Into the Ruins: A Deindustrial Science Fiction Journal   13 comments

I’m happy to announce a new project of mine, Into the Ruins, a quarterly journal publishing science fiction of a deindustrial or post-industrial bent. The journal is inspired by John Michael Greer at The Archdruid Report and ultimately stems out of the series of “Space Bats” contests he’s held over the preceding years, leading to publication of three (and an upcoming fourth) After Oil anthologies. Similarly to those anthologies, Into the Ruins will feature speculative stories set in the near to far future and featuring the realities of peak oil, the decline of energy and resource availability, climate change, and fallout from our past and current shortsighted, exploitative ways of living.

I encourage anyone who is intrigued by or interested in these sorts of stories to check out the website and consider subscribing. The first issue is scheduled for publication around the beginning of March and I intend to come out with new issues every three months.

As an introduction to this new project, I want to share the “Philosophy” post located at the website here on Of the Hands. It’s the sort of post that would have fit just fine here back when I was writing and updating this blog and so I thought you might like to read it. Note that if you would like to follow me in a new context, I plan to add a blog to the Into the Ruins site soon and update it on occasion, though not as often as I updated here at the height of this blog. Still, I’m sure I’ll have some interesting things to say about industrial society, our future, and alternative ways of living. One of the reasons I’m so excited about this new project is the opportunity to explore different visions of the future—ones that aren’t so rooted in the destructive and dead-end philosophies that so dominate today. I did that through nonfiction here at Of the Hands; I’m excited to do it through fiction at Into the Ruins, and I hope to make a fictional contribution to one of the issues myself.

And so, what follows is a peek into a day of my life this last summer and some of the ideas behind Into the Ruins. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you’ll check out the journal. Thanks for being such a great audience and community over the years.

– Joel

— ∞ —

Sometimes you glimpse an unexpected future taking shape around you. It arrives as an unseen vision, the result of unseen consequences, and it demands an attention you don’t want to pay. It shocks you to a reality you had been looking past and demands you to look anew at the world. If the option is there, it’s easy to look away in that moment. But if you obey, a new world opens in front of you, complete with fresh possibilities and limitations, and truths you may not have known moments before.

In late August, I awoke one Saturday to a pleasant morning. Slipping downstairs, I put the tea kettle on and made my customary thermos of coffee with my customary anticipation of those first, calming sips. Outside, a hazy fog crept heavy across the land, obscuring the not-too-distant hills. My overgrown garden swayed and jerked raggedly in a surprisingly strong wind. I made a small mental note but paid it minimal mind. Morning fog brought in by an offshore wind is not uncommon on and near the North Oregon Coast, where I currently live.

I settled in for a bout of morning reading and a slow drinking of my coffee, passing an hour or so before I grew hungry enough to turn my attention toward breakfast. A simple veggie scramble in mind, I stepped outside to harvest a bit of kale and squash from the garden and was slapped in the face by hot wind and the heavy, acrid smell of smoke. The fog was not fog. Early in the morning, an unusual east wind had kicked up and brought smoke to the coast from large and destructive fires burning in the Willamette Valley and eastern Oregon. I had stepped outside expecting a misty, drifting fog and cool breeze; instead, it felt as though I were skirting the edge of Hell, taking a small taste of a deeper and crueler inferno waiting for me.

Disoriented, I continued to the garden and harvested my meal. Yet every gust of wind scalded and disquieted me. The outside experience stood in such stark contrast to my assumptions from the house. A window tight enough to keep out the smell of smoke and a well-known story were all it took for me to completely misjudge the world–to not see something terrible right in front of me.

The story I knew was simple: an offshore breeze, a fog bank, the hundredth time of stepping outside into cool and misty conditions, a typical morning respite from summertime heat. Because I knew the story, I knew the world in front of me. Yet I didn’t. The reality that had taken shape around me while I slept turned out to be dramatically different than what I thought I knew.

In this as elsewhere, our stories guide us. Again and again, they tell us the shape of the world. They bring order to the chaotic events around us and allow us a framework in which to approach each day. We need stories and narratives; as humans, this is how we understand the world. And yet our narratives are just as capable of misleading us. Our stories threaten our ability to understand the world, especially when it’s changing all around us. Especially when the on-the-ground reality doesn’t match the supposed facts of our stories.

Our cultural stories today are failing us in as dramatic a way as my simple story of wind and fog failed me one Saturday morning. On the one hand, they tell us tales of unending progress, of ever-increasing riches, of more energy and more resources and the easy salve that new technology will fix any and all problems–even the ones created by new technology. They weave narratives of the sustainability of impossibly rich lifestyles and the ability of human ingenuity and creativity to cure all our ills and transcend all limits.

