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An anthology of optimistic, near future SF

Archive for December, 2009

SHINE: the Table of Contents

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As a way to close off 2009, while simultaneously promising something for 2010, here is the Table of Contents for the Shine anthology (with links to the excerpts):

Cover Image:

UPDATE: here are some review quotes:

That’s why Shine is such a significant — dare I say, historic — anthology. And with a rich diversity of settings and thematic speculation, this is a collection most science fiction fans will undoubtedly embrace.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

Overall, Shine is utterly worth reading.

SciFi Wire;

But it would be difficult — some might say doubly impossible — for every entry in an anthology as ambitious as Shine to appeal to every reader. It is to de Vries’ credit that all but the most hard-hearted of sci-fi readers should find their own brand of optimism represented somewhere among Shine’s array of bright futures.

New Scientist;

But if we are to have some some influence over how that change unfolds, isn’t it important that our stories, whether they be in the news, on television screens or in the pages of science fiction novels, fully explore the optimistic possibilities that technology represents?

The Guardian;

To round off this very long review I’m happy to report that Shine was a truly fascinating and enjoyable read. I’m not the biggest SF fan in the world, but I’ll happily promote this to others who, like me, feel the same way. Here are authors with stories and characters I could relate to. But then, I suspect hardened SF readers out there will devour this with gusto. Jetse de Vries has done a truly remarkable job putting Shine together and I’d like to be signed up to read any follow-up anthology because this one has genuinely broken down some preconceived ideas I’ve had about the genre.

SF Revu;

 For an anthology with a very tight remit — optimistic near-future science fiction — there is a huge variety in the stories themselves. It occurs to me that this book is the perfect introduction to SF for readers who wouldn’t normally venture into the genre.

 —Catherine Hughes;

SHINE is slated for an April 2010 release. I am working on an official SHINE launch party at Odyssey, the 61st British National Science Fiction Convention. More news as it happens.

In the meantime, DayBreak Magazine will feature—apart from other great, near-future SF stories—excerpts of the stories (two at a time).

For now: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!

Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!

India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

Finally, also an interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology:

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The Week in Tweet, Week 36

Earth, dancing round the fire

Come, meet @outshine‘s sky

Monday August 31:

[Quote for the Monday] “Man is a rope, tied between beast and Superman—a rope over an abyss.”

[Source] Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) / German philosopher and poet / Thus Spake Zarathustra.

Tuesday September 1:

Turns out that there’s a way to make emo records sound awesome, after all. All you need to do is get Devin Townsend in to do the production.

[#SoundBytes] MONOLITH by Sights & Sounds – http://is.gd/3dCz7 / United By Fate Records – http://is.gd/3dCDD.

Wednesday September 2:

She turns slowly

Eyes opening like spring iris

He breathes her essence

Hesitates

Like a breeze her fingertips on his

They leave hand in hand.

[Bio] Kate (http://www.wellnesswithkate.com) works/plays in all areas of theatre, arts & healthcare, with horses and as a spiritual guide.

Thursday September 3:

More tired crap. A prisoner who’s trapped in a shooter game tries to save his family and mankind. High concept’s not what it used to be.

[#Spitballs] Gamer/ Directed by Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor /http://gamerthemovie.com/.

Friday September 4:

[Quote for the Friday] “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”

[Source] Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) / U.S. writer and humorist / Following the Equator.

Saturday September 5:

They give her a galactic library ticket. She screams as she reads the rollercoaster of xeno-philosopy. It’s the ride of Earth’s life.

[Bio] After a twenty year period of procrastination Deborah Walker has, finally, started writing.

Sunday September 6:

25 extra minutes adds connective tissue to the story, but also serves to slow the pace a bit too much and *still* leaves things lacking.

[#ShineComics Extra] WATCHMEN: DIRECTOR’S CUT, Directed by Zack Snyder; Warner Bros 2009 (DVD and Blu-Ray).

Tentative Steps Forward: West Africa, North Australia, San Francisco, Brazil, the World

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder why—in the SF blogosphere —a post about whether SF should or should not die effortlessly draws more eyeballs than near-future SF stories that demonstrate its relevance. Partly, I suspect, because stories do not contain links to other articles. Still, it’s a bit of a shame that articles with a negative undertone get more attention than stories with a positive message. Or maybe I’m just comparing apples to pears.

Therefore an article about positive developments in the world (I’ve already posted plenty of those). Here’s one development that particularly caught my attention, because it is a solution that addresses several problems at the same time:

→In West Africa, native fruits have a big future:

(from New Scientist, November 7, 2009. Yes, it’s six weeks old, and I’m catching up on my NS reading. But this is an item that will remain relevant for—at least—several decades, showing that near-future, optimistic SF does not need to have a one or two-year expiration date.)

For those not subscribing to New Scientist, the article is online.

To quote:

“Domesticating wild fruit like bush mango has changed our lives.”

“It is a peasant revolution taking place in the fields of Africa’s smallholders.”

In short, African farming smallholders are switching to local wild fruits, making both more food and more money, and creating more biodiversity and environmental sustainability in the process.

The advantages combine to make a sum larger than the separate parts:

  • fruit trees exist in a large variety (over 300 different ones in Cameroon alone);
  • fruit trees are much better resistant against droughts than mass crops like cassava, maize and wheat;
  • in the domestication programme, local knowledge and science—after some initial mistrust, which was overcome by the good results—are combined;
  • all low-tech, no fancy equipment needed;
  • fruit trees generate income year-round (not just three months like, for example, cacao);
  • they thrive in a diversity situation (many different tree crops on one land), creating a habitat for wildlife and environmental sustainability;
  • people not only get better food, but with the extra income they buy school fees for their children, decent healthcare, and improved housing;

Let’s call it ‘win/win squared’!

