New Maps is a journal dedicated to publishing new stories of deindustrial fiction. It’s published quarterly, based in northern Wisconsin, and edited and designed by Nathanael Bonnell. Each issue features several short stories, as well as an introduction, a letters section, and occasional essays and other writings contributed by readers.
“Deindustrial fiction,” as used in New Maps, means fiction set during or after the long decline of industrial civilization. There are many ways to conceive of this decline, but the most straightforward way to define it is by its physical aspects. It will be, in brief, an age of consequences. On the one hand, humanity will deal with a greatly reduced availability of cheap energy, following the peak and decline of the fossil fuels that have footed the bill for humanity’s lavish lifestyle of the last century or two—a distinctly anomalous period considered against the other known millennia of history. And on the other hand, the results of the ecological destruction we’ve wrought in the process of extracting and burning those fuels will make themselves felt, in a gamut of ways including such diverse predicaments as climate change, mismanaged radioactive material, collapsed fisheries, and extinction of species we formerly depended on, among countless others. Not all of these will affect any given place, but places that escape them all will be none or vanishingly few (especially since any place that gets off light is likely to face an influx of refugees from less fortunate areas).
We can also define the deindustrial future by what it is not. Deindustrial fiction attempts to create realistic futures. Accordingly, it does not feature sudden population-wide changes of consciousness that instigate a utopia (on the grounds that utopias are so far conspicuously absent from the historical record). Nor, for similar reasons, does it include ingenious technological cure-alls to any of the aforementioned problems—with or without an attendant advance to the status of spacefaring civilization—considering that technological solutions are subject to diminishing returns that are demonstrated more vividly with each new pointless smartfridge and incompetent AI. Conversely, deindustrial fiction also does not deal in humanity-terminating Ends of Days. The apocalypse has been foretold often and variously since well before the Book of Revelation, and the number of times the world has actually ended can be counted without resort to any fingers.
Rather, deindustrial fiction treads a largely neglected middle ground in which humanity continues to survive, and must now grapple with all the multifarious facets of all those worldwide shifts, on top of the usual joys and sorrows that make up the texture of day-to-day life in any era.
Within this framework there is wide latitude. Stories may be set in the very near future—or even in the present day, if the decline of civilization is a distinct enough presence—or they can be set hundreds or thousands of years from now. The long decline may take the reins of the story, or it may recede almost unseen into the background. The characters may respond well, poorly, or somewhere in between to any challenges the decline poses them, and their age may be prosperous or dark. Deindustrial fiction is as varied as the life of the future certainly will be.
As a named genre, deindustrial fiction is young. The term traces back to the early 2010s, but fiction that can be retroactively called deindustrial goes back further, including work by David Mitchell, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Paolo Bacigalupi, John Crowley, Jim Kunstler, and plenty others, as far back as E.M. Forster’s famous “The Machine Stops.” (New Maps hopes sometimes to highlight authors past and present who have written in the genre without claiming it.) Good reading for background on the premises of the genre, and of the overwhelmingly likely future of the real world, includes The Long Descent and The Ecotechnic Future by John Michael Greer (originator of the term “deindustrial”), Tom Murphy’s blog Do the Math, The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler, and The Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows et al. This magazine builds on the legacy of Joel Caris’s now ended deindustrial magazine Into the Ruins (2016–2020), whose back issues are still available and contain much fine deindustrial writing.
Subscriptions and individual issues are available at this site’s order page, which also includes information on ordering offline. Questions, comments, and letters to the editor should be submitted through the contact page or via the analog options detailed there. If you find yourself curious about the editor, he keeps a personal blog where material of widely varying levels of worth can be found.