BIOLOG: Holly Schofield
by Richard A. Lovett
Canadian short-story writer Holly Schofield fell in love with science fiction by stealth. Her hometown library had separate children’s and adults’ sections, she says, and you had to be at least twelve to be allowed in the adults’ room: a dreadful problem for a dedicated bookworm. “I can remember being nine or ten at the time, and I would sneak in, to the paperback racks and sort of approach them from behind,” she says. “I read Analog, Galaxy, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and whatever paperback books were there, until the librarian would see me and kick me out. That was how I got started.”
Years later, she got a degree in forestry and moved to British Columbia, where she took a government job in silviculture, “which was basically going into clearcuts and doing tree-planting inspections.” For a person who preferred forests to clearcuts, it wasn’t the most enjoyable job. “It was just so, so heartbreaking to see all those clearcuts, day after day,” she says. Eventually she ignored her degree, moved to Alberta, and got a job in financial services.
Meanwhile, she briefly did what many young science fiction fans do, trying her hand at writing science fiction. “I think I still have a paper rejection letter from Shawna McCarthy at Asimov’s,” she says. Then, she exited the field, raised two daughters (“my best works of art”), and gave up on writing until she retired from her financial services job. With the opportunity to write science fiction rather than just read it back on the table, she says, she then lucked into a workshop with Spider Robinson, “one of the very few he’s ever done, in Saskatchewan, of all places.”
“That was my start,” she says, adding that a couple of years later she also did a six-week Odyssey workshop. Since then, she’s published an amazing 100 stories in nine years, gradually narrowing her focus to what she calls eco-fiction, climate-fiction, solarpunk, hopepunk, and related subgenres. She’s now fiction coeditor of a new SFWA professional-grade magazine called Solarpunk Magazine.
What are solarpunk and hope-punk? “I look at it as shaking up the status quo,” she says. “It’s taking the best of technology, the best of people, and trying to make it all function. It’s an attitude of how to move forward, doing things outside of the box, rather than from within, because we’ve seen that that’s got its problems.”
Meanwhile, her Analog work often draws on her long-ago work in forestry and ecology. Her 2018 AnLab finalist, “Home on the Free Range,” drew both on these and her interest in the climate crisis to examine a simple (by Earth standards) ecosystem on an exoplanet, looking into how it functioned and remained stable. It’s a classic case of using science fiction as a laboratory for processing ideas, she says, because workable ecosystems are something we need to understand. “We’re losing so many species and biodiversity every day [that] we’re going to have to figure out how to be proper stewards,” she warns.
Despite her productivity, Schofield isn’t what she’d call a fast writer. “I tend to do a lot of revision,” she says. “Kij Johnson has a talk about how she usually does thirty-three revisions,” Schofield says. “I never quite make that goal, but I usually do at least twenty, including printing a draft, cutting it apart with scissors, and taping it back together with scotch tape on my living room floor in various configurations, in order to visually see the whole story. Like studying an ecosystem, I think it’s important to see the big picture.”