On the other hand, they shout of imminent collapse and extinction. They tell us of runaway global warming and runaway technological enslavement, of dystopian futures riven by impossible levels of cruelty and inequality, of overbearing world governments that crush our freedoms, and an endless cascade of calamities caused by our own hubris. Science fiction and other forms of speculative fiction have too often fallen into utopian and dystopian ruts, failing to see the futures that exist between those two extremes–or outside them completely.

The mistake of these stories is their disbelief in limits. They choose a trend and extrapolate, believing that the future can only bring us more of the present. They make wild assumptions and discount negative feedback loops. They believe in human omnipotence, even as every passing year makes us look decidedly more impotent. They fail to understand human response and adaptation, flattening the incredible complexity (and irrationality) of human behavior into tired tropes that serve as little more than a means to buttress simplified world views and proffer scapegoats. In the period of dramatic change and upheaval that we now find ourselves in, these stories are dangerously misleading. They tell us of a future that will not arrive and does not exist. They convince us that fatal stupidity is wisdom.

We need new stories. We need stories that recognize the harsh limits making themselves more clear by the day, but that also see the creativity afforded by those limits. We need stories that understand the future will be hard, sometimes cruel, lacking in the abundant energy and resources we were promised, and reeling from the consequences of reckless usage of fossil fuels and the rampant destruction of unimpeded and thoughtless industrialism. However, we also need stories that see the joy as well as the sorrow in that future, and all the ways that human beings will survive and thrive in the face of natural limits and harsh consequences. Human ingenuity will not solve all our problems, but it will undoubtedly create brilliant, surprising, and at times even delightful responses to the years, decades, and centuries of decline that face industrial society.

Into the Ruins intends to be a venue for those stories that are able to see a future different from the official narratives. It will be an outlet for visions of a future of decline, collapse, and rebirth. Here we will acknowledge natural limits and imagine how we’ll live with them. Here we will look at the long, ragged decline of industrial civilization spread out before us and we’ll find a thousand different stories, a million details, a parade of humans laughing and weeping and surviving and carrying on amongst the wreckage. We will look into the corners, turn over the rocks, traverse the forests, peer into the towns and villages, survey the cities, and find all the fascinating tales of humans dealing with the unfolding crises of resource and energy depletion, climate change, economic and political dysfunction, war and strife, poverty and illness, hunger, migration, changing cultural mores and religious beliefs, and societal upheaval. With this as a backdrop, we’ll explore the daily lives of humans (and non-humans, for that matter) set against the same sort of troubles that have beset so much of human history. And we’ll find the beauty, the creativity, the joy, the pain, the inspiration, and the wonder that it is to be alive on this planet.

Even when the stories we know don’t turn out to be the lives we get.

Into the Ruins will not shy away from the darkness of what’s to come, nor will it lose sight of the beauty that is sure to accompany it. We will feature a wide variety of visions. But as our name suggests, all of them will be a plunge into the wreckage. These are stories that take it as fact that industrial civilization is in decline and that the levels of energy and resources we use today are not what we will have available in the future. Into the Ruins believes in limits and consequences, and we will publish stories that believe the same. This is not the place to come for techno-utopian fantasies. Nor is it the place to come for apocalypse porn. There’s plenty of both of those available in the world today. Instead, we plan to feature realistic portrayals of a future of decline, as well as stories of what comes afterward. We’ll feature stories set in the immediate future, a few decades from now, a few centuries from now, and even a few millennia from now. Most importantly, we want new stories, new ways of looking at the world–and we want a lot of them. This is not the time to be boxed in. This is a time of change, sure to be dramatic and traumatic, and the more stories we have to sift through, the more likely we are to discover valuable adaptations and creative responses.

So let’s begin. The ruins await. It’s time we explored them.

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Posted December 7, 2015 by Joel Caris in Uncategorized

13 responses to “Into the Ruins: A Deindustrial Science Fiction Journal

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  1. Joel,
    It is good to ‘hear’ your voice through the convoluted mechanisms of the internet again. It was a shame that you decided to tail off your blog (I always did love it) – but something that I can totally understand as the time and energy must have been huge. I never did start a blog. Largely because of that time and energy thing (I have 3 kids too), other projects and the fact that there are so many worthwhile voices out there already.
    Anyhow, best of luck with into the ruins – it sounds great! It’s a shame you won’t allow international subs (not that I could afford it yet most likely), but I hope so in the future. I also might get around to getting some of my own ideas down for submission finally – great stuff.
    All the best for it.
    Matt
    Cornwall, UK

    • Thanks, Matt! I would have liked to continue the blog, but a combination of being very busy and not being very inspired led to its slow fade. I am bad about not just making a post stating that I’m going away, as I always tend to think I’m going to get back to it. I’m excited about this new project, though, and hoping that it continues long term and grows into something bigger (I have some ideas for an eventual full fledged press, though who knows.)

