O P T O P I A
Issue 3 | May 2021
A SOLARPUNK ZINE 1
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Ceremony / Meira Datiya
First Breath / Abi Marie Palmer
Somewhere Else / Julie Martin
Interview: Developing Cloud Gardens
Mik Tulumello, Pillule Kosmik
The Mound / Christopher Murtagh
Solar Tokyo / Sam Fontaine
Okarina / Pillule Kosmik
Spiralling Upward: Historical Perspective on the 22nd Century / Esmé Beaumont
Jardim Flutuante, Greenhouse, Semente / Lua Kali
Interview: C.D. Tavenor, Editor of “The World’s Revolution”
Solar Recharge Station / J. Queiroz
Sol / Meira Datiya
A Muster of Pride / Julie Martin
LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT When we talk about the environment, we cannot ignore the fact that we are living on land that does not belong to us, land that was forcibly taken by white settlers who then committed genocide on the tribes who once lived there. It can be easy for solarpunk and other environmental activism to fall into familiar colonizer pathways of thought and ideas and we want to push back against that. We acknowledge the people whose land we live on. The Piscataway Conoy tribe, who can be found at piscatawaytribe.org. The St. Croix Chippewa, who can be found at stcroixojibwe-nsn.gov. The Kiikaapoi, or Kickapoo, who can be found at www.ktik-nsn.gov. The Kaskaskia people, who are now part of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, and can be found at peoriatribe.com. The Osage nation, who can be found at osagenation-nsn.gov. The Ochethi Sakowin confederacy, who can be found at sdpb.org/learn/nativeamerican/oceti. The Tsalaguwetiyi or Eastern Cherokee, who can be found at ebci.com/. The Uchee, or Yuchi, tribe, whose Savannah River Band can be found at srbeucheetribe.org. The Muscogee, or Creek Confederacy, who can be found at muscogeenation.com. The Shawnee tribe, who can be found at shawnee-nsn.gov. The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy, who consisted of the Mohawk (mbq-tmt.org), the Cayuga (cayuganation-nsn.gov), the Seneca (sni.org), the Oneida (oneidaindiannation.com), the Onondaga (onondaganation.org), and the Tuscarora (tuscaroras.com). We used native-land.ca to find out whose land we live on. op•to•pi•a (noun): A place in between a utopia and a dystopia. Not a perfect world, but an achievable one—the best possible world we can create given the circumstances. so•lar•punk (noun): An aesthetic, science fiction, and social justice movement centered around the environment, nature, and a hope for a sustainable future.
OPTOPIA STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Rosie Albrecht DEUPTY EDITORS: Jeremy Baker, Meira Datiya, Rifka Handelman, X379496, Krystal Washington STAFF ARTISTS/WRITERS: Meira Datiya LAYOUT DIRECTOR: Rifka Handelman 3
CEREMONY / MEIRA DATIYA 4
FIRST BREATH / ABI MARIE PALMER
Clove was distant again at breakfast. When the holo-disc’s alarm chirped five, she gave Nat a perfunctory good-morning squeeze around the shoulders, then sat up and tore open one of the bags of nutri-mulch they each kept on their own side of the futon for convenience. Wordlessly, she slotted the mulch packet’s straw through the valve in her breathing mask and contemplatively slurped her breakfast. By the holo-disc’s cold light, she looked ghostly and very, very tired. Nat hauled herself into a sitting position beside her. “Morning, sleepy head.” “Morning,” Clove returned absently, barely pausing her breakfast slurps. She was staring at the blank wall with the calculating intensity of a scientist on the brink of an epiphany. Her tousled hair shaded her eyes. She was in no hurry to be up—she didn’t have to be at Acriture HQ for two hours. Nat, on the other hand, was already running late. She stretched and jumped out of bed, gathering her work clothes from where she
had flung them, exhausted, last night. As she smoothed out her heavy-duty overalls, she tried to make small talk with Clove. “Are you working on anything interesting today?” Clove shrugged. “Nothing that Acriture would approve of.” Why will you never give me a straight answer about your work nowadays? thought Nat, a little irritated. She said, “But isn’t that the whole point of this internship? To impress them so they’ll give you a permanent job and we can move to a safer neighbourhood?” Another shrug. Nat sighed. She didn’t have time to pursue the subject further. She pulled on her overalls, popped a denta-chew in her mouth to clean her teeth, and gathered her equipment. “Bye,” she said, her voice hollow. Clove waved her hand once, not looking up from her reverie. “You got enough air to last the day?” said Nat. Instinctively, she checked her own oxygen canister as she asked the question. The level was lime green—it’d need a 5
top-up by evening. “Yeah, plenty.” Clove didn’t even glance at her canister as she said this —she didn’t share Nat’s habit of fussing over her breathing equipment all day. “Good luck at work,” said Nat. To that, Clove gave no response at all, and Nat left the flat feeling uneasy. She didn’t understand what could have changed. Clove had been so passionate about her work at first. She had never stopped talking about how much she wanted to do Acriture Corp’s product design internship—in fact, she had insisted on applying for the opportunity despite Nat’s gently-spoken misgivings. Acriture employed Nat, and most people in the city—rich and poor. The internship paid almost nothing, and didn’t even offer an oxygen ration, like the permanent positions did. And with two hundred interns competing for one permanent job, Clove’s decision to take on the role had been a risky one. But it had been the only job Clove wanted. “The product design department’s basically the only place where you’re allowed to have ideas—where you can make a real difference,” she had said before she applied. Clove needed to believe she could make a difference to the 6
world around her. In her lifetime, she had seen her city deteriorate from a thriving metropolis to a wasteland of pollution, crime and desperation under the stranglehold of Acriture Corp’s governance. After the Earth War destroyed most of the city’s old infrastructure, the Acriture corporation was the only organisation with enough resources to manage the necessary regeneration. But, in exchange, they demanded that the elected government concede, first, regulatory control of industry, then, in time, total legislative control of the city. Then came the breathing crisis. Seven years ago, Acriture had announced a city-wide Atmospheric Toxicity Alert. The city’s air had become so polluted that even the best filtered masks on the market couldn’t protect from the deadly smog. As public panic had grown and hospitals overflowed, Acriture calmed the populace with the promise of premium air canisters for every citizen (at premium prices, naturally). Of course, as the only surviving manufacturer on the continent, Acriture’s factories were responsible for poisoning the air in the first place. Everyone knew this, but Acriture was rarely criticized— after all, as Acriture frequently reminded the populace through their
many sponsored media outlets, there is no alternative to progress. “Ha!” Clove had snorted when the slogan had appeared on the holopad for the hundredth time. “No alternative! There are thousands—no, millions—of alternatives to this crummy situation. How can we just give up on ever having clean air when we haven’t even tried! Has Acriture even tried one invention to clean the air? Of course not—why would they?” She huffed. “If they’d just let me at the right equipment, I know I could come up with something…” “I’m sure you could,” Nat had said. And she meant it. Clove had real talent—there was no denying that. Sometimes Nat thought that there was nothing she couldn’t conceive of or create. Like when a heavy bout of acid rain had cut through their flat’s roof. Clove had thrown together an alkaline shield (using supplies liberated from work) to protect their home until they could convince their landlord to fix the hole. And her ingenuity had made a name for her at her new job: after her first week, Clove had come home and excitedly announced that her design for a new, reusable nutri-mulch straw had been fast-tracked for production. “If I get a couple more products
approved, I can get my own lab, and then I can make some real change,” she had said. None of the other interns had had a design produced so quickly. But that was months ago. Somewhere along the line, her attitude transformed. It was subtle at first—Nat had been too busy to notice it straight away—but then it became obvious. Clove had lost interest in her work. She had never exactly loved Acriture Corporation—who did? But now, she badmouthed it at every chance she got, and avoided ever talking about the progress of her internship. Nat didn’t want to be annoyed at Clove, but her growing uncertainty about the future was a constant presence in her mind, like one of those robot beetles that followed her at work, and occasionally crawled up her back if she had a slow day. Nat worked in the gargantuan Acriture distribution warehouse, repairing packing robots. It was lonely work and offered her little challenge. And, admittedly, her days of rewiring circuits probably weren’t going to change the world. But it had given her the money to move in with Clove, and ensure they both had enough nutri-mulch and oxygen to survive. That was enough for Nat—a fairly comfortable life, in a fairly safe neighbour7
hood, with her girlfriend. Anything bigger—saving the city, cleaning the air—was a pipe dream, and a dangerous one at that. Nat made the short walk to the transit hub and boarded the packed monorail for the warehouse complex. It was still dark outside, but the monorail’s strip-lights illuminated the weary expressions of the commuters. Their spectral reflections lined the windows of the carriage. Nat kept her head bowed, so her face didn’t come into contact with the armpit of the stranger sandwiched beside her. The world outside became a blur as the monorail sped out of the city centre. The journey only lasted a few seconds. They came to a seamless halt at a vast concourse, and commuters piled out of the carriage and straight onto a fast-moving conveyor belt, which would whisk them into the heart of the warehouse complex. Please keep all hands, feet and luggage inside the red lines, whined a voice on the tannoy. You ride the conveyor belt at your own risk. Nat spent that work day distracted. At lunch, she sat apart from the few other humans who worked on the warehouse floor, doing her best to swallow her portion of nutri-mulch despite the cold film of 8
slime it left in her mouth.. All the while, she wondered and worried about Clove’s strange mood. In the afternoon, while she was repairing a lifting and carrying robot, her hand slipped, scattering a few nuts and bolts across the floor. Instantly, the security alarm sounded and red lights flashed angrily. “Hazard in aisle 389. Hazard in aisle 398,” screeched a robotic voice from a speaker. Every robot working in the aisle halted instantly. Nat scrambled to pick up the pieces as quickly as possible. The lost profits from the delay would come out of her paycheck. At the end of her shift, she re-boarded the conveyor belt with a heavy heart. Clove was not home when Nat returned to the apartment. The holo-disc lay in her pillow, with the scribbled words gone out for some stuff, be back soon floating above it. Nat dropped her work gear in a heap by the door and settled down on the futon to await her return. To keep herself occupied, she scrolled through news on the holo-disc. It projected headline after headline onto the wall: Acriture once again wins Service to the City prize... Local man invents Acri-air alternative, goes missing... Is Acriture director’s election rival actually a carnivorous android? Nat sighed
and switched off the holo-pad with a swipe of the hand. The front door clicked open, and Clove’s voice floated into the room. “Honey? I’m home?”. To Nat’s surprise, she sounded uncertain, but friendly. Clove closed the door awkwardly. She was lugging a bursting messenger bag, and wearing strange clothes that Nat didn’t recognise. She crossed the room to Nat and gave her a hug. And not just a now you’ll leave me alone hug—a proper I’ve missed you hug! Nat squeezed her around the middle and smiled cautiously, buoyed by the attention. “It’s good to see you.” Although they were only a few inches apart, Nat bent down and tossed Clove a packet of nutri-mulch—their dinner-time routine. Clove caught it, smiling queasily. Nat frowned. “What’s wrong?” Clove gestured for Nat to sit beside her on the futon. “I need to tell you something,” she said regretfully. “Actually, I probably should have said something quite a while ago.” Oh no, thought Nat. She tried to appear calm, unconcerned. “Oh really? Um, yeah, come to think of it, you have been acting a little, er, standoffish? Secretive, almost? You’re quiet at meals, and you just don’t seem to have much
enthusiasm—for work and stuff, I mean. And you’re not in your work clothes. What’s going on, Clove?” Clove sighed defeatedly. “Please don’t be mad?” “About what?” “I got fired from Acriture three months ago.” Fired? Nat’s mind clouded over. She could barely even focus on Clove’s anxious face. All she could imagine was debt, possibly homelessness, oxygen poverty... We might have to use the oxy-bank air, thought Nat. It was just about breathable in the short term, but would still shorten their lifespans considerably. And how would Clove ever get another job now? Acriture was basically the only legitimate employer in the city nowadays. Oh, there were other jobs, but they were mostly semi-legal and certainly didn’t come with insurance or retirement packages. “H-how did this happen?” Clove sighed wearily. “You know my friend, Clara?” She’d said friend in air quotes. “Well, I stupidly confided in her about some research I was doing. It wasn’t strictly... well okay, it was totally illegal. Against corporate interests, and all that. Well, it turns out Clara was struggling to keep up with the workload—making rookie mistakes, 9
wasting company resources, you know—and people were starting to notice. So, she told me that I had to take responsibility for the mess she’d made, or else she’d report me to the Criminal Research and Design Commission.” “Illegal research? Clove!” “I know, I’m sorry! I was just so excited—I had an idea for an invention-.” Nat shot Clove a serious look. “Unauthorised research is nothing to be excited about, Clove. You know any research outside Acriture’s business plan is a grade one market sabotage offense. You could get ten years in prison—or longer!” “I know. But...” Clove spoke in hushed tones. “This could be huge, Nat. I mean...” she smiled slightly. “Groundbreaking, if I do say so myself.” “That is exactly what I am afraid of.” “Look, I know this isn’t really your way of doing things. And I know you’re upset because I lost my job-” “And now the crime!” “And the crime. But…” Clove paused and steepled her fingers, clearly choosing her words carefully. “I think you need to see it to understand. Let me show you 10
what I’ve been working on.” She searched in her bag and thrust a sketchbook at Nat. Nat took it with trepidation. Inside were strange diagrams which she didn’t understand or recognize. “This is what Clara threatened to report you for?” “Yes.” Clove turned to a dogeared page and pointed to a sketch. It looked like an intricate, swirling skyscraper—nothing like any building Nat had ever seen. “This invention could change the world, Nat. It really could.” To Nat, that seemed impossibly optimistic. She knew better than to underestimate Clove, but she was also more than a little wary. Clove’s excitement bothered her. Didn’t she care that she could end up in prison? Hadn’t she considered how… how… terrible (the word didn’t even cover it) Nat would feel if they were separated? She subdued her worries and took a breath. “Okay... so what’s this thing?” “It’s a fungus tower. Fun-gus.” She pronounced it carefully, since it was a new word for Nat. “You know the nutri-mulch that we eat? Well, I did a rotational placement at the mulch testing centre, before they fired me, and I found out from a junior researcher that they make
the mulch out of something called a fungus. A mushroom, to be precise.” “Huh.” Nat had never given much thought to the origins of her food. “Yeah, and get this. The mushrooms in the mulch, they were grown in a factory lab, right? Only takes a few seconds. But I did some research, and it says that in the olden days, mushrooms used to grow right out of the ground. All by themselves! For free, Nat! I mean, can you imagine?” “I can imagine a lot of things, Clove. For one, you rotting in prison on business competition charges. It seems like you’ve found a way to undercut Acriture’s nutri-mulch prices.” “Oh, the free food part is only the tip of the skyscraper. I’ve been researching this mushroom thing for weeks—I even hacked into my manager’s account so I could see the restricted research files. And you wouldn’t believe the stuff it can do!” Nat couldn’t hide her indignation. “Hacking into restricted company files? Do you have a death wish, Clove? What could possibly be worth all this risk?” Clove grinned, and paused dramatically. “Two words: Clean. Air.
