Axes For the Frozen Sea: a Call For Fiction in Dark Mountain

Deadline: 20 May 2020
Contact: Eric Robertson, Fiction Editor, The Dark Mountain Project
Email: [email protected]

‘Stories about climate change don’t need to be about climate change’, writes theatre critic Robert Butler in an essay published in 2014:

Stories written before people knew about human-made climate change – Faust, Galileo, King Lear – may now resonate in ways that hadn’t been seen before. Even if climate change is not the subject matter, or the principal theme, its presence may still be detectable. It could be, in Ian McEwan’s evocative phrase, ‘the background hum’.

A ‘background hum’ might resonate for an urban-based literary set for whom the ‘subject’ of climate change is another plot device. For others it is more of a background howl, a background hammering, and for those directly affected by fires, floods, famines and flight it is not background at all, but everywhere around them. What use is fiction in these times? What use is any writing? ‘When we wrote the manifesto, I believed very strongly in the writer as an agent of change. And I’m not sure I do anymore’, says Paul Kingsnorth in conversation with Charlotte Du Cann for our tenth-anniversary issue. ‘I don’t have the same belief that I had ten years ago in the idea that a literary movement of people could produce world-changing stuff.’

Maybe not. But the role of Dark Mountain has never been to ‘change the world’. We know that words will not stop the glaciers melting or the forests going up in flames. The provocation in the manifesto was to face this reality honestly; to bear witness to the times we’re in; to find new (or perhaps very old) pathways to help guide us through the shifting landscapes ahead; to think, feel and imagine our way outside the anthropocentric bubble and the myth of human supremacy that is driving so much of the living world to destruction.

We are looking for fiction that bears witness to the collapses, crises and changes of our time, but which is not in any way prescriptive in terms of setting, subject or style. As always, we are receptive to work that does not fit into tidy categories, and which might be too strange and spiky to find publication elsewhere. The ‘Eight Principles of Uncivilisation’ at the end of the manifesto might provide a rough guide, or a read through the fiction contributions to any of our books. We also recommend the advice of Ursula Le Guin:

As for ‘Write what you know,’ I was regularly told this as a beginner. I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these things. I know them better than anybody else possibly could, so it’s my duty to testify about them.

So come; unleash the frozen sea; testify about what you know. For this book we are seeking short stories of up to 5,000 words, as well as much shorter pieces (flash fiction and other experimental work). We are also interested in excerpts from longer works and from novels in progress. We are looking for artwork that tells stories or is open to illustrating the stories that will unfold between our covers. All media will be considered from photography to painting to digital creations and graphic novel and comic book artwork. For this issue we are not considering non-fiction or poetry.

Dark Mountain: Issue 18 will be published in October 2020. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday 20th May. For details on how to submit, please read our submissions guidelines carefully. We cannot read or respond to work that does not fit within those guidelines.

Axes for the Frozen Sea

Posted on February 19, 2020