What do you write?

I dabble in fiction, creative non-fiction, and journalism: essays, meditations, short stories. I try to choose the right form to tell the story that needs telling. Most of my stuff tend to be short; whole memoirs or novels are too daunting to wrap my head around!

Why did you decide to join author team for the anthology 2047: Short Stories From Our Common Future?

I learned about the Brundtland Report, aka Our Common Future, while doing my degree in environmental science; sustainable development that can meet “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs” was a formative idea for me. While we have fallen short in the many goals set out in the report over the past three decades, I thought it an intriguing premise to set a short story collection around projecting ahead the same amount of time.

Another aspect that appealed to me about the collection was that Tanja solicited contributors from all around the world. I thought that spirit of multilateralism nicely mirrored that of the report.

Where do you get inspiration?

Climate fiction tends to be pretty heavy, so one of my intentions going in was to pen something with an element of humour. “NuVenture™ TEMPO-L QuickStart Guide” started from a prompt given by a friend I attended an environmental writers workshop with back in 2015. The prompt was “shark forest”, which got me thinking about time travel back to the distant past when lands were covered with water. That naturally linked up with climate change effects and then the story germinated from there.

The piece was inspired by a bunch of stuff I was exposed to at the time – the mammoths at the end of Italo Calvino’s “Daughters of the Moon”; the scorching world of Philip K Dick’s “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch”; IKEA instruction manual illustrations; an indie videogame titled “Affordable Space Adventures”; corporate PR speak from family companies. I wanted to write something satirical that was innocuous on the surface but carried a sinister undercurrent – hence the temporal slavery and exploitation at the end, conveyed in fine print.

What are you writing at the moment?

I have a few projects on-the-go: A personal essay on navigating the shifting geography of an invented land; a love letter from an island to a man; a story about going a date with a neutrino; an outline exploring themes of identity and salvation within the post-apocalyptic world of Blade Runner 2049. Some things are further along than others, and some things will end up in the rubbish bin, but that’s how writing goes.

Why should we read it?

These days I don’t like trying to convince or persuade people to do things. I can only speak for myself and extend an invitation to do the same if you feel the same way. I read stories for the sounds and rhythms of language, for the satisfaction of hearing a well-made tale, and for discovering ideas that may help me understand and connect a bit better with others who live in this world. I’ll quote the late and great Ursula K. Le Guin so she can have the last word:

“In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find – if it’s a good novel – that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.”

Read Isaac’s short story here