May Day Story 2023: "Any Percent"
If life was just a video game, what would it mean to win?
Happy May Day! Last year to celebrate International Workers' Day, I shared a full story——titled “May Day” of course, about what happens when a pair of groundhogging immortals start bringing more people into their time loop. It’s one of my favorite short stories I’ve written, falling squarely into the genre niche I’ve come to call ‘socialist surrealism.’ So I’ve decided to make posting a proletarian-themed story a May 1st tradition.
This year our May Day story is titled “Any Percent,” and it just went live today on the storied online webzine Giganotosaurus. Imagine you could play a video game that let you live a whole human life in a matter of minutes. What would it mean to “win” in that game? What would it mean to speedrun?
Click through and give it a read. Here’s a short excerpt, from a ways into the story.
Mechanically, the way he did whenever he needed to escape the bleakness of IRL, Luckless daubed gel onto his temples, closed his eyes, and held START. When he opened them, her small, brown hands were stocking cans on grocery shelves. It was her birthday, of course, but she was mostly worried about when she’d find time to study for her GED, how late the buses were running after midnight, whether her mother had been sober enough to feed baby Diwa before bed. The algo in her earbuds beeped at her to pick up the pace.
Normally, Luckless would drop the can, shed the earbuds, steal a car, and head to the nearest skip he could remember. Tonight she was in Columbus, so Ohio Truck Skip wasn’t far. From there it would be routine to buy her way into the underworld, get a new identity that could make money moves, never have to do manual labor or think about where she came from ever again.
In her back, her feet, her arms, she felt that deep-bone tired. The same tired Luckless felt every day of that one, unskippable life.
She finished work and rode the bus home, nursed her baby, and slept. The next morning she got out early, went to the diner across from the grocery, where a few of her coworkers were gathering to talk about organizing a union.
Read the full piece in all its gamer glory here.
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Our Shared Storm Turns One Year Old!
A year ago this past month my first book came out! It’s wild to think it’s only been a year, given how much has happened. I quite literally would not be where I am today, here in Sweden, had I not published Our Shared Storm.
How does the book hold up a year later? Quite well, if I do say so myself. Just weeks ago the IPCC released the final synthesis of the AR6 report, which models the future using the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways that I based Our Shared Storm on. Understanding these models, and the culture of the COP, is more important than ever for making sense of climate politics. And climate politics is increasingly all politics. It weaves into culture wars or tests trade alliances or refigures economic development——or all three, in the case of the Inflation Reduction Act.
The timeline of climate action is advancing both too slow and shockingly fast. All five pathways——from the breakdown of global order to achieving a sustainable, more equal world——are on the table. And I think all five stories I wrote exploring those pathways feel plausible and relevant.
If you haven’t read Our Shared Storm yet, pick up a copy. And if you have read it, celebrate this anniversary with me by leaving a review on Goodreads.
Solarpunk: A Remix
A while back the folks at the transdisciplinary network Fo.AM reached out and asked if they could quote some of my writings on solarpunk in a kind of mashup conversation with others who have contributed to the theorizing of the genre. Here is the result.
The piece was remixed by Maja Kuzmanović & Nik Gaffney, featuring words by myself and a number of fellow travelers: Adam Flynn, Elvia Wilk, Jay Springett, Paul Graham Raven, Phoebe Wagner & Brontë Wieland, and Sarena Ulibarri.
It’s an interesting text, weaving together the best lines from a bunch of essays, many from the era when solarpunk was producing more manifestos than actual fiction. Even though a lot has changed since those first pieces theorized the genre, I still feel like these lines are really vital and useful. They help us square up against a set of intellectual problems that we are still boxing with——climate doomerism, capitalist realism, corporate greenwashing, sustainability as austerity/asperity. All that’s really changed on that front from 2015-2017 is that now we’re a few rounds in the ring deep, both sides having taken some damage.
Anyway, check it out.
Material Reality: Fjord Fjotos
No long essay on the weather this month; just go read the story above. But I did want to share some pictures.
A couple weeks ago C and I took the occasion of the Easter holiday to ride the Arctic night train all the way to the end of the line: Narvik, Norway. Unlike low, flat Luleå, Narvik is vertical and mountainous. And despite being much further north, Narvik’s harbor is ice-free all year, thanks (for now) to the warming influence of the gulf stream.
We switchbacked up through quiet neighborhoods then took a cable car up to a restaurant high atop the ski slopes. From there we could see the rusty port where LKAB ships out most of the iron ore they mine around Kiruna (see prev). And we could see the fjord.
Thanks for reading! And happy May Day.
If you like the this newsletter, consider subscribing or checking out my recent climate fiction novel Our Shared Storm, which Publisher’s Weekly called “deeply affecting” and “a thoughtful, rigorous exploration of climate action.”