Friday, March 2, 2018

Six Questions for Katrina Archer, Editor, Little Blue Marble

Little Blue Marble publishes speculative fiction (original to 2,000 words, reprints to 5,000 words) “that examines humanity’s possible futures living with anthropogenic climate change," and non-fiction articles on climate change. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Katrina Archer: I was feeling frustrated by the amount of climate change denialism in the world, but especially in North America given the current political climate in the United States. I was looking for a way to blend my own interests in science, engineering, and science fiction with a way to raise more awareness. There are plenty of other media outlets doing great journalism on this topic, but what’s sometimes lacking is a way to bring the issue home to people in ways they can relate to. Fiction can do that exceedingly well. So I started Little Blue Marble as a way to bridge that gap.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

KA: First, climate change on Earth should be a central element of the story. I may consider stories set off-world, but as they tend to not concern themselves with how to fix our situation here, I am less likely to accept them, unless they offer interesting allegory or their lessons clearly apply to Earth as well.

I’m also looking for stories that offer some kind of dramatic tension or character development. A story that has a great “A-ha!” moment for the reader is a plus. Climate change can be a depressing topic that leaves people feeling helpless so I also appreciate stories with some levity or humor, even if it is ironic. It’s a hard thing to quantify, but each story should have a heart—an emotional touchstone that stays with the reader after they’ve finished it.

I also like stories that make me think. That explore the unpredictable and unintended consequences of technology that might get pushed as a quick fix. Technology is great, but it’s meant to serve people, not the other way around.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

KA: Stories where the planet is saved by a semi-benevolent alien invasion/god-like being are not what I’m looking for. We made our bed, we’ve got to lie in it, and the responsibility’s ours to fix it.

Stories where we escape to another world strike me as mostly wishful thinking. It’s all well and good in theory, and certainly, exploring other worlds is a lofty goal that enthuses me as a tech geek and science fiction fan, but I just don’t see it as a workable answer to climate change for the majority of the people already living and breathing on this planet. At least not in the next few decades.

I’m really not a horror/splatter/gore fan. Some violence in service to the story can be acceptable, but gratuitous violence is a no-go. I tend to reject stories that are just scenes or vignettes, without a narrative through line or some form of character growth, however small. Also, stories that are too obviously preachy, or that overtly lecture to the reader. Climate change is a serious topic, but as a reader of fiction, I still want to be entertained, and I think Little Blue Marble's readers do too.

SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?

KA: Actually, I’m mostly a novel reader. I don’t read too many magazines. I tend to stick to year-end “Best of” anthologies or other e-book anthologies for short fiction.

SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

KA: While security issues will be problematic due to climate change, military science fiction is a harder sell for us, although depending on its focus and execution, not an automatic no. Erotica just isn’t our niche. Neither is space opera.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

KA: What kind of stories are you not seeing enough of in your slush pile?

I’ve been getting a lot of dystopic submissions, of how people live after the world has more or less fallen apart, which is natural given the topic matter, but I’d love to get more stories that highlight positive change or interesting solutions to climate change. That show visions of what our societies could be like for the better. That explore sustainable alternatives to unfettered-growth capitalism. I’d like to see stories that show us how we can get to the kind of world where we live in balance with the environment, technology, and ourselves.

I’d also like to publish stories from more varied and underrepresented voices from around the world, especially from indigenous cultures and developing nations. These are the people who will be most affected by what’s going to happen to our biosphere over the next few decades.

Thank you, Katrina. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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