      I would love to allow international subscriptions, but I don’t currently have a plan for mailing that isn’t me simply sending them out myself via the post office. I can handle and plan for that for U.S. addresses, but international addresses is a level of complexity and uncertainty in regards to cost that I’m not yet ready to tackle. To be honest, the individual issues–at least initially–will likely be cheaper to purchase and have shipped via CreateSpace or Amazon than I would have to charge for a subscription. Certainly, if you’re interested, I’d recommend going to the Into the Ruins website and signing up for the email list (linked in the right column) and I’ll send out an update when the first issue is available for order next spring and what the buying options are for international readers.

      I also may make certain international subscriptions available at some point, so long as I can confidently figure out the details and economics, at which point I also would send out an email update to those on the list.

      Lastly, would love to see a submission from you! I’m hoping for a nice, healthy base of stories to choose from.

    • Hi Matt,

      Just a quick update that further research indicates I can offer international subscriptions by shipping direct from the publisher. It’s more expensive than the U.S. price, with final price dependent on location. It might be irrelevant to you at this time, anyway, but if you do decide you’re interested at some point, email me at subscriptions@intotheruins.com.

  2. One quick note, Joel:

    If you’re hoping for some readership over, say, 40, you might want to change the template you use here. The microscopic typeface was of course just dust to my eyes, but my usual technique of clicking cmd+ (or ctrl+ on Windows) didn’t work. The template locked down the effective width of the text, so once it was of a readable size, I had to start scrolling horizontally.

    Luckily, at least your site template doesn’t block the Readability plug-in, which made the text finally accessible. I should note that as a general rule I don’t go that far. I figure if the blogger is hostile to older readers, I just won’t bother.

    • HI José,

      Are you talking here on Of The Hands or over on the Into the Ruins site? I apologize you’re having trouble either way. I did try the Ctrl+ (I’m using Windows) and it worked on both sites without creating a horizontal scroll bar, instead wrapping and extending the lengths of the column of text on the site. I’m not sure why it’s working for me and not you.

      I’m using Windows 10 and tested with Firefox, Chrome, and IE. All seemed to work. I do have to have the window maximized or close to it, though. If it’s not, then I get a horizontal scroll bar.

      I wonder if it has something to do with the template tailoring for a certain resolution? I’ll poke around in the settings and see if I can figure anything out. I certainly want the site accessible to all ages and eyesights!

  3. Oh, Lordy. I’ve been waiting for this forever…now I gotta stop procrastinating and write, rather than my usual telling stories on this theme to an audience of one…me.

  4. Yo, Joel – Chris in Australia tipped me off that you had a new post up. Sounds like an exciting project, and expect to see my subscription, sometime around Christmas.

    All well here. The cat, the dog, the chickens. Pineapple Express on the way (aka atmospheric river). High wind watches, flood warnings. Glad I live on a hill. Didn’t have water for 4 1/2 weeks. New well is on line, now. One muddles through. Lew – Chehalis, WA. USA.

    • Hey, Lew! It’s good to hear from you. I’ve missed you. Consider me flattered that you’re planning a subscription around Christmas–I’ll keep my eye out. Hope to hear from Chris, too, though I really should just stop off over at his blog sometime soon and say hi.

      All’s more or less well here, too. The chickens are moving right along. I’ve got 19 currently–five of them are new ones, so I actually am getting 2 or 3 eggs a day right now since they’re at the beginning of their laying. Roommates have three goats that are now on the property (one temporarily for breeding.) They’re fun and surprisingly mellow. The garden went okay this year, though I’ve been so busy that I didn’t put nearly as much time into it as in the previous couple years, and hardly canned at all.

      The atmospheric river has been pounding us since yesterday. I barely managed to get myself home with flooded roads today and the rivers are supposed to crest early tomorrow morning at some very high levels. I don’t think I’ll be making it into work and will likely be working from home instead. Glad your well is back online. We had a brief scare one day this summer when ours ran low, but it just needed a bit of time to recharge. Certainly I was getting worried this summer, but boy does it seem to be making up for it now. New normal, as they say. Just pile it onto the list of things that are making me nervous these days, not least of all the rhetoric in the presidential race and the sense that Greer’s right and this country is getting ready to crack apart.

