Charis welcomes Sim Kern in conversation with Frances James Dinger for a discussion of The Free People's Village. From environmental journalist and founder of the #TransRightsReadathon Sim Kern, comes the eat-the-rich climate fiction you won't want to put down: In an alternate 2020 timeline, Al Gore won the 2000 election and declared a War on Climate Change rather than a War on Terror. For twenty years, Democrats have controlled all three branches of government, enacting carbon-cutting schemes that never made it to a vote in our world. Green infrastructure projects have transformed U.S. cities into lush paradises (for the wealthy, white neighborhoods, at least), and the Bureau of Carbon Regulation levies carbon taxes on every financial transaction.
English teacher by day, Maddie Ryan spends her nights and weekends as the rhythm guitarist of Bunny Bloodlust, a queer punk band living in a warehouse-turned-venue called “The Lab” in Houston’s Eighth Ward. When Maddie learns that the Eighth Ward is to be sacrificed for a new electromagnetic hyperway out to the wealthy, white suburbs, she joins “Save the Eighth,” a Black-led organizing movement fighting for the neighborhood. At first, she’s only focused on keeping her band together and getting closer to Red, their reckless and enigmatic lead guitarist. But working with Save the Eighth forces Maddie to reckon with the harm she has already done to the neighborhood—both as a resident of the gentrifying Lab and as a white teacher in a predominantly Black school.
When police respond to Save the Eighth protests with violence, the Lab becomes the epicenter of “The Free People’s Village”—an occupation that promises to be the birthplace of an anti-capitalist revolution. As the movement spreads across the U.S., Maddie dreams of a queer, liberated future with Red. But the Village is beset on all sides—by infighting, police brutality, corporate-owned media, and rising ecofascism. Maddie’s found family is increasingly at risk from state violence, and she must decide if she’s willing to sacrifice everything in pursuit of justice.
Sim Kern is a Gulf Coast author and environmental journalist. Their debut horror novella, Depart, Depart!, was selected for the Honor List for the 2020 Otherwise Award, and their short story collection, Real Sugar is Hard to Find, was hailed in a starred review by Publishers Weekly as, “a searing, urgent, but still achingly tender work that will wow any reader of speculative fiction.” As a journalist, they report on petrochemical polluters and drag space billionaires. Sim spent ten years teaching English to middle and high schoolers in Houston, Texas, before shifting to writing full-time. They live near Brays Bayou with their spouse, two kids, and a very good dog.
Frances James Dinger is a writer living in Seattle. Their work has appeared in Catapult, Identity Theory, The Seattle Review of Books, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and Two Serious Ladies, among other places. Frances is currently completing a non-fiction title for Boss Fight Books about utopianism and digital economies in a beloved video game franchise.
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From environmental journalist and founder of the #TransRightsReadathon Sim Kern, comes the eat-the-rich climate fiction you won't want to put down:
In an alternate 2020 timeline, Al Gore won the 2000 election and dec