For everyone, for free—all around the city, just like when we were kids.” Cleaning the air? Nat took a step away from Clove. “Keep your voice down! If Acriture even got a whiff of what you’re saying, they’d… I don’t even want to think about it.” Clove put a reassuring hand on Nat’s arm. “Look, Nat. I know this is a lot. And you don’t have to have anything to do with it if you don’t want. I’ll never mention it again. But the project’s already underway. Has been, for three months, ever since I left Acriture.” Then she searched inside her bag and brought out a crumpled package. She thrust it at Nat. “I’d like you to come and see what I’ve been working on. I got you some non-work clothes, so the eye-drones can’t trace our Acriture ID badges. Best to be on the safe side.” Nat took the package, fixing Clove with a you’re walking a dangerous path glare. “If I go with you,” she said, in a voice that came out shaky, “that doesn’t mean I’m part of this project.” “Understood.” “I just have to know what you’ve been doing all this time.” Fortunately, the smog was so thick when they reached the street 11
that no camera or person could possibly identify Nat or Clove. They walked in stiff silence for a while, before Clove spoke. “Hey, Nat?” “Hmm?” Nat murmured, half listening while warily looking out for street safety cameras. “Do you think we’ll make it through this? As a couple, I mean?” Nat looked over at Clove and saw that her expression was serious. “Yeah, I want to. But we have to stay out of trouble.” Clove wasn’t satisfied. “But what if I don’t get another job?” She sounded serious this time. It was a real possibility, of course. With over a million unemployed people in the city, competition for jobs was, to put it lightly, bloody. And Nat’s meagre wages would not be enough to support them forever. Nat tried not to think about that. She gave Clove’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “Yes, I would stay with you if you never got another job. But it won’t come to that—don’t worry.” Clove shrugged. “It really could.” They were silent for a moment. Nat took Clove’s hand and squeezed reassuringly. It reassured her a little, too. They reached a nondescript back-alley. Clove glanced surreptitiously up and down the street be12
fore steering Nat into its shadows. They were about three blocks from their flat. The alley was unlit, hidden from traffic and pedestrians. Clove stopped in front of a rusted, graffitied garage door. It was chained and padlocked, and three industrial-sized bins stood in front of it. If she was only passing, Nat would have assumed that the building had long been abandoned. Clove squeezed past the bins and, with a key from her pocket, opened the heavy padlock and removed the chains covering the door. “Welcome to the lab!” She said, in slightly hushed tones. With some effort, she heaved up the door and ushered Nat into the dark interior. Ducking under the half-jammed garage door, Nat felt a little like one of the characters in the cautionary films about anti-corporate behaviour she had watched in school. The errant young people in those videos inevitably ended up getting kidnapped, or having their organs harvested, or meeting some other grizzly fate. Nat told herself to trust Clove. Clove quietly closed the garage door and pressed a switch. A row of bulbous overhead lights flickered on, bathing the room in a soft glow. Nat gasped. They were in a low-ceilinged
concrete garage—a simple cubic room that Clove had completely transformed. Stacked up along every wall were glass tanks, each lined with soil and filled with strange growths. “They’re mushrooms,” explained Clove, following Nat’s gaze. Nat stood just inside the entrance, momentarily stunned. Clove beckoned encouragingly. “Come look. It’s perfectly safe.” Nat walked hesitantly towards a row of mushroom tanks and examined their contents. Some of the mushrooms grew in clusters, white and spindly. Some grew bulbous and stout. Some oozed liquids from their domed heads. Others fluoresced dimly, like apartment lights shining through the smog. “You made these?” said Nat, astounded. Clove shrugged. “I planted them. But with a little care, they basically ‘made’ themselves. I’ve been tending them since I left Acriture.” Nat thought they were beautiful. She had seen a lot of things that she thought were amazing in her life: She had seen a robot that could make a photo-realistic portrait of its owner. She had seen a hover-bike that would take you on a guided tour of Acri-City. She had
seen an Acri-bot that could spit out any conceivable flavor of candy requested of it. But she had never seen a plant grow before. “Can we eat them?” “Some,” said Clove. “At first, I thought you could eat them all—after all, I stole the seeds from the nutria-mulch department. But some of them made me sick. Now I’m testing them on that synthetic digestive system over in the corner, before I taste them.” “But you can eat some for sure?” “Yeah, you can eat these ones.”Clove walked to a battered mini fridge in the corner of the room. It bore a red stamp which said property of the Acriture waste disposal unit. From the fridge, she produced a used nutri-mulch box filled with chopped mushrooms. She opened it and offered some to Nat. Nat eyed the grey morsel suspiciously. It looks very... solid.” “It’s fine.” Clove held her breath and popped a mushroom under her oxygen mask, then spluttered from the bitter taste of air that had crept in. She chewed and swallowed. “See, it tastes pretty good.” Then she handed the box to Nat, who followed suit. “Well?” Clove raised her eyebrows. “It tastes weird. But it’s better 13
than nutri-mulch.” “Definitely better!” Clove agreed. From now on, we can grow all the food we need for free! No more dipping into our overdrafts just to pay for gross old mulch.” “If only we could get free oxygen as well.” “Ah!” Clove gesticulated dramatically, emboldened by Nat’s approval. “But we can. This is what this whole laboratory was designed for! Prepare yourself, my love, for the most revolutionary, most rebellious... most criminal invention of the century. I call it... the oxy-tower!” Nat followed Clove’s pointed finger to the far end of the garage, where a glass dome about six feet tall stood in shadow. Clove walked over to it and flipped a switch. The whole thing lit up. Inside the dome was an exact replica of the swirling tower drawing in Clove’s notebook. It was about the height of Nat’s shoulder. Growing all over the tower was a hoard of delicate green mushrooms. They stuck out at odd angles, and they had spread all over the floor of the dome, some even crawling up the sides of the glass as well. But it was what was around the tower that was most amazing. The air inside the dome was crystal-clear—not a whiff of smog to be seen. 14
“It’s a special type of mushroom,” explained Clove. “I bred it myself. It absorbs the poison in the air. I’m still working on making it one hundred percent effective, but it’s close—cleans ninety eight percent of smog from the air. I know it’ll get there.” “Wow,” Nat pressed her hands and nose against the cold glass, examining the tower. “How can something so small clean the whole city?” “Oh, it’s a miniature prototype. The real ones would be much bigger... when I figure out how to get them built. I’m in talks with a group—very secretive, of course; I don’t even know their names—who are interested in constructing them in the abandoned hangars downtown, where no-one will find them. At least, not until they have started to work.” “Secret groups, abandoned hangars. Right. This is all sounding a lot like one of those old spy movies you like.” “Oh, it’s far more exciting than those. This is really happening, Nat. In a year’s time, I think life in AcriCity will be unrecognizable. Do you want to try it out?” “You mean, get in the dome?” “Yes, it’s fully functional. I’ve been inside many times myself.”