Obviously, there is still a very long way to go, and there will be large obstacles to overcome—especially worries about a level playing field against big agriculture: check out some of the comments in the comment section—but this is nevertheless a tentative step forward, not only in Africa, but it’s happening in North Australia, as well (see also some of the comments in the comment section of the article).

A similar interesting development is the rise of urban beekeeping as honeybee numbers have been falling to catastrophic levels, with the counter-intuitive result that people in cities are helping to keep honeybees alive, both genetically and increasingly in larger numbers. Many thanks to Cameo Wood—who runs Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper in the Mission District—for informing me about this when she showed Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman and me around in San Francisco, courtesy of Borderlands Books.

These are just two examples of how important changes can arise from small origins, and not necessarily need to come from big technological shifts.

By way of contrast, two examples of implementing change directly on the larger scale (keeping in mind that the previous examples are already adding up in sheer numbers):

  • Growing biofuel without razing the rainforest (also via New Scientist): an interview with plant scientist Marcus Buckeridge;
  • The  2009 Human Development Report: common migration misconceptions are challenged (“Migration can be a force for good, contributing significantly to human development,” says United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark.)

To restate (as I’ve done over and over on this site): good things and optimistic developments are happening on this planet: they’re just underreported, underrated and—I suspect—underestimated. Let’s keep looking forward, and work on a better future.

The Week in Tweet, Week 35

Like thunder and lightning, @outshine‘s so exciting!

Monday August 24:

[Quote for the Monday] “Nevertheless, I remain firmly convinced that not only is being overly conscious a disease, but so is being conscious at all.”

[Source] Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 – 1881) / Russian novelist / Notes from the Underground.

Tuesday August 25:

Hyper-intelligent—music & lyrics—neo-fusion metal that went against the zeitgeist with pizzazz: forgotten classic too much ahead of its time.

[#SoundBytes] Damn the Machine by Damn the Machine (1992) —http://is.gd/37p5B / A&M Records — http://is.gd/37pfA (if still available).

Wednesday August 26:

Thirty storeys down, the city bustled. Thirty thousand feet up, the wind farms bucked and swooped. Between them, Tom smiled and ate lunch.

[Bio] Alasdair Stuart is a writer, journalist and host of the podcast Pseudopod. He can be found online at: http://tinyurl.com/nyd8rp.

Thursday August 27:

Spoiler—This franchise-ending piece of drivel reaches its climax when the actors die horribly from watching a screening of their own movie.

[#Spitballs] The Final Destination / Directed by David R. Ellis /http://is.gd/2XNXX.

Friday August 28:

[Quote for the Friday] “Off with you! You’re a happy fellow, for you’ll give happiness and joy to many other people. There is nothing better or greater than that!”

[Source] Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)/German composer/Said to Franz Liszt when Liszt, aged 11, had visited Beethoven & played for him.

Saturday August 29:

Reverse in works only. Good no machine travel time. Reference future for self to note.

[Bio] Paula R. Stiles, at: http://is.gd/kLAu, has sold SF, fantasy and horror stories to Strange Horizons, Jim Baen’s, Futures and others.

Sunday August 30:

Despite Constantine’s Holmesian notes, this isn’t a crime tale but a watery satire of reality TV, with rather poor art and an obvious twist.

[#ShineComics] DARK ENTRIES by Ian Rankin (script) and Werther Dell’edera; Vertigo Crime, 2009, $19.99 (digest-sized hardcover).

Should SF Die?

(Cross-posted to my personal blog and the DayBreak Magazine site for those who prefer a more Spartan layout.)

There’s been a lot of musing about the fate of science fiction, lately. To be clear, I’ll be discussing *written SF* here (predominantly), not SF in movies, comics, video games or other media. To summarise (and this is far from complete, but I hope it touches upon the main points):

My viewpoint is that SF is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and that lack of relevance can be attributed to developments and trends already mentioned in the points above, and SF’s unwillingness to really engage with the here-and-now. That doesn’t mean that SF needs to die (actually, a slow marginalisation into an increasingly neglected and despised niche-cum-ghetto is probably a fate worse than death), but it does mean that SF needs to change, and that it needs to become much more inclusive of the alien (and I mean alien in ‘humans-can-be-aliens-to-each-other’ sense) and proactive, meaning it should not just shout ‘FIRE! FIRE!’ (and do almost nothing but), but both man the fire trucks *and* think of ways to prevent more fires.

That’s the short version: allow me to expand on it below the cut. Read the rest of this entry »

SHINE COMPETITION: THE COMPETITION

In previous posts, I’ve put up the prizes, and I’ve put up the rules of the SHINE competition. Now here’s the competition itself.

Below are fragments from all the stories that will appear in the Shine anthology. Each fragment has an ending sentence, for which four possibilities are given. Three are false (made up by me, or—in same cases—by the author), one is correct. Guess the correct answer. One point for each correct answer: so one can earn a maximum of 16 points with this.

Bonus points are given if one guesses the name of the author of the fragment correct. This way, one can earn another 16 points. So the maximum possible points one can earn is 32.

Example (this is from “Araby” by James Joyce):

North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them,

A) gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.

B) turned a blind eye to the boys’ noise.

C) kept on as usual, refusing to be distracted.

D) shuddered at the vibrant energy disturbing the quiet afternoon.

In this example, the correct answer is 1-A, and the author is James Joyce. So a competition entry would look like this: 1-A, Jane Doe; 2-B, Joe Sixpack, 3-C, Captain Nemo, etcetera until number 16.

Below are the actual entries: good luck! Read the rest of this entry »