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Q&A with Manda ScottManda Scott

Manda Scott
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  1. Firstly, many congratulations on Any Human Power – what an extraordinary, multi-layered, wild and ultimately hopeful read. It’s described as Thrutopian fiction – could you explain what that is, and how the concept of Thrutopia first came about?

Thank you – this is always a good place to start.  The word ‘Thrutopia’ came from an article by Prof Rupert Read, an XR activist and now one of the co-founders of the Climate Majority Project. He published this article in Huffington Post in 2017. When I had the shamanic visions that led to AHP, part of the understanding was that if I hadn’t been hosting Accidental Gods podcast for several years by then, I’d have had no clue where to start in crafting a route map through from exactly where we are to a future we’d be proud to leave to the generations that come after us – which is my most succinct definition of Thrutopian writing.

So my partner, Faith, and I set up a Masterclass for writers to garner the ideas that might seed other writing – and Rupert was one of the first people I invited. He sent me a link to the article and agreed that we could use the word ‘Thrutopia’ for the Masterclass – and beyond. There is now a Thrutopia Writers Association and we’re endeavouring to create a whole new genre.

Crucially there’s a distinction between this and dystopias, which are, in my view lazy (anyone can glance down the timelines and imagine how the world might be if we let loose the worse instincts of humanity. It takes a lot more imagination and creative scope to think what might happen if we let loose the best); more importantly they don’t work. If showing/telling people how bad things could get if we don’t act were going to change our value systems and behaviour in any material way, we wouldn’t be where we are.  It doesn’t matter how good the writing, how clear the statistics… it’s not how human neurophysiology works and, as we all know, trying the same thing time after time and expecting a different result is not wise. Or clever. Or useful.

We also don’t need utopias, which jump ahead to a miraculous time when everything is different. They can scope out better ways of being, but unless we can see a route to getting there, I don’t see them as part of the solution (or at least, not the part we need most).

So, expanding slightly, Thrutopian thinking/writing/creating maps a viable, grounded, plausible route from where we are, through to a future we’d be proud to leave to future generations. And I think it’s urgent.



  1. The thread of shamanic dreaming runs all the way through the book. Knowing that your practice is at the core of so much of your writing – I’m particularly thinking of your wonderful Boudica series – Any Human Power feels incredibly personal, as though you’ve woven your life into every page. Could you expand on the dreaming and how it informed the writing of Any Human Power?


Thank you again, though this is harder: expanding on the dreaming is difficult unless we can establish a common language. At heart, I view shamanic spirituality as the original core spirituality of humanity that connected us to the web of life throughout our history – which is to say at least 300,000 years. For most of this time we were fully aware that we were an integral, essential part of the web of life of the planet.  This is what Frances Weller describes as an ‘Initiation Culture’  – where individuals undergo ‘contained encounters with death’, the very containment of which—by the elders, the tribe, the land, the rituals, the web-of-life itself—allows and encourages growth.

Our western, capitalist, colonial culture, which Weller describes as a ‘Trauma Culture’, lacks this containment and so our encounters with death are not held, are not recognised and celebrated, are not woven with kindness and respect into the threads of our life. Unless we’re supremely lucky, we encounter them in isolation, suffer them and their fallout alone and are frequently expected to behave as though they never happened.  This is the separation, scarcity and powerlessness that underlies the death cult of predatory capitalism.  So my lifelong question has been – how do we reconnect with the gods of the land? And now, reading Weller, this has transmuted to, ‘How can we craft a new Initiation Culture from the crumbling debris of the death cult?’

My answer is contemporary shamanic practice, knowing that it’s a pale shadow of true indigenous practices, but nonetheless believing that it offers us connection and coherence; that it allows us to live in a world of community, sufficiency and agency, and to rediscover our birthright as integral parts of the More-than-Human world.  This is a lifetime’s practice, but when we do reconnect, we can ask ‘what do you want of me?’ and respond to authentic answers in real time. This takes a lot of work. We have to let go of layers upon layers of projection and there are no shortcuts, but it’s possible.

So… shamanic practice, for me, is an essential component of our conscious evolution and our conscious evolution is how we grow into what we need to be to make it through the meta-crisis.  I hope this makes sense.

Having established a common language – or at least established my use of language – the book arose from and was supported/driven by, the dreaming (aka my spiritual practice).  The story of how the book arose is too long for here, but I blogged about it here. The short version is that I thought I’d stopped writing – the publishing cycle was just too long to have relevance and was focusing on the podcast instead as a way of spreading ideas of what’s actually happening at the inter-becoming edge of emergence.

Then the push came to write, with the seed kernel of the book and it became urgent, to the exclusion of almost everything else. The Thrutopia Masterclass we talk about below was crucial and the podcast continued, but it pushed pretty much everything else to the back burner.  Then the writing and the editing were all driven by continual connection with all that supports the dreaming. I couldn’t do it otherwise, but to describe the actual process is hard. I ask questions and listen for the answers in all the ways I know how. And be ready to make mistakes. The key is to recognise when I’ve gone down a wrong path and to throw stuff away, ask the question again and rewrite. There was (always is) lots and lots and lots of rewriting.  The result feels like the original dream, which is what matters.


