Archive for March, 2010
Eric Gregory’s stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Interzone, Black Static, Sybil’s Garage, and more. He has also written non-fiction for Fantasy Magazine and The Internet Review of Science Fiction. Visit him online at ericmg.com.
Eric Gregory’s sublimely powerful The Earth of Yunhe takes place in a region of China devastated by a flood of toxic coal waste and a dissident native son who risks everything to find a solution — a solution that could transform the entire planet.
Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe has to be my favourite out of all of the stories in Shine. It deals with two siblings in rebellion against their father and the current state of things. Gregory’s descriptions of the world of Yunhe is tightly controlled, allowing us glimpses of a future where China could perhaps be the garden of the world. What I truly liked in this was how quickly I grew fond of the characters and to be honest, I am willing Mr. Gregory to put pen to paper and offer up a full length novel soon because he writes very well indeed.
The opening story, The Earth of Yunhe by Eric Gregory is a strong one. […] Gregory weaves a very interesting tale of a displaced people, conflict within a family and nanotechnology. What I particularly liked about this story is the way the author manges to capture such a complex theme as the conflicts arising within a community of displaced people in one family. Do you resign yourself to finding your place in your new environment or try to reclaim what was lost? And what if technology allows you to reclaim but politics won’t?
In the relocated village of Little Yunhe, Yuen the daughter of the “village chief” tries to save her brother Xiao who has “defected” in college to Ecclesia, a transnational organization that plays the role of a state in this environmentally troubled Earth, only to return with a discovery that may allow Yunhe to be “grounded on soil” again. However Xiao is regarded as impious and “heretic” and his brash manners on return did not help, so he got flung in jail by his father. An excellent story that works at all levels — world building, action, inventiveness and characters and a superb start to the anthology.
Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe takes the reader to a future China suffocating beneath ash and pollutants. The remedy takes the form of nanite soil a hyper-complex algorithm, but the real problem is not pollution, but the government unwilling to compromise. Highly Recommended, and a promising opening.
Eric Gregory likewise goes for technical plausibility in The Earth of Yunhe, though he keeps things closer to home as his characters use social networks mobilise support for rebuilding a climate-wrecked city with nanobots in the soil.
[…] a fair number of them do a credible job of successfully balancing drama and optimism without sacrificing cultural complexity. The stories here that probably do the best job with this complex balancing act are The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar, Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic by Gord Sellar, and The Earth of Yunhe by Eric Gregory.
—Garner Dozois in the April Locus Magazine;
Also, though half the stories take place in unusual locations, few present worldviews that diverge significantly from the default Anglosaxon mindset. Interestingly, the two that go farthest are those in which the first-person narrators don’t match the gender of the authors (Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe, a happy-outcome alternate of Tiananmen Square; Jason Andrew’s Scheherazade Cast in Starlight, an upbeat version of the Iranian election Tweeter phenomenon).
The state is viewed with suspicion, while the market moves so quickly that malevolent corporations die off with a minimum of fuss. China, Brazil, tiny Vanuatu all have powerful roles in a post-superpower future.
Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe is a more reflective and nuanced tale of repression and rebellion. The spare prose and the nicely drawn characters reaffirm the notion that sedition is always a possibility.
An interactive map of the SHINE story locations:
While most story excerpts from the Shine anthology have appeared already at DayBreak Magazine, I decided to post them here, as well (after all, this *is* the Shine website). This is the third one: “Overhead” by Jason Stoddard:
“No,” Ani Loera told him.
“Yes!” Nils jumped over Ani’s shoulders. Another bounce took him to the corridor ceiling, where he swung ahead of her on the exposed steel beams.
Ani shook her head. At 6 years old, Nils had already formulated his most important equation: SHIPMENT = TREAT. Nils was black-haired, blue-eyed, round-faced, and an endless bundle of energy. She couldn’t help grinning at him.
I have a kid. On the moon.
And he’s cute.
“Candy!” Nils yelled, disappearing down the corridor.
Ani caught up to him at the shaker. Nils bounced up and down in front of the scarred plastic window, frowning.
“Where’s the people?” Nils asked.
