What’s the Role of Magic and Religion in Deindustrial Science Fiction?

One of the key challenges in writing good deindustrial science fiction, to my mind, is how to inhabit the cultural mind of a future civilization utterly unlike our own. This isn’t always a challenge, of course, because great deindustrial science fiction doesn’t have to be set in a future civilization; it can be set in the waning days of our own, a place we inhabit now and will continue to inhabit for years to come. However, as our civilization declines and fades over the coming century or two, new civilizations will inevitable emerge out of the ruins of our own, and what those might look like and how they may understand the world is some pretty fascinating grist for the imaginative wheel.

The types of stories that can come out of such grist are exactly what I wish to publish in Into the Ruins. However, a conundrum inevitably arises: I want such stories of future cultures to be realistic in that they depict a culture with radically different views from our own, but trying to imagine what those views might be without succumbing to the frames of reference enforced by our own culture is incredibly challenging. Furthermore, imagining what kinds of technologies, religious beliefs, occult practices, cultural myths and narratives, and methods of exploring and understanding the world may be found in a future culture utterly different than our own—and what of those is realistic to the degree we can determine that—is all the more challenging.

I think of this as a catch-22. One of the rules I have for submissions is that they must be realistic based on what we know of the physical world and how it functions. This is a crucial rule, as it helps to head off many standard science fiction tropes, such as the discovery of limitless amounts of clean energy, or of continued exponential growth despite the physical limits of our planet. It’s one of the key guidelines in seeking out realistic stories of the futures that factor in and deal with the hard realities of climate change, resource and energy depletion, ecological destruction, and political and economic dysfunction.

But what of the futures that, to our current understanding of the world, sound superstitious at best, insane at worst, but that may be completely feasible within a radically different cultural frame of reference? There are inevitably myriad types of technologies that could conceivably work within our world, following the rules of physics as we understand them, and could be hugely useful—but that we would never imagine due to our culture’s particular habits of thoughts and focuses of scientific inquiry and discovery. Further, the limited scientific materialist worldview so dominant in our current culture that claims that only those things that can be measured by our current instruments of measurement are real, and that all other things are not—or are superstition, or nonsense, or the failure of rational thought—undoubtedly cuts off consideration and discovery and use of very real phenomena that is dismissed out of hand simply because it doesn’t conform to our particular cultural expectations.

Hannes Rollins wrote an essay about this, “The Ebbing Away of Understanding,” in the recent tenth issue of the magazine. He questions what the role of magic, religion, and superstition should be in deindustrial science fiction. I asked the same in the letters section of that issue, writing in part:

[Hannes Rollins] asked [me] what the policy was on magic in Into the Ruins, to which I responded that I honestly was not sure. As I am open to the idea of a mysterious, even magic universe, I do not want to eliminate it entirely. And certainly, I heartily encourage a preponderance of magic and religion in the cultures of the future written about in the magazine, as those elements will play a role in future cultures just as commonly as they have played a role in past ones. The question, then, is not so much the belief in these in future cultures, or in the portrayal of behavior and practices structured around those beliefs, but in the question of if manifestations of those beliefs in the physical world should be allowed—or if such manifestations would violate natural laws as we currently understand them.

Many people today, of course, would argue that they would, though claims of such occurrences go as far back as we have records and memory. I believe the case is not nearly so clear-cut, as just because the scientific method has so far provided no way of explaining a variety of phenomena experienced by humans throughout the world does not mean that such phenomena doesn’t exist. On the other hand, my casual readings of [John Michael] Greer, combined with my own beliefs about the world, are enough to convince me that any real-world manifestations found in the practice of magic are limited in a wide variety of ways; Harry Potter, in other words, is not an accurate guide to real world magic—nor is most any other representation of magic in popular culture.

If a practicing mage edited and published Into the Ruins, perhaps she would have an easier time grappling with this question. I, however, am not one; my interest in magic has never really passed the curiosity stage and is limited to reading what other people with actual experience actually think. So what is possible and what is not, what is realistic and what is not: that is not something I feel qualified to judge at the moment.

So again, we are left with the question of what is the appropriate place of magic in deindustrial science fiction? I have no clear answer to that question. But I believe it’s one worth grappling with.

For those of you subscribers and purchasers of the magazine who have yet to read Mr. Rollins’ essay, or my own letter, I encourage you to do so. And I ask the same question I did in the most recent issue: What do you think should be the role of magic and religion in deindustrial science fiction, and how do we navigate those complex and in many ways foreign concepts in a culture that so utterly disavows them?

I want your thoughts. I want a conversation in the letters to the editor section of the magazine, or longer response essays to my letter and Hannes’ essay. Therefore, I invite any and all readers to make their own attempts at grappling with the above question in letters to the editors or essays of any length, submitted to me at editor@intotheruins.com or via a comment on this blog post. Your thoughts may just end up in a future issue of the magazine—and may just spark a future great work of deindustrial science fiction.

Let’s hear it. And thank you.


P.S. Don’t miss our Fall Sale going on right now for a limited time! All back issues (#1-9) are just $10 each and ALL orders ship FREE in the U.S. Take advantage today!

FALL SALE! All Back Issues $10 Each, Plus Free U.S. Shipping!

