: closes February 20, 2018
Length: up to 5,000 words
Payment: exposure only
Permaculture issue: The MOON welcomes submissions of original short stories, poetry, essays, and memoirs of any length (generally less than 5,000 words), as well as photography, artwork, and even video, addressing the following themes. (For 2018 we’re on a mission: what can “save” the world?) March 2018, “Return to our roots: The Permaculture plan for saving the world,” DEADLINE: February 20, 2018
Full Guidelines: http://moonmagazine.org/submission-guideline/
Contest, Winners Published by Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University
Submission Window: closes February 28, 2018
Length: up to 5000 words
Payment: $1,000 grand prize. Nine finalists will receive $50 each
In the wake of Earth’s hottest year on record, the effects of climate change are more apparent than ever. But how do we come to grips with the consequences on the ground, for actual people in specific places? Paolo Bacigalupi, renowned for his climate fiction novels and short stories, believes the answer lies in story: “Fiction has this superpower of creating empathy in people for alien experiences. You can live inside of the skin of a person who is utterly unlike you.” If our political responses and our empathy for people besieged by the consequences of climate change fall short, perhaps we need new stories to help us imagine possible futures shaped by climate change and our reactions to it.
Full Guidelines: https://climateimagination.asu.edu/clificontest/
Note: Last year's winning stories are available as an ebook or a PDF. Download it here. The first story, “Sunshine State” by Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson is very much solarpunk.
About Place Journal
Magazine, Themed Issue
Submission Window: January 1 to March 1, 2018
Length: up to 4,000 words
Payment: exposure only
Rewilding Issue: Is it also possible for humans to rewild themselves? What would this look like? When humans deny themselves or are restricted from opportunities for deep immersion in nature, or access to their ancestral places, what has been lost? Journalist Richard Louv has suggested that this deprivation is a “nature-deficit disorder” that afflicts many humans—particularly those of us dwelling in urban, high-tech surroundings or housing projects planted on landscapes of pavement under orange glowing lights that so obscure the night sky that we might come to think of the stars and the planets as rumored bodies floating somewhere up above.
For some of us trying to get “back to the garden,” this rewilding may look like resistance. Urban families who seed unsanctioned gardens in vacant lots are often reviled by developers and city leaders, who respond with bulldozers and concrete mixers. When Latinx neighbors install backyard chicken coops, the HOA squawks about it, but when white hipsters make it cool, restrictive city ordinances are rescinded. Houston politicians have tried to ban piñatas from city parks, claiming they often end up as litter—sending a clear message that Mexican families are not welcomed in public green spaces. When Black artists in Dallas are commissioned to create signs for a city park and their proposed designs memorialize a history of racial violence in that public space, their project is cancelled.
For this issue of About Place, you’re invited to describe the “letting go” spaces of rewilding—the critical habitats where and when our human expressions and behaviors might become unfettered—in explorations that are less mediated, colonized, or civilized. And what could such explorations possibly serve to resemble, reify, or reject?
Full Guidelines: http://aboutplacejournal.org/submissions/
Force of Nature
Published by Dark Regions Press
Submission Window: closes March 31, 2018
Length: 2500 to 10 000 words
Payment: 7c p/w up to 7K – 5c p/w for stories longer than 7K
Though some among us have realised the importance of sustainable living, in the broad sense of everyday life, we still demand too much. Our capitalist dispositions have driven a wedge between ourselves and nature; we have become transfixed by the shine of chrome, the luxury of packaged lives, no longer seemingly aware of the solid earth beneath our feet.
At an ever-advancing tipping point, humanity persists in its war against the natural world. Running a trail of extinction and cutting down vast swathes of oxygen-producing forests, we breed at an alarming pace, overpopulating a planet we seem hell-bent on reigning in – but at what cost? It seems we’re playing a cruel joke on the system that sparked our existence, and which has sustained us ever since.
Or could the joke be on us?
Force of Nature (working title) will be an anthology of original short fiction that explores the physical and metaphysical boundaries between humanity and the natural world.
