Launching The Upper New

What is the Upper New Review?

The Upper New Review is an online first, print-on-demand literary arts journal and website that highlights critical exploration, expression, and conversation concerning science, technology, society, ecological stewardship, and interspecific relationships within the context of the Upper New River Basin (or watershed), including internal and external connections, analyses, and interpretations, both scholarly and creative.

Feel free to jump ahead and find out how to get involved as a creative contributor or volunteer, read our current submission guidelines, the UNR mission, or find out more about the UNR Staff.

Otherwise, keep on scrolling!

The purpose of the Upper New Review magazine and website is to foster and increase our understanding and appreciation of the headwaters communities of the New River in North America.  Estimated to be between 260 and 325 million years old, the New River is the oldest river in North America, and one of the oldest rivers in the world, with The Finke (which rarely flows) being the oldest (but rarely flows) and The Meuse the second oldest.

While certain parts of the website will be available for free to everyone, the magazine and a majority of the web content will be available through annual membership subscriptions, with options for digital only and print+digital memberships.  Those who choose the print+digital membership will have the quarterly print-on-demand magazine issue mailed directly to them.  Those who choose digital-only memberships will be sent a digital version of each magazine issue (PDF, ePUB, etc.)

Each issue of the magazine will also be available for order on a one-off basis for non-members.

We firmly believe that The Upper New Review (UNR) magazine and website should not have to rely on advertisement revenue to remain viable.  So, the UNR will always be advertisement-free!  This is why we’re charging subscriptions. 🙂

Where is the Upper New?

Below is a map of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) hydrologic unit 0505001, which is the Upper New River Basin.  This map shows the counties of North Carolina and Virginia that are included within the watershed basin boundary.  At UNR, we consider everything living within this naturally defined boundary to be part of a shared water neighborhood in the biosphere.  And we recognize that what happens to the water here flows downstream, of course.  Which, in the case of the New River, downstream is generally northbound, into the Kanawha River, then the Ohio River, then the Mississippi River, then southbound to the Gulf of Mexico.

Figure 01.  Map of unit 05050001, the Upper New River.  USGS, public domain.

As you can see in the map, the shape of the Upper New River watershed is the basis for our “boundary” graphics and logos, shown in Figure 02 as an overlay of the watershed map.

Figure 02.  Our outline sketch of the Upper New River boundary, overlaid on a screenshot from Google Maps.  Notice the red dashed border around Alleghany County in North Carolina as a specific frame of reference.

Figure 03 shows a simplified map of the counties in North Carolina and Virginia that fall completely or partially within the boundary of the Upper New River watershed, with an approximated alignment of our boundary logo to represent the watershed.

Figure 03.  Simplified approximate map of the NC and VA counties within the Upper New River watershed.

Here’s more information about the North Carolina portion of the Upper New River basin, provided by the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ):

“The total area of the New River basin in North Carolina is 753 square miles and includes 21 14-digit HUs falling within a single eight-digit CU (05050001). The New River originates at the confluence of the South and North Fork New rivers along the Ashe-Alleghany county line in extreme northwestern North Carolina.

The New River flows north-northeast into Virginia and West Virginia, where it joins the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River. The North Carolina portion of the New River is located in the Blue Ridge physiographic province (and ecoregion) of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Within North Carolina, the North Fork New River, South Fork New River and Little River all drain portions of the New River Plateau as they flow to the New River.

The basin encompasses all or portions of three North Carolina counties (Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany) and six municipalities, including the towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, Jefferson and Sparta. The estimated total population in the basin in 2000 was 50,000, with over 25 percent of this total living in the Town of Boone. The population is projected to grow to approximately 57,000 by 2020.”

New River Basin Documents – North Carolina Environmental Quality (link)

The full page can be found here, which also links to the New River Basin Restoration Priorities 2009 document as well as the Little River and Brush Creek Local Watershed Plan.  These are the kinds of documents, maps, and timelines we want to explore!


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What’s the Big Idea for UNR?

Whether any individual likes it or not, that individual is part of the watershed community, simply because that individual exists, behaves, and resides (temporarily, for various durations of time) within the physical boundaries of the watershed.

Each individual of each species population in the watershed community engages with the water, air, and land in ways that directly and indirectly affect all other individuals in that watershed community, across all species, as well as those who exist upstream, downstream, uphill, downhill, upwind, and downwind.

The primary goal of UNR is fostering ecological literacy amongst the human population of the Upper New River Basin, as well as additional interested readers across North America (print on demand) and globally (online).

We intend for the Upper New website and the Upper New Review magazine to be a curated clearinghouse for expression, exploration, research, learning, design, and stewardship for the populations and communities of the Upper New River watershed.

