Keeping up, when the future is now

wind-powered greenhouse in victoria

Image: reneweconomy.com.au

One of the hardest parts about writing a near-future novel is keeping ahead of the news, but that’s not always a bad thing. For instance, here’s a news article about an awesome project in Victoria: a massive glasshouse for growing vegetables that will be totally powered by an adjacent wind farm. Extra rehab points for being built on the site of an old gold mine!

Meanwhile, the federal government and the Queensland government appear intent on dropping their dacks for Adani’s Carmichael coal minean unconscionable project by any metric you want to apply.

And here I am, with a mosaic novel* set in near-future Queensland (mainly Brisbane) in which the Galilee coal mines feature prominently — as stranded assets, now being converted into, you guessed it, giant greenhouses. (One of the three stories involving Galilee has been selected for the Ecopunk! anthology, coming from Ticonderoga Publications — the TOC looks amazing!)

It’d be really neat to have to rewrite the stories because the governments in question grew some social conscience (and economic nous) and canned the entire idea (I can hear the Asia-Pacific nations who are begging the world to stop building coal-fired power stations from here), but I can’t see that happening.

It’s a bit like the narrative spike I copped when BP (boo! not forgiven for Deepwater Horizon) pulled out of exploration in the Great Australian Bight, only to be replaced by Chevron. And so the battle, and the story, goes on …

* mosaic novel = a fictional work made up of interconnected short stories; the form has many names (composite novel and novel-in-stories are just two of the more common ones, but I prefer mosaic)
 

Dreaming in the Dark: seeing the light in Brisbane

dreaming in the dark

A reminder, friends: I’m chuffed to be attending the Brisbane launch of the Dreaming in the Dark anthology, edited by Jack Dann and published by UK-based PS Publishing. Still gotta pinch myself when I look at the contributors to this epic tome of Aussie speculative fiction.

So yes, it’s worth a party with contributors (edited to add more — huzzah!) Veny Armanno, Paul Brandon, Kirstyn McDermott, Angela Slatter, Janeen Webb, Kim Wilkins and me in attendance; Paul and Sarah Calderwood will provide some musical atmosphere; Jack will do his thing; the book will be launched and you’ll be able to get your copy signed by a third of the contributors in one fell swoop!

Please join us, at Dymocks Brisbane in Albert St, on Thursday 8 December from 6pm. It’s free, but RSVPs are being taken here.

Dreaming in the Dark: shining a light on Australian speculative fiction

dreaming in the darkThis is an exciting anthology of Australian speculative fiction. Back in 1998, Jack Dann and Janeen Webb put together Dreaming Down Under, an anthology that helped shine a light on the speculative fiction talent in Australia. Then, in 2010, Jack revisited the field in Dreaming Again: 35 yarns, of which I was privileged to have contributed one. And now he’s combined with PS Publishing to produce a new taster of established and up-and-coming writers: Dreaming in the Dark. Check out the contributors list below! Here’s the link to order this gorgeous tome. Launches are in the works, but why not get your order in while it’s hot? The signed, slipcased editions are limited to 200 and they look pretty darn fancy.

Introduction: Welcome to the Golden Age: an Introduction of Sorts
JACK DANN

Sing, My Murdered Darlings
SEAN WILLIAMS

Falling Angel
PAUL BRANDON

Martian Triptych
JAMES BRADLEY

Northerner’s Farewell
RJURIK DAVIDSON

Midnight in the Graffiti Tunnel
TERRY DOWLING

A Right Pretty Mate
LISA L. HANNETT

Eromon No More
JASON NAHRUNG

Luv Story
KIM WESTWOOD

The Luminarium Tower
SEAN MCMULLEN

Neither Time Nor Tears
ANGELA SLATTER

His Shining Day
RICHARD HARLAND

The Liquid Palace
ADAM BROWNE

Heat Treatment
VENERO ARMANNO

Snowflakes All the Way Down
ROSALEEN LOVE

Served Cold
ALAN BAXTER

The Dog Who’d Been Dead
ANNA TAMBOUR

Fade to Grey
JANEEN WEBB

All Those Superpowers and What Are They Good For?
GARTH NIX

Burnt Sugar
KIRSTYN MCDERMOTT

In Hornhead Wood
KIM WILKINS

Moonshine
SIMON BROWN

Good things come in threes

Herewith, three groovy recent outings that put a smile on my dial:

totes80s21. Totally 80s. Sure, the tour is well over now, but I enjoyed this greatest hits parade far more than I thought I would. Great to see Real Life’s David Sterry, for starters; Wa Wa Nee brought the keytar; Katrina of the Waves rocked out. The main draw, though, was ticking off a bucket list item to finally see Berlin‘s Terri Nunn in action. The set list for Berlin: No More Words, Metro, Masquerade, Animal (yes, still making vibrant music!), Dancing in Berlin, Take My Breath Away, Sex (I’m a). Such a happy vibe, I was smiling from the moment the second song of the night, Safety Dance, got the crowd grooving.

2. Ghostbusters. The remake. Seen it twice now and it’s very cool. The climax feels a little pedestrian (maybe that was just the echo of the original) but to see these four women work together so capably — not an arse shot in the whole movie — is such a delight. Sign me up to the Holtzman fan club. I like what the flick said and how it said it and I had a lot of fun at the same time. Neat cameos, too.