Full Guidelines: lynnejamneckdiaries.blogspot.ca/2017/12/submission-guidelines-weird-nature.html
Stories of the Nature of Cities 2099
Contest, Stories Published by Publication Studios / Guelph
Submission Window: closes April 15, 2018
Length: up to 1,000 words
Payment: $3,000. $1,500, $500 prizes, honorable mentions published with no payment
What are the stories of people and nature in cities in 2099? What will cities be like to live in? Are they lush and green, verdant and biodiverse? What will cities look like; be made of? How will they be designed and powered? Will they be tall, short, dense, under ground or under water? What of public spaces? Social organization? Mobility? Government? Sustainability and food? Wildlife? Climate change and resilience? Poverty, consumption, wealth, and justice? How will we interact and relate to one another and the natural world? What sort of stories can we tell about our communities and the spaces that shape will them?
Full Guidelines: http://www.storiesofthenatureofcities.org/
Submission Window: June 15 - July 15, 2018
Length: 1,500 and 3,000 words
Payment: 6¢ per word
Terra, Tara, Terror: Whether the setting is a cabin in the woods (Terra), Fae (Tara), or spaceship Nostromo (Terror), take us there and spin your adventure. For a bit of mood whiplash, we'd like a mixture of dark and bright stories. Examples: Obsession with odd artifacts (like Roadside Picnic's golden sphere?), alternate histories, paranormal romance (no erotica, please, we're PG-13).
Full Guidelines: http://www.thirdflatiron.com/liveSite/
Dancing Star Press
Small Press Publisher
Submission Window: April 1 – June 30 and October 1 – December 31
Length: 17,500 and 40,000 words
Payment: Royalties, not specified
Dancing Star Press is seeking submissions of speculative fiction novellas. Space operas, solar punk, dark fantasy, and urban fantasy. Hard science fiction with an emphasis on biology or chemistry rather than physics. Fantasy based on non-Western cultures. Optimistic futurism. Polar Tesla pop and soft science fiction.
Full Guidelines: http://www.dancingstarpress.com/submissions/
My story "A Chorus of Shadows" is in the newest issue of Weirdbook! "A Chorus of Shadows" is a dark fantasy about a monk who realizes that not all of the vibrations they've been chanting are for the good of the world. This is my first appearance in Weirdbook, and I'm thrilled to be one of the names on this awesome tentacley cover. I was also happy to discover I share a table of contents with fellow Albuquerque author Andrew Bourelle. I had the pleasure of publishing his story "We Us You" in the WWP anthology Equus, so it was a fun surprise to recognize his name in this TOC. I sneaked a peak at his story, "Homecoming Corpse," during the final proof, and it is awesome, bittersweet, and Weird with a capital W.
Want to know more about what I mean when I say "Weird"? Here's a fantastic article by the Vandermeers: http://weirdfictionreview.com/2012/05/the-weird-an-introduction/
Here's the opening paragraph of "A Chorus of Shadows."
No one had told us that a recruiter from the Face of God would be visiting
"A Chorus of Shadows" is a Lovecraftian fantasy with an Asian aesthetic, much like my Lightspeed story "The Bolt Tightener," which was once described by N.K. Jemisin (when she was my Clarion teacher) as "if Singapore was the last holdout against Cthulhu." This one is more like "if a Tibetan monk discovered a secret way to summon Cthulhu." It takes place in a completely fictional fantasy world, though, and it's not exactly Cthulhu.
Below are some images from my Pinterest board for this story. See the whole board here: www.pinterest.com/sarenaulibarri/a-chorus-of-shadows/
Pick up a copy of Weirdbook #37, and let me know which stories from it are your favorites!
I've been reading through submissions for my anthology Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers, which closes to submissions on November 15, 2017, and I'm loving a lot of the stories I'm seeing there. If you have something that fits the theme, or can write it by November 15th, please send it to me!
A couple of months ago, I posted 10 Markets for Solarpunk Stories. Some of those deadlines are coming up, and I've come across even more projects that would be great for solarpunk writers to submit to. Most of these don't explicitly ask for solarpunk, but many of them have environmental or social justice themes that are absolutely compatible with solarpunk. Okay, and the last two are a little different—rather than anthologies or magazines, it's a publisher's unagented open door (they say they're looking for utopian and cli-fi!) and a call for academic papers on utopian and dystopian literature of the 21st century.
I'm not affiliated with any of these projects, so please follow links/guidelines/etc. But if you do get a solarpunk story accepted by any of these markets, please come back and leave a comment to let me know!
New to submitting short stories? Check out my blog about that here.
