Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Interview with the Editors of Sunvault: Phoebe Wagner and Bronte Wieland

Writing the future, imagining something brighter...

What is solarpunk? If you—like I had no idea, even just six months ago—have no idea than this interview may be for you. Or if you’re able to answer this question in a split-second than this interview is definitely for you. I was able to ask some questions of the two editors of a recently announced anthology of solarpunk and eco-speculation (poetry and fiction), Brontë Wieland and Phoebe Wagner. Their anthology, Sunvault, is being published by Upper Rubber Boot and will be opening for submissions in May (or as soon as their Kickstarter is fully funded). A slight bias alert: Brontë is my dear friend and Phoebe is just the loveliest person, so I may have thrown them softball questions (I know, I know, when all you wanted was the hard-hitting coverage you’re accustomed to. I’m sorry). Note: in some cases, I’ll have answers from both editors and will delineate those with their initials. However, in many cases there will just be one answer for the question.

What is Solar Punk?
Solarpunk is a movement that considers what a sustainable, environmentally-ethical society could look like. It spans from science to religion, from social problems to sustainability, with a focus on ingenuity and community. Obviously, this description is pretty far off from most societies around the globe, so that’s what makes it a true –punk movement. While solarpunk might not be chaotic, it is countercultural. When it comes to the literary genre, solarpunk is still largely undefined, and we hope Sunvault might give shape to the genre.

Why eco-spec?
BW: Eco-speculation just sounds cool. Obviously.
PW: Eco-spec or eco-speculation is a term we created to define environmental speculative fiction—with a focus on the speculative. There are terms for environmental SF, but these terms seem to simply acknowledge the problem. I wanted a term that pointed beyond the problem toward a possible solution—to speculation.

Who is this anthology, and by extension these genres, relevant to?
PW: While SF fans will probably be the primary audience, we hope that it is relevant and enjoyable to anyone who is concerned about the environment or societal problems we face today. I always have Star Trek in the back of my head when writing about this anthology. Not only was Star Trek a crossover series, but it inspired and still inspires all types of creators, from scientists to writers.
BW: Many people tend to see environmental issues as problems afforded only to the privileged, and in doing so, silence the voices and concerns of native, indigenous, poor, non-dominant populations, and more. We are fighting against that idea. Sunvault and the genres of solarpunk and eco-speculation are relevant to all populations and all people who face environmental challenges and work to find solutions.

Why not just make an environmental SF anthology?
I latched onto solarpunk rather than a straight environmental SF anthology because I didn’t want to read story after story about the disaster or apocalyptic end of SF. Solarpunk is about finding solutions, striving for change, even if that change isn’t realized. There’s great environmental SF out there, but whenever I read them, I often come out feeling discouraged that change is possible. Change feels more like an impossibility while solarpunk encourages an attempt at solutions. All that being said, there is a balance between being hopeful and realistic, but solarpunk can achieve that balance. 
What sort of stories (and poems!) will you be looking for? What will catch your eye as an editor?
PW: One big thing I am looking for is stories that don’t stop at disaster. Push past the INSERT DISASTER HERE and find out what happens next. As for poetry, I hope we get all types of poetry, from the more lyrical to the more narrative (our line limit is 200 for that reason). One thing that might be hard to nail down in a solarpunk poem is specifics, enough that reader won’t be lost. But then again, a good lyric poem might surpass that.
BW: When I’m reading stories, I always find myself asking, “where’s the magic?” Not necessarily literally, but I want stories that feel magical, fantastical, that have a sense of wonder and intrigue. This can be as simple as the way certain characters interact or it can be from the vastness of the writer’s universe. I want to be surprised by your language. Innovate, invent, inspire with your words. A good sentence can make me coo, so make sure you have plenty of them. One of the biggest things I want to see is stories from around the world. Both in terms of setting and author. I want to see the way the world envisions environmental concerns in different ways, and I want to see the thoughtful, empathetic treatment of groups that the authors aren’t a part of.

Why did you decide to do a Kickstarter? Why is it important?
PW: The Kickstarter is allowing us to pay the contributors professional rates. While a publication is always nice, it’s even better to get paid. We wanted to support our writers to the fullest extent.
BW: Kickstarter is how we are able to pay our authors. There’s nothing more important to us (we’re writers ourselves) than that writers be fairly compensated for their work and we simply don’t have the means to do that without the funds from our Kickstarter.

When will submissions open and how can we find out more about the project?
Submissions will open as soon as the Kickstarter is funded! At the latest, it would be May 4th, though we are hoping the Kickstarter will take off and we can open sooner! Regardless of when we open, we will take submissions until June 4th. You can find out more about the project at the social media platform of your choice:

Twitter: @sunvaultantho
Facebook: Sunvaultantho

Lastly, if you could have one wish for the anthology, what would it be?
PW: That it would inspire meaningful change.
BW: A long-lasting impact and many print runs, a change in the way we as a community think about our world.

This is a wonderful sounding anthology that I look forward to reading! And if it helps you understand the minds of one of the editors better (if you’re looking to submit), here is a sample of the kind of question Brontë had wanted me to ask:  Are scientists sure the moon isn't simply the back of the Sun?  You can also follow the editors: Brontë at @BeezyAl and Phoebe at @pheebs_w on Twitter!