      Guess we’ll see what it all brings. Should provide plenty of fodder for the new journal if nothing else, right?

      Let me know how you’re faring as the storm keeps going. Count me as also glad you’re on a hill.

  5. Yo, Joel – Went to town, yesterday (Wed) and the road between Chehalis and Centralia was closed. 6″ of water. Hiway 12, between here and Yakima is closed. Landslides. Road closures, scattered all over the county. But, it seems to be blowing itself out. Very windy and rainy, this morning. Didn’t even let my chickens out, til late.

    My 10 hens are laying just under 2 dozen, a week. But then, I have a light for them. They get extra oats and sunflower seeds, every other day. The same on the off days, with yogurt and banana peels. They are very spoiled chickens :-). Lew

    • Hi Lew,

      It was a hell of a storm. I don’t know if you saw the other blog post over at Into the Ruins, but we had quite a bit of flooding after my last comment. The rivers crested, all right. They crested at close to all time highs (well, okay, post-1964 highs, since that’s when record-keeping began.) Nehalem flooded, roads were washed out. I got home just in time. It got worse and worse over night and by the morning, I couldn’t even get south. Both the roads for that were closed. I just heard that one lane of one reopened, which is surprising. They were talking about Monday before anyone could get through.

      I’m in Portland now, but will be heading back on Monday and getting back to work. Sounds like you got similar as us, at least in regards to the landslides and road closures. On the way into Portland, there were multiple spots on Highway 53 where the hill next to it had partly eroded away, causing a sunken patch of rough roadway. Wonder if those spots will hold? There was a big section of Highway 26, too, that had sunk down about six inches, causing a major ridge in the roadway. And a couple other trouble spots.

      So it goes. I don’t think the earth really gives a damn where we want to stick our roads and when we want to drive over them. End of the day, she’ll do whatever she wants.

      Got five eggs today, and four or five yesterday. The other new ones must’ve come on. It’s nice to have a steady enough supply again that I have a bit of extra. As it happens, my hens are getting oats and sunflower seeds at the moment, as well. We’ve run out of layer feed and the local coop from which we could buy flooded. The other coop is south of the road closures. So we’re dipping into the bin of corn/oat/sunflower mixture my roommates keep as a treat for their goats. The chickies seem happy with it, though they leave the sunflower sees for last.

      Do your chickens eat on banana peels? How long do you keep the light on them each day?

      • Yo, Joel – Yeah, in the winter I try and keep a bag, or two, ahead of chicken feed, dog food and cat food. My chickens LOVE banana peels. They turn there noses up at greens, but eat those. I eat a banana a day, so, what doesn’t go into the worm box, goes to the chickens. I cut them up into smaller pieces and leave out the stem and bottom. Yes, my chickens are spoiled rotten :-).

        I try and make sure my chickens get 14-15 hours of light a day. Every week or so, I figure out the local sunrise, sunset times, figure how much sunlight they are getting, and adjust the timer to make up the difference. Right now, the 250W heat lamp is kicking on at 1am. Not only does the light provide, well, light, but a bit of heat to keep the chickens toasty, at night.

        Yeah, the infrastructure damage from the storms is pretty bad. I wonder how long it will be before all that damage just doesn’t get fixed? Lew

        • Hi Lew,

          Yikes! I forgot to respond to this. Yeah, I should probably start keeping an extra bag of chicken food on hand for these sort of events–especially this winter! I suppose I became complacent last winter since the weather was so mild and we had no real issues with me being able to get places. But this is probably more the norm, especially for the coming years! I’ll have to be more on top of things moving forward.

          I’m going to have to try banana peels with my chickens, cutting them up and distributing. I’m very curious to see if they actually eat them or if they have different tastes than your hens. I would find that delightful if they actually ate banana peels. I don’t tend to eat bananas myself anymore, but my roommates do on occasion.

          I’ve never tried using lights on my birds. I feel like they can have their rest in the winter, plus I don’t really want to deal with it. But there is a certain temptation to keep getting eggs, as I’m always quite sad about losing out on them so much in the winter–especially when I’m buying the girls expensive bags of organic feed! Of course, they might like the heat, too. Thankfully, I’m doing pretty good in the egg department this year with the new layers having come on for the winter. That’s good timing. I do wish I had a few more, but I can’t at all complain.

          The road crews seem to be trucking right along in getting things fixed up and reopened, though it’s a long process for some of the damage. It is impressive–it all still works pretty well for the time being. I don’t expect that to stay the case forever. It’ll be very interesting to see what happens the rest of the winter with any further storms, road damage, and so on. I’ll keep my eye on things and write up anything particularly interesting that I observe.

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