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Grist media paves way for climate fiction

By Raena Doty

Arts & Features Editor

The Henry Whittemore Library hosted Sept. 28 a discussion between Corey Farrenkopf, a librarian at Blue Marble Library, and Tory Stephens, the climate fiction creative manager and network weaver for Grist, a media organization.

Stephens runs a project called “Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors,” which he said is focused on “climate solutions, storytelling, [and] intersectional characters.”

The project focuses on bringing together authors from different backgrounds and allowing them to tell stories about the different walks of life they come from, focused on what the world looks like after climate justice is achieved.

Stephens began by describing how he entered - and helped pioneer - the field of climate fiction. He said he used to write letters to be sent to people’s houses in order to raise funds, for issues including HIV and AIDS treatment, protection for people on Medicare and Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

During this time, he tried to connect with people and move them toward action, but found the statistics he worked with unmotivating, he said.

He said when he got involved with Grist, he gathered a group on the “Grist 50” list and put everyone in groups to gather ideas for different ways to make people care about climate change, and the best one was the idea of climate fiction.

Stephens said an important part of climate fiction is that the stories they publish in “Imagine 2200” are focused on other justice movements outside of climate justice like the Land Back movement, racial justice, LGBT+ justice, and other movements of social justice.

He added when this was first incorporated he thought of it as “woohoo” to climate justice, but he’s since come to understand it’s essential.

Stephens stressed the importance of intersectional identity to “Imagine 2200” and said it’s important to him the characters aren’t “Lego characters.”

When explaining what this meant, he said, “If I can take the hat off and attach it onto another person and the story still flows, that isn't an ‘Imagine 2200’ story, because we really want that cultural aspect.”

He gave the example of a few of the short stories that exemplified this, including “Broken From the Colony” by Ada M. Patterson, a story about the author’s own experience as a trans person, and “Canvas – Wax – Moon” by Ailbhe Pascal, a Wiccan author who wrote a story about abortion and miscarriage.

Stephens added all the stories published for “Imagine 2200” are available online for free because Grist believes in making sure these stories are as accessible as possible.

For the same reason, he said there are no fees to submit a short story for “Imagine 2200,” and added submissions open once a year for three months, usually in the springtime.

He stressed “Imagine 2200” is not a publication intended for dystopia, and though utopian stories have been published in it, he said “Imagine 2200” should be more realistic - to grapple with the state of the climate in the present and invent creative solutions to get the world through to the year 2200.

Stephens described this as “through-topia,” a newer term stemming from the solar punk genre.

In line with Stephen’s focus on intersectionality and hope, he said many submissions he’s read have been less focused on the climate and more about the interpersonal issues once climate change is no longer a threat.

“There's still going to be the societal problems of how we treat each other. There's a lot of stories that are trying to work out, ‘What do we do after … the crisis has abated?’” he said.

“It’s inspiring to see people working out intercommunal relationships,” he added.



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