What We Have At the End of the World

In a way, hope is a failure of imagination. In a way, it is a flourishing.

It is a failure because I cannot imagine the end. The world goes on, and on and on, even when we wish it would stop.

I know how bad it is. The emission levels, the microplastics, the pipelines, the species gone, the rogue genes introduced, the coral dying, the water rising. The infrastructure still damaged in Puerto Rico when I visit my great-uncle, the droughts and floods within the same week that destroy the soil of my mother’s farm in Illinois, a tornado in a Minnesotan December as I leave another message on my senator’s voicemail. I know.

But the end? That I cannot comprehend. There is a well of despair so deep I could fall forever, there is a grief so all-consuming it warps the edges of dimensions, melts reality like plastic trash on a campfire. Who could wrap their mind around that loss?

I am only human. I can only hold one emotion for so long.

In a way, hope is a flourishing of imagination. Because when we reject the surrender of the end, we must imagine going on in new ways. And there is no limit to the paths the authors have chosen in answering this submission call for complexity, complicity, and hope.

Always hope.

We become trees, exhaling oxygen and digging our roots into eroding shores; we become islands, and rise up. We endow the soil itself with artificial intelligence and willingly place our fate in its hands. We speak with fungi, and we speak with our family, and all of the conversations are hard and necessary. We grapple with a monstrous, enduring capitalism, and reach out for each other as it tries to trap us within ourselves. Even when we are no longer on the planet, there are echoes of us and our actions in the relationships of the lives, natural and mechanical, we leave behind. We become ghosts but it never stops mattering that we were here, that we did what we could.

We go on and on and on. Together.

It is not utopia. But it is what we can have, these careful negotiations, communications, challenges, and sharing. We have relationships. New, complicated, frustrating, rewarding. Alive.

Relationships are what we have at the end of the world. The world is ending right now.

Hello. Nice to meet you. Please sit down. Are you warm? I have made my mother’s herbal tea. I have made soup from a local butcher and a CSA. I have made cookies from lard and wheat flour and sugar whose history is drenched in blood; they sparkle in the light. Please eat. It’s cold outside, for now. Tell me what you imagine.

The world is also beginning.

Reckoning 6 Submission Call

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Seeking speculative fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry about environmental justice that addresses the intersection between social upheaval and environmental changes, from collapses to breakthroughs, and everything in between. People’s large-scale relationships to the Earth produce formidable stories of devastation and resilience, which we welcome, but we also welcome those moments of intimacy, of quiet revolution, of deciding that changing the world means understanding and fighting for one’s place in it. We’re especially interested in work that demolishes or subverts binaries; that engages all the senses and emotions; and deals in hope, complexity, and complicity.

  • Fiction that shatters, stretches, or realigns mainstream Western ideas about relationships between individual humans, humans as a whole, and all other members of our environment. We’d love to read something with the vibe of Leslie Marmon Silko, Linda Hogan, N.K. Jemisin, or something brand-new. Send us your solarpunk, your biopunk, your hopepunk, and all things of multiple genres.
  • Nonfiction stories of environmental racism, of mental health intertwined with climate justice, of reckoning with systemic inequities during natural disasters, be they incisive or philosophical, bleak or hopeful, private or macrocosmic.
  • Poetry that deals with the questions of: how does social justice impact the manifestations, understanding and assimilation of environmental justice? How are attitudes toward preservation influenced—or complicated by—cultural roots? How have civil rights exposed or strengthened breaches in the makeup of activism?

We are actively seeking work from BIPOC, queer and transgender writers, artists with disabilities, and anyone who has suffered the consequences, intended or otherwise, of dominant society’s systemic disconnect with and mistreatment of the natural world. And we’re actively seeking new ways to reach all of the above. Seriously, if you know of a way we can do that, please share.

Read the full guidelines and submit your work here.