Nine ‘Fix the World’ SF Anthology Authors Discuss Story Inspirations

I’m always on the lookout for new science fiction anthologies and new-to-me authors, so I was happy to see the Fix the World collection and to have the opportunity to interview a number of the authors. I particuarly like the optimistic attitude toward the future in these stories.

The blurb: We’re a world beset by crises. Climate change, income inequality, racism, pandemics, an almost unmanageable tangle of issues. Sometimes it’s hard to look ahead and see a hopeful future. We asked sci-fi writers to send us stories about ways to fix what’s wrong with the world. From the sixty-five stories we received, we chose the twelve most amazing (and hopefully prescient) tales. Dive in and find out how we might mitigate climate change, make war obsolete, switch to alternative forms of energy, and restructure the very foundations of our society. The future’s not going to fix itself.

And the authors share their thoughts with Amazing Stories:

Brian Cebulski, From the Sun and Scorched Earth: The world’s best and only Joni Mitchell-inspired post-post apocalyptic queer mecha solarpunk short story that’s partially an allegory for egregious digital copy protection. A disabled archivist takes interest in a former mech pilot as the latter seeks retribution from a small community for his part in a war that nearly destroyed the world.

What was the original spark or inspiration for your story? Honestly, I was just watching a lot of Gundam (Wing and Turn A) and wanted something similar but more coherent and gay. I also love the way the Gundam in Turn A is often used for completely mundane tasks like cleaning and hanging up laundry, so I felt like making something that played with the idea of repurposing weapons of war for basic living needs.

I was also interested in subverting the comparably cynical tack most apocalyptic scenarios seem to take. Like, rather than trying to seize power and live out libertarian fantasies or whatever, wouldn’t everyone who survived an apocalyptic event just be incontrovertibly SAD? Rather than becoming these boring pedophile-serial-killer-rapist-fascists that something like The Walking Dead would churn out, I wanted to imagine a life after the fall where people were broken down and traumatized, but left with nowhere to go but toward each other.

This ended up fusing with this concern for digital preservation that’s always in the back of my mind, which became a secondary theme. Like I used to have an mp3 player that had all my music downloaded onto it, and I could just click on it and it would play. Now I have a smartphone with music streaming apps, which will often delete my downloaded music without notice or kick me out of my account and (because I live in a rural area without signal) I can’t log in. I just wondered what would happen when most of the physical media has deteriorated and the digital infrastructure for those apps has been destroyed. How much more precious would our media seem then?

Next for you as an author? Early this year I finished a queer quasi-utopian solarpunk novel that I’m currently querying agents with. It has a similar post-post-apocalyptic scenario as From the Sun, set hundreds of years into the future after a series of cataclysmic disasters, and is about a young boy who lives on a pagan eco-commune and gets wrapped up in the culture of a cabaret run by a sex worker hivemind and the grassroots politics of a media-addled green smart city. Agents, hit me up if you’re interested!

To Be Read List? For the past half a year or so I’ve been on a big epic novel kick, first with Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and currently with Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji. After I’m done with the Genji I’ll probably try out Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! trilogy or Vassily Grossman’s Stalingrad.

Rachel Hope Crossman, A Forest for the Trees: When climate change deluges the world in mud and rain, the trees take matters into their own hands, pulling up their roots and running for the hills. 

Inspiration for your story? This story was inspired by news stories of trees falling and killing or maiming people because the trees are impacted by climate change. Images from nature documentaries about penguins huddled together for warmth gave me the spark for a herd of trees on the move, and Dave the redwood came to life.

Next for you as an author? Two projects, the first is publishing my memoir, Cosmic Curriculum, the chronicle of my journey from substitute teacher to Montessori teacher while raising a teenaged gourmet cook. Second is completion of my novel, an extension of my short story by the same name published 2019, “What the Whales Were Singing” –

To Be Read List? My To Be Read List: Nnedi Okorafor, Remote Control and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019, editor Carmen Maria Machado.

Alex Silver, Upgrade: Klein chooses to live on the outskirts of society. When what seems like a harmless prank against the establishment goes awry, circumstances force Klein to team up with an unlikely ally to stop the situation from spiralling out of control.

Inspiration for your story? When I looked at the prompt for the anthology, I loved the idea of writing something hopeful in the midst of all the stress and anxiety of living through a pandemic. I took some time to think about the problems I see in the world. From there, I set out to imagine a new version of society that could address those problems. That was the framework Klein existed within. Then I wanted to play with this new idealized version of reality. In particular I enjoyed giving Klein and the other characters in Upgrade ways to explore gender and the bodies they inhabit without current constraints on medical technology. The story opens with Klein going in for maintenance after testing a new modification led to a malfunctioning ocular implant, and everything else just flowed from that first interaction with Jono, the medical technician.

Next for you as an author? My next project is the fourth book in my trans ghost hunters series, Hauntastic Haunts. The series features Dan and Chad, a paranormal investigations duo who travel the country in their van to vlog about hauntings.

To Be Read List? Too many to list them all, but next up are: Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire and Lime Gelatin & Other Monsters by Angel Martinez

Jennifer R. Povey, Of Njord and Skadi: They both protect and restore the world in different ways, but can they restore their marriage? The right answer is waiting.

