Interview with Rich Dana of OBSOLETE!

We caught up with Rich Dana at OBSOLETE!, another publishing outlet for the intersection of punk and SF!

Tell us a little about your press and zine?

OBSOLETE! The zine came first, in 2009. I was inspired to do an old-school underground tabloid newspaper, and the first 8 issues were printed in that format, echoing the radical tabloids of the 60s and 70s. Working with my friend and creative partner Blair Gauntt, we worked to tap into the science fiction/political commentary crossover, à la the “New Wave” SF writers if the 60s.  A year or so into the zine, Austin poet W. Joe Hoppe approached me about doing a book, so we did it. Then came a “best of…” anthology, then the AnarchoSF  anthology of anti-statist science fiction, and next thing you know, we’re publishers!

What was the inspiration for starting the press?

I’ve been a zinester since my childhood in the 70’s when I pumped out radical screeds on the ditto machine in the junior high school library. I’ve always loved books. My dad was an english professor and my mom a librarian. I guess it was in my blood! The motivation to do print now, in the 21st century, came out of my frustration with the digital ghetto of the web. I’m not a luddite, I love technology as much as anyone, but I just love print. Reading as a physical act. Books as artifacts and sacred objects.  There is nothing sacred on the web!

The name for the zine and the press comes from an episode of the Twilight Zone called “The Obsolete Man.” In a future totalitarian society, a librarian is deemed obsolete by the state, and sentenced to die. It is a story that stuck with me all my life.  I relate to that librarian!

What was your interest in solarpunk and how do you see the solarpunk movement complementing your press?

Ironically, I was a professional solar installer, as well a first-gen punk. I’m a life-long SF reader and fan, and came of age in the cyberpunk era. I wondered why there were all of these other lame iterations of “…punk” prefixed genres popping up. Elfpunk? I mean…really? I wondered why there was no “solarpunk.” It seemed like the one natural outgrowth of cyberpunk to me. I started writing stories with that in mind, and lo and behold, I later discovered, via the wonderful wonderful web, that others are thinking the same thing! I have no idea how,if or when solarpunk will gel into a real movement, but I’m a 100% supporter of the loose-nit, open source way that it is happening. And of course, the environmental and social justice elements are right in line with the OBSOLETE! ideals.

Do you think speculative fiction needs more punk? What would you like to see?

I agree with the solarpunks that dystopianism is getting worn a bit thin.  Sadly, it never goes out of fashion, because it is still a relevant and real concern. I would argue that there is no punk without the backdrop of dystopia, but T.X. Watson of Solarpunk Press makes the case that revolting against convention is in itself punk. I’m willing to concede that my black leather vision of punk may be outdated. At the advanced age of 54, I’m happy to have my assumptions challenged. I was afraid solar punk might be “one punk too far”,  but I have the feeling that it is only the proto-stage of something bigger to come. A newer New Wave.

For me, I would like to see a return of satire to SF. I’m re-reading Pohl and Kornbluth’s “The Space Merchants” and realized I do miss that biting social commentary. Maybe some people like Scalzi are doing it, but I would like to see people turn a lot more of the current tropes on their heads- the whole gang of Hugo awards lame-puppy space marines need to have their assumptions challenged and SF needs to leave that fascist horseshit behind for once and for all. I think solarpunk might be a significant player in that movement.

What suggestions do you have for people submitting to your zine?

Hey, anyone is welcome to submit. I love to have original work, although I can’t afford to pay pro rates. Previously published work is welcome too. Fiction under 5000 words works best in the zine format. Black and white artwork is good, though I usually run a few color pages too, so that’s cool. Comics, one pagers,poems reviews and essays- check out the free stuff we have on line to get a feel for it.

We are working toward a 2nd volume of AnarchoSF, so if you are of the anti-statist political viewpoint and write SF that reflects that, send it our way.  We are also doing an issue of futurist poetry, so there’s that on the way as well. No deadlines just yet, but I encourage people to send stuff our way asap, and watch the website and FB page.

