S2/ E5: Eclipsing, an interview with the editors of Sunvault, Part 1

As many of you know, dear readers, I often focus in on genre and its uses. For the next two columns, I’m lucky to be able to bring you an interview with the editors (Phoebe Wagner and Bront Wieland) behind an awesome-sounding new anthology, Sunvault. Sunvault will be opening for submissions soon, so this also a good chance for any writing readers to learn what the editors are looking for!

1.) Hello, could you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Phoebe Wagner (PW): Hi, Chloe (and dear readers)! I come from a small town in Pennsylvania where I grew up running wild outside pretending my backyard was Middle Earth, and I spent rainy or snowy days reading. When I’m not elbow deep in words, I love kayaking with my husband or chilling in a brew pub.

Bronte Wieland (BW): Phoebe and I are both currently in our first year of Iowa States Creative Writing and Environment program. Are you familiar with it?

I did my undergrad at the University of Wisconsin Madison, studying Math and Linguistics. I was a writer then too, but it wasn’t my main focus. It was more a favorite and familiar hobby among the myriad new experiences I was trying to soak up at college. The plan was to work really hard and be a genius mathematician or go on to get a linguistics PhD looking at language documentation.

Somehow I ended up teaching ESL in Spain instead, where I had always wanted to live anyway, and where I found myself diving further into my writing than ever before. So I applied to programs and now, instead of living in the warmest climate in Europe, I’m back in the Midwest.

2.) Describe your project.

PW: The anthology came about when I saw the lack of environmentally focused anthologies in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Bronte and I had recently discovered solar punk and felt the genre narrowed the scope and encouraged more community and hope. If everything comes together, the stories will inspire creative inspections of some of the greatest problems of our time: environmental issues.

BW: Besides being really really exciting, SUNVAULT (published by Upper Rubber Boot Books) is an anthology of speculative short fiction that focuses on integral moments of change. SUNVAULT is bold, ambitious stories in science fictional, fantastical, or otherwise speculative settings, that deal with people experiencing and fighting to survive global and societal shifts. We want our authors to be looking past the narrow lens of apocalyptic, end-of-the-world literature. Stories of hope and overcoming hardship are just as important to us as the typical, sometimes easy, stories of disaster we often find when talking about major change.

We are looking within the framework of solarpunk, though, and its important to keep in mind the punk part of this genre distinction. It’s about counterculture, challenging norms, finding and embracing new views and new ways and waves of life.

3.) This column is fascinated with genre (along with, of course, fan studies). Can you both discuss what genre means to you (as writers) and how it will play into your anthology?

PW: To me, genre means freedom. Yes, genre has its own boarders, but for each boarder, there is a writer or artist crossing into some new realm. My work has always drifted toward genre because I love pushing against the boundaries and seeing what weird roads my imagination drags me down.

BW: As I’m sure everyone reading your column knows, genre is an impossible word. Genre extends so far, in my eyes. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc. all are obviously genre. Beyond the classic canon of SF lit, folklore is genre. Magical realism (Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez) is genre. Emily St. John Mandels Station Eleven is genre. Helen Oyeyemi, Ruth Ozeki, Franz Kafka, China Miville, the list goes on forever. And this isn’t even mentioning all the amazing work coming out of magazines like Shimmer, Asimovs, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Uncanny, and all the other magazines putting out SF right now.

4.) Eco-spec and solar punk both sound fascinating. Can you describe them a bit more, though? What authors represent this for you?

PW: Well, eco-spec sounded good and captured this idea of engaging with fantasy and sci-fi, tapping into that creativity, but geared toward environmental issues. In regard to solar punk, Paolo Bacigalupi comes to mind. His novels The Windup Girl and The Water Knife embody the idea of tipping points and how characters react in such moments, whether inspired to problem solve, serve themselves, or make bucket-loads of cash. Since solar punk is so new, there isn’t a William Gibson of the movement yet. We hope our anthology can give rise to some of these voices and help build the genre. The foundation of the genre is currently Solarpunk. Notes toward a manifesto, created by Hieroglyph out of ASU, but its still a developing genre.

BW: This is hard, because were working with incipient concepts here. Solarpunk and eco-speculation are emerging facets of genre and we’re hoping to help push them into full view. Solarpunk, at its core, is about a future, or an idea, of ingenuity in clean energy and sustainability. Especially with that idea of counterculture and community, as I mentioned above. Eco-speculation inspects the way we interact with, and change, our environment, and what effects that will have in the future. It’s the way we experiment recklessly with our surroundings like we would never be able to experiment on subjects that were visibly mortal. It’s about the ways we are careful too, and how we try to protect and defend the world around us. Think of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. Think of Paulo Bacigalupis body of work. We don’t know of many authors writing firmly in these genres right now, so one of our hopes with the anthology is that we can find them and introduce them to the world.

While that’s all of our room for now, the interview continues next month, when the interview will tackle submissions and the environment in writing. Until then, check out Sunvault on Facebook, on Twitter (@Sunvaultanth), on Tumblr, WordPress, and the official page at Upper Rubber Boot Books. As always, join the conversation @PintsNCupcakes and til next time: Keep Fannin’ On!