Over the last month or so, the approach of fall has made itself very known here in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t know if I’m quite ready–although as the leaves begin to change, the rain finally returns, and the nights cool off, I’m getting more and more excited about it–but if there’s one thing that’s appropriate in fall, it’s reading. And so, in celebration of the changing season, I’ve put all back issues of Into the Ruins on sale.

That’s right, all nine back issues of the magazine are now available for just $10 each! (The new tenth issue is available for the regular price of $12.) In addition to the discounted price, FREE shipping is available on all U.S. orders, as well, no matter how many issues you purchase.

Sound like a good deal? Great! You can get these special discounts on our Special Deals page. Grab as many issues as you want. Stock up, complete your collection, grab some gifts, or just spread them around town. This is a limited time deal (though how limited, I haven’t yet decided) so get cracking and help me clear out some inventory.

Thanks, all!

Joel Caris
Editor & Publisher
Into the Ruins

Into the Ruins: Summer 2018 (Issue #10) is Now Available!

A bit of a belated announcement here, but I’m very pleased to announce that the tenth issue of Into the Ruins is now available for purchase! (And subscribers have already received their copies—unless, of course, you haven’t renewed.) Getting this issue put to bed and out to the public has been a bit of work, dovetailing with some own personal delays, but I’m really happy for this one to see the light of day. I think it’s worth the wait, and hopefully everyone who reads it will agree. There’s some really fun stuff in this issue.

This Summer 2018 issue runs 108 pages, featuring five great new stories (one a fun surprise I’m about to spoil), an Editor’s Introduction, a short-but-great letters to the editor section, and a guest essay that really excites me.

This issue brings with it surprises, new adventures, and at least one familiar landscape—all brought to us by writers old and new. Alistair Herbert returns one more time to the world of “The Change Year” and “Archive” to bring his triptych of the future to a close. Brian Koukol weaves us a delightful tale of the future in which the old world is brought back to life in a surprising way. Chloe Woods takes us to a light house at the edge of the sea and the dangerous visitors who come knocking, while Kyle E. Miller shows us a locked and frozen land of winter. Finally, in an exciting first for this magazine, John Michael Greer’s stellar deindustrial science fiction story, “Winter’s Tales,” is brought to vivid, visual life in comic form by Marcu Knoesen and Walt Barna–and I have to say, I’m blown away by what Marcu and Walt have achieved working off John Michael Greer’s excellent storytelling. See below for a sneak peek at the first page; trust me, you aren’t going to want to miss this one!

Couple these stories with a tight and compelling letters section and an essay from Hannes Rollin on what the role of religion, superstition, and magic should be in deindustrial science fiction, and you have yourself one of the more fascinating issues of Into the Ruins yet brought to life.

Subscribers have already received their copies. (Haven’t yet renewed your subscription? You can do that here or you can email me to find out if your subscription is still current and active.) Those of you who aren’t subscribers but would like a copy of the new issue can order a copy here from our store, which will ship immediately and is currently available with free U.S. shipping. The issue is also available from Amazon or you can purchase a digital edition of the issue at Payhip. For  international readers, you can go to the issue page for links to international Amazon sites it’s available through.

If you aren’t already a subscriber, consider signing up! The consistent support provided by subscriptions is critical to the success of Into the Ruins. And want some of our back issues? Don’t miss the special sale going on, in which all back issues are just $10 each and all orders currently ship free in the U.S.

As always, I encourage readers to send their thoughts and feedback to me at editor@intotheruins.com, both as casual emails (rambling acceptable!) and as official letters to the editor that I can consider for publication in the eleventh issue of Into the Ruins, scheduled for publication in November. In particular, I would love to receive thoughts and feedback in relation to Hannes Rollin’s essay. Comments for contributing authors, as well, will be happily forwarded on.

Now go read the issue and enjoy some fantastic deindustrial and post-peak science fiction!

— Joel Caris, Editor & Publisher

P.S. Again, don’t miss our Fall Sale going on right now for a limited time! All back issues (#1-9) are just $10 each and ALL orders ship FREE in the U.S. Thanks!

Into the Ruins: Spring 2018 (Issue #9) is Now Available!

Into the Ruins Cover Issue 9 - FRONT ONLY-page001
I’m pleased to announce that the ninth issue of Into the Ruins is shipping to subscribers and is now available for purchase! This Spring 2018 issue runs 106 pages, featuring six great new stories, as well as an Editor’s Introduction and the best (and longest!) letters to the editor section we’ve featured yet.

Friends old and new emerge in this issue of Into the Ruins. Alistair Herbert returns with a follow up to his story “The Change Year” from the Winter 2018 issue, diving deeper into a future in which men and women alternate societal control every twenty-five years–and revealing the secret that created the system in the first place. Jeanne Labonte brings us a new tale featuring Bishop Matteo, taking him on an adventure of danger, intrigue, and justice amongst the Kazakhs. Rita Rippetoe, meanwhile, puts us back on the road to Finx, showing us this time how Pedro came to the Sanctuary.

New friends step off the pages of this issue, too. A hospital administrator in a hard future learns new ways to practice medicine, but struggles to accept them. A man travels by sea toward Tiger Cave Temple, hoping to recreate a trip he took in his youth and finding the experience very different in a future in which travel is not so quick. Finally, we take a trip to the moon–only to find that our future space adventures are not going well. Whether it’s reacquainting yourself with old friends or meeting new ones, these stories aren’t to be missed.

