Fiction helps create the future — And we need more transformative stories.

Jordyn Fetter
3 min readAug 2, 2023
Photo by Iván Díaz on Unsplash

I was one of those check-out-the-max-number-of-books-from-the-library kind of kids. Pendragon, Eragon, ‘Dear America’ Diaries, Uglies, The Magic Treehouse, Animorphs, The Host — You name it, I read it.

In your formative years, you soak it all up. All I wanted was to zip around the planet of Cloral on water sleds with Bobby Pendragon or travel to historic points in history with Jack and Annie.

There’s something transformative about stepping away from reality and into a new world, even if for a brief moment. On the individual level, it fosters and evolves worldviews and perspectives, allowing you to empathize with other humans. At the group and societal level, it has the power to surface narratives which have the potential to reimagine the future of humanity.

Then, when I discovered genres such as climate fiction (‘CliFi’ for short), solar punk, and speculative fiction, I began to understand the role these tools play in enabling writers and readers alike to imagine what the future of humanity could be like given anticipated environmental and social pressures. And not just what the world could be like, but what we want it to be like.

Some of my favorite stories such as the Expanse, the environmental thriller Forrest 404, Ghost in the Shell, and Love, Death and Robots, provide a glimpse into these alternative paths and are worth pulling the thread on.

If you’re anything like me, you care deeply about contributing to a future in which humans can thrive alongside the planet we all live on. Storytelling is key to making this happen.

That’s why, when Josh Entsminger shared his vision for ‘What Not to Take to Mars’ and the Fiction Challenge Program, I couldn’t help but get involved.

With this framing, we’re deliberately imagining and designing what a Martian society might look like by asking the question: “What should humanity strive to leave in future history books?”

It feels like we are living in one of those rare, historic times when there’s an air of novelty and potential to chart the unknown and do the impossible as the rapidly-growing space industry takes Earth by storm.

And so, now is a critical juncture for exploring questions such as — What systemic problems could a future martian society avoid? Or, in the process of trying to avoid problems, what mistakes might the global community end up creating?

In 1000–3000 words, we’re prompting writers to share short stories based on the question ‘What are we not taking to Mars?,’ borrowing inspiration from a variety of science fiction genres, but keeping the story close to home.

Submissions are open from Aug. 4 to Sept. 23 at 11:59 pm GMT. Judge announcements coming soon.

Learn more and submit your story here: whatnottotaketomars.com/fiction-prize

FOR FURTHER READING

--

--

Jordyn Fetter

Yelling into the void 73% of the time. What about? Mostly national security, leadership, and bureaucracies. ⚡🛣️💽⚡ at Second Front. MPA 22/23 at UCL IIPP.