Interview with Solarpunk Press

Even though Sunvault is closed for submissions, Solarpunk Press is another paying market looking for solarpunk stories! We talked with co-founder Faith Gregory about what solarpunk means to them.

Sunvault:  What drew you to solarpunk and what still inspires you?

Faith Gregory: Honestly, I wasn’t initially interested in Solarpunk. Watson and I worked on the same college newspaper, and they kept bringing it up to me as something I should look into. The idea didn’t really stand out to me, but when they finally got me to look into the community and read some posts, I started to see how important the idea of optimistic speculative fiction is, and that small movements like these are key in changing the socio-political landscape of our respective communities, and how our communities interact with each other.

SV:  There’s some internet chatter about how the solarpunk movement is separate from the genre. How do you see the literature of solarpunk interacting with the solarpunk community as a whole?

FG: I am adamant that the solarpunk movement should NOT be separate from the genre. Literature is so important to activism, so having the genre reflect the movement, and the movement reflect the genre, are going to strengthen both.

SV: What inspired starting Solarpunk Press?

FG: Watson was really the driving factor behind this. We were at Readercon last year (and we’ll be there again this year), and we attended a panel on speculative fiction magazines. Afterwards, Watson was like, do you want to start a solarpunk spec fic mag with me, and I was like, yeah sure, if you can prove to me you can do it. At a mixer with all the panelists, we approached Neil Clarke, Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, and Watson pitched the idea and very specific details of the magazine to Neil. Neil said they sounded good and that starting the magazine sounded plausible. From that, Solarpunk Press was born.

SV: As an editor, what advice do you have for writers working in the solarpunk genre?

FG: Writing solarpunk fiction has been the biggest writing challenge for me thus far, and I’m much better at spotting it and editing it than I am at writing it, primarily because of my really bad anxiety. So I can really only tell you what it is that I look for in submissions, which is awareness of the world around you, an understanding of cultural differences, and a willingness to embrace criticism and change. If I see that in your writing, along with the penchant for hope that solarpunk really strives for, I’m immediately interested.

SV: Anything you’d like readers to know about Solarpunk Press?

FG: I’d like people to know that Solarpunk Press is a passion project, started and run by two pretty poor people doing everything out of pocket and through our patreon. So if people like what we’re doing and want us to stick around for the foreseeable future, we really need both the patreon support and the submissions of really good solarpunk fiction for us to continue. You can support us at http://www.patreon.com/solarpunkpress and submit your fiction at http://www.solarpunkpress.com/submit

Faith Gregory is co-founder and editor of Solarpunk Press, a magazine for the Anthropocene. They’re a 21 year old working full-time in retail with a double associate’s in journalism and political science, striving to save the money to get back to their studies. They live in Amherst, Massachusetts and look to promote and strengthen queer writers.You can find them blogging at watsons-solarpunk.tumblr.com and samesexgamgee.tumblr.com, and you can hire them at faithgregory.wordpress.com

Thank you!

To our wonderful backers,

We are so excited to bring you the anthology Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation in spring of 2017! It hardly feels like a month has gone by, but what an exciting month it has been! Not only was our campaign fully funded, but we also were able to announce art submissions, give a sneak peek at the cover art by Likhain, and introduce new contributor Nisi Shawl! Best of all, we opened submissions early and already have solarpunk stories, poems, and art filling up our inbox!

Remember, submissions for fiction and poetry are open until June 4th. Art submissions are open until June 30th.

Even though we’re funded, we want to see solarpunk grow beyond this campaign, so keep spreading the word (we know you will!). We’ll be in touch soon with surveys so we can send out backer rewards. Stay in touch on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and right here for Sunvault updates and more solarpunk and eco-spec goodness.