Subscribers should have already received their issues or will be receiving them in the coming days. Have you renewed your subscription yet? While many of you have, there are still quite a few who haven’t and therefore are yet to receive this new Spring 2018 issue; you can renew here to ensure you don’t miss this newest issue! Unsure if you need to renew? Email subscriptions@intotheruins.com and I’ll let you know the status of your subscription.

Those of you who aren’t subscribers but would like a copy of the new issue, you can order a copy here from our store, which will ship immediately. The issue is also available from Amazon or you can purchase a digital edition of the issue at Payhip. For  international readers, you can go to the issue page for links to international Amazon sites it’s available through.

If you aren’t already a subscriber, consider signing up! The consistent support provided by subscriptions is critical to the success of Into the Ruins.

As always, I encourage readers to send their thoughts and feedback to me at editor@intotheruins.com, both as casual emails (rambling acceptable!) and as official letters to the editor that I can consider for publication in the tenth issue of Into the Ruins, scheduled for publication in July. Let’s keep this issue’s excellent letters section rolling! Comments for contributing authors will be happily forwarded on.

Now go read the issue and enjoy some fantastic deindustrial and post-peak science fiction!

— Joel Caris, Editor & Publisher

P.S. Into the Ruins: Year Two is now available for purchase! Similar to the Year One package, Year Two contains issues #5-8 and ships free anywhere in the U.S. for just $43. This is a great way to catch up or gift the magazine to a friend! Those interested in international orders should contact me directly at orders@intotheruins.com for more information. Thanks!

The Problem With “Collapse”

In the Winter 2018 issue of Into the Ruins, I wrote “The Problem With ‘Collapse’,” my Editor’s Introduction, which spoke to some of the common tropes of deindustrial science fiction and the ways in which the genre still feels in its infancy, struggling to find the best way to portray stories set in futures that go so strongly against the expectations of our time. It’s one of the challenges of stories of these types, but a challenge that I want to see authors continue to overcome.

It’s an important conversation for this type of fiction, and it’s one I want to foster as widely and publicly as possible. As it happens, the Spring 2018 issue is fast approaching, and I also wouldn’t mind have a few more letters to the editor, both about this subject and others related to the themes of deindustrial science fiction and the future of industrial civilization. Have something to say right now? Shoot an email to editor@intotheruins.com to have it considered for publication in the next issue. Not quite sure what to say? Read “The Problem With ‘Collapse'” below and see if you have something to add to the conversation.

Oh, and don’t have the Winter 2018 issue? Well, maybe you should pick up a copy right here. It’s a good one; you shouldn’t miss it!


The Problem With “Collapse”

Change is a sneak. It comes upon you slowly, in increments often unseen, the unnoticed ticks of a clock that pass minutes, hours, days. It is the accumulation of thought and consideration and experience, teased out over months and years. It is the way that an idea once unthinkable, or at least unpalatable, eventually becomes commonplace—becomes habit. It is who you are now, often so different from who you were then.

Of course, change is not always that. Sometimes it is dramatic and sudden. Sometimes it’s a break, severing what you once knew for a different reality now dominant. But most change takes place day by day, under the cover of mundane routine, via processes that churn always in the background. It’s the accumulation of the new and the sloughing off of the old. Much of the new, as it turns out, is just the same as the old; enough over time is different to create long term change, though. That’s how the world eventually looks different. That’s how futures are made.

— ∞ —

When does it happen? When does “The Collapse” occur? That’s the question so often asked about the future facing us. We want to know when the break will happen—where on the timeline the shearing off will take place. And it’s the wrong question. More often than not, “The Collapse” never occurs—it just suddenly is noticed one day. The world, we realize, has changed. We think back ten years, twenty, and marvel at the ways it is different now against then. We come to recognize all the things that, if seen in advance, would have been shocking then but are routine today.

“How did we get here?” we ask ourselves, each other. And the oft-imagined cliff, the dramatic moment when everything changed, is rarely the answer.

“Incrementally,” someone says. “One step at a time.”

— ∞ —

It’s not that there aren’t moments. There are so many moments. We could name them together, we could make our lists. 9/11. Hurricane Katrina. 2008. The election of Donald Trump. These are ones we can point to freely, easily, reeling off the tips of our tongues. They were moments of collective shock, of widespread realization that we had entered into new territory, that the world and its terms of engagement had changed. Not that no one predicted these events in advance; varying people did in every case, at varying levels of specificity. But the society, the culture at large, did not. And when these moments hit, we (or at least some) suffered collective breaks. We tried, and often failed, to understand—even when there were perfectly reasonable explanations. We panicked.

Of course, there are endless other moments. How many foreign entanglements have we wrapped ourselves in? How many dead end economic policies have we enacted? How many ecosystems have we destroyed in the name of progress? How many sustainable livelihoods have we outlawed? How many seemingly inexhaustible resources have we exhausted? How much clean water, fresh air, and fertile soil have we polluted and ruined and wasted?

Each of these is a step. Most of them go unnoticed, or noticed by almost no one. Most of them are simply manifestations of business as usual, and are insisted to be necessities, inevitable—even though they are neither. None of them are cliffs or cleavings—at least, until one of them becomes the black swan that brings a chunk of the system down and that changes the terms. That’s when we suddenly notice the change, but not generally the cause. 9/11. Hurricane Katrina. 2008. Donald Trump. Here again, they roll off the tongue, but never the underlying issues and actions that created them in the first place. Those unspoken truths are too often obscured at all costs. They have to be, so that we may take the next step.

