Climate Change and Fantasy Worlds

There has been some conversation on social media lately about how presses acquire the titles they publish. Writers are asking how many of a press’s published titles are solicited versus how many are picked up from unsolicited submissions (in other words, the “slush pile”). So far, all of our acquisitions have been from slush. While writer and editor folk sometimes talk about the horrors of the slush pile, my experience with reading slush has so far been mostly delightful. Today I want to talk a bit about that experience of delight in the context of climate change narratives.

Most submissions I’ve read have been on topic, which means that most manuscripts have been about climate change and its effects on us and the other beings that live with us. The delightful thing about speculative fiction on this topic is that it allows for a bending of the rules of reality. Since we’re not looking for our climate change stories to reproduce reality, elements of the fantastic can shift the reader’s focus, help the reader to look away from the big picture of climate change for a moment. To dive deeper into specific perspectives and problems.

It’s important to carve out these spaces where the reader can sit for a moment — within a bigger problem always, but for a moment focusing on a small world that the fantastic creates for us. The feelings around climate change are big and oppressive and overwhelming and I’m not entirely interested in recreating that experience in Stelliform books. The world is doing that for us already.

Instead, I’ve been delighted to read stories that shape a smaller but still inter-connected experience. Most of the time this experience is created through character and character interactions with the fantastic. Characters open a window for us into their particular perspective. That perspective is part of the wider world, but we’re not asked to consider the entire world all at once. In a way, even though stories about environmental destruction are by their very nature frightening, Stelliform stories aren’t asking readers to experience that alone.

Fantasy worlds and the characters that live in them are creating mediated spaces for conversations that are removed from the reality of climate change which can be too frightening, too overwhelming. Within these worlds, characters guide us through their perspectives, their particular way of seeing the world. For a moment, we’re removed from our own concerns and, hopefully, the weight of the world’s larger problems while still considering climate change and experiencing the feeling attached to this specific perspective.

This is a crucial exercise that we can do again and again with different characters in different narratives. It’s an exercise that will help us to think through the bigger real-world problems when we encounter them. It’s an exercise that Stelliform presents to readers in hopes that such things will help us make the right decisions when we need to make them.

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