Clove gestured to a narrow ladder, which leaned against the side of the glass dome. A second ladder ran down the inside. Nat hung back, unsure. Clove stepped over to a console beside the dome. It had clearly been constructed out of several cannibalized machines, no doubt stolen from the Acriture waste disposal center. Clove keyed in a sequence of numbers, and a small, rubber-sealed hatch at the top of the dome sprang open. Immediately, the rancid smog in the garage poured through the hatch and muddied the immaculate air inside. After ten seconds, Clove pressed more buttons, and the hatch closed. “Now watch.” Nat watched as the mushrooms in the dome got to work. They seemed to bristle from the outside air, at first shriveling and shrinking from the intruding poison. Then, as though inhaling simultaneously, they bloomed, stretching outwards and sucking the murky smog into their systems. Nat could see the grimy fumes disappear before her eyes. Then the mushrooms bloomed, visibly exhaling clean air. This cycle repeated until the contents of the dome was once again crystal clear. “It’s incredible,” Nat said admiringly. “It’s just nature. It’s the way
things were, a long time ago. These things—living things—would give us clean air. And I’m sure this wasn’t the only kind there was. With enough time, I could re-discover so many lost species,” Clove mused. She opened the hatch once again. “Go on, climb in!” “Without my oxygen mask?” “No, go in with it. Once the hatch has been closed for a minute, the air should be clean again and you can take it off.” “I’m a little nervous.” “Don’t be.” Nat climbed into the dome. She could see the mushrooms swaying slightly from the influx of dirty air. The hatch closed above her. As instructed, she counted to sixty, still breathing through her mask. Through the domed glass, the lab looked distorted. Clove watched Nat from the outside, her face a mixture of pride and apprehension. Nat took a proper look at her, really taking in her bright, searching eyes and warm face for the first time in months. Clove pressed her hand encouragingly against the glass, and Nat mirrored her gesture. Then she gathered her courage, and took her first breath of fresh air in seven years.
If you are not a myth, whose reality are you? If you are not a reality, whose myth are you? —Sun Ra Under the bridge to the Ninth Dimension, beyond the second star to the right, angels and demons play in the shadows of tomorrow. Heed the universe calling to your velvet imagination. Time travel to reckon with your alienated life. Thither and yon, refuse the limitations of the cosmo-riddle snare. Simultaneously remember and make a radical break from allowable thought. What are the possibilities of dissenting belief?
SOMEWHERE ELSE / JULIE MARTIN Poetry 18
INTERVIEW: DEVELOPING CLOUD GARDENS In September of 2020, the video game Cloud Gardens was released on Steam for early access. It seemed solarpunk so, out of curiousity, I bought the game and joined the Early Access Discord server. There, I had the opportuinity to speak with Elijah Cauley, the level designer. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Rifka Handelman: Could you explain Cloud Gardens to someone who’s never played it? Eli Cauley: Cloud Gardens is a lo-fi artisan game where you are presented with dioramas of the apocalypse—a sort of soft apocalypse—and it’s your job to overgrow these dioramas with a variety of plants. It’s slightly a puzzle game, but it’s mostly about the aesthetic and process of tending space and turn it into a garden. RH: Where did the original concept of the game come from? EC: It all started when Thomas [van den Berg, also known as Noio, the main designer for the game] was working on a large-scale MMO game called Garbage Country where the idea was that people would build little settlements out of concrete structures. Part of it was that the plants would grow in real time. So you would log on, you would maybe plant a seed, and then when you left and then came back the vine would have grown. That growing system is now in Cloud Gardens, with some minor changes and lots of new plants. 20
At some point during the development process Thomas realized the MMO wasn’t panning out, but that the plant mechanism was cool and very artistically powerful. He started prototyping these very small structures, like what you see in the game today, and he put together a small set of props. I think the barrel and the TV were some of the first things that he made, which were taken from the previous MMO concept. We spent a long time talking about what kind of spaces we wanted to overgrow and what kind of plants we wanted and how to make the game fun. We liked the idea of tending your garden in a leisurely way, as opposed to mind-bending puzzles. RH: The game is set sort of vaguely post-apocalypse—there aren’t any people, and the buildings are fallen-down and overgrown. Did you ever have an idea of how the world of Cloud Gardens was created? EC: One of the things that happened with Cloud Gardens is that it is an aesthetics-forward game specifically focused on the plants. We knew that the plants looked good in particular spaces and on particular things. We toyed with having a story, but ultimately decided to leave it completely open-ended. I think that a lot of themes that we end up playing with in terms of having plants grow21
ing in abandoned industrial spaces makes people think about climate change and the apocalypses that we’re currently facing, which is definitely intentional. But ultimately, the nature of the story of the wasteland is—at least for now— unspecified. RH: Could you talk a little about those themes? What do you think about the ideas of beauty in broken-down buildings, and creating something to ruin it? EC: When designing the levels, I looked at a lot of building games, especially the building aspect of the Sims. What you’re doing in Cloud Gardens is almost like a double inverse—you’re not breaking things, but what you’re building is already kind of broken. I think that there’s an interesting dynamic there. Normally when you’re exposed to broken-down structures in games, it’s because of entropy, time, and decay. In Cloud Gardens we encourage the opposite, where we’re taking care of and finding beauty in these broken-down structures. RH: What about the other themes of the game? What was the process for those, and how do you try to bring them across to the player? EC: We talked about a lot of things in terms of the themes and level palettes. At one point we were thinking about a run-down area 22
called the Stacks, sort of inspired by people living out of old shipping containers. The environments that I thought would be most satisfying to overgrow would be those of industrial environments or luxury environments, places where you’re watching great wealth decay as opposed to like watching poverty decay. That was something that we were trying to be mindful of in our depictions of it because there’s something satisfying to watching the downfall of monuments to capitalism and our current industrial cultural era. RH: You focus a lot on the plants, and the only other life in the game are the crows that accompany the player. What was the reason behind including those? EC: There are sort of two answers to that. One is that it’s to show that life exists beyond humans. The threat is not like to the planet— plants will continue, crows will continue, but it’s us that won’t be in the picture. EC: But the other answer is that we wanted something that was moving inside of the static vignettes.. A big influence on the game was a sandbox game called Townscaper, which has a similar idea of digital space, and no real objective, that we wanted to lean into. And we liked their birds—which are much cuter than the crows in Cloud Gardens, but 23