But these black swans are not system-destroyers. They are not “The Collapse.” They are wrenches. They break some gears, shut down a process. But overall, the system continues. It grinds on, hobbled, but with most everyone working to restore its function. And so they do, returning it not to its former glory (so to speak) but to some reduced version of it. And then, exhausted, they look for the next step to take. And the timeline of history continues.

— ∞ —

There is nothing new about a civilization collapsing. It’s happened time and time again throughout history, and it so happens that it’s currently happening to our civilization. It shouldn’t be a surprise; all the signs are there for those who care to learn the history. Nor should it be a surprise that it takes awhile, take centuries. That means that, while we are currently living through the collapse of our civilization, we almost certainly won’t live to see the final shape of the ruins. There’s still a very long path to travel to get there. Still, the section that we have the pleasure of traveling, already proving eventful, is sure to become more interesting yet.

That entire path—likely hundreds of years long—is “The Collapse.” But it will be filled with myriad events, many of them significant, far more insignificant, and with long stretches of relative calm. That’s how a civilization collapses, not all at once and in flames, but piece by piece, step by step, some of them large and some small. It’s a process. It accumulates.

Again, that’s not to say there aren’t meaningful moments or even sudden endings. We all will have a sudden ending some day, and many of us may have one directly related to collapse: an act of war, a failure of critical infrastructure, dramatic political or social turmoil, that lashings out of a population with its back against the wall, an escape from one’s harsh reality that turns unintentionally permanent. Or perhaps we perish in an earthquake, a storm, some natural calamity. These too are part of the fractal pattern of collapse, driven sometimes by our own stupidity and other times by the natural processes that serve both to keep us alive and to sometimes kills us.

The key to these events, dramatic and shattering as they are for those caught in them, is that they are localized. They may be localized at a very small scale or at a large, regional one, but they do not consume the entire world and, even where they are localized, they do not impact everyone at an equally disastrous level. In addition to their localization, they are inevitably mitigated. From the individual level all the way to the global level, humans and their institutions tend to work to mitigate the overall impact of these disruptions and to limit their ongoing fallout. They seek stability and a return to normal. They respond, provide care, assist, and rebuild. Granted, these palliative actions can be too limited in scope, suffer from corruption, take too long, and feature exploitation and profiteering, but the responses still occur.

All of this serves to check and contain the spread of disaster. The impact is still there and the overall system suffers, but it isn’t destroyed. It continues on at some lower level of function, awaiting always the next disaster that will piece it still a bit more apart, inch it ever closer to the final floor.

This is how civilizations die.

— ∞ —

It’s with this understanding and viewpoint in mind that I evaluate the stories I publish here in Into the Ruins. This magazine has been referred to as post-apocalyptic, but it really is not that, as I don’t believe in apocalypse and I actively shy away from stories depicting such futures. Nor is it dystopian, as I instead search out stories that depict the kind of complicated world we humans make for ourselves—good roiled with bad—rather than the endlessly bleak and stifling futures so often depicted in dystopian stories. No, the stories I look to publish are those that take place in the changed worlds we’re most likely to get, in which the slow process of collapse is quite a bit farther down the road or long since finished and completed, depending on the story.

That means, of course, that the stories I look to publish depict futures that are different from today, sometimes dramatically so. That’s nothing new to science fiction, of course; however, the particular sort of science fiction found in Into the Ruins suffers from a distinct disadvantage that the usual stars-and-spaceships or all-computers-all-the-time sort of science fiction doesn’t: that is, that the future depicted is not the one most people think we’re supposed to get. A story featuring space adventures and interstellar travel is rarely under any pressure to explain how humans managed to get their way to that future if the writer isn’t interested in a long explanation of the backstory. It can go merrily along on the presumption that the audience will take this future in stride, understanding that of course we’ll eventually be happily planet-hopping with nary a second thought as to it’s cost or feasibility, never mind the fact that no human has been beyond low-earth orbit for well over forty years now. However, a story set in a future in which industrial civilization has collapsed—or is in the process of doing so—and the populace is struggling with dramatically lower standards of living, reduced energy and resources, and the consequences of climate change, ecological collapse, rising seas, drought and famine, and other such obvious repercussions to our current ways of life . . . well, that’s a future that must be explained.

In some ways, there’s nothing wrong with that. An explanation of how humanity got to an imagined future is often intriguing when handled right, and a good part of the point of Into the Ruins is to help broaden the public’s understanding of the predicament we’re in through the use of fiction. Tracing out the consequences of that predicament, then, is a worthy effort. However, there are a ton of great stories waiting to be told in realistic futures that are worse off for having to hold the reader’s hand through an explanation of how we got there. Just as a rip-roaring tale of space adventure might be knocked off track by a long explanation of the evolution of space travel, so too might a rip-roaring tale of adventure in a future wracked by risen seas, mass migration, and the desertification of large swaths of the American landscape might be knocked off its rhythm by a segue into the evolution of climatological change and disruption due to the exploitation of fossil fuels.

