Chronicle.lu recently had the opportunity to speak to Cosimo Suglia and Sandy Heep, the founders and editors of Aner Welten, an online zine for Luxembourg-based emerging authors of speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy).
They recently launched an open call for submissions for their first thematic anthology zine around “solarpunk”, an art movement and subgenre of science fiction that focuses on the effective combination of nature and technology, and particularly on the idea of living in harmony with nature. The team has created a dedicated website for this.
Upon being asked what led them to solarpunk, Cosimo and Sandy mentioned having first discovered it on Twitter. In Cosimo’s article on Aner Welten, Solarpunk: Optimism, Utopia, and Futurism - Genre Summary, he described the genre as “a smile in times of darkness […] a future in which humanity realises and resolutely fights […] its misfortune; a future that focuses on harmony with nature; a future based on respect, diversity, and equality”. Asked how they would describe it in three words, Cosimo and Sandy said solarpunk stands for a “future through hope”.
Chronicle.lu asked them what inspired the decision to launch this call for submission and whether they hope to continue the initiative in future. They said: “We need writers. We live in a reciprocal relationship, and we think that submissions are good ways of introducing themes and genres that are perhaps less known to readers and writers. On our side, we obviously want to add to the speculative fiction landscape in Luxembourg. So, genre-specific anthologies are perfect. It regroups a multitude of voices and writers, all adding to a specific subject, and it includes Luxembourgish perspectives!”
The Aner Welten creators stated that they do not consider speculative fiction a “blueprint[…]or a specific guide on how to change the world.” Instead, they argued, it should inspire people, make them think and take the essence portrayed in the fictional worlds in order to “translate” these into real life. Quoting Darko Suvin, they noted: “sometimes science fiction becomes real but it should not aim to do so”.
In their call for submissions, the two warned against the "pitfalls of utopia". Solarpunk and hopeful future visions in general are often used as an aesthetic or impossible ideal, because, in this sought-after type of future world, problems would hopefully be very scarce. Chronicle.lu asked Cosimo and Sandy how they would approach building tension and conflict in storytelling in a world where inequality has been dealt with and people live peacefully together. They noted that questions of “what if” can create conflict and that even a perfect world may have its imperfections. They also said that “conflict can […]be minimal and [still] be interesting. It does not have to be some grand world-shattering problem for conflict to be generated. It can solely be character driven and have ways of handling internal conflicts that takes a way different approach than in any other genre. It's challenging, yes, but we guess that is the purpose of this.” They noted a particular focus on transition, “going from a capitalist system to a sustainable, utopian system requires transitional changes — from fossil fuels to solar, from conservatism to progress”.
In their opinion, solarpunk confronts “systematic differences, on a class and intersectional level. It creates social systems in which major societal problems are dealt with.”
Aner Welten is looking for six short stories of a maximum of 3,000 words, in English, German, French or Luxembourgish. The submission is open for people over the age of eighteen, either from Luxembourg or living in Luxembourg. The submission deadline is 15 June 2023 with publication foreseen for the end of the year.
The accepted stories, edited in correspondence with the author, will receive a payment of €75 and two copies of the anthology. The stories will be printed and published online on the website.