Inspiration for your story? The pun isn’t intentional, because the original spark was the extreme wildfires first in Australia and then in California. I didn’t choose to use the word spark here. I’ve always felt that the way we manage fire ecologies has been flawed for a rather long time. I understand why the people who live in these parts don’t want controlled burns but, combined with removal of non-native vegetation they are the obvious answer to keeping these ecologies healthy and avoiding the kind of firestorms that destroyed Paradise.

And when the Australian wildfires were at their height, the Aboriginal peoples were practically begging to have the management of the land returned to them, because they know what they’re doing. Which led to the obvious thought that maybe, just maybe, we should involve the indigenous peoples of the west more in fire management.

And then I wanted to tell a story about relationships and how they develop, grow, and fade. And how the obvious happy ending is not always the obvious happy ending.

Next for you as an author? I have a short story, “Cavesong,” forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction. And I’m working on a five book science fiction series in the same world as my novels Transpecial and Araña.

To Be Read list? Many things! I’m currently in the middle of a reread of The Expanse. After that is the January issue of Bards & Sages Quarterly. But I’m one of those people who has to be read shelves and is always running out of space on her tablet…

Mere Rain, In Light: The work of fixing the world is never done. But it may get easier.

Inspiration for your story? “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.” Everyone laughs. Reagan made it a joke and so did Men in Black. My friend who went to work for the government as a naive and optimistic college grad quotes this line and laughs, but bitterly, because he’s disillusioned after years of wanting to help and feeling stymied. Why is it so hard to fix things, anything? Why is it so hard to get help? What would it be like to live in a society where being helpful and trustworthy was the default, where admitting problems and asking for help was normalized? Where we fixed things before they were horrifically broken?

Next for you as an author? I’m working on a historical fantasy and a contemporary romantic fantasy. I’d like to revisit the world of this story and elaborate on earlier space-exploration era that’s alluded to briefly by the characters, but I probably won’t have time this year. Of course, as soon as I say that I have this idea I really want to write… Excuse me, I just have to make a few notes, I’ll be right back…

To Be Read List? I’m looking forward to Firebreak, the new release by Nicole-Kornher-Stace, in which a woman discovers that her country’s celebrity super-soldiers are actually war orphans who were enslaved and experimented on for profit, and determines to take down the corporation that controls them and everyone else.

I also want to read Aliette de Bodard’s Fireheart Tiger, a romantic fantasy set in a universe inspired by precolonial Vietnam. These are two authors I trust to bring insightful views, but in an entertaining and character-driven way.

Jana Denardo, Homestead at the Beginning of the World: When Kjell escaped to northern Wisconsin, he hoped to leave behind the nightmares the aliens had turned his life into. He never expected to meet Sam who showed him how the world could come to life again.

Inspiration for your story? I grew up on Star Trek and its message of a hopeful future, not perfect but certainly better. So much of science fiction and fantasy has become Grimdark or dystopian and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I missed the hope I saw in Star Trek. With that in mind, I decided I’d write the stories I wanted to read. My story came out of that. I set it in  two places where I lived in Wisconsin: Madison and the Three Lakes/Eagle River area. To me, the latter was a great place to live and already has that farm to table, root to flower, live off the land mindset. It made the perfect backdrop for watching what was left of humanity pull itself up after a crushing defeat by authoritarian alien conquerors, now gone. Working with the ideas of green fuels, sustainability and rising up like a phoenix excited me. Getting to use my science background to tinker with Kjell’s DNA proved interesting as well. I love working with contrasting characters.

In the end I was a bit sad to say goodbye to Sam and Kjell as they were so much fun to write. This was something of a love story for a land that brought beauty and peace into my life for the short time I was lucky enough to live there and I hope that comes through in the writing.

Next for you as an author? In continuing with my joy of using places I’ve lived or traveled in and making them the backdrop of the story, I’ll be combining that with my love of ghost hunting (a serious past time for me since the 80s, doing my hunting with a cassette player and an old film camera) and cryptozoology. I have two projects. The first is a paranormal novel set in the Hocking Hills, tentatively titled These Haunted Hills. In it a heartbroken author is trying to move past the death of his son by researching his next novel with the aid of a biologist who ghost hunts in his spare time. It will have lots of ghosts and emotional journeys.

I’m also working on the sequel to my novella, Cassadaga Nights with Ninestar Press. It’ll be an urban fantasy with my monster hunting trio, Santino, Ryan, and Cam, trying to find who or what is stealing kids in Point Pleasant, home of the Mothman.

To Be Read List? I’m finishing up a SF retelling of a fairytale, The Tinderbox: Soldier of Indira by Lou Diamond Phillips and then I’m finally getting to Legendborn by Tracy Deonn and Elatsoe by Darcy Little Badger

D.M. Rasch, At the Movies: “At the Movies” posits a near future evolution of policing featuring Reilly Shaw, a Citizen Protector who uses tech and heightened observation skills to anticipate antisocial behavior, interrupting it nonviolently whenever possible. In the story, Reilly tries to take off their CP hat for the evening to enjoy a first “family date” with a Justice Advocate and her two boys – their rare chance to disconnect from tech and connect on a human level. Until the lights go down – at the movies.