Our vision is for the website and magazine to serve as a conversation starter concerning the Upper New River watershed as a situated space for critical thinking, systems wisdom, ecological literacy, and sense of place.  We want to understand the Upper New as a commons.  As a neighborhood.  As a sanctuary.  As a community of practice for all residents and visitors.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the UNR project is its investigation of the relationship between watersheds and topography, which are true boundaries beyond human instantiation, versus political boundaries like state lines (eg. North Carolina and Virginia) which are human-derived based on our own imagined system of property rights.

The UNR project fosters consilience, bringing artistic and scholarly works together in a cohesive form to encourage those engaging with the website and magazine to consider ecology and conservation, to increase their understanding and appreciation of the complexities of our watershed, and to work toward reducing the collective human footprint, increasing environmental stewardship.

Every piece of content we accept for publication in the Upper New (both on the web and in print) will be geolocated to help contextualize it within the watershed, viewable on Google Maps and Google Earth, for example.  We’re exploring best practices for hybridizing the magazine, such as using QR codes to access additional non-print content.

What’s Happening with UNR in 2023?

Here’s a simplified timeline diagram for the UNR launch strategy in 2023.

Figure 04. Our proposed timeline for the 2023 launch of the UNR project and first quarterly magazine issue.

For the first half of 2023, our primary focus will be connecting with individuals, organizations, and communities within the Upper New River watershed to help them understand what the UNR is and how they can get involved as contributors, reviewers, or subscribers.

Starting in March 2023, we plan to be ready to begin accepting submissions for the Upper New website and magazine, with a goal to have the full version of the website live in June 2023.  We plan to add content to the website at a level of frequency that mirrors the flow of content submissions we receive from the community.

Ideally, our membership subscription access (digital and print) will launch at the same time as the website, with UNR subscribers having full access to all website contents, and non-subscribers having limited access to content on the website.  Since we’ll only be live for the second half of 2023, we’re treating this year as a kind of “rollout” year for the website and magazine.  

Essentially, everyone who subscribes for a membership in 2023 is a beta tester for the Upper New website and the Upper New Review magazine.  Because of this, we’re looking at the best ways to set a prorated subscription model for our “early adopter” subscribers beginning in June 2023, helping support operations and growth of the publication and website.

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What Are We Looking For?

As a literary arts magazine and website, we’re definitely interested in the written word and the visual arts.  We’re looking for prose, both fiction and nonfiction.  For the magazine, we’re looking for long form works between 5000-10,000 words, with an option for serialization of works over 10,000 words.  We’ll consider shorter form works (between 2000-5000 words) for the website, especially those which lend themselves to the digital realm.

Check out our detailed submission guidelines.

Mockup of potential magazine cover for the Upper New Review.

We’re always interested in static visual interpretations of the watershed, including photography, painting, drawing, illustration, etc.  We plan to host artist competitions to help us select front and back covers for each quarterly issue of the magazine, and we’d love to consider visual narratives like photo essays for the website as well.

Beyond the traditional literary arts magazine approach, we’re looking for contributions of a variety of media types and narrative styles.  Send us your short fiction films, documentaries, or animations!  We’re open to all sorts of audio, including atmospheric sounds, music, and spoken word.  We’re curious to see what kinds of multimedia and interactive experiences people are creating about the Upper New.

We want to know about the research going on in the watershed.  Send us your scientific research briefs or abstracts, and we’ll work with you to figure out a best fit for the website or magazine—perhaps a missive or a form of “field notes” summary of your work?  Send us open data sets with appropriate visualizations and explanations.  Send us maps, KML files, any kind of place-based narrative, preferably data-driven, or at least evidence-based.

We’re also looking into options for accepting 3D models, such as Sketchfab, and how that would be most relevant within the narrative of the watershed, and what that space would look like on the website and in the magazine.

Regardless of form, the subject matter of the work submitted should be based within the boundaries of the Upper New River Basin (as shown on the map above).  We’re also open to works that contextualize these UNR subjects within larger scopes or frames of reference, both space and time. 

We want to see connections between science, technology, and society, especially through an ecological lens.

Benjamin Erlandson, Ph.D. – Publisher, Upper New Review

Ideally, authors and creators of selected works should be primary residents (or current students) in the Upper New River watershed (refer to the map in Figure 01).  We’re also open to works from previous residents (and curious visitors) reflecting back upon experiences they’ve had within our watershed community.

In order to provide some structure and guidance for the continued growth of a “sense of place” narrative about the Upper New River watershed, we have some ideas for framing content submissions around relevant themes.  We’ll be creating a variety of prompts for writers, scientists, and multimedia artists around themes such as systems wisdom, ecoliteracy, and deep shifts of the fourth industrial revolution.

We want people to float the river and send us updates.  We want to conduct interviews with all sorts of community members and organizations.  We want to hear you pitch your ideas for stories, features, etc.

As we build our membership base, we intend to pay all contributors for their selected works.

The Ecological Lens.

Connections between science, technology, and society.

You know what you’re looking for. Let’s look together!