Ani squinted through the foggy, scratched plastic. There was only one person in the airlock. His spacesuit bore a faded tag: SHAO. Jun Shao. His silver-visored helmet reflected stark gray walls and her furrowed brow.
Ani ticked an impatient tune on the cold steel walls as the shaker knocked the abrasive moon-dust from Jun’s suit. Nils tried to do the same, but his young fingers weren’t quite coordinated enough.
Eventually, the airlock door swing open. Jun stepped out, popping his helmet. His expression was blank, unreadable.
“What happened?” Ani asked.
Jun shook his head. “Nothing there.”
“Nothing there? What do you mean, nothing there?”
“No people, no parts, no nothing.”
Ani felt fear twist her guts. They’d never missed a shipment. Ever. Not for—
Not for 15 years.
Jun shucked his gauntlets and hung them under his name in the rack. He sat down on a bench and began wriggling out of his suit. Nils helped him pull. Jun gave the kid a weak grin and let Nils unlatch his boots.
“Maybe it went off-course.”
“Has it ever gone off-course?”
A sudden thought, clear and distinct, as if someone had spoken in her ear: What if this is the end of the shipments?
Ani paced. “Did you look around?”
“Peep my stream!” Jun looked up at her. For the first time, she saw his too-wide eyes. He was terrified, too.
Ani’s watchstream buzzed, signaling a direct message. She glanced at it; messages scrolled, as watchers realized something bad was happening. They’d be looking to her for direction.
What a terrible time to be Prime, she thought. She’d won the lottery last month.
“We have to go back out,” she told Jun. “We have to look for the drop. The shipment may have gone off course.”
“It’s never gone off course—”
“I know. But we have to look.”
Jun stopped moving and just looked at her, his face an unreadable mask of exhaustion. Ani wondered how many shifts he’d run in a row. Two? Three? More?
“Put your suit back on,” she told Jun.
Nils stopped helping Jun with his suit and looked up at her, frowning.
Ani sighed and addressed the nearest surveillance dot: “Anyone else with outside experience and a suit, come down. We need to make as many tracks as we can.”
Slowly, Jun started putting his suit back on.
“No candy?” Nils asked.
Ani forced a smile. “I’ll see what I can do.”
- Moon overhead: via Astropixie (via Astronomy Picture of the Day);
- Kid Spacesuit: via Media Molecule (their Flickr stream);
Jason Stoddard is trying to answer the question, “Can business and writing coexist?” with varying degrees of success. Writing-wise, he has two books coming out in 2010 from Prime Books: Winning Mars and Eternal Franchise. He’s also been seen in Sci Fiction, Interzone, Strange Horizons, Futurismic, Talebones, and many other publications. He’s a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the Sidewise Award. On the other side, Jason leads Centric / Agency of Change, a marketing agency he founded in 1994. In this role, he’s a popular speaker on social media and virtual worlds at venues like Harvard University, The Directors Guild of America, Internet Strategy Forum, Loyola Marymount University, and Inverge. Jason lives in Los Angeles with his wife, who writes romance as Ashleigh Raine.
Jason Stoddard, whose extraordinary ability to extrapolate today’s emerging technology into tomorrow’s everyday reality, provides perhaps the book’s crown jewel with Overhead, a story of an emerging post-scarcity society.
and — arguably the anthology’s standout story — Jason Stoddard’s Overhead follows a colony on the Moon through a series of potential disasters and exemplifies some of humankind’s finest traits: perseverance, ingenuity, and hope.
Jason Stoddard’s Overhead should be made into a movie or a TV-series at least! I rooted so hard for these guys on their moon, ignored by Earth and left to struggle in the face of adversity. I can’t really explain too much as it’s a pretty involved plot and so tightly written. But I’ve given you the gist: people on the far side of the moon; ignored by those on earth; left to fend for themselves; brimful of hope, just excellent.
For me this was the best story of the anthology and not surprising it is the one that involves exploration of Outer Space, namely a colony on the dark side of the moon — so it stays out of touch with humanity except for regular deliveries of technology and people that want to join — where humanity can “reboot” if needed and where the rules are designed to create a better society. In a past thread that mixes with the current one and explains how the colony came to be, we follow executive Roy Parekh setting up an insurance company with a twist. Sense of wonder, memorable characters and a superb ending made Overhead a story that induced me to follow Mr. Stoddard’s career from now on. I would love a novel that would expand this story since I think the necessary depth is there.