May the Fourth be with you,

Brontë & Phoebe

On the Origins of Solarpunk

Guest post by Andrew Dincher

As a genre, science fiction (SF) has a vague and contentious history. Some would argue that the genre began with the utopian narratives of Early Modern Europe such as Sir Thomas Moore’s Utopia, while others argue that it began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. On the other hand, some would argue that SF was a unique creation of the late 19th century, beginning with the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, then skyrocketing (pun intended) to popularity in the 1930’s with the creation of magazines like Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, and Astounding Science Fiction.

Regardless, SF has a unique ability to speculate on the future of human, and in some cases other than human, existence. Though it would be a mistake to say that all SF examines the negative outcome of human civilization in dystopian and post-apocalyptic narratives, many of the most widely read SF stories highlight the struggles of humanity in an already apocalyptic or dystopian world.

In steps solarpunk, a new movement in SF that examines the possibility of a future in which currently emerging movements in society and culture such as the green movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, and certain aspects of Occupy Wall Street coalesce to create a more optimistic future in a more just world. In the words of Sir Isaac Newton, however: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Like Newton, the solarpunk movement stands on the shoulders of giants: giants of science fiction.

By its very nature, SF pushes the boundaries of the imagination; speculating on the future, altered pasts, and wildly discordant presents. Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s, an era commonly referred to as the “golden age” of science fiction, SF writers speculated on possible worlds and, in a more general sense, adhered to plausible hard SF stories. Authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Alfred Bester all wrote hard SF with an emphasis on the possibilities of the future. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, however, SF began focusing more on the soft sciences with a movement now known as the “new wave.”

Authors such as Samuel R. Delany, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, James Tiptree, Jr., and Joanna Russ (just to mention a few) were some of the forerunners of the new wave. They wrote stories that focused more on the human condition in technologically advanced worlds, and focused less on science and technology. This is not to say that authors such as Heinlein and Clarke didn’t also discuss the human condition, and that authors such as Delany and Russ didn’t think about technology. But rather there was a shift in the overall tone of SF moving towards the social sciences.

Several pivotal SF novels, however, focused heavily on ecological and environmental themes. Frank Herbert’s Dune, a transitory novel that fits somewhere between the new wave and the golden age, explored the idea of a galactic struggle for “Spice,” a substance that expands consciousness allowing for precognition and faster than light travel. Dune also dealt with the ecology of an entirely desert planet and the struggles of human civilization to survive and adapt in a harsh and unforgiving world.

Similarly, other SF authors have dealt with ecological and environmental issues in their fiction. Ursula K. Le Guin, a new wave writer, deals with environmental and ecological topics in several of her works. “Vaster than Empires and More Slow,” for instance, is a short story that discusses the possibility of an alien planet covered with vegetation that is, in and of itself, a single thinking, living, sentient being. Kim Stanley Robinson, who is currently writing environmental SF, in his novel 2312, sets up a dilemma in which humanity is able to terraform other planets such as Mars and Venus, but is yet unable to heal the wounds done to Earth through climate change. All of the ice on Earth has melted and New York—a still functional city—has been flooded, making it a “Super Venice.”

These authors also tend to deal with social issues involving the environment. 2312 follows many of the conventions that will be used by solarpunk authors by dealing with environmental justice and imagining a solar system in which humanity has found a way to be responsible with its environment. It could almost be considered a solarpunk novel, but since it pre-dates solarpunk, its place in the canon is unclear. Regardless, 2312 is a perfect example of what solarpunk embodies.

Out of these various incarnations and phases of evolutionary twistings and turnings, solarpunk has emerged. As a genre, it sits atop the shoulders of past science fiction visionaries. No one can know exactly what this new genre is destined for, but its origins are clear.

_____________

Andrew grew up in central Pennsylvania. He attended Lycoming College where he double majored in English Lit and History. There, he met his wife and love of his life, Phoebe Wagner. He graduated in the spring of 2015. He has worked as a historical researcher, gardener, and arborist. He is soon to be an Iowa Master Gardener, and plans on getting a Master’s degree in American Studies. He is an avid reader and has studied science fiction literature. Both Andrew and Phoebe hope to one day start an organic farm in central Pennsylvania and to write many novels. He can be found on twitter: @adincher775

Update: Art Submissions!

