The Dark Mountain Project began as a journey: a call for writers, artists and thinkers to set out into unknown territory, to scale the mountain in order to look back at the twinkling lights of the cities below, and to gain a sense of perspective before the inevitable descent. But as well as a summons for fellow travellers, the manifesto also emphasised the need to ‘celebrate work rooted in time and place’ and to ‘write with dirt under our fingernails’ – not to have our head in the clouds, but our feet firmly on the earth. From its inception Dark Mountain has been both an embarkation and an act of coming home. It is these interwoven themes – travel and dwelling, moving and staying, journeying and returning – that we are keen to explore in our fourteenth issue.
The lands that we inhabit and the borders that enclose us have long defined conventional cartography and informed our perspectives on the wider world. Yet like any human documents, maps are far from neutral – past explorers who made arduous journeys to resolve the ‘empty’ spaces on the periphery of their own maps inevitably crossed paths with peoples for whom these edges were a known centrepoint. Now those early atlases, their margins decorated with mermaids or monsters, may provoke nostalgia or controversy – for maps are the most temporal of artefacts. Sea level rise, desertification, new ideologies and regimes, the razing of some cities and the growth of others, and the migrations of species (including humans) in response to conflict and climate change: all these challenges demand that we redraw our maps, and take a different approach to understanding terrain. The new horror vacui on the horizon is the future. How can charts evolve to record our changing world? What diagrams will direct our steps forward in a time of collapse?
In this era when no place is considered ‘off the map’ and the globe can be crossed in a day by oil-fuelled transport, humans are travelling more than ever; whether this takes the form of holidays with all the tourist trappings or work trips to confer with overseas colleagues and clients. While some catalysts for travel might be defined as luxuries, other journeys are essential for self-preservation: the seasonal nomadic quest for food and shelter, or a flight from fear and oppression. However dangerous, these travels preclude a more desperate alternative. Every single journey – over the ocean or across the Earth – alters the landscape for subsequent travellers, whether the trail it leaves is carbon condensing at high altitudes or the erosion of plant life on the tundra.
Each wanderer faces questions of belonging, whether the interrogation takes place at a customs barrier or within their own heart. Do we possess a return ticket, or face permanent exile? Do we know our destination, or are we drifting with the tide? Do we take a map, or is getting lost necessary? In a restless, globalised culture which dictates that all places be the same and none of us loyal to a heartland, it is sometimes hard to make ourselves at home on Earth. As Martin Shaw writes, to become ‘of a place’ is to trade ‘endless possibility for something specific’. Some of us commit to deepening our investigations of one place, digging in and giving voice to the inhabitants (human and non-human) of the neighbourhoods in which we live. What are the stories behind the dwellings we construct within these familiar spaces? We may look out at the world from the window of a moorland hermitage, or view the vast metropolis from a high tower. What does it mean to have a home that is in motion: a caravan, a boat, or even a shrinking raft?
For the fourteenth issue we seek work which challenges borders and celebrates transgressions. The book’s editors – Charlotte Du Cann, Nick Hunt and Nancy Campbell – are looking for writing from new voices and established thinkers, working across genres of both fiction and non-fiction. Send us your reports, journals, photo-essays, folktales, letters and log books. The editors are also looking for artwork that documents place and maps of real and imaginary journeys. We welcome artwork in different media from line drawings and printmaking to photography, but please note our vision for this issue is to produce all artwork in black and white.
This issue will encompass the diverse geographies of the planet: urban spaces and the green corridors that saunter through them, footprints crossing deserts of both sand or snow. Show us routes through first forests and bold new plantings. From the watersheds of mountains to the beds of the oceans, this book will represent all points of the compass. We’re looking for submissions from all over the world, and in particular encourage writers to submit work from the global south, as most of our past submissions have come from the northern hemisphere. In addition to this call, in a first for Dark Mountain, we have commissioned three ‘scouts’ – Akshay Ahuja, Sarah Thomas and Daniel Nakanishi-Chalwin – to seek out work to broaden the geographical and cultural range of contributors.
The fourteenth issue of Dark Mountain will be published in October 2018. The deadline for submissions is 18 May 2018. Please note that the maximum word limit is 4,000 words, and check the submissions guidelines carefully for details of how to send your work. We cannot read or respond to work which does not fit within our guidelines.
– Dark Mountain Editors