Our task at hand, then, is to make visions of these sorts of futures common. It’s to make them as obvious and unquestioned as those with intergalactic space travel. It’s to rid ourselves of the need for shorthand, of the need to clarify to the reader that something went wrong.

— ∞ —

One of the tropes of deindustrial science fiction is the tendency of characters to reference the moment when things fell apart, to give it a name like “The Collapse” or some other short, catchy name. You can find examples of this phenomenon in stories in this very issue of the magazine, not to mention in multiple back issues. As the steward of this project, coming across such a term in a story always sets me a little on edge, gets my back up. I mean no disrespect to the authors who do it, mind you, because I understand the urge; it’s for the reasons stated above, the assumed expectations of the readers. But it sets me on edge anyway because it puts the scent of fast collapse into the story. It teases at a possible past apocalypse. And that’s one of the biggest reasons I reject stories that otherwise feature quality writing and an interesting story set in a compelling future setting: because they portray the collapse too fast.

Getting this right is important to me. If we’re to understand the future that’s unfolding around us and have a chance to address it head on—making the world a bit better, even if the emphasis is on “a bit”—then we have to understand that the collapse of a civilization is not an overnight, apocalyptic event. It’s what’s happening to us right now. It’s only in comprehending this that most of us might begin acting now, rather than waiting for an apocalyptic act to kick us into gear. And it’s in understanding that this right now is what the process of decline looks like that we may come to truly grasp that the future is not likely to be one of betterment, but one of decline, fraught with great challenges.

One of the biggest goals of this publication is to drive home that point through fiction. I don’t carry that goal in an effort to depress my fellow citizens or to rage against that world; I carry it due to my own optimism, even if that optimism is sometimes hard for others to see. I really do believe that, facing a hard future, we can take actions that make that future better for us, our descendants, and the many other creatures that call this planet home. These actions won’t fully mitigate what we are destined to face, but they can help, and I believe that such action is worth it.

But there are two common beliefs that do an excellent job of diffusing the sense of need for such action: the belief that the future is one of inevitable betterment, and the belief that the future is one of inevitable apocalypse. If the former, no action is needed, as we are not facing challenging times. If the latter, no action is helpful, as we are facing destruction anyway. Both beliefs foster a willingness to continue living lives that we know are dead ends and that tend to fail in providing happiness and fulfillment, anyway. Both beliefs sentence us to a worse future, at a time when the future is guaranteed to be hard enough as it is.

In portraying realistic futures set during or after times of decline, the stories published in Into the Ruins help to counter the first belief of inevitable betterment. But if, in the process, they reinforce the idea that the decline we face will manifest itself in sudden and cataclysmic collapse, then much of the good they might do is mitigated. We need stories that show us both: the hard times ahead and the fact that those hard times will come as they always do, in fits and starts, piecemeal, fractal, chaotic, messy, uneven, an d decidedly non-apocalyptic, even if they do feature sudden ends for certain people and places. It’s in those sort of messy futures that the actions we can take start to become more clear. It’s in those futures that we see our own agency and the ways that, even in troubled times, we can act to better the world.

It also just so happens that the complication, chaos, variability, joy, pain, and myriad human complication found in these kinds of futures makes for, in my opinion, far more interesting stories than those typically found in science fiction these days. Give me not dystopia or apocalypse or space colonization or techno-utopia; give me instead the messiness of humans making their way through a complicated and living world that refuses to conform to their wishes. Those are the stories I want to read and publish.

— ∞ —

I imagine that in the future, there will be stories about our time. They will speak of our mistakes and they will probably not speak kindly, especially since they will still be dealing with the fall out from our destructive decisions. They will talk of the decline we went through—the way our civilization came to pieces. Perhaps they will know some of the details and perhaps they won’t. I’m not optimistic about the records we’ll leave. But I imagine their story, while condensed, will still be long. I do not imagine they’ll speak of the day everything fell apart, and if they do, it will be a story of myth, not a literal cataloging of exactly how our world went to pieces.

They will not yearn for the time before our civilization fell, any more than we yearn for the Roman empire. If there are records giving some idea of how we lived, it may interest some, but it will be a curiosity of another time, irrelevant to their lives. We will not be central to future civilizations. If we are known at all, we will be just one more piece of history; one bit of curve on a long arc.

Our civilization’s death is certain to be a long one. There’s no particular reason to attempt to aggrandize it. It won’t be the reference point for all who come after and it won’t end the world in a fiery apocalypse. It will simply be one more civilization in a long human history full of them, carrying out its life cycle the way each of billions of humans do, being born, ripening, and eventually dying in the slow, cascading, chaotic way that civilizations die. And then will come another, and another, and another.

The stories to tell are endless: of that death, of all the moments in it, of the civilizations that come afterward, of the complicated path between death and rebirth, of untold humans making their way through fascinating lives on a fascinating planet. Let us tell them. Let us dive into them knowing that now is not the reference point for all, that the future cannot be known in advance, that stories set in decline are as legitimate as stories set in endless progress, that we do not have to hold the reader’s hand. Give them reference points, clues, the shadings of a path, detail if it fits the story and vague allusions if it doesn’t. Let them see the futures we imagine and give them the option to accept those futures or not. But it is in presenting them unapologetically—putting them forth as casually as all those shiny, sterile futures of endless computer technology and casual space travel—that we make them normal. It is in putting them forward over and over and over again—matter of fact, obvious, no labels necessary—that we move from debating if this is the sort of future we can expect, this place of obvious decline when referenced against our now, to debating whether this is what the decline might really look like. And it is in placing formed and breathing characters in these worlds, and having them expect the world, to know it intimately, to not imagine any other—because why would they? this is the world—that we make those futures real, that we change our understanding of what to expect.

