Ticonderoga Publications brought this rather splendid volume out this year — 19 tales of how we might adapt to climate change. It’s an important topic, and given I’ve spent the best of three years studying it for my (ongoing) PhD, one that’s close to my heart. So I’m doubly chuffed to have a story in this, one written as part of my PhD project. I talk about it over at the Ticonderoga site — please do check out the book should you visit (it’s colourful, would look grand under the Xmas tree, eh!). There are some damn good writers there, collected by editors Liz Grzyb and Cat Sparks.
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)
Climate change is so real that people in charge of other people’s money need to understand that it is now a financial risk
And, about Adani’s proposal for a huge coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland (with their hands out for massive government assistance):
If it is ever built, it will be the biggest subsidised white elephant in the world
In 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.
Aurora (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.’
I was checking out the Cosmos website for holiday reading — yarns by Aidan Doyle, Shauna O’Meara and Sean Williams, for instance — when I came across my story from earlier in the year, ‘Watermarks’, available on the site — cool!
Here’s the link: https://cosmosmagazine.com/the-future/watermarks
I wrote about the genesis of this story back when it came out, and I’m happy to say I’ll be dipping my toe back into this world considerably in the near future — sorry, Brisbane, but you’re in for a rough time. But first, do I have some reading to do!
In 2007, I wrote a short story in which Brisbane had been inundated by risen sea levels, and where the poor squat in flooded high rises under the threat of solar irradiation while the rich survive high and dry in air conditioned comfort. But the yarn wasn’t working. Hence it’s home in the folder for unfinished yarns.
This year, I dredged that story up, ditched some unnecessary scenes and then … It still wasn’t working. So I flung it to my writing group, Supernova, who identified structural and prose problems, chiefly a plot element that wasn’t working, ill-defined characters, great puddles of lazy prose. It was, as I admitted shamefacedly as I asked them to help me fix this broken thing, a setting in need of a story.
Luckily, a few pals (Rob, Kate and Mark, to give credit where it’s due) from my former Queensland writing group were down for a writerly getaway and I ran the rewrite past them and Kirstyn (again). As previously, I didn’t take all the advice from everyone, some of it just didn’t fit, but some of it was gold. Pure gold.
I realised what the story was and who it was about. Structure emerged from the fog.
With the Android Lust album Crater Vol.1 on repeat, I added the detail to breathe some life into a formerly pallid world — detail is king — and, hooray, the story, now called ‘Watermarks’, has sold, to this month’s Cosmos magazine, issue 57. That sensational artwork above, for the cover page for the story, is by Melbourne-based Joe Whyte. (I’m now a fan. It’s the use of light, I think. Seriously, check this out!)
To have a group of like-minded writers able to tease at a story and make constructive suggestions, to brainstorm with, is just so valuable. I love my writing buddies.
And the good thing is, in writing this story, I’ve realised just how huge its world is. There’s more to come — I just hope it doesn’t take another seven years.