We’ve reached over 25% of our goal for Sunvault in only a few short days! Thank you to all our backers and everyone who has helped us get the word out on social media. The early and enthusiastic interest shown in this anthology tells us just how much people care about the SF community, art, the environment, and their intersections.

As a celebration of your enthusiasm for the genre, we’d like to announce an addition to the fiction and poetry we’ll be including in Sunvault. Upon full funding of the Kickstarter, we will also open submissions to line drawings and coloring sheets! We’ll also feature one line drawing from our cover artist, M Sereno.

Some short guidelines:

  • Submissions will be open as soon as the Kickstarter is fully funded and stay open until June 30
  • Email all submissions (up to 5) to sunvaultanthology[at]gmail.com with the subject line Art Submission: TITLES
  • We’ll pay artists 15 USD per page upon publication

 

Art has always been a foundational part of the solarpunk community, specifically art nouveau. We can’t wait to see how artists interpret the ideals of solarpunk and eco-speculation!

Thank you for the continued support! You all are awesome!

Phoebe & Brontë

Sunvault Kickstarter is live!

 

Dear writers, punks, and speculators:

The Kickstarter to fund Sunvault Anthology has officially launched! If you are planning on submitting to, reading, or supporting Sunvault, please consider buying a copy of the book through our Kickstarter. We also have some cool backer rewards that we are excited to bring you!

Whether or not you can financially support us, sharing is always important! Brontë Wieland and I hope this anthology can be the first step in turning the speculative fiction and poetry genre toward its imaginative and hopeful roots! We believe speculative fiction and poetry offer some of the greatest tools for solving environmental and societal issues we face today by imagining creative solutions in a widely read genre.

We believe in solarpunk. We believe solarpunk can offer a viable response to environmental issues of this generation and to the apocalyptic leanings of sci-fi today. In the words of Matthew Gross: “The world doesn’t end, not for a very long time. The future is still ours–but the future is not what it was.”

Let’s make the future solarpunk.

Phoebe & Brontë

Sunvault will include poetry!

Writers! Sunvault will be accepting poetry when we open for submissions soon! Happy National Poetry Month!

We have updated our submission page with this information, but here are the highlights:

  • Original, unpublished poems up to 200 lines or 500 words for prose poems.
  • Please submit only up to five poems.
  • All authors will be paid either 6 cents USD per word or 15 dollars per page, whichever is greater.
  • Payment will be made upon publication.

We can’t wait to read your stories AND poems! Stay tuned for our Kickstarter opening in the next few days.

Submissions opening soon!

Writers! Upper Rubber Boot Books wants your stories for Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation, the upcoming anthology of speculative fiction edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Wieland. Set for publication in spring 2017, Sunvault will open to submissions following the funding of our Kickstarter project in April.

We want this anthology to reach outside Western and Anglophone traditions of speculative fiction, showcasing the way environment and environmental issues are talked about and perceived in all parts of the world. We encourage and welcome submissions from diverse voices and under-represented populations, including, but not limited to, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, those with disabilities, and the elderly. Authors of all walks of life should feel encouraged to send us stories celebrating these diverse characters and settings all around us.

What are we looking for?

We want short stories that fall under the scope of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, weird fic, etc.). If you’re unsure, submit! We love to be surprised.

The anthology will focus on times of environmental crisis and the people inhabiting these tipping points, fighting to effect change and seek solutions, even if it’s already too late. But these are stories of hope, not just disaster! Turn your lens to those crucial moments in a world’s history when great change can be made by the right people with the right tools. Remember: hope can spark in even the grimmest of situations.

Is there environmental SF already?