serve a similar purpose of grounding the player in a disconnected digital space. RH: This idea of moving away from the typical video game levels and objectives—how do you plan to implement that moving forward? EC: There’s already a suite of three chapters, which are sets of levels, and there’s three more planned. We’ve seen folks in the community building these ridiculous and awesome gardens in our sandbox mode and we want to continue to give them tools to be able to make more ridiculous gardens and to have more control over what they’re doing while keeping the whole experience accessible. We kept a system of levels—didn’t make it purely a sandbox game— because people feel comfortable with that. Folks wanting levels because they understand that levels will teach you how to play. We didn’t want an environment that encouraged “only a true gamer can figure out the game”—we wanted anyone to be able to play the game. We also didn’t want to punish players for not understanding the game, especially since we don’t have much text. Ultimately, in development, we will see how Early Access goes. You can make the kind of games you want to, but you also have 24
to pay rent and eat food and I, at least, don’t live in a country where there’s enough of social safety net for artists to allow us to ignore those kinds of factors. RH: What are your favorite things about the community that has sprung up around Cloud Gardens, like the Early Access Discord? EC: I have been really excited by the variety of folks who have come to this game, both through traditional gaming channels, but also folks who are like “mostly I just write solar zines, but this game looks up my alley” or people who are doing a PhD in botany or who used to do landscaping or who do urban exploring, and just love plants and landscapes. There’s someone in the Discord who makes real-life model dioramas using plants and they were like “this game is saving me so much money because I can just make digital ones and not have to pay for my normal materials.”We knew that this would be a niche game, and we hoped that there would be a niche of people who would be excited about a more meandering gardening and aesthetic experience. I also love the people in Discord who fixated on the garden gnome props. I will neither confirm nor deny that it was the garden gnomes that ended the world, but I think that’s funny. RH: Which of the plants in the game is your favorite? EC: The wisteria, the hanging plant. I really like the way it looks and it made me think about how plants take up space on physical structures. r 25
THE MOUND / CHRISTOPHER MURTAGH Fiction
The moneytree died. Iris was not surprised, every one of the last six attempts to plant something in the office plant pot had swiftly met the same fate. The pot was huge. It had a square inverted ziggurat shape. Grey and stylish but brutally stained, like concrete, almost exactly like the facade of the sixties office block they worked within. The pot had outlasted tens of managers, hundreds of staff. Outlasted corporations, mergers, dissolutions. When an influx of cash meant it was time to rip out all the tables and filing cabinets, the pot remained. There was no planting budget. It was a good enough looking pot. It would have taken two or more of them to move it. So always, the pot remained. Tyler crouched beside the dead plant, much to the surprise of Iris. Few had ever given it that 28
much attention. He was a good lad Tyler. Very polite. Maybe someone had told him to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, or maybe, he just had good fashion sense. He was rarely off-trend. His shirt was always ironed. The locks that flowed from his centre parting were never unkempt. Iris knew he wouldn’t be with them for very long, but in a good way. Tyler took out a pair of office scissors and started cutting away at the moneytree leaves. Then he worked away on the branches. Some of the thicker pieces he had to take over to the guillotine to slice. “What are you up to Tyler?” Iris asked. “Permaculture micro-posting,” he replied. “Really? How lovely.” He piled up the leaves and cut branches in the centre of the pot, then went off to the kitchen / staff room. Tyler tore
open tea bags fished from the kitchen bin and crumbled them over his mound as if preparing a sacrament. “For the nitrogen,” he whispered, as he rubbed the last grains of tea-dust over his creation. “Wonderful.” Iris didn’t entirely understand the process, but didn’t want to ask too many questions. She knew to add her apple cores and orange peels and the crusts from her sandwiches, but never dairy and never pistachio shells. “Well why don’t we make use of all the scraps?” Iris asked Julie on the front desk, a couple of days later. The receptionist forcefully agreed, and they both looked at a feeble aspidistra on the waiting area table with the eyes of hungry lionesses. “I’ll get the scissors,” said Julie. When Joanne in HR received a large bouquet on her retirement, that would have just ended up in the bin, they knew
what to do. And soon after, the typists upstairs became an endless supply of sweetheart roses and lilies from mystery men of dubious existence. It was lucky that in the vital first few months of life of the mound the office line manager was away on stress leave. A couple of experienced staff members covered the management tasks for a fortnight at a time. The basic management tasks. The few basic management tasks they understood. They had no real authority and little interest in matters relating to the dos and don’ts of office workspace biophilia. The mound was watered with cold tea. Cups forsaken for pressing phone calls, for spreadsheets or emails, or folding letters, franking envelopes, filing folders, every cold forgotten half-mug-full found the mound. It was fed by sneaky drops in passing, mid-stride by colleagues whose name Iris didn’t even know. Others would make a show of doing their bit. For 29
some, it seemed a good excuse to stop and chat, to stretch their legs, to just get up and do something less miserable for a minute. When Julie brought news there would be a new line manager next week, the three lunching ladies broke from their salads. “It’s getting a little large now,” said Iris, her tone suddenly hushed. “When a new one comes in, they always try to make an impact.” “Do we know what they are like?” “Karen interviewed him.” They all made their opinions of Karen clear without any words. “We need to do something.” When they each reached the last few scraps of greens left in their biodegradable sustainable bamboo lunchboxes, Julie grasped their forearms. “I’ve got access to the laminator,” she said. When Tony, the new manager, made his first tour of 30
the office, his reaction to the mound was a loud, “What?” No one said a thing, as he stepped closer and closer to it. The mound was now twice as big as the pot. It was at least ten centimetres taller than the desk beside it. “What?” he said quieter, as he stood above and inhaled a good long whiff of the mound. His eyes appeared to follow a tiny fly as it wobbled through the air. Iris fought the urge to grit her teeth, kept a strong smile on her face as she pointed out the laminated sign blutacked to the wall. The sign said— Eco-office Bio-mound. Recycle > Regenerate > Activate. It was decorated with clip art of a smiling boy with two thumbs up and a triangle of green arrows swirling on his t-shirt. And in the top right corner, was the mark, the official logo of their company. Tony pinched the top of his nose. Started to gradually
