Martin Rowe is the cofounder of Lantern Books and author of The Polar Bear in the Zoo: A Speculation and The Elephants in the Room: An Excavation (both Lantern, 2013), and co-author of Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life (with Evander Lomke, published by Paul Dry Books). He is also the editor of The Way of Compassion (Stealth Technologies, 1999) and the founding editor of Satya: A Magazine of Vegetarianism, Environmentalism, Animal Advocacy, and Social Justice. Martin has also been instrumental in helping other authors publish their groundbreaking books.
Martin will join us at our Phoenix Zones Initiative Summit in November, which aims to accelerate progress for people and animals across the globe. Recently Martin was kind enough to answer some questions about his work. Our brief exchange is below.
HF: In 1994, you co-founded the monthly magazine Satya, and five years later, you co-founded Lantern Books. What motivated you to co-found a magazine and publishing house focused on vegetarianism, environmentalism, and social justice issues including advocacy on behalf of animals?
MR: In terms of subject matter, I’ve always thought there was more in common among the movements than that which separated them, so I wanted to showcase that with Satya, and have done the same with Lantern. Much of what we publish at Lantern has at its core a commitment to non-violence: either stopping violence from happening in the first place, or recovering from it, or living in its aftermath—whether that violence is to the Earth, other animals, or other human beings. My motivations were relatively straightforward. I love editing, publishing, facilitating, and communicating. I believe that ideas matter, and that stories can be transformative.
HF: Through Lantern, you’ve published some considerably powerful books. Do you have any favorites?
MR: We’ve published widely at Lantern, and I’ve learned a huge amount from our authors. So, I have no favorites. I’m pleased that we have been able to remain in business and to pay our authors their royalties, vendors their bills, and staff their salaries and healthcare insurance. That some people have been changed by our books I am also very grateful for.
HF: You’re also a writer, and you appear quite willing to examine the complexity of your own and others’ biases and privileges through the power of words and your own writing. What can publishers, editors, and authors do to encourage more serious analysis of and reflection on social justice issues?
MR: For me, complexity and nuance are more interesting than simplistic narratives of unidirectional change. None of us has the answer, because there is no single answer. In fact, I think there are only more interesting questions. There are many publishers producing powerful books on social justice, so I don’t think I need to make any claims on being more serious than anyone else. What I would say is that I would welcome more stories, more narratives that delve more deeply into the issues than plain advocacy, litanies of facts, or declarations of right and wrong. The human condition is too interesting for simple declarations.
HF: I must also ask about your Trumpiad volumes, poetic satirical collections that draw on the current presidential administration and what brought Trump into office. Will there be a “Book the Third,” and has the process of writing the poems offered further perspective? Perhaps as importantly, tell me about the two charities that benefit from proceeds of the book sales.
MR: Book the Third is ongoing and will be published early next year. All the volumes are available online on my website. I started when 45 became president and won’t stop until he leaves office, one way or the other. The two charities that benefit from people actually buying the book are VINE, an LGBTQ-run farmed animal sanctuary in Vermont, and New Alternatives NYC, a support service for trans youth in NYC. I picked charities that felt as far removed from the concerns of the current president as possible. It seemed appropriate and proportional.
HF: As editor of The Way of Compassion, published in 1999, you presented an ethical yet accessible view of how we can each make a difference in the lives of others. Contributors to the volume presented generally optimistic views of the world. You also seem optimistic, while acknowledging an often-contradictory reality, as evidenced by the Vegan America Project. Can you talk a little about that venture and what you hope to accomplish?
MR: The Vegan America Project is an attempt to imagine the US as a vegan country by 2050. Veganism here is a heuristic to think about radical social change and how we might find a sustainable path to some kind of livable future in the face of mass extinction, social disruption, and climate change. I think veganism is good to think with: it’s radical enough to disturb settled notions about our “proper” relationship with other species, the environment, food, and social justice, but not inconceivable as a way of living. Of course, veganism could be dystopian (a function of scarcity and social breakdown) and not utopian. So, optimism is not quite correct in framing how I’m approaching it. Our future is more existential than that.
HF: Well said, and thank you, Martin, for an enlightening interview and for all you do.
Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur.