In July 2013, 278 square miles of ice, an area larger than the city of Chicago, broke off Pine Island Glacier, which is part of the Western Antarctic ice sheet, and floated away. Scientists now claim there is no way to stop the melting. Rising water temperatures are also causing the oceans to expand. Predictions differ radically between scientific organizations, but we can expect global sea levels to rise between 25 and 60 feet over the next 85 years.
Delving into the important anthropological question of how society will survive the next Great Flood is the Pankhearst Group, and its senior editor, founder and major contributor, Evangeline Jennings. On August 1st they released MERMAIDS, a collection of short stories about survival after the deluge.
I've had the privilege of reading MERMAIDS, and I am moved by how each author envisions the best and worst of humanity under apocalyptic circumstances. Each story builds on the last to create an impression of doom, not because of the Flood, but because of mankind's unwavering ability to create even more pain and suffering in the wake of nature's wrath. At first, in Our Russian Soldiers, people steal from each other without remorse. In Sea Monsters, they kill to survive. In Deepwater, the powerful enslave the weak. In Land and Redeemer, the enslaved start to fight back. In Beyond the Water, a teenager overcomes hopelessness and finds a reason to continue, and in EPWA, they begin to grow a new, more equitable, society.
Evangeline took the time to answer some questions about her imprint's latest release.
Evie, describe MERMAIDS for us.
Last year, we published a book called HEATHERS that we described as a collection of true fiction for Young Adults of all ages. MERMAIDS is exactly the same, but totally different. Whereas HEATHERS offered twenty-four bittersweet slices of contemporary teenage life – the real deal, perhaps, about growing up in this world – MERMAIDS is set on a dystopic fantasy world in the years that follow a flood, which is, to all intents and purposes, an extinction event. In MERMAIDS, the bitchy cheerleader clique might try to kill and eat you.
Although MERMAIDS is exactly the same size as HEATHERS, there are far fewer stories – which means they're longer.
The first is OUR RUSSIAN SOLDIERS by the very lovely and wonderfully talented Lucy Middlemass. It's the story of two young sisters from England and their struggle to survive in the Flood.
The events in SEA MONSTERS by Simon Paul Wilson take place a year later. Two Thai sisters are waiting for their father to return from a salvage mission.
My own story is DEEPWATER and I like it so much I'm turning it into a novel. Seventy years after the flood, a teenage girl discovers the truth about the empire her father rules – a purpose-built haven created by Big Oil.
LAND by Fiona Haven focuses on one boy's struggle to rediscover the knowledge of the old world at a time when staying alive has become a full-time job.
Pippa Whitethorn's REDEEMER is, at heart, a tale of sexuality and becoming who you are.
In BEYOND THE WATER, CJ O'Shea explores the lure of suicide in a world where you don't fit and there's no other means of escape.
The last story is EPWA by TSW Sharman. Countless generations after the Flood, there are new religions, orthodoxies, and dangers. And, apparently, a new world record for the non-gratuitous use of the word "fuck".
Why do you think people are so fascinated by flood stories right now?
Maybe it's because of real world events like Katrina, Ike and Sandy? Maybe it's global warming. Or the need to explore America's fin de siècle angst.
Do you think we still have fin de siècle (end-of-century) angst? That was fourteen years ago, unless you're referring to the 60 additional feet of water we'll have to deal with in 2100?
More the end or closing of an era. I believe we may be living through the end of the great American era.
Other nations are rising. Multinational corporations are bleeding citizens dry and selling their futures overseas while government smiles. The political system here has failed, leading to a descent into ignorance, fundamentalism, and a war on women. Why wouldn't people write about the end of their world?
Excellent point. No wonder people are thinking about drowning.
In our case, the flood theme is mostly happenstance. HEATHERS was named for the Winona Ryder movie of the same name – which gave us the idea of including a character named Heather in every story – and so when we decided to do a follow-up we were torn between doing BEETLEJUICE or MERMAIDS. We toyed with a collection of modern-day horror stories called BEETLEJUICE but then I got the idea for MERMAIDS and everyone said YEAH!!! In fact, the idea was so popular that there will be a second volume of MERMAIDS published later in the year.
Tell us about Pankhearst.
Pankhearst is not a company as such. We're not doing this to make money. We exist to help writers develop and grow. And hopefully make good art. Every penny we make – not that it's a lot – is ploughed straight back in.
So far, we published three full-length collections – MERMAIDS, HEATHERS, and CARS & GIRLS – and we've also released a "single" every month during 2014. Typically, the singles have been stand-alone short stories or novellas, Tee Tyson's recent MINI combines two short stories that could have been published in CARS & GIRLS and our September single, CONVERTIBLE, also a candidate for CARS & GIRLS, is split between Jane Bradley and Lucy Middlemass.
I've worked hard on Pankhearst for more than two years and I'm now beginning to pull back from collections to focus on longer fiction products – both my own and other writers'. For example, we will be publishing our first novel, the marvelous YUKO ZEN IS SOMEWHERE ELSE by Simon Paul Wilson later this year and we're aiming to get Lucy's enchanting JINGER BARLEY AND THE MURKLE MOON into an Amazon near you in time for Xmas. But that doesn't mean we're winding down on our projects, only that other people have to drive. For example, EllieMcG is taking over the Singles Club at the end of the year, and Kate Garrett who produced our least orthodox and most successful single so far is currently collecting submissions for something called SLIM VOLUME which may become a quarterly journal of poetry and flash fiction.
Just as Kate has become our poetry editor, if other writers have ideas they want to run with, out of the box or hiding in the corner, then we'll support them and provide the technical expertise, editorial help, and production platform they need to follow through.
So, basically, Pankhearst will become whatever its members want it to be.
Want to know more about Evangeline Jennings, the author? Here is her standard bio.
Evangeline Jennings is an unreliable narrator. She tells lies for fun and profit. Mostly fun.
If Evangeline was a song, she'd really like to be, she'd be "Public Image" by PiL or possibly "You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore.
Born and raised in Liverpool, where they invented football and popular music, she now lives in Austin, Texas. The black sheep of her family, she comes from a long line of Californian beauty queens on her mother's side. As she so often says, Northern Scum, Southern Belle.
Evangeline watches an awful lot of movies and TV. During the break she cooks popcorn and writes stories about revenge.
Follow Evangeline on her Author page at http://author.to/Evangeline/.
Follow the Pankhearst Group at http://pankhearst.com/.
Get your own copy of Mermaids at http://getbook.at/Mermaids/.