There is! Although environmental factors in SF aren’t seen as frequently as other issues, writers are addressing it in revolutionary ways. Here are some examples of SF with primary environmental concerns:

  • Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy
  • Paulo Bacigalupi’s novels (The Windup Girl, The Water Knife)
  • George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer
  • Edan Lepucki’s California
  • Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy

The list goes on. Not all of these stories, though, truly fall into the solarpunk category. So what is solarpunk?

What is solarpunk?

Solarpunk follows in the tradition of steampunk and cyberpunk as the embodiment of a counterculture ideology: innovating a way of life that is better for the present and ultimately better for the future. Concepts like clean energy and sustainability are integral to solarpunk as they are outlets for societal reform. The fight for positive change is where -punk comes into play.

There are various communities online that are imagining and building solarpunk as an idea and an aesthetic, but as a literary movement, it is as yet largely undefined. That’s where you come in. Sunvault is the SF community’s opportunity to define the solarpunk genre. We want to see your conceptions and interpretations of the genre. We want to see what solarpunk looks like to you.

Length & Payment:

We’re looking for short stories from 500 to 7500 words. Don’t query about longer pieces. We want to include as many stories as possible in the anthology, so we aren’t able to consider longer works. All authors will be paid 6 cents USD per word upon publication for original fiction.

We are also open for reprint submissions. Reprints are paid a flat rate of $50 for stories under 2000 words and $100 for stories over 2000 words. Please include a complete publication history for reprint submissions.

We will accept submissions from any country.

Translations:

Translations are welcome. Please include proof that you have the permission of the original author to translate and submit the story, and provide the original author’s contact details as well as your own. Payment will be split equally between the translator and the author. If this is the first publication of the story in English, even if it has appeared in its original language in print, we will pay the rate for original work.

How do I submit?

Submissions will open as soon as our Kickstarter is fully funded and run for approximately a month. Send your story to us at sunvaultanthology[at]gmail.com with the subject like Original Submission: Story name for originals and Reprint Submission: Story name for reprints. Submit translations as original stories (if previously unpublished in English), but be clear that it is a translation in the body of your message. If the format is wrong, your story may end up in our spam folder, so be diligent. We will only read files sent as .doc, .docx, .odt, or .rtf.

Include a cover letter in the body of your email to tell us a bit about who you are. Please include the story’s length, any relevant info we should know about the story, and an author’s bio. Do not describe your story in the cover letter.

We will not be accepting simultaneous submissions. You may only submit one story during the reading period.

Response Time:

We won’t be responding to submissions until the reading period has officially closed, so response times will vary, but expect to hear back from us within 2-3 months. Please don’t query until after 3 months.

Dear Punks and Speculators

Join us as we reach for the sun and into the soil. Solarpunk takes its place in line with Cyberpunk and Steampunk as a new way of thinking, a new word to define a generation’s genre. As humanity faces an ecological tipping point, we are ready for stories of the peoples living during such tipping points, and the spaces before and after them, the stories of those who fought to effect change and seek solutions, even if it was too late.

These are our stories, whether they are set in the future or in a new land.

Upper Rubber Boot Books will be publishing this short story anthology in spring of 2017 edited by us, Brontë Wieland and Phoebe Wagner.

This anthology will be funded via a Kickstarter, which we will be announcing before long. We’ll be paying SFWA rates for original fiction.

The anthology will focus on the aftereffects of environmental disasters, but with hope – stories of those inhabiting the leverage points, the crucial moments when great change can be made by the right people with the right tools.

Once you understand a potential future – if you live inside of that world, if you live inside of that water scarcity, if you see people reacting, if you see a water riot, if you see a climate refugee or you live in the skin of a climate refugee, suddenly that makes more sense than just, oh, we’ve noticed that, you know, Lake Mead is now at a historically low level. – Paolo Bacigalupi

These stories will allow us to see hope in the midst of disaster and beyond, to the possibility of a better future.

Our goal is to bring you a collection of the best authors from around the world, and introduce you to some new voices as well!