Two weeks ago, the RCMP raided Wet’suwet’en territory, arresting dozens of Wet’suwet’en land protectors in an effort to clear the way for the Coastal Gas Link pipeline. This action by Canadian authorities has since resulted in nation-wide protests. It seems inappropriate to post good news eco-stories when this is happening in Canada; but this always happening in Canada. And every other colonial state. This is the perpetual context of environmentalism in the West.
N.K. Jemisin’s “The Ones Who Stay and Fight” is the opening story in the author’s short story collection, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month. The story introduces the collection, as does the book’s title, as a work of fundamentally utopian sff.
“The Ones Who Stay and Fight” was written in conversation with “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, Ursula K. Le Guin’s own challenge to utopia, published in 1973. “Omelas” has been discussed extensively (a recent article on “Omelas” and its utilitarian implications for our own times can be found here) and this review will side-step a comprehensive comparison of “Omelas” and “The Ones Who Stay and Fight”. Instead, the focus here is on Jemisin’s story, its conception of systemic violence, its implicit sense of justice and hope, and how Jemisin’s vision applies to the fight against climate change.
Osahon Ize-Iyamu’s “More Sea Than Tar” in Reckoning 3 is about a Nigerian family struggling against the currents of modern life in a flooded and slowly disintegrating town. The main character, Uti, must navigate opposing family dynamics in order to find his own way of living.
Tlotlo Tsamaase’s novelette “Eclipse our Sins” is a dense and lyrical story in which a young girl searches for the reason her family members are falling ill in a world in which Mother Earth seeks revenge for a multitude of sins committed against her.
Tsamaase’s future is one in which those effects against the earth are tangible. For example, xenophobic or sexist thoughts emerge into the air as smog, contributing to ecological destabilization. The protagonist, and many others in the story, wears a respirator which protects her from the material effects of anti-social elements; but requiring this protection is a burden on the poor who must not only regularly replace their respirators to survive, but are also dependent on proprietary medicines.
P. Djèlí Clark’s The Black God’s Drums is fast-paced and fun, with characters that play off each other’s quick-witted banter. The world created in this novella is a slightly off-kilter version of our own, with recognizable politics (where the bad guys are Confederates singing songs about Andrew Jackson) juxtaposed with airships and mind-numbing “drapeto gas” which keeps a slave economy running after emancipation. But the part of this book that is so interesting to us is the orisha magic wielded by main characters Jacqueline (or Creeper) and Anne-Marie, magic which connects the narrative so strongly to place.
Both rage and hope can be detrimental to developing the kinds of responses to the climate emergency that we need to restructure society (and the kinds of stories we tell ourselves). Certainly, rage can motivate, but it can also turn on itself; hope can push relentlessly toward unrealistic, unachievable goals when good-enough is right in front of us. Bolander’s novelette is certainly a rage-packed pill that is, at times, tough to swallow; but it is easier if the book’s moments of beauty are not overlooked.
We are starting small, but we have a plan to ensure that we take each step forward with our effect on local and global ecologies in mind. We also aim to demonstrate care for our authors, who have put so much of themselves into their stories.
Rivers Solomon’s The Deep demonstrates a literal transformation of human bodies as a result of a change in environment. In this novella, the descendants of kidnapped African mothers thrown from slave ships as they cross the Atlantic ocean become the wajinru, an deep-sea dwelling merpeople who live in blissful forgetfulness of their history. But this forgetfulness cannot be sustained.
This story from Reckoning Magazine packs a ton of heart and hope into a diminutive novelette. It also packs eldritch horror into the unsuspecting body of a young girl whose family is responsible for the dam and diversion project which dramatically altered the ecosystem of its small-town setting. Lanny Boykin is a shape-shifter; but she is not the only shape-shifter in the story.
As part of our Internet debut, so that our future authors and and readers can get to know what to expect from the press, the Fiction and Non-Fiction editors will post reviews to the blog , describing a few books we’ve loved — both old and new. While only some of these books will be exclusively focused on the climate emergency, they will each have some elements of form or content that we’d love to see in our submissions queue. As we acquire our own titles, we will write more about Stelliform authors and their works; but until then, we will share the books we love and why we love them.
Robson’s novella, Gods Monsters and the Lucky Peach, does fit into the mandate of the press in that its technological focus is also ecological and its narrative acknowledges the ways that these two elements interact in Robson’s world.