And it is then that the work begins. Because now we see what to expect, and it’s through that knowledge that we begin to understand what we must do.


What are your thoughts? Send in your letter to the editor now by emailing editor@intotheruins.com or commenting on this post and contribute to the conversation! Don’t have the Winter 2018 issue in which this editorial was published? This is just a taste of the excellent content found therein; grab your copy today!

Into the Ruins: Winter 2018 (Issue #8) is Now Available!

I’m pleased to announce (admittedly a bit late here on the blog) that the eighth issue of Into the Ruins has shipped to subscribers and is available for purchase! This Winter 2018 issue runs 106 pages, featuring six excellent new stories, as well as an Editor’s Introduction, letters to the editor, and a new book review from Justin Patrick Moore.

In this issue of Into the Ruins, a seer tells a mad king his future under the threat of death. Two men isolated on a Northwest island work to re-establish contact with a devastated outside world. A powerful woman struggles with how to respond to the upcoming power shifts in both her society and home. And a man’s life is changed after a chance encounter in the forest leads to an intense love affair.

These are just a few of the stories found in this eighth issue of Into the Ruins, continuing our exploration of future worlds riven with the consequences of today’s actions. These are worlds near and far in the future, uniquely their own, giving glimpses into the sort of realities we actually do face while making clear that the worlds of tomorrow are just as compelling and complicated as the world of today.

Subscribers will be receiving their issues in the coming days, with most already working their way through the mail system. Those of you who aren’t subscribers but would like a copy of the new issue, you can order a copy here from our store, which will ship immediately. The issue is also available from Amazon or you can purchase a digital edition of the issue at Payhip. For international readers, you can go to the issue page for links to international Amazon sites it’s available through.

Many of you have subscriptions that have expired with the release of this new issue. Please consider renewing today if you haven’t already! Subscriptions are the lifeblood of this publication; if you want it to continue, show your support by re-upping your subscription. (If you’re unsure when your subscription expires, simply email me at subscriptions@intotheruins.com and I’ll let you know; similarly, if you’re an international subscriber, contact me at the same email for a renewal link.)

And if you aren’t already a subscriber? Consider signing up! The consistent support provided by subscriptions is critical to the success of Into the Ruins.

As always, I encourage readers to send their thoughts and feedback to me at editor@intotheruins.com, both as casual emails (rambling acceptable!) and as official letters to the editor that I can consider for publication in the ninth issue of Into the Ruins, scheduled for publication in May. Comments for contributing authors will be happily forwarded on.

Now go read the issue and enjoy some fantastic deindustrial and post-peak science fiction!

— Joel Caris, Editor & Publisher

P.S. With the release of this issue, Into the Ruins: Year Two is now available for purchase! Similarly to the Year One package, Year Two contains issues #5-8 and ships free anywhere in the U.S. for just $43. This is a great way to catch up or gift the magazine to a friend! Those interested in international orders should contact me directly at orders@intotheruins.com for more information. Thanks!

Starting Anew

(See the bottom of this post for an announcement about our special sale, now with free shipping!)

January is usually a productive month for me. As the year draws to a close, I begin reflecting, thinking ahead, and working to improve habits. As the new year dawns, I begin implementing new habits (or committing to the changes already in progress) and deciding where I want my focus to lie during the year. I do all this while enjoying the quiet first few days of January, doing lots of reading, and pulling myself away from the day-to-day distractions I far too often indulge.

This year I managed to make myself a fairly long list of goals, which may not be the wisest decision. As with many people, I have a habit of starting my resolutions strong and then fading down the stretch; even by spring, it’s not uncommon for me to have largely forgotten about any resolutions and to be slipping back into old habits. Still, typically some things stick and, of course, I find time to reflect and make changes and adjustments at other times throughout the year, not just at its beginning. And when that new year rolls around during each calendar, it’s not uncommon for me to make some resolution that is a variant on one I’ve made many times before. It’s something of a natural process: a slow learning that takes place over years, not all at once on January 1st.

My resolutions in 2018 span a spectrum of subjects and categories, and I won’t go into all of them for fear of boring you. However, I want to mention one, as I feel it is a resolution that relates directly to some of the themes of Into the Ruins. Where my wife and I live in the city, we are lucky enough to have a shared backyard with a small amount of space for gardening. Those of you who read my editorial introductions or have otherwise followed me over time likely well know that I spent a number of years working on a variety of farms, including organic vegetable farms, and that I garden each year–though with varying levels of success. Last year, I expanded our home gardening from a single garden bed into a partly fenced off area that used to serve as a chicken run, but that had been abandoned to weeds (and sadly, regular spraying with glyphosate) for a number of years. In 2016, we convinced the landlord to stop the lawn maintenance people from spraying and last year I started to redeem the long-abused, dead earth chicken run. I dug in a couple new beds, turned in compost and organic fertilizer, and planted tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, basil, and cucumbers.

