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r jean

Over coming weeks we'll have a series of mini interviews ("minterviews" if you will) with some of the awesome writers in our forthcoming Ecopunk! (order it at

Next up is R Jean Mathieu. R. Jean was once voted "most likely to phone his friends from a rooftop in Guatemala asking if anyone knows how to pilot a helicopter in a hurry". He graduated with his BA in Sociology (with a minor in Business) from Northeastern University in Boston while pouring tea in Zhuhai. He lives in California with his wife, where they attend her synagogue on Saturdays and his Quaker meeting on Sundays, spending the rest of the week exchanging flurries of tender cursing and furious affections in French, Cantonese, and Hebrew. He can be reached at

1. Tell us a little about your Ecopunk! story, and the inspiration behind it. 

When I was a boy, I happened to get a copy of The Kids' Whole Future Catalog, which was The Future! as seen by 1980s West Coast hippies. I fell in love, obviously. One of the most intriguing ideas in it, at least to me, was "seacrete" -- inducing coral accretion to wire mesh to create beautiful underwater structures stronger than concrete and attracting fish besides. I never got around to building any of the underwater statues I'd planned, but the idea always stuck with me, popping up in the background of various stories. And then Ladli came along, with my old set of plans for underwater statuary, and pointed out the more utilitarian uses, and that they did not preclude aesthetic enjoyment or even spiritual enlightenment. And I sat down and let her talk...

2. What science fictional technology do you wish we had now?

I studied sociology in college, and once upon a time was to become a doctor of anthropology. This means I tend to think of "technology" as more than just nuts and bolts and glowing warp-cores, but rather including mindfulness meditation, and multinational empire, and marketing. People don't fundamentally change, so you can't start by improving them -- but what does change is how those people are arrayed, and the relationships between them, and that is something you can improve. So the science fictional technology I most wish we had now would be a perfected satyagraha, the coalition-building nonviolence that absorbs revolutionary fervor, channels it to the least necessary force, and leaves stable democratic forms in its wake. It's the operating principle just offscreen in the United Federation of Planets and all its' imitators, it's how those benevolent governments and cashless cooperatives scattered across the utopias come together and keep working together without falling into anarchy, autocracy, or authoritarianism. With such a tradition, with such a social technology, we could start saving the world.

3. With all these scary climate events happening at the moment, it's sometimes hard to see some light. What gives you the most hope for humanity and the world?

3. This is going to sound strange coming from a science fiction writer, but I find the most hope in my traditions. My father's people are French-Canadian, and there's something in the foot-stamping of neo-trad and the homey comfort of soup aux pois and the bonfires of St. Jean Baptiste day and the vulnerable power of the Quiet Revolution and the poetry of Fontaine's Fables and the terror of the loup-garou and the sheer, stubborn, phlegmatic gall of a people who carry on being French while surrounded by both their Anglophone conquerors and nine months of winter that fills me with pride and with hope. There is a power in Survivance that not only survives winter, but defies it, and lights fires and stamps feet defiantly against it, and that stubborn Survivance infuses innovation and resilience with the strength to make a difference.


Ecopunk! - speculative tales of radical futures contains 19 optimistic tales, selected by two award-winning editors, showing how humanity can survive and flourish, despite the looming uncertainty from climate change. The incredible line-up includes some of Australia's best science fiction writers. Order it at

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