Jason Stoddard’s Overhead is better as summary (idealists go to the moon) than as story. In it, a good idea is damaged by characters who speak their ideologies as if quoting from an instruction manual: “’An algorithmic search of online habits can easily be correlated with tendencies towards religion, economic philosophy, gluttony, and many other undesirable influences,’ said another geek”—a geek said that? Really?
Finally, also an interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology:
[Lyrics quote] @outshine
Monday October 19:
[Quote for the Monday] “Since my release, I have become more convinced than ever that the real makers of history are the ordinary men and women of our country; their participation in every decision about the future is the only guarantee of true democracy and freedom.”
[Source] Nelson Mandela (1918 – ) / South African president and lawyer / The Struggle is My Life.
Tuesday October 20:
Hard rock funsters, still very Spinal Jap; but this crowd-funded new album has a more modern tone and (slightly) more serious demeanour.
Wednesday October 21:
Trillions of nanoparticles cross the blood-brain barrier, each pairing off with a brain cell. They perform a truly modern dance—science.
Thursday October 22:
Cameron Diaz delivers the worst Southern accent evuh in a dull, badly edited film that offers more evidence that Donnie Darko was a fluke.
[#Spitballs] The Box / Directed by Richard Kelly / http://thebox-movie.warnerbros.com/.
Friday October 23:
[Quote for the Friday, slightly paraphrased] “Instead of dirt & poison we’ve chosen to fill our hives w\honey & wax—thus furnishing mankind w\the two noblest of things: sweetness & light.”
[Source] Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) / Anglo-Irish writer and clergyman / The Battle of the Books.
Saturday October 24:
It’s a strange week when you’re thinking, ‘trenchcoats or atomic insects? Wait, is that trenchcoats ON atomic insects?’ I love my job.
[Bio] Marlo Dianne is a writer/artist of more than fifty published works. This wondergeek is found @ http://www.forbiddendragon.blogspot.com.
Sunday October 25:
Fast, violent, and blessed with a great voice cast, this is still a rather rote SF take on movies about corrupt cops and the plucky rookie.
[#ShineComics Extra] GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT by Alan Burnett (script), Lauren Montgomery (dir.); Warner Premiere, 2009, $19.98/$24.98 ..
While most story excerpts from the Shine anthology have appeared already at DayBreak Magazine, I decided to post them here, as well (after all, this *is* the Shine website). This is the second one: “The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up” by Jacques Barcia:
(UPDATE: phishers have stolen around $4 million in carbon credits [as reported in Wired, via Boing Boing]. Just to show that carbon credits are already a highly important — and interesting — item today, and will be even more so tomorrow. Ideally, SHINE stories are highly relevant, and increasingly, they prove to be exactly that…;-)
The pricking under his shirt had stopped. They talked in a dedicated moIP connection for no more than ten minutes, with only one of those spent on discussing the many zeroes being offered to Inácio as a reward and how they’d known his lover. Lúcio met them at the Shigeru Awards and apparently gave them Inácio’s contact details.
The three clients wore encrypted avatars that masked their features, appearing as nothing but dark cloaks with plasma globes for heads. But out of recklessness or sheer confidence their voices weren’t jumbled. They were all teens.
“And that’s it, Inácio. We want you to find everything you can about Gear5’s policies.” The taller avatar had an older but more casual tone. Advanced physics algorithms made the somewhat anthropomorphic illusion dodge waiters, tourists and other rich media floating in the augmented reality.
In the real world, Inácio sat at a round stone table close to the escalator leading to the avenue down below. Rush hour had passed, but the traffic systems were still operating. The street drove the cars so close to each other they looked like a single line of black bars and yellow spots. “You understand that what you’re asking is extremely unusual, don’t you?” The analyst already had three search engines running in his field of vision, along with dozens of other eydgets, including some custom market research apps, blabber feeds and text clients, sending private messages to trustworthy contacts and opening anonymous topics in professional social networks’ forums. “And your deadline is impossible to meet. I just can’t provide you a full report about this Gear5 in less than eight hours.”