  1. We all know how powerful story is for the human consciousness, both at an individual and at a higher cultural level – how important a role do you think Thrutopia has in changing the collective beliefs about the climate emergency?


I think Thrutopian thinking/creating is absolutely, totally and completely essential. I think that given where we are, there is nothing more important.  I’d quote Amitav Ghosh in The Great Derangement where he said, ‘When future generations look back upon the Great Derangement, they will certainly blame the leaders and politicians of this time for their failure to address the climate crisis. But they may well hold artists and writers to be equally culpable – for the imagining of possibilities is not, after all, the job of politicians and bureaucrats.’ (italics are mine).

I’d go further and say that if the politicians and bureaucrats of our time were capable of changing the system they wouldn’t keep their jobs for more than about a nano-second.  The system exists to perpetuate the system. And the system is a wholly owned subsidiary of the death cult.  Woody Guthrie is quoted as saying that ‘Politics is the entertainment arm of the military industrial complex’ which is a way of saying the same thing.

It’s not the job of the people in power to imagine different ways of being. That’s our job. And it’s urgent. I’m becoming pretty hard-core on this. I’d say quite clearly to my fellow writers/creatives that anyone writing anything – crime thrillers, romances, SF/Fantasy, solar punk, YA, non-fiction, poetry, song lyrics, blogs, Tik-Tok video scripts, whatever… needs urgently to be exploring how we build a new value set, how we cast our ghost-trails across the pathways of tomorrow and then get enough people to walk them that they become good, solid paths…

Anything else is not only a waste of time, it’s propaganda propping up a dying system and we don’t need more of that. Imagine a world where every Hollywood or Netflix producer could only get hold of Thrutopian scripts. Nothing else. They’d have to make Thrutopian TV. Publishers would have to publish Thrutopian novels, cookery books, ghost-written biographies of footballers… Media moguls would only have comment-pieces that crafted new visions of a collective value set that explicitly took us forward to what we could be rather than iterations of what we have been. Just imagine.  Then we need to make it happen.



  1. The book is pretty out there in terms of radical ideas and the bending of genres. Did you have any pushback with editors/publishers with this? Did you have to ‘sell’ it in a different way?


I didn’t.  I think this is the value of having a history of having written traditional (ish) things first.  We did change publisher, but it was entirely amicable on both sides. My current publisher is the first and only one we approached and I am genuinely beyond happy with the editorial input – which can make or break any book – and with all the teamwork since.  This is what I dreamed of and the reality is matching the dream, which doesn’t always happen by any means.


  1. In your article for Mslexia – ‘Why We Need a New Genre’ – you spoke about a need for a home for Thrutopia in the publishing industry, and a desire to start an imprint or publishing house dedicated to supporting this genre. Now that you have finished your book, are you thinking of turning your eye to this? 


Definitely.  Some of the stalwarts of the Thrutopia Masterclass have gathered together and we’re forming a nascent Thrutopia Writers Association – holding meetings in the sociocratic frame and considering how to bring together a couple of anthologies, as well as other ways to promote the concept.

In the meantime Permaculture Magazine published a series of five Thrutopian Articles spanning the past 18 months, and these expanded on the ideas in far greater depth than anything I’d written before. They are being pulled into an anthology of Transformative Adaptation writing to be published by Permanent Press which is a really good start.  Beyond this, I’m shaping the concept of a collection of writing from other writers who are far bigger names than I am – if they are interested, which of course they may not be.  This is the key: who’s interested in joining this? Who is ready to be part of the future and who is still locked in the category error of the past?


  1. Which writers do you take inspiration from?

Too many to list, probably.  Natasha Pulley is my current absolute favourite – she has to be one of the best writers of our generation. Ditto Claire North, Rachel Neumeier, Victoria Goddard, Katherine Addison, NK Jemisin, Ned Beauman… I’m really interested in people who explore alternative ways of being and who have the capacity to shape beautiful, breath-takingly gorgeous sentences.   I read more non-fiction than fiction these days, and am completely in awe of Kate Raworth, Jason Hickel, Marjorie Kelly, Nicole Civita and Michelle Auerbach…anyone and everyone who’s writing ways to a future we’d be proud to leave behind. That said, most of my inspiration comes from podcasts, and those are way, way too many to list.


  1. In the novel, the question is asked: ‘What would you die to defend?’ Where do you stand on this?

I am wholly of the opinion that our conscious evolution takes us through, by and into a non-violent future – that violence is the tool of the dying paradigm and we both cannot and must not use it. Everyone who has used violence to craft change has ended up emulating the worst excesses of the system they were so desperate to replace.

So this line was written as a way to create a particular dramatic tension. Having written the stories of women and men who died to defend ideas and ideologies as well as family, tribe and an entire way of life, I’d say none of us can really know the answer to this until or unless the time comes.