1. Economic Security Project
Contest, Stories Published by Gizmodo’s io9
Submission Window: Submissions are due November 1st, 2017
Length: up to 5,000 words
Payment: $12,000 over 2018 in $1,000 per month payments beginning 2/1/2018, as well as airfare and accommodations to attend an awards dinner in San Francisco, date tbd (the “Grand Prize”). Short list winners will receive $1,000 upon publication.
What might a world look like where all of our most basic needs are met? In 5,000 words or less, we want you to explore the impacts of a basic income on individual lives and on society at large. To be clear, we are not expecting you to draft economic policy, but hope to ignite debate around new economies with stories that offer nuanced critique and evidence of impact. Writers may want to address how this economic policy could shift relationships of power, or if economic liberation is even possible without first addressing racial and gender justice. Writers may consider universality (i.e., whether this benefit applies to everyone), investigate the community impact, and even give this economic idea a new name.
Full Guidelines: https://medium.com/economicsecproj/into-the-black-a-short-fiction-contest-with-a-big-prize-f91cd6553967
2. Indigenous Futurisms & Imagining The Decolonial
Anthology or Themed Issue, Published by Anomaly
Submission Window: November 1, 2017 - March 1, 2018
Work should relate or respond to indigenous futurisms, indigenous futures, and/or imagining the decolonial (future, present, or past). Speculative and non-speculative work are both welcome. Imagine the future, re-imagine the past or present. Let’s talk about what future we’re fighting for. What lives we’re living, now.
Note: They accept work in Spanish, Tagalog, and other languages, as well as bilingual work, with or without translations.
Full Guidelines: https://medium.com/anomalyblog/call-for-submissions-indigenous-futurisms-imagining-the-decolonial-7a556a70404f
3. TROUBLE THE WATERS: Tales from the Deep Blue
Anthology, Published by Rosarium Publishing
Submission Window: ends November 1, 2017
Length: 2500 – 7000 words
Payment: $0.06 per word
TROUBLE THE WATERS: Tales from the Deep Blue will be a new anthology of water-themed speculative short stories that explore all kinds of water lore and deities, ancient and new as well as unimagined tales. We want stories with memorable, engaging characters, great and small, epic tales and quieter stories of personal and communal growth. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works are welcome. We are seeking original stories in English (2500 – 7000 words; pays 6 cents per word) from writers of all walks of life from this beautiful planet and will accept some select reprints (pays 2 cents per word).
Note: Unable to accept simultaneous or multiple submissions.
Full Guidelines: http://rosariumpublishing.com/trouble-the-waters-submissions.html
4. The Golden Key
Magazine, Themed Issue
Submission Window: October 1 and November 30, 2017
Length: under 3,000 words
Payment: flat fee of $10
The past year has thrown into sharp relief the surreal terrain of our contemporary landscape, and here at The Golden Key, we have watched this rising social and political upheaval with a contradictory, heart-rending mixture of despair and awe. While the world is facing unconscionable violence and pervasive attacks on human rights, there has been an extraordinary response to these systematic injustices and abuses of power. People have taken to the streets in defense of the rights of women and immigrants, to protest political corruption, to reject white supremacy. And even in the midst of our rage and grief and heartbreak, there has been such beautiful strangeness and joy. More than anything, this past year has shown us we must create radical change, through our words and through our deeds.
With this in mind, The Golden Key has decided to devote our upcoming issue to the theme of revolutionary things. We’re looking for stories and poems that subvert, that upend the old order, that wheel and circle, that present novel modes of belief or being.
Note: Also accepts poetry up to 100 lines.
Full Guidelines: http://www.whatwonderfulthings.net/main/submissions/
5. Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was
Anthology, Published by Mason Jar Press
Submission Window: ends December 7, 2017
Length: up to 6,000 words
Payment: $.02/word plus a contributor’s copy
Metropolitan tales of city-focused fantasy with queer perspectives. Squalid flats, glittering spires, and alchemical trolleys. Manipulative heirs, handsome swordswomen and noble automatons. Write us something built with borrowed Bordertown DNA, purloined echoes of House Tremontaine society and stolen grit from the dark of London Below. Be inspired by Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, or “The City Born Great” by N.K. Jemisin.