“I told you,” said the third plasma globe. It had the sweet voice of a girl, but naturally distorted like a bad death metal guitar plug-in. “We should have contacted him much earlier.”
The youngest avatar seemed to turn to the angry girl and back to face Inácio. “Unfortunately, Mr. Lima, it’s a very tight window of opportunity. But we know you’re probably asking questions to your acquaintances by now and they’ll certainly ask their own in the following minutes. We couldn’t let an avalanche of gossip be spread before the markets were closed. Besides, we decided to make our move just a few hours ago when word has reached us that the company will open part of their codes tomorrow morning.” The globe’s innards were filled with a storm of pink lightning. The avatar leaned closer to Inácio. “But I don’t think you really find the task unusual, do you?”
He didn’t. There was this indigent startup wikindustry operating for eleven months now with an ever rising stock of carbon credits and these kids, whoever they were, wanted to know whether the thing Gear5 had under development, besides the occasional crowdvertising for rising mobbands they claimed to do, was sustainable or not. That all meant he had to find out everything about the company and their product using, he’d say, unconventional methods. “Like I said, the deadline is impossible,” he said.
“Just give it a try. We trust you.”
Rich teenage wallets were not uncommon, especially in the tech business. But this group was different. They were too young and seemed to have a different focus, too knew for him to clearly identify. So his only option was to treat them as a common group of aggressive investors, the kind of people he had a history of hating. “Look, I know you know exactly what that company has been developing. You won’t tell me for competitive reasons, of course, but if you are considering the investment then you’ve already measured how much money you can get from that. So why bother with carbon market regulations they’re certainly meeting? Just go there and put your cash on it.”
The young foreigner put his cloak-and-globe body back straight and raised, for the first time, a pair of ghostly hands. “You’re not getting it, Mr. Lima.” He looked like he was giving a lecture. “Money has meaning only to those old enough to remember it. No, Mr. Lima, we don’t want to put a single penny on it. We want to find out if this project conforms to our working ethics. We want to invest our brains and bandwidth on it.”
Jacques Barcia is a speculative fiction writer and information technology reporter from Recife, Brazil. His short fiction has appeared in Brazilian, American and Romanian online markets. He’s one of the authors actively supporting Greenpunk.net and the Outer Alliance initiative. When he’s not writing, Jacques acts as the lead singer of Brazilian grindcore band Rabujos. He’s married and has the smartest, loveliest, bookishiest daughter in the world. Jacques is currently working on his first novel. He can be reached at http://www.verbeat.org/blogs/thedreammachine/.
In a near future Recife, Brazil, Inacio Lima a middle aged former “green soldier”, haunted by the untimely death of his husband Lucio, works as a “sustainability consultant” when he is approached by some mysterious foreigners to investigate Gear5, a company that is supposed to announce a new revolutionary product and is buying carbon credits like mad. The investigation will carry Inacio to unexpected places and encounters. Another superb story that works as atmosphere, style, characters and world building.
This story is very relevant given the present-day, myopic ‘group-think’ support of carbon trading that has resulted in inevitable profligate funding as well as what is in effect fraud. In this story a cyber-jock checks out a new trading group for a team of young Turks…
A mysterious group of young people ask a self-employed sustainability analyst to do some very quick work for them. But what is the real product and what is really going on?
**** 4 Stars! Mysterious, vague, and a bit confusing until all the pieces begin to fall into place. ****
And if the most radical aims of transhumanism are realised, could mortality itself become a thing of the past?
The state is viewed with suspicion, while the market moves so quickly that malevolent corporations die off with a minimum of fuss. China, Brazil, tiny Vanuatu all have powerful roles in a post-superpower future.
The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up by Jacques Barcia — sadly, the final short story in Shine and the second one in the anthology which I could not rap my mind around. I re-read it several times and the story became clearer but again, I strongly suspect that this is for true fans of the genre.
Others, like Jacques Barcia’s The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up strive so hard to transcend present-day troubles that they teeter into transhumanist follies.
An interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology:
[Lyrics quote] @outshine
Monday October 12:
[Quote for the Monday] “Invention is the process by which a new idea is discovered or created. In contrast, innovation occurs when that new idea is adopted.”
[Source] Attributed to Everett Rogers (1931 – ) / U.S. sociologist.
Tuesday October 13:
It’s like someone cloned Page Hamilton — furious angular alt-metal-hardcore that drips with contempt for its fellow man. Angrily excellent.
Wednesday October 14:
Optimized and burned clean,
our nightmares you learn.
Holograms able to love
are your successors.
~The Cosmist Worm.
[Bio] James Dye — @JamesJDye — is a writer and college student from Dubuque Iowa.
Thursday October 15:
A Halloween treat, this homage to 80s horror cinema—Satanists, spooky houses, pretty girls—is played straight to excellent creepy effect.
[#Spitballs] House of the Devil / Directed by Ti West / http://is.gd/4lhFn.
Friday October 16:
[Quote for the Friday] “That action is best, which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers.”
[Source] Francis Hutcheson (1694 – 1746) / Irish-born English philosopher / Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue.
Saturday October 17:
Engine’s protesting, sir. Says it wants a pony. Shall I tell the passengers to wait, or…?
[Bio] Carolyn Elizabeth Lamb can fold into a portable cube, for your convenience.
Sunday October 18:
IDW gives Bloom County a gorgeous deluxe treatment in a book that includes strips not seen since their original appearances. A must-have.
[#ShineComics] BLOOM COUNTY COMPLETE LIBRARY VOLUME 1 by Berkeley Breathed; IDW, 2009, $39.95 (hardcover).
Here are a few things that struck me in my own country (The Netherlands).
This so-called ‘Beer Boat’ is fully electrical driven (both the propeller and the crane) with green current and reduces the county’s CO2 emissions with 16.5 tonnes per year in comparison with trucks. It not only transports beer, but also clothing, books and construction materials.
Actually, it is the second one in Utrecht, a city that tries to limit truck driving in its inner city because the fragility of its ancinet bridges and wharves. The first one is a diesel boat, but it was so fully booked they needed a second one. A much better one (it’s almost completely silent), everyone agrees.
(Friday April 9 I am meeting my Dutch SF companions in Utrecht: the beer should taste extra good…;-)
- In the recent DUS (FNV BondgenotenMagazine: the newspaper of the Union of which I am a member) there was an interview with Pieter Hilhorst, the Dutch national ombudsman: a self-procliamed ‘tireless softie’ who is against cynism.
I hate cynicism, but I am not an old-fashioned leftie. The old-fashioned left still think a better society can be created through anonymous solidarity with rigid rules. But we get stuck in those rules. We should rebuild solidarity from the bottom up: help each other at the small scale level, using self-organising powers: not ‘save yourself’, but ‘save each other’.
We need more people like him.
- Hyves for energy is the vision of the future (via de Volkskrant): experimental cogeneration (or Combined Heat and Power or CHP) plants are being installed in Dutch households. Experimental because of the scale: right now CHP plants are of industrial size, this is one of the first times where the principle is scaled down to that of a household central heating boiler. A so-called micro-cogenerator boiler (microwarmtekrachtketel’) that — according to KEMA, the manufacturer — increases the energy efficiency from 98 to 125% (this obviously hinges on how one defines ‘efficieincy’, but in other words, part of the boiler’s waste heat is transformed in electricity through a small Stirling engine).
Problem is that such installations are quite expensive, and their economic feasibility hinges on the electricity company’s willingness to pay for power delivered back into the net. Hence an experimental set-up, with some households using the micro-cogenerator boiler, some using a heat pump that extracts energy from the air, some have solar panels and all are connected to windmills through a smart grid. Also the use of ‘smart’ appliances like washing machines and dishwashers that will automatically switch on when the renewable energy is cheaper than that of the grid.
“There will be communities that share and exchange energy,” says Pier Nabuurs of KEMA, “a bit like Hyves for energy.” (NOTE: Hyves is the Dutch version of Facebook.)