I did this largely because I wanted more space in which to garden and wanted to grow more food, but I did it also with the desire to rehabilitate this small patch of ground that had been so abused over the years. Rather than a stretch of dirt lying mostly bare, dotted by scraggly weeds, I wanted to bring back a greater life to it. In my digging, I found that weed cloth had been laid down sometime back, so I pulled that up to get to the real earth beneath, turning the duff on top of the cloth into it and adding in compost. The ground was hard and packed, devoid of worms, a far cry from a picture of health. My hope is that my small work would do some good.

I have yet to dig back into that soil to see what is happening now, but the garden I planted there did very well for the most part, the tomatoes and squash thriving in particular. It heartened me to see that returned life, and I enjoyed the good eating we did over the course of the summer, even harvesting zucchini into late November.

I plan to once again plant in there this summer, but getting an earlier start this year. And that’s where my resolution comes in. Last year, I began the process of rehabilitating that small bit of land; this year, I want to do better. I hope to open up a bit more earth in there, but more importantly, I want to take a greater care in my gardening this year. My resolution here is to plant more flowers, for starters, to create both greater beauty and more pollinator habitat. I also would like to plant a greater diversity of crops, to get an earlier start, and to rotate more. Already, my wife and I have been looking through seed catalogs, scheming about what we want to grow and which flowers to plant.

At the end of the day, that small bit of soil is a small resolution, and my efforts to bring it back to life are a tiny mark in an incredibly large world. But as I argue time and again, we can only make the larger world into what we know it needs to be—healthy, vibrant, far less abused by us humans—by making changes at the individual level. That’s the only way that we can foster and implement changes at the larger level, and its the only way our leaders will realize they must reinforce and help facilitate those changes or risk losing their jobs. Without dedication, conviction, and persistence in our personal lives, cultural and societal changes will never happen by choice and will.

And so, I ask you readers for something small: a contribution to Into the Ruins that may help to inspire others. What do you resolve to do in the new year to help make the world a better place? How do you plan to help? What do your small (or big!) efforts look like? I asked this question last year and received some interesting answers; it seems to me that it’s worth making a tradition. I will ask it somewhat less specifically this year—your answers may be broad in the subjects they touch and small or large in the actions taken and they do not have to be specifically focused on conservation or mitigation. Let them fit the theme of Into the Ruins one way or another, but the changes we need to make are many, and they don’t have to be explicitly focused on sustainability, ecology, energy, the environment, or so on. They may be about kindness or community, for we will need that in the hard times ahead. They may be about learning or wisdom, for we’ll need that, too. Or they may just be about bringing one happiness in a world that too often seems to bring the opposite.

All letters will be considered for publication in future issues of Into the Ruins, unless otherwise noted. You can give your thoughts with a comment on this blog post, by emailing me directly at editor@intotheruins.com, or by mailing a real letter to Figuration Press / 3515 SE Clinton Street / Portland, OR 97202.

So let’s hear it: What are your plans for 2018? In what small way do you hope to help rehabilitate the world? Share your thoughts and help spread those small changes.


Back Issue Sale: Now with Free Shipping!

Help me clear some inventory! Our back issue sale just got even better: it now comes with free shipping. Until the end of January, all six back issues of Into the Ruins are on sale for just $10 and come with free shipping! Fill out your collection, grab some gifts, seed your hometown with randomly placed copies of the magazine–whatever you want!

And have you picked up the newest, Fall 2017 issue? If not, grab it today with free shipping! It’s an excellent issue, if I do say so myself. I don’t think you’ll want to miss it.

 

Into the Ruins LIVE on the Practical Prepping. Period Podcast this Wednesday!

I will be joining Randy Powers on his Practical Prepping. Period podcast this Wednesday, December 6th at 9pm EST to talk live about Into the Ruins, deindustrial science fiction, the future of industrial civilization, organic gardening and farming, and whatever other subjects may pop up. With luck, this will be a fun and wide-ranging conversation—and I’ll manage to come up with a few interesting things to say.

You can either listen live or download the podcast after it airs for listening at your leisure. You can find full info at the Facebook event page or directly at the Blog Talk Radio website.

I hope you’ll listen in!


Don’t forget! The new Fall 2017 issue of Into the Ruins is now available for sale and our limited time back issue sale continues, with all six back issues of the magazine now available for just $10 each! Complete your collection or pick up back issues for gifts this holiday season.

Into the Ruins: Fall 2017 (Issue #7) is Now Available (and All Back Issues on Sale)

(See the P.S. at the bottom of this post to learn more about our limited time back issue sale!)

I’m pleased to announce that the seventh issue of Into the Ruins is shipping to subscribers and is now available for purchase! This Fall 2017 issue runs 108 pages, featuring five excellent new stories from authors returning and new, as well as an Editor’s Introduction, letters to the editor, and a closing editorial on autonomous vehicles, robots, and disemployment.

In this seventh issue of Into the Ruins, new worlds emerge from all corners of the globe, revealing the futures awaiting us on the far side of climate change and civilizational decline. Anchorage has transformed itself into the newest boom town in America, growing recklessly fast but hiding dark secrets. Meanwhile, in Antarctica, a dramatically changed climate has revealed the world’s newest frontier. A man travels through the treacherous swamps of Florida, searching out a place to start a new life, while another man fleeing from past deeds finds a strange welcome in a dusty church. Another traveler meets a sly stranger on the trail and soon finds himself in a battle of wits that could prove the difference between riches and misery.