stroke his thin stubble. At that moment, Iris would have done anything for that mound, but she didn’t know what she could do for it. She pointed again at the sign, specifically at the logo on the sign. And then casually as she could, turned away and went back to pretending to work. Everyone left the new manager to his examination of the mound and of the sign on the wall. Eventually, he walked back to his desk at the other side of the office, not having said another word. Iris told herself it was a good thing that he hadn’t said anything, or at least it wasn’t a bad thing. He was turning a blind eye. Surely? As she dressed for bed she was frantic. Her husband put down his novel and rubbed her back, he listened but he couldn’t understand, not really. Sleep would not come until it got light. She dreamt of being lost in an endless office. A maze of filling cabinets and desks. No life, only thin alumin-
ium and sponge and carpet and styrofoam ceiling panels. She ran frantically to colleague after colleague asking them if they had seen her pot. But all they could say in return were the mechanical greetings they said a hundred times a day, the script of their company, for answering every customer call. She saw Tyler then in silhouette against the light of the windows, far on the other side of the office. His hair glowed golden in the sun. The more she struggled to get closer, the more filing cabinets and carpet and desks rolled back between them. Countless colleagues held their phones out to her, the phones were ringing and he was slipping still further away. An office chair spun right into her chest spilling her to the floor, to her bed, to her ringing alarm. The next day, Tony made a show of walking up to the mound with a stride that told them all he was certainly go31
ing to get something done. It pained Iris to look. It pained her more to not. Once there, Tony flicked open his briefcase, and pulled out a bulging paper bag. “Grass clippings,” he said, “you need a proper balance of green to brown material.” He smiled warmly at Iris, who could have almost kissed him. “And. . .” he said as he pulled out a little metal tin. “. . .best of all, these little colleagues.” Tony lovingly blessed the mound with skinny and long, pink purple compost worms. Once the heap was sufficiently claimed by Tony, it was a free for all. It grew at twice the speed of before. The gardeners, who maintained the car park, were informed of the new place for their green waste. Documents and files were shredded and added to the mass. The work experience lads or the young new starters were handed pitchforks fashioned from printer parts bound to office lamp stands, and told to dig in, put their backs into 32
it. ‘You have to perspirate to aerate! To oxygenate the substrate!’ The office would chant, as the mound was turned. Not long after they had received their plastic plaque through the post for the country’s most eco friendly office, when it touched the ceiling, and had claimed three quarters of Iris’ desk, just after Tony had been bumped up to director in reward for his instigation of bold new working strategies, and for breaking all records in office efficiency and employee well-being ratings, Tyler popped in to see how everyone was doing. He was gobsmacked. A thick earthy stench met him before he opened the door to the office. He tried to open the door, but could only half way. Each shelf was filled with bags sprouting mushrooms. Quails and chickens were happily making progress pecking out the last few strands of carpet. The filing cabinets were
now bee hives and beneficial insect habitats. All the staff had a working circle of stones in the middle of the office floor, there they would sit cross legged, their laptops on stands made of reclaimed wood, held aloft just in front of them. They turned to look at Tyler with big smiles, as one. He had returned. Their inspiration. He brushed back his angelic locks as he panicked inside. Everything was so dirty. Everything so smelly. Everything was crawling. Everything alive. Tyler made a quick round of awkward handshakes and after a bit of forced conversation he left them to it. r
The Americans negligence of their own rail lines and public transit systems throughout the 1900s and early 2000s created a serious problem when they could no longer ignore increasingly severe oil crises from the 2070s onward. Their solution was to electrify the sprawling American highway system. Power lines arced over freeway lanes where trolleybuses and mile-long cargo trams replaced the once-ubiquitous automobile. 34
Airships saw a revival in usage in in the second half of the 21st century as the cost of fueling heavier-than-air travel grew. Solar-heated thermal blimps dominated shortrange in commuter air travel, especially in places such as northern Canada and Siberia that with the thawing of permafrost saw increased settlement but poor infrastructure development. Large, long-haul cargo blimps were typically of hybrid design with a skin of solar panels coating the top half.
SOLAR TOKYO / SAM FONTAINE The mills at Pineborough are famed for miles around for the quality of wood they produce. Timber felled there finds its way into new mills, boats, carriages, and even Pineborough’s own laminated veneer lumber aircraft, affectionately nicknamed “Woodwinds” ‘
PILLULE KOSMIK Part 1 ...extracted from the collection... [Cosmic Intelligence SLURB] ...self-generated origins... Postcolonial Optimal Growth Era Year 531 by the A.S. [Atarashi Sekai] Calendar // YOU ENTER THE GLOWBE NETWORK //
// Amusement park reserved // Player 1 //
for too long, we’ve been put down... who is truly free? the real ones will rise up...
“Have you taken note of all the things we can do here?”
Aquillutaq stood straight and still in the void, playing the keyboard only she could see, still immersed in the adjustment levels for the next performance.
The hall was empty of an audience. Under an artificially darkened courtyard ceiling, a hundred vibratile velvet seats were arranged in an arc, separate from one one another. The intonation of the question had ignited a spark of curiousity in Hachi’s head. “No, but go ahead. What do you propose?”
<< THE AQUARIUM | THE AQUARIUM | THE AQUARIUM | THE AQUARI... >> Aquillutaq stopped in her tracks and resumed in a more calm and controlled tone. “I recommend the aquarium. It is one of the rare places that brings together so many savage life forms. There are marine animals today visible only in captivity: vertebrates, invertebrates, fish, cetaceans, gastropods, arthropods, cephalopods. There are super-organisms in which each individual works to make the whole function, giant algae from hot ocean vents, coral from abyssal depths, underwater-caves snakes, eighteen-pointed starfish...” “from microscopic sandworms, metamorphic jellyfish, fast, slippery, camouflaged, immobile animals... with seaweed on their backs... the children of the past...fascinating...” “too much...too much...too much energy! How it is possible? I feel it all... I saw his...his distress...” Suddenly, she stopped speaking. She was shaking, her eyes searching for something. Mizuha caught her gaze, an indescribable glimmer of excitement radiating from deep within her pupils. When she saw him faceto-face, the trembling stopped. Mizuha spoke first:
to be continued...