- Groenlinks, the Dutch green party, presented its programme for the June 9 national elections yesterday. I particularly like their slogan: ‘Zin in de toekomst’, or: ‘Looking forward to the future’.
- A new species of plankton — named Chordata Borgesius — discovered in the same week where World Biodiversity Day and Cultural Diversity Day were held (OK: some news is from last year, which I didn’t have the time to post). “Coincidence? I think not!” Babette Wagenvoort states.
- Apropos biodiversity and its uses: let worms clean the sewage sludge. Scientist Tim Hendrickx of Wageningen University says the Lumbriculus variegatus can clean up to 70% of the Dutch sewage sludge. Biocrafted Ouroboros, anyone (hats off to Rajan Khanna)? [Rajan’s tweet was up on @outshine on June 10, and the worms article on June 13. Coincidence? I think not…;-)]
- A company in Barneveld called Paperfoam is the only one in the world that fabricates packaging material fully from potato starch: ‘a real iPhone is packed in starch‘. 100% biodegradable, and the CO2 emission from manufacturing one paperfoam CD or DVD case is one tenth of that of a plastic one. While all the research is done in Holland, the company has license holders in Denmarl, Malaysia and the US.
So say goodbey to your plastic (one hopes, looking at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch).
- And finally, an ecohotel I wasn’t aware of: ‘De Vrouwe van Stavoren‘ where people can stay in recycled Wine Casks (via ecofriend ).
That’s the second time that environmental awareness is combined with good drinks! Coincidence? I think not!
And thankfully innovation and forward thinking are alive and well, also in Holland.
UPDATE (hot off the press): Suriname, which used to be a Dutch colony, is doing very fine. An interview with Andre Telting, the director of Suriname’s central bank.
In the year 2000, as the country’s bank director, he inherited a total financial chaos. But he — and his fellow countrymen — turned it around.
Recently, at the IMF meeting in Istanbul, Suriname was receiving compliments. They were one of the very few nations that showed growth through the credit crisis. The country improved its debt position and strengthened its monetary reserves (reducing the country’s debt from over 500 million euors in 2000 to 210 million euros now).
On top of that, while he’s resigning (after ten intense years, and he’s 74 years old now) he’s optimistic that the Surinam people will not elect a corrupt government again. To quote:
“As regards criminality in this region we are an oasis of peace. Suriname is a safe country for foreigners. The average Surinamer is healthy and well-educated. Yes, I am positive about this country. But we have to prepare our people to several new developments, like the oil inning industry which can be a large source of income for Suriname.”
Which puts the cliché that ‘Third World’ countries can’t take care of themselves in a different perspective.
@outshine’s already gone, already been
we’re free, so free
Monday October 5:
[Quote for the Monday] “Wars come because not enough people are sufficiently afraid.”
[Source] Hugh Joseph Schonfield (1901 – 1988) / British writer and editor / News Review (London).
Tuesday October 6:
Goth-metal stalwarts complete their slow return from the synth-rock hinterlands. Muscular, epic, gloomy… and surprisingly contemporary.
Wednesday October 7:
No money, no problem. Without scarcity, need is a pipe dream; we work because we want to. My music, your novel—only fodder for dreams.
Thursday October 8:
A little preachy, but the film gives that ol’ time religion a few brand new twists, and James Gandolfini gives great voice. Take the kids.
[#Spitballs] Where the Wild Things Are / Directed by Spike Jonze /http://is.gd/45vlG.
Friday October 9:
[Quote for the Friday] “The hell with it. Who never knew the price of happiness will not be happy.”
[Source] Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933 – ) / Russian poet / Babi Yar.
Saturday October 10:
The Martians were beat by germs
They left the world on talking terms
A Christmas card from Leader Zirth?
At least it didn’t cost the Earth!
[Bio] I’m 40, married and live in Plymouth, England. Writing is my main hobby. Quite a number of my poems/stories have been published.
Sunday October 11:
Based on a clunker comics story, this animated adaptation injects raucous humor and a breakneck pace to deliver rollicking entertainment.
[#ShineComics Extra] SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES, script: Stan Berkowitz, dir. Sam Liu, Warner Premiere, 2009, $19.98/$24.98.