In 2023, 12+ current and former Amazon workers are gathering online to write speculative fiction about the world after Amazon.
Art by Erik Bowden
The original call for participants
The “Worker as Futurist” project is seeking 12 aspiring writers to join a four-month long writers’ workshop.
The goal? For each participant to write and edit a short story on the theme “The World After Amazon.” We will publish the results together!
Each participant will attend online workshop sessions every Tuesday from February 28 – April 4 (noon Eastern). Afterwards, they’ll be supported by professional writers and instructors to create a piece of short fiction for publication.
Not only is this opportunity free, we will actually pay you to participate. And we will publish selected works afterwards.
Participants must fill in an application (see below) and commit to participating for the full duration of the workshop.
You are a current or former worker for Amazon, or someone who’s income is or was dependent on Amazon.
For example, maybe you work in an Amazon warehouse? Or maybe you were a delivery driver? Or maybe you earn money on the side with MTurk? Perhaps you are a reseller? Or maybe you were custodial staff at one of their headquarters, employed by another company? Or maybe you do graphic design for the company, or write advertising copy.
We only have two limitations. Your income has to depend on Amazon (either now or in the past), and you can’t currently be management.
We are open to all kinds of writers, as long as you’re dedicated.
Maybe you’ve already published something? Maybe you’ve been writing for years, but have never taken your writing to the next level? Maybe you’ve always wanted to write, but never had the chance and the support? The only thing we require is that you are passionate, imaginative and dedicated, and that you are fluent in English (sorry! We don’t have the resources to support writing in other languages!).
We are a team of university researchers from Canada.
We believe that workers have the deepest and most important insights into companies like Amazon and to the bigger economy. We got funding from an arms-length research arm of the Canadian government to run a writers’ workshop to help Amazon workers imagine the world after Amazon.
We have absolutely no relation and will never have any relationship with the Amazon corporation, nor will we ever communicate with them. Our mandate and goal is to foster the imagination of working people.
This project is led by Dr. Max Haiven, Canada Research Chair in the Radical Imagination at Lakehead University and director of RiVAL: The ReImagining Value Action Lab
This workshop will have a number of phases.
Phase one: Workshop
The core of the writers workshop will take place over six sessions on Tuesdays from 12-2pm (EST), on
- February 28,
- March 7,
- March 14,
- March 21,
- March 28 and
- April 4.
Applicants must be prepared to commit to all these sessions.
In those weeks, workshop participants will be expected to write some fiction and read one another’s work in-between sessions. Sessions will feature guest speakers and writing workshops.
Phase two: Development
From mid-April until June 2023, participants will be supported to write pieces of short fiction and will meet every 2 weeks to share their writing and get support and feedback.
Phase three: Publishing
In June and July of 2023, participants will work with editors to polish up their stories to be sent to a publisher (we’re negotiating which publisher now). We are also going to hire voice actors to read the stories and produce a free podcast and audiobook.
All activities will take place on Zoom. Participants need to have sufficient technology to participate (i.e. an internet connection and a computer or device with camera and microphone).
We are a group of university researchers who believe it is not our job to lecture others about how the world works. Rather, we aim to provide resources to workers so they can make their own sense of the world.
One way we do that is by creating opportunities for everyday people to exercise the “radical imagination,” which is the capacity to imagine how the world could be different.
In 2021, we hosted a 4-week online workshop with Amazon workers where we watched speculative fiction film and television (and played some video games) to talk about how companies like Amazon are changing the lives of workers. It was successful: we had a lot of stimulating conversations. You can read a bit about what we learned and our perspective here.
This time, we’re taking the project to the next level, thanks to a grant from the Social Sciences a Humanities Research Council of Canada, an organization funded at arms-length by the Canadian government (i.e. the government can’t tell us what to do) that gives money to promising research projects.
We’ll put our cards on the table: we believe Amazon as a company is too powerful, and that it’s undemocratic. We think the company has been built on the backs of its workers.
But we also believe that to challenge Amazon’s power in the world, we need to trust workers to imagine ways forward. While we are sympathetic to unions and workers’ organizations, we are not affiliated with any of them.
What we’ve already done
- In 2021, we hosted an online SF film club with about 25 rank-and-file Amazon workers. You can read a bit about that project here:
- [Shorter] “From the Belly of the Beast: Amazon workers, sci-fi and the space between utopia and disaster” in the Sociological Review Magazine, 9 November 2001.
- [Longer] “Is Amazon the Borg? We Asked Their Workers” in the Los Angeles Review of Books, 7 May 2022.
Applying to participate
- If you are interested in participating, we would ask you to complete the form below no later than February 12, 2023.
- We are also asking you to send us a one-page (300 word) short story that you have written.
- Participants who complete the six-week workshop will be invited and supported to continue to develop their writing and prepare a 2,000-2,500 wholly original word short story about “the world after Amazon.” Working with professional writing teachers and editors, participants will refine their story for publication.
- Our research team is currently in talks with significant book publishers and magazines about publishing these stories. Our aim is to publish them all in a single anthology with a press that has a global reach. We also aim to place some of the stories in online and print literary magazines.
- Writers will retain copyright to their stories and have the option of publishing them in other venues, and we’ll do our best to help you find these venues.
- For each week of the core workshops that you attend, participants will receive $100 CAD (so: a total of $600). This will be paid out in mid-April.
- When participants submit the final manuscript of their short story for publication, they will also be paid a $500 CAD honourarium to thank them for their time.
- All amounts are in Canadian dollars, however payments can be made in equivalent amounts in USD. Payment is possible by cheque, by bank transfer, by PayPal, or in gift cards.
- Our research team is entirely publicly funded and takes privacy and data security very seriously.
- We will never knowingly communicate anything to the Amazon corporation.
- You can, if you choose, participate in the project using a pseudonym (fake name)
What you’ll need
In order to fully participate in this project, you will need:
- A computer or other digital device that will allow you to write, edit and share your work. We will be using Google Docs as a platform to share our work and get feedback. We strongly recommend a desktop or laptop computer. While phones and tablets could potentially be used, they are not ideal, especially for when we read/edit/share our work “live” on Zoom and you would have to be using multiple apps at once.
- A digital device you can use to participate in our Zoom meetings, and a connection to the internet. If you’ll be using the internet in a public place, please give some thought to how you will ensure you can attend the full 2h sessions so you can hear, talk and participate fully.
- A quiet place to write, read and edit. We realize that not everyone’s life circumstances offer an office! But participants should be prepared to maybe go to a public library or other space where they can focus.
- If you have difficulty accessing these things, we might be able to help. Please get in touch with us.
- You can always email our team member Xenia at xbenivol [at] lakeheadu.ca