 
3. Pokemon Go. I blame/thank my wife. She loaded it on my phone. And then I went to the city and saw the augmented reality overlay the game provides and it was, like, wow. And then last night we’re parking (because Ballarat turned on the wind machine) and we’re surrounded by other people parking because there are three PokeStops with lures and the critters are spawning like crazy and it’s fun and it’s kind of communal fun — I haven’t seen that much life in that street on a Monday night ever. I also like that public art and graffiti and historic sites are PokeStops so these sites are drawn to your attention. How much attention you pay as they spin and disgorge goodies and critters is up to you.

Anyway. Today is a day to consider some good things and share the word. May you too count good things.

In Your Face – speculative fiction with bite!

in your face anthologyIn Your Face, an anthology of confronting speculative fiction from FableCroft Publishing, will soon be in the wild (next month!)! This volume contains 22 stories from some of Australia’s biggest hitters in the genre (Sean Williams, Kaaron Warren, Angela Slatter and more!), as well as some lesser known writers such as myself, and they’re packing a punch.

Says a review in Aurealis, “some of these stories are confronting, even shocking in the subjects they tackle head-on … In Your Face is a truly rewarding and affecting experience”.

My yarn, A House in the Blue, is a reaction to the shitful health policies championed by the thankfully dead Abbott government (we note the Turnbull government’s similarity to its predecessor) and is no doubt all too familiar to readers in the United States. It is set in the climate-change affected future Brisbane introduced in 2014’s Watermarks. The sad thing about my story is that I think I’ve underplayed the situation, but I guess only time will tell.

There is a Goodreads contest running until June 30 offering a free copy, or you can read more here (or preorder at the online bookstore of your choice, pretty much). The countdown continues!

Aurealis Awards finalists announced

aurealis awards logoThe Aurealis Awards for Australian speculative fiction will be awarded on Good Friday, March 25, in Brisbane as part of the national science fiction convention, Contact. Tickets are now on sale (with, apparently, convention members to get a discount).

It’s a pretty cool event, bringing the community together, and being held as part of the convention should mean extra vibe as well as, one hopes, a packed room. (It’s great to see the awards organisers in WA and the nat con collaborating this way, especially since there is the Swancon convention in Perth also at Easter.)

The finalists were announced yesterday, with several new categories, one of the most exciting being the Sara Douglass Book Series Award. The list of finalists is here (note: my wife is in there!). There’s a bucket of cold water for the horror novel category — I know, sad! the judges’ comments will make interesting reading on that one!* — but elsewhere a pretty darn strong field of contenders.

Just making it to the short list is a big achievement, so congratulations all — let’s party!


*I’m hoping for a tie between Lisa Hannett’s Lament for the Afterlife and Trent Jamieson’s Day Boy because both these rock in their own way. Read them regardless!

Aurora: Earth is a spaceship too

aurora by kim stanley robinsonAurora (Orbit, 2015) by Kim Stanley Robinson is named after a planet on which humanity hopes to found a colony; it’s a long way away, so far it’s a multi-generational voyage in a time without fancy stasis chambers. Instead, the spaceship, simply called ship, is composed of biomes representing different terrain types on Earth, big enough for lakes, glaciers, forests, critters of all kinds. Maintaining the balance of inputs and outputs necessary for agriculture — for life — occupies much of the humans’ time, in cooperation with a quantum computer. Starvation is never far from the horizon. It’s a delicate see-sawing balance, both scientifically and socially.

Things don’t go to plan, of course. And while I can’t reveal too much, it’s not spoiling things to say the colonists have decisions to make about the best way forward — or backward, even.

The first section, detailing the trip and the travails to Tau Ceti, is told in the third person centred on a young girl, Freya. The central story is narrated by the computer, allowing a great deal of info dumping — mostly painless — leavened with humour as the AI grows. It also allows scope for commentary on human foibles, one of the delights of the story. The final scenes are again in our protagonist’s viewpoint, reflecting on Freya’s experience, on the space program, on humanity.

There is a singular moment, a single line of description relating to ship, that defines the power of KSR’s prose, but I can’t repeat it here, because spoiler. It is beautiful, poignant, pragmatic, elegant. It made me love this book.

This is the first KSR book I’ve read — I know, I know — but based on this, it won’t be the last. Note even dubious amounts of repetition in the text can overshadow the deft handling of technical terms and processes; the sheer imagination that manages, mostly, to keep humanity at its centre, even when ship is narrating at some emotional distance.

KSR has something to say, and for the most part he says it well.

For me, Aurora is not just a superbly unromantic story of space colonisation, but also an allegory — would ship agree, I wonder, given its interest in metaphor and the like? Hell, maybe it’s not even — best summed up by this translation of a poem that captures the attention of two characters, talking to how we need to look after this world as man-made climate change threatens to radically change our biome, how we are ‘kleptoparasites’, stealing from our descendants:

‘There’s no new world, my friend, no
New seas, no other planets, nowhere to flee–
You’re tied in a knot you can never undo
When you realise Earth is a starship too.’

  • A review copy of Aurora was provided by the publisher. You can read an excerpt here.