  1. I was fascinated by the use of technology I’d never even heard of – fiscal transparency, the catamaran. Does this tech already exist? And do you see AI as a potential ally in systemic change?

I’m with Audrey Tang on this: technology both can and must be used in service of our conscious evolution. Tang doesn’t say this explicitly, but is on the record implicitly and, far more to the point, is using it in what I consider to be Thrutopian ways towards Thrutopian ends on the ground in Taiwan as we speak.  There is so much potential for the decent, sane, intentional use of technology if we can establish a value system based in empathy, trust and connection.

Beyond this, as I said in the notes at the end of the book, Raye’s catamaran doesn’t exist that I know of, but I pulled the technology from a bunch of other sources that do exist and I see no reason why they couldn’t have built it as described.

Everything else was predicated on ideas that are already out there. With their permission, I borrowed the concept of a Future Guardian Governance Model from Riversimple in Wales, where shareholders do have a say in how the company is run, but their input is limited to one speaker in a group of six, and the other five are: the local community, the environment, the workers, the customers and the supply chain. In the book we add a seventh for future generations and it becomes a job-share, but even as it is, if every company in the world were to transition to this model tomorrow, we’d wake up to a different world the day after. Imagine working for a company where you as a worker have a say in who represents you, where every meeting is transparent and where you have a right of recall if your representative is not speaking for you fairly – how would you feel? How would the narratives of your workplace change?

Imagine living in an area where you have a say in how local businesses treat your community and your local environment? The FreePorts and other catastrophes of the libertarian right would end overnight.  Water/Sewerage companies would change out of all recognition.

On the more technical front, Ruth Catlow has created an app that allows quadratic voting on the blockchain and is already using it in Finsbury Park – her podcast on this remains among my favourites of all time. And there’s some fascinating work being done on minimal blockchains that allow huge amounts of data storage for minimal power use (please don’t confuse modern blockchains with BitCoin).

We’re in, or close to the singularity of the technological growth curve.  By the time you read this, there will be things that didn’t exist when I wrote it.  And there are people who really get where we’re at who are determined to use tech wisely.  There’s something of a race, clearly, because there are also a lot of individuals, businesses and organisations who simply want to maximise the extractive potential of the death cult and they could easily tip us over the edge of biophysical collapse before we can turn the bus. But knowing this shouldn’t stop us from imagining ways forward.


  1. Following on from there, your protagonists have a lot of money and resources, which means they can dream their vision into being. It’s all too easy to feel helpless at the enormity of what we face, so what advice would you give to the majority who don’t have anything like those resources? How we can turn that helplessness into action?


My protagonists didn’t start out with money: Maddie had nothing for most of her raising of the kids as a single mother in Glasgow –  and there’s an entire worldwide movement built of people from across all possible spectrums.

Which is the point. The current system gives agency and power to those who already have agency and power. But they only have it because they are unchallenged. If we could find other ways of exchanging value, other ways of distributing genuine democracy, other ways of building communities of purpose and passion as well as of place…then we can change the nature of power. Dollars are ideas.  The power that accrues from having them is a collective agreement. We can change this agreement. But we do it only when we establish common values across the board that see us moving forward in a different way.  Figuring out and sharing those common values is they key and it’s going to take all of us working together to do it.


  1. The generational divide is a big part of the book – I believe all generations are needed to create a sustainable – Thrutopian – future, nobody can be excluded. How important is the need for intergenerational understanding?


Bridging the generational divide was one of the big themes of the book: it’s going to take everyone to evolve the values that will take us forward. So the narrative not only bridges the generational divide – the main protagonist is old and she’s dead. We literally bridge the life/death divide which is also the divide between consensus reality and the dreaming.  We bridge the divide between humanity and the More than Human world. We bridge the divides of gender, class and race – because we have to; because in the end, we can all trace back to molecules of hydrogen and extinction is a real possibility and there is far, far more that unites us than divides us.  This is one of the things Audrey Tang does so well – creating social media algorithms that promote/reward bridging across diversity. This is essential to all that we do.


  1. What is your dream/wish for creating community-based activism?


That it becomes the foundation of a new way of being.  If we can bridge from our existing trauma culture to a new, 21st century initiation culture, where we let go of our ceaseless striving for dopamine hits which will never heal the wounds inside, and instead build bridges towards the serotonin mesh of community (which is far, far harder: I do know this) that extends our sense of connection to ourselves, each other and the entire web of life…then I think we not only have a chance of avoiding extinction, I think we can build forward to a future we would be proud to leave to our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Chris Smaje, author of A Small Farm Future, says we need to become a good keystone species.  Ronan Krznaric suggests we need to become Good Ancestors. I think the reality stretches a bit beyond both of these, but they’re pretty good starting points.

We need to craft common values that everyone can sign up to and then we need to find ways to make them happen.

As Ursula le Guin said a decade ago, ‘We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. But so did the divine right of kings.  Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. And often the impetus to resistance and change begins in art. Often in our art, the art of writing.’

So let’s make it happen.