SPIRALLING UPWARD: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE 22ND CENTURY / ESMÉ BEAUMONT Fiction
The university library roof garden has always been my favourite place to study; the fresh air, the vibrant colours of the calendula and the tulips, and the muffled hum of people going about their lives in the city below provide the perfect environment for writing essays. It’s funny: I wonder how many of those people come up here and feel the same way I do—how many of them have the opportunity to get this perspective on our community, to consider where all of this came from. I doubt I would have thought to ask, had it not been for that one teacher who en-
couraged me to study history— she said I’d be good at it, and at sixteen I had no idea what else I might do, so taking the A-level made sense. She was right, though: I was good at it, and more importantly it was the first school subject I found truly fulfilling to learn. This essay is the perfect demonstration of why: the story of a historical figure so often overlooked in favour of the exciting lives of explorers or the court scandals of kings and queens of centuries past. I love a good adventure story, don’t get me wrong—but my favourite kind of history is the
kind that explains how we got to where we are now, as a society. I remember that teacher showing us photos of London back then—it was so different! Where were the roof gardens? The solar panels? The community orchards and the solar-powered railways that I used to travel to my grandma’s house? Even the rivers were grey and polluted, and they looked so empty without the gondolas decorated with colourful bunting. It’s not like I’d never seen a picture of a car before, but when you see just one in a museum, a historical artifact out of context, it really doesn’t compare to seeing how utterly alien the streets look when they’re covered in the things. So, I’m sitting here with my half-finished essay plan and every relevant textbook the library had, trying to trace the story back to the beginning. The 21st century was the age of fossil fuels. Well, the early 21st century—the long 20th century, some historians
have begun to call it. Now, I’m a nineteen year-old history student, not a scientist, but my understanding is that the fossil fuels people used to burn for fuel had unintended consequences—polluting the air and releasing gasses that stopped the earth’s atmosphere from protecting us from the sun’s rays. The earth was heating up, a seemingly miniscule amount that nevertheless made a massive difference. It was becoming a global catastrophe, and by the mid 21st century a lot of people had given up hope, believing only a miracle could save them from what many were saying would be annihilation. In fact—and this is why I adore this period of history so much—just as a tiny increase in global temperature could cause disaster, so a seemingly tiny action by one person inspired an upwards spiral of much bigger changes for the better. This upwards spiral is the movement that started a fasci41
nating series of changes. Fossil fuels were running out—not in the abstract, distant way of the 20th and 21st centuries, when people knew that these resources were finite but didn’t really think about it, but actually depleting before their eyes. Most governments knew this, of course, but in Europe and America they kept this from the public, and the oil companies pretended everything was fine but kept raising the prices slightly every year, just enough that it took a while for most people to really notice. Of course there were people who couldn’t pay even with the first small increases, but it was when the middle classes couldn’t pay that the petitions started, the protests; there was one image that really stuck with me, a photo of people stood outside Number 10 with signs—“Affordable power now!” “Electricity is a right, not a privilege!” They looked so desperate, so angry—their world had been built for them with oil, and now it was being 42
taken from them. Of course, that didn’t do much. I don’t know if they really believed it would. But then the really cool thing happened. It seemed so small at first. Alva Lindberg, an engineer who had moved to Bristol from Sweden, started a little grassroots movement— just herself and a few friends at first—fitting solar panels on the homes of people whose electricity had been shut off because they couldn’t afford to pay anymore. They did it quietly, just helping out a few people they knew, nothing that would attract much attention to themselves or the people they helped. It cost them a lot—solar panels were far more expensive back then—and when word of what they were doing spread further afield they started getting emails from people all over the world. There were far too many people for just their small group to help, so they put out a plea online, and, to their surprise, people donated—not a huge number at first, but as their plea got shared
around more and more people donated, or offered their services. Some started their own groups, too, in other countries, inspired by Lindberg’s determination to take matters into her own hands, and the movement grew exponentially, until by the end of the 2050s practically every house was fitted with solar panels. Wind turbines, too, in countries where solar power was less practical. That’s about as much as I can fit in the word count of the essay, I think—but it’s the most exciting thing. We all take it for granted, but that one engineer who knew how to fit a solar panel and wanted to help started something that would change the way all of Europe functioned. It’s not a story of one individual changing the world, of course; it took thousands and thousands of people, across multiple generations, to create the society that we live in today. Any historian knows that there are infinite causes and effects attached to every seemingly small event,
and in interviews later in her life Lindberg herself named lots of people she was inspired by. But that doesn’t take away from her significance, for me. From her work came, eventually, all of my favourite parts of the city: the beautiful stained glass windows of the greenhouses attached to the library; the outdoor music venues where my cousin’s band played for the first time; the orchards behind my old school where my friends and I would have picnics after lessons; and the old shopping centres turned into free communal living spaces where my friend Sophie stayed after her parents died, where she took art classes, which led to her painting beautiful flowers on the back of an old denim jacket for my eighteenth birthday. I’ll have to ask her to paint a portrait of Alva Lindberg for me—the university librarians were looking for something to decorate the newly renovated history wing, and I think she deserves pride of place. r 43
LUA KALI 45
INTERVIEW: C.D. TAVENOR, EDITOR OF “THE WORLD’S REVOLUTION”
I recently received a copy of C.D. Tavenor’s short story “Catalyst” a prelude to ‘The World’s Revolution: a Climate Crisis Anthology’. For those who are not aware, CliFi (climate fiction) is the umbrella genre for all fiction in which we deal with an uncertain future brought about by climate change. Solarpunk, lunarpunk, tidalpunk, and other speculative futurisms can fall under this genre but can vary in terms of time, place, culture, and worldview. “The World’s Revolution” anthology takes place in the future according to a predetermined time frame of possible outcomes starting in the year 2020, moving through 2047 and beyond. Allowing writers, artists, and readers to envision both climate disaster and dystopia, as well as, the possibility of creating utopia. With that in mind, I asked C.D. Tavenor a few questions about the anthology and his own opinions about our future. 46
Meira Datiya: Can you explain how you came up with the idea that became ‘World’s Revolution’? C. D. Tavenor: I daylight as a public interest environmental attorney, so I’ve always had an inclination to inject climate change and other environmental issues into the stories I write. Before the World’s Revolution, though, I hadn’t made any stories explicitly focused on climate change (though I have a few personal projects in the works!). I like working with other creatives. As an editor, it’s a lot of fun to help a writer achieve their story’s vision. So I decided to propose the idea of a “climate crisis” anthology to a few other writers and editors. The goal—create a collaborative universe where we can pay authors for their stories while inspiring people to take action on climate change. And from there, we developed the World’s Revolution. MD: What made you come up with this specific timeline for our future? CDT: I’m glad you’ve asked that! In developing the loose “timeline” for writers to build their stories from, we wanted to present a somewhat realistic outlook while also including some typical dystopian futuristic elements for readers to work from. What would the United States look like if it fractured in the future? How would that change geopolitics? What environmental crises are on the horizon, and how will countries react to them? If people started manifesting crazy environmental superpowers, how would this shift power dynamics?
MD: Do you think the U.S. will divide into multiple nations? How would that work hypothetically? CDT: Due to the inertia of the United States as a political block, I actually think it’s pretty unlikely the country will subdivide anytime soon. However, given current political polarization, I don’t think it’s impossible. In ‘The World’s Revolution,’ the United States experiences a constitutional crisis, resulting in its division into smaller nations that still collaborate together as a loose confederation. Somewhat similar to how the EU operates today. It gives people a different political framework to play within writing their stories--and implies opportunities for conflict, both environmental and otherwise. Each of these nations is responding to climate change differently. I’m excited to see how writers dive into these new countries--especially envisioning how their home might look in this hypothetical future. If someone lives in Florida right now, what do they think their home’s future will look like in 2050 in this setting? MD: Are we headed for a World Water War? Do you think we can prevent this from happening? CDT: With sufficient political will, any military conflict can be avoided. I don’t want to make predictions about future military conflicts, but I definitely think it’s possible. There’s a lot of data out there predicting which parts of the world are going to experience severe water stress over the next few decades. For instance, climate change is exacerbating glacial melt, especially in mountain ranges like the Himalayas. The glaciers there provide drinking water for billions of people. It’s an environmental 48
crisis waiting to happen that will require its own solutions, beyond just the solutions we need to craft for the climate crisis. MD: Can you explain to our readers what fossil fuel leasing is and why you have projected drilling to continue through 2100? CDT: Every country has different rules regarding drilling for oil and natural gas. Let’s focus on the United States, though because it’s what I’m most familiar with. Companies focused on drilling for fossil fuel resources (and this includes coal, too, though they mine for that) constantly purchase “leases” from property owners across the United States. At its core, it’s a basic property transaction. An owner of a farm, for instance, signs a contract with a drilling company saying “you have the right to exploit the mineral rights of my land.” There are companies out there that have locked in fossil fuel leases for generations into the future. Companies also lease property from the government, too, though the Biden Administration has currently stalled future fossil fuel leases on public lands. Because of US Constitutional property protections, an outright ban of fossil fuels presents a complicated conundrum. If Congress suddenly banned all future fossil fuel production, companies with contracts for mineral rights could claim the US government has actually “taken” their property by barring them from drilling, and thus the government would need to compensate them for the lost property. There’s also an environmental justice issue--for a variety of historical reasons, a number of communities nationwide economically rely on fossil fuel development for their economies. A 49
just transition, then, needs to ensure those communities aren’t screwed if fossil fuel industries are shut down. We can avoid that legal conundrum by focusing on making solar, wind, and other renewable energy choices cheaper than oil and natural gas. Though, obviously, focusing just on energy economics doesn’t stop companies from simply continuing to drill, no matter the environmental costs. At least in the US, the solution isn’t easy. At least, the easy solutions most likely wouldn’t be equitable. MD: What do you think about the different types of futurism that are concerned with humanity, technology, and the environment, such as African futurism, lunarpunk, solarpunk, tidalpunk, and of course, clifi? CDT: I love them all. I’m a sucker for every type of speculative fiction, especially those exploring the human condition in response to surviving our environment. Every story an author writes positing a possible “future” for our species helps people think deeply about solving our problems in the present. A story about an eco-utopia three hundred years from now should cause readers to hope for that future and take action to achieve it. A story about a dystopian world where climate change has shattered the planet can inspire a reader to work to avoid that future. MD: Let’s say we save the world, how do you personally envision that future?