Inspiration for your story? This story had several inspirations. My own decades-past law enforcement experience, which I entered into at directly out of social work. I brought that perspective to the table – a little before its time, as it turns out. The fact that Reilly is (trying to) date someone else in the justice system was a natural – the hours, the commitments, and the perspective tend to guide – and, perhaps, even limit – members of those professions to relationships with each other. Reilly’s spotty record and resistance to relationships also reflects the expectations and pressures of the job. The tension between Reilly and the antagonist mirrors both the pressure exerted by the “old guard” on new police recruits to conform to their ways of doing things and the current pressures to reform a broken system. I guess writing is my way of contributing to that conversation, now that my days of trying to reform from within are long past.

The delicate nature of dating someone with kids? That came from personal experience – enough said 🙂 I get Reilly’s pull between responsibility and the desire for a family at a deep level. I’m excited to explore this more deeply in an upcoming series featuring these characters!

Next for you as an author? What’s next for me, as an author? I’m currently shopping a YA SF novel (first in a series) featuring a non-binary protagonist who turns limitations into strengths – on Mars, with a creative ensemble of teammates who become friends. I’m also furiously writing the first in the series mentioned above, featuring Reilly Shaw. I love the collaborative nature of anthologies (and short fiction) and will, no doubt, continue to submit to them, as well.

To Be Read list: On my ‘To Read’ list: It’s a great month for new releases like the next installment in both Martha Wells’ Murderbot series and Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, as well as a new Sarah Gailey – The Echo Wife – and from Nnedi Okorafor, Remote Control. And – there was a time I never thought I’d say this – I’m always discovering new LGBTQ authors to enjoy along the way.

J. Scott Coatsworth, Rise: Sometimes things that have been lost can be re-found. Someday we’ll be able to bring back entire cities can be brought from the depths, and with them memories sweet and bittersweet.

Inspiration for your story? It was in the worst part of the first Italian surge of Covid-19. I’d conceived the idea for this anthology a year before, but hadn’t yet put out the call for stories. But I needed a little hope in my life. The news had a story about Venice, and it was eerie seeing how empty the city was in what was traditionally the Carnevale season there. I started thinking about how the city is sinking, and how most folks agree it will eventually be reclaimed by the lagoon it sits in, and the idea to raise the city came to me in a flash. Mark and I are avid students of the Italian language, so it seemed like a natural story to write, and a way to push back on the darkness that was descending upon us.

Next for you as an author? Oooh, so many irons in the fire. In the short term, on April 26th I’m releasing my second audio book, a novella called Cailleadhama, which I refer to as my “elf-trans man post climate change San Francisco urban fantasy. Hot on the heels of the audio book, on May 19th I’ll be releasing Dropnauts, my first novel in 18 months, which takes place in the Liminal Sky universe. Then on June 10th, I’ll rerelease one of my favorite novellas, Flames, a sad but then sweet MM magical realism romance that originally appeared in the “A More Perfect Union” marriage equality anthology.

In the longer term, I’m two-thirds through a new YA sci-fantasy trilogy, and book one, The Dragon Eater, is out to query with a number of agents as I try to crack into the bigtime. 🙂 And after that trilogy, I’m planning a sequel to Dropnauts called Coredivers.

To Be Read List? I’m just finishing up Lee Hunt’s Dynamicist Trilogy – Dynamicist, herald, and Knight in Retrograde – upon with I will bestow one of my highest compliments – it’s not like anything else I have read. Lee is a scientist (and a very nice guy) whose “wizards” approach their magic with mathematics. I highly recommend it. Next up, The Anti-Quest, by Angel Martinez“Brave paladin. Royal princess. Fierce dragon. Simple. Being all three at once? Way too complicated.” I’m excited to read this one.  

J.G. Follansbee, Who Shall Reap the Grain of Heaven?: An abbot running a program to fight climate disaster is ordered by the Pope to stop, despite the billionaire donor’s last wishes.

Inspiration for your story? I love to write sci-fi stories, and I’ve made a speciality of writing science-based stories focused on climate change. Some scientists have proposed geoengineering as a way out of the climate crisis, literally re-engineering the planet’s climate. One proposal suggests pouring chemicals, such as sulphur dioxide, into the stratosphere to block sunlight, thus cooling the earth. I also like drawing from my Catholic upbringing, which resulted in a mashup of the aerosol solution to climate change with a long-time interest in monasticism and the ancient contemplative traditions. That led to a narrative about a billionaire, a pilot who became a priest, and a pope more concerned about the Church’s image than preserving the planet for his people.

Next for you as an author? In fiction, I plan to focus my efforts on short stories for anthologies and magazines. I’m also working on a third book in my non-fiction Fyddeye Guide series to U.S. maritime history attractions.

To Be Read List? When I have time to read, I work on finishing Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads: A New History of the World.

Other Authors included in the anthology:

Anthea Sharp, Ice in D Minor

Holly Schofield, The Call of the Wold

Ingrid Garcia, Juma and the Quantum Computer

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