We are looking for stories that explore the edges of urban fantasy through queer stories. While the city these stories are set in should be vast and unnamed, highly specific neighborhoods and landmarks are encouraged and sought after. We welcome a broad interpretation of the genre that is inclusive of postmodern folk tales, future/ancient noir, and stories that happen both behind closed doors and in plain sight. Throughout, we’re looking for rich, varied and nuanced understandings of gender, family and ethnicity.
Full Guidelines: https://masonjarpress.submittable.com/submit
6. The Maleficarum
Magazine, Themed Issue
Submission Window: closes November 15th, 2017
Length: 1,000 to 8,000 words
The Maleficarum is looking for stories about nature. Whether it be the earth taking back what it rightfully belongs, or simple observations of what goes on in life, send me your wonderful works. From these submissions, I will choose 10-15 works to go into the first issue!
Note: Debut issue.
Full Guidelines: https://rosettemaleficarum.wordpress.com/submission-guidelines/
7. After the Orange
Anthology, Published by B-Cubed Press
Submission Window: closes December 15, 2017
Length: 500-5000 words
Payment: $0.02 cent a word paid on publication + shared royalties
We are looking for near- or farther-future stories, society as it is AFTER 2032 – at least two presidential election cycles after Donald Tr*mp’s last eligibility. Show us America or the world in a new era, or look at world politics changed by the actions of US policies and people. Or go beyond.
Stories may present an optimistic or pessimistic, utopian or apocalyptic visions of the future, with some clear connection to current events and the world as it is in 2017. Political shenanigans would be interesting, as well as romance, spooks, robots and evil overlords, satire or parodies. But remember, the world has moved on. The editors generally favor character- and/or plot-driven stories.
Full Guidelines: https://bcubedpress.com/open-for-submissions/after-the-orange/
8. Alien Dimensions
Submission Window: ongoing, see theme deadlines
Length: 3000 to 5000 words
Payment: $10 per story
The goal is to release stories with mind-numbing ideas, brain expanding concepts, or just to get a reader to say WTF? There isn’t enough SF out there that really makes you think about the universe, so, that’s what I’m looking for – something that at least includes SOME hard science. The definition for Alien Dimensions is that science fiction contains real or extrapolated scientific ideas or concepts, and I need more of those. So, I have many fantasy stories ready to go for the rest of the year, but not enough hard core science fiction stories containing real science or non-anthropomorphic aliens. Alien Dimensions is a predominantly positive series about the future.
Full Guidelines: https://aliendimensions.com/submission-guidelines/
9. Angry Robot Open Door 2017
Publisher, Full Length Only
Submission Window: opens November 1, 2017
Length: 70,000 to 130,000 words
Payment: Advance + royalties
We publish Science Fiction and Fantasy. These are wide genres with many, many subgenres, so to be clear: we want anything broadly in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. This includes: alternate history, military SF, space opera, epic fantasy, steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, silkpunk, anypunk, grimdark, utopian fiction, modern fantasy, cli-fi, unclassifiable SF/fantasy mash-ups, and so on.
We do like getting submissions that are hard to classify, especially if they’re innovative blends of various genres. It’s the Angry Robot way. So if you’ve written a science fiction novel set in an unexpected location – the Stone Age, or Urban Outfitters, say – great. Maybe you’ve found a way to write a novel that combines your interests in cryogenics, social media, and the Third Reich. In short, don’t be afraid to send us your extremely unusual science fiction or fantasy novel – as long as it would sit in that section of the bookshop.
Note: Full book-length manuscripts only
Full Guidelines: https://www.angryrobotbooks.com/open-door-2017-guides-faq/
10. Utopia and Dystopia in the Age of Tr*mp
James Doan and Barbara Brodman, editors
Submission Window: abstracts due by February 1, 2018, finals due September 15, 2018
Length: 5,000-7,000 words (abstracts 300 words)
Editors Barbara Brodman and James Doan are seeking original essays for the fifth in a series of books on images of the supernatural and the futuristic in film, literature and visual arts. This volume and its predecessor, Apocalyptic Chic: Visions of the Apocalypse and Post-Apocalypse in Literature and Visual Arts (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017), take the reader into the futuristic realm of apocalypse and post-apocalypse, utopias and dystopias.
Note: This is a call for non-fiction critical essays, not fiction.
Full Guidelines: https://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/cfp/2017/09/05/utopia-and-dystopia-in-the-age-of-trump
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: ongoing
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.