CDT: It will look fundamentally different from the world we have today. Our level of energy consumption (and consumption in general) is incredibly unsustainable, not to mention the ways we exploit the land and other people. A future world, having solved the climate crisis, will have radically restructured its economy to focus on human flourishing and communal harmony, rather than profit and control. We will live in relationship with the planet, rather than in dominion over it. Sometimes, people think a future like this sounds scary or impossible. But I don’t think so. It will still include many of the things people love. I imagine a sustainable future still has great tv shows, awesome books, fun video games, and other cultural staples. Our relationship with labor and profit will be different, though. We probably won’t have the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want to do it. We’ll need to eat food grown locally and won’t have access to all foods at all times of the year. The world will need to slow down. But moving too fast is what put us in our current predicament. MD: When do you expect the anthology to be published and where will it be available? CDT: Our first anthology will release in Fall 2021, most likely in October! We’re excited to piece everyone’s stories together. It’ll be available from all major retailers, though we especially encourage people to buy local and buy from independent bookstores.
MD: Is there anything else you would like to share? CDT: Our first anthology for the World’s Revolution is only the beginning. We’re excited to bring the stories of many different writers into this collaborative setting, whether it’s shorts, novellas, or maybe even novels. So if you have a story idea for The World’s Revolution, please reach out to us! Our future may seem bleak with the threats of water shortages, climate catastrophes, and necrocapitalism’s influence on our daily lives. But everything we have today started as an idea in someone’s mind and collectively we have the power to change it. Anthologies like ‘The World’s Revolution’ push us to ask the hard questions about our future and explore the possibilities and consequences our choices will have, both on our lives today and in the days to come. It’s up to all of us to imagine, write, create, and build the future we want to live in and it starts today. r
SOLAR RECHARGE STATION / J. QUEIROZ
SOL / MEIRA DATIYA 54
My grandmother made scrapbooks from brown paper bags. We call this ‘upcycling’ today. Treasure conjured from colorful scraps, odds and ends, images collated. Repurposed. Eye candy. A
MUSTER OF PRIDE / JULIE MARTIN
Her chosen images imprinted on my imagination. Swirling in an array of memory: colors, empty spaces, bond of glue on paper, the pages fan open in a dazzling display.
Omnivorous, her fingers would strut, foraging through piles of ephemera: greeting cards, magazines, calendars, seeking to satisfy requirements for whimsy, novelty and color. Keen eyes focused, predatory scissors poised, she quickly gleaned prints of domestic bliss, clipping pictures of rosy cheeked children nourished on soup and glistening towers of jewel toned jello. I grew up between the pages of her scrapbook, my first book. A thousand eyes stared back at me as I learned by heart the incantation for ingenuity how to make something from nothing. 55
CONTRIBUTORS J. Queiroz (cover art) is on Twitter and Instagram @qu1r0z. Abi Marie Palmer is a writer and English teacher from the UK. You can find her fiction and poetry at abimariepalmer.com. GolemAngelArt is on Instagram and Twitter @golemangelart. Julie Martin lives near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. You can find her poetry at sphinxmothrising.blogspot.com/. Pillule Kosmik is the creator of Imaginarium Cosmozine which you can find by searching its title on Facebook. Mik Tulumello believes that together we can build the community of our dreams for the future of all of our children and the Earth they are inextricably linked to. She is on Instagram @windweaver1. Sketchmatters is an artist who loves creating vivid and and bright illustrations of strange creatures. They are on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter @sketchmatters. Logan Stahl is a hobbyist genre fiction artist from New Jersey. He is @liltachyon on Instagram, @Lil_Tachyon on Twitter, and @lil-tachyon on Tumblr. Sam Fontaine is @sam_fontaine_studios on Instagram. Esmé Beaumont is on Twitter @beaumontesme. Lua Kali is @lua.kali on Instagram and at lua-kali.tumblr.com.
OPTOPIA STAFF Rosie Albrecht (Editor in Chief) is a writer and graphic designer who spends a lot of time thinking about monsters, science fiction, queer theory, magical girls, horror, humor, and how all of those things intersect. As a child, she was radicalized by watching WALL•E and environmentalist/anti-imperialist Ghibli movies, and now she dreams of one day defeating a physical manifestation of capitalism in hand-tohand combat. You can find her at rosiealbrecht.tumblr.com and see her graphic design work at @rosiesthingfactory on Instagram. Jeremy Baker (Editor) teaches sociology at 5 colleges and has 2 kids. He is very busy, but his therapist says he is very good at being busy. Meira Datiya (Staff Writer) is a lunarpunk writer who loves food science, the environment, & the intersect between our lived experience and possible futures. Rifka Handelman (Layout Director) is an incorporeal, vaguely eldritch being that occasionally occupies a human form. You can find their writing and graphic design at rifkahandelman.wixsite.com/portfolio. Krystal Washington (Editor) is a disabled, pagan, proofreader, copyeditor, childcare professional, and cat mom. They go by she/they pronouns. She believes that respecting our ecosystem, nature-based spirituality, and caring for the next generation are all interconnected and sacred. X379496 (Editor) is a graduate student and a labor organizer.
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Unsplash photographers in this issue
pg. 5 @viktortalashuk pg. 16 @pawel_czerwinski pg. 18 @zaitsart pg. 19 @ilferrets pg. 26 @brandix pg. 28 @sigmund pg. 39 @solenfeyissa pg 40 @oliverneedham
pg. 44 @mak_jp pg. 46 @whereveriwander pg. 52 @thejmoore pg. 54 @serejaris pg. 55 @easy_emu pg. 56 @locomonstruo back @alexloup, @elleflorio
THE FUTURE IS IN OUR HANDS