These new worlds are neither apocalyptic nor dystopian, but instead a fascinating mix of new and old, well past many of the troubles of our times and struggling with new troubles of their own. These stories offer fascinating and fun futures while recognizing that human folly rings eternal.

Subscribers will be receiving their issues in the coming days, with most already working their way through the mail system. (Are you a lapsed subscriber? Renew today!) Those of you who aren’t subscribers but would like a copy of the new issue, you can pre-order a copy here directly, which will be shipping in early December once I receive my sale copies. Alternately, you can order for immediate shipment from Amazon or you can purchase a digital edition of the issue at Payhip. For  international readers, you can go to the issue page for links to international Amazon sites it’s available through.

As always, I encourage readers to send their thoughts and feedback to me at editor@intotheruins.com, both as casual emails (rambling acceptable!) and as official letters to the editor that I can consider for publication in the seventh issue of Into the Ruins, scheduled for November. Comments for contributing authors will be happily forwarded on.

Now go read the issue and enjoy some fantastic deindustrial and post-peak science fiction!

— Joel Caris, Editor & Publisher

P.S. Don’t forget to take advantage of our back issue sale! All six back issues of the magazine are available for a limited time for just $10 each.  You can even bundle the new issue with discounted back issues, fill out your collection or pick up some gifts, and save on shipping. Don’t miss out!

What Won’t You Lose?

It is something of an article of faith for me that I expect hard times in the coming decades. I would be pleased to be wrong, mind you, but I don’t expect I am. Of course, those hard times won’t be evenly distributed, just as they aren’t today, and some of us will struggle more than others while some of us will be more successful than others. Some of us will even see improvements in our lives—especially, I suspect, among those who are willing to hold a flexible definition of what is meant by “improvement.” But even those of us who see improvements, or who struggle less, will almost certainly be doing without many of the conveniences and commonalities of our time. More and more of us will have to make do without, learn cheaper and less intensive methods of accomplishing tasks, and outsource less of our lives. Some of the pleasures and comforts we take for granted today will not be available to us in the future. Times will change, and we will be forced to adapt.

That said, plenty of what we do or have today will remain available to us in the future. Not all will be lost, and not all that will be lost will be so in our lifetimes. Trying to guess what will stay and what will go is likely a fool’s game, but it’s a game I’m interested in playing today. And perhaps with some appropriate rules, it will be a bit less foolish than it might otherwise be.

So here’s my question for you: What won’t you lose in the coming years?

Given the likely consequences of climate change and other ecological destruction, a destabilized political and economic system, cultural upheaval, intermittent energy and resource shortages—or at least erratic pricing for such—and geopolitical upheaval leading to changes in national power and status and new wars that may touch us domestically, what pleasures, enjoyments, and habits do you expect not to lose in the coming decades?

To clarify further, the goal isn’t so much to guess what unsustainable part of your life today you think may hold out long enough for you not to lose it, or that you may stay well off enough to retain. Rather, I’m interested in learning what elements of your current life you believe are sustainable in the long run. What is it you take pleasure in doing right now that you think can survive disruption and upheaval, economic and political troubles, a backfiring ecosystem, and all the other troubles we’re likely to face?

In a sense, this post is a corollary to John Michael Greer’s “Seven Sustainable Technologies” post from 2014, and part of the idea is to critically examine what elements of our lives we believe we are least at risk of losing. While that may even involve some of the technologies on Greer’s list, this isn’t a question limited to technology itself; it’s also about our habits and pleasures, our work, our connections, the particulars of the individual worlds each of us lives in. I think there’s an importance, too, in understanding what we are least at risk of losing, to the degree that we can predict such things. In doing so, we can better understand where we might best place our efforts now, sinking them into activities and personal infrastructure that have the best chance of surviving deep into our futures, rather than being yanked out from beneath us.

Even better are things that bring you pleasure while also helping make your living. Gardening, of course, is an excellent example of this. It’s something that will be sustainable into the future (though any one individual still might find it cut off as an option, due to a variety of factors) and good gardening can help feed oneself or a family. As an activity that can bring pleasure and reduce one’s dependence on the superstructures of our society that may yet malfunction and crumble, it’s a prime example of something unlikely to be lost and worthy of increased attention and investment.

But what else? Chime in below or by emailing editor@intotheruins.com and tell us what you expect to persist. Make it personal, not a list, and don’t feel that it has to be something you believe will be sustainable for all. We all have our personal circumstances. Give us not just your answer, but some of the ways in which it weaves through your life today and brings you pleasure and fulfillment. Tell us why you think it will persist. Tell us how you think it will help you. Tell us why it makes you happy.

As you might expect, all answers will be considered for publication in a future issue of Into the Ruins as letters to the editor (unless explicitly stated that they are not to be considered). I hope this sparks a conversation. At a time of disruption, it’s important not just to focus on what might be lost, but on what will persist. Those things, after all, will be the basis of our ways forward. Imagining them is one of the primary purposes of Into the Ruins, and the things we are able to keep in the coming years will be the basis of the stories of our future. Let’s begin talking about them.


Don’t miss our on our limited time sale on back issues! The first five issues of Into the Ruins are on sale for just $10 each. Click here for more information and to order!