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Archive for May, 2010

SHINE Podcast: “The Solnet Ascendancy”

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As promised in the previous post, here’s a podcast of Lavie Tidhar‘s “The Solnet Ascendancy“, narrated, very vividly, by Ray Sizemore.

Enjoy!

Lavie Tidhar is the author of linked-story collection HebrewPunk (2007), novellas Cloud Permutations (2009), An Occupation of Angels (2010), and Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God (2010) and, with Nir Yaniv, of The Tel Aviv Dossier (2009). He also edited the anthology The Apex Book of World SF (2009). He’s lived on three continents and one island-nation, and currently lives in Israel. His first novel, The Bookman, is published by HarperCollins’ new Angry Robot imprint, and will be followed by two more.

Review Quotes:

Lavie Tidhar’s The Solnet Ascendancy… what can I say? The guy is bloody brilliant. It’s not a large offering but it’s a story told with impact. It centres around how quickly and easily and with what devastating effect the redistribution of the future (you’ll understand it later) has when it occurs at an accelerated rate in a small backwater. It’s reading stories like Lavie’s that cause you look at technology and progress with caution.

SF Revu;

Perhaps the most memorable is Lavie Tidhar’s The Solnet Ascendancy, which describes how the miniscule Pacific island of Vanuatu transforms itself into an information superpower.

New Scientist;

[…] 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;

Lavie Tidhar makes a welcome appearance with The Solnet Ascendancy, a humorous story set on remote Vanuatu. It’s a brilliant little story that returns intermittently to see the unfeasible progress made as technology becomes available and local ingenuity puts it to good use. It’s a refreshingly different location for a story and makes for an enjoyable pleasant read.

SF Crowsnest;

The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar is a concise, witty and high impact offering that lures the reader into a thought experiment on the redistribution of the future. It also considers the risks and possibilities of the imaginative exploitation of second-hand technology.

—Interzone;

Despite this, the stories in the anthology show considerable variety. Some are Trickster parables. Lavie Tidhar’s The Solnet Ascendancy neatly reverses the cargo cult scenario, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Seeds describes the perfect blowback, while Alastair Reynolds’ At Budokan updates the impresario concept with panache.

The Huffington Post;

I liked the humour of The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar. Section numbers alone put the smile on my face. They reminded me of the following geeky saying: There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary and those who don’t.

Speculative Book Review;

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.

SciFi Wire;

The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar and Seeds by Silva Moreno-Garcia are, for the most part, trickster stories, but they work within the context of the theme.

Charles A. Tan;

An interactive map of SHINE story locations:


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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!

ELECTRONIC:Buy SHINE at MobiPocket!Buy SHINE at Amazon Kindle!Buy SHINE at MobiPocket!

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

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The Lost SHINE Interview: Lavie Tidhar


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Again my profound thanks to the indefatiguable Charles A. Tan for interviewing all the SHINE authors. Well, all the SHINE authors? Charles missed one, possibly becuase he’s so close to him (relatively speaking: they both post on the World SF News Blog, but live a considerable distance from each other).

I thought about attenting Charles to this (and I will now), but on second thought decided to interview Lavie myself.

So here is the ‘lost’ SHINE interview with Lavie Tidhar (and as an extra bonus tomorrow I will post the podcast of Lavie’s SHINE story The Solnet Ascendancy, narrated, very vividly, by Ray Sizemore):

Jetse de Vries: Actually, I don’t really see you as an ‘optimistic’ writer (at least: the work that I’m aware of). So why try SHINE? Stretch your wings? The challenge? Or do you just want to be published in every publication available?

Lavie Tidhar: It’s interesting — how do you fit into an ‘optimist?’ label? I’m not sure I’d describe myself that way, but with my science fiction work — I’ve been working on my own sort of future-history in a sequence of short stories and at least one novel — and that assumption, that there is a future, that humanity goes on to the solar system and even out of it, that it develops the tools necessary for its own survival — that’s quite optimistic, isn’t it?

I’m not sure the stories themselves are particularly optimistic — which comes down to an awareness that, even if we do go out into space, even if we do develop alternative energy sources and so on — humanity will still remain the same. You’d still have abuse (of people, of power), greed, violence… which means you can still tell interesting stories. I don’t ever see a utopia emerging, but I also doubt we’ll destroy ourselves in the short term.

So — a realist? But I’m pretty sure realists don’t write science fiction…

Maybe the answer is just wanting to be in every publication going, as you suggested!

Jetse de Vries: You’re an avid traveller, and it informs your writing. Did your awareness of the wider world eventually initiate the World SF Blog?

Lavie Tidhar: Yes and no. I always knew I wasn’t a part of the American SF sphere, in a way. I grew up on a lot of American SF, but I also grew up on a lot of very obscure Hebrew fantastical fiction (not to mention growing up on a kibbutz, which is a real-world failed-utopian construct), so my interest, very early on, was in different modalities of science fiction and fantasy. You know, James Gunn can bleat all he wants about how science fiction is soooo American, but it’s not: it’s a way of thinking about the future that, one could argue, needs very little in common with the American pulps. So whenever I went travelling I always looked for that. I remember at eighteen — I wasn’t even eighteen then — travelling through Eastern Europe just post-communism, and picking up the Romanian Nemira anthologies, and some interesting Russian books in translation — and going to China a few years later was a delight, because I got to meet all these science fiction writers in Beijing. Most recently I went to Singapore and had a chance to meet a lot of people working in the field at the moment.

I’m very lucky I’ve been able to move around as much as I have, but then you also sacrifice a lot for it, I guess — a sort of stability is obviously lacking.

The blog was something I wanted to try for a very long time, but it was the publication of The Apex Book of World SF that finally enabled me to do that — it was meant to be a promotional tool for the anthology but, of course, very quickly took on a life of its own. And it’s been pretty incredible — all these talented people joining us, contributing articles, starting a real dialogue that’s still ongoing, that’s still evolving.

Jetse de Vries: When writers write about an ‘exotic’ place on today’s Earth, must they really have been there, or can they get away with making it up and a ton of research? Or in other words: does one need to have been in an exotic locale to write about it?

Lavie Tidhar: You know, as I’ve said before, what’s exotic for one person is commonplace to another. So if you approach a location as “exotic” you’ve already lost, in a way. I don’t personally know if writers need to have visited somewhere or not. Personally, I need to. I need to get a sense of place or I find it very hard to write about it. Which is why I almost never write anything set in the United States. For me, I need to learn a place slowly, over time, and even then I know I’m only scratching the surface. So part of it is pretending, obviously! But not too much, I hope.

Jetse de Vries: Why do editing projects at all, when you’re already writing? Basically, editing (anthologies, books, magazines) is a huge time sink (believe me: I know), so why bother?

Lavie Tidhar: You’re right. I don’t really have an answer to that — it can be incredibly frustrating and time consuming and so on, but at the same time it can be incredibly satisfying. I love the fact I get to promote other people’s work, put together something I can be proud of. As long as it doesn’t take over fiction writing, for me (or playing with comics or whatever I end up being fascinated with) then it’s ok. I think it’s a bit like a bug — once you get it, it’s very hard to stop!

Jetse de Vries: In “The Solnet Ascendancy” you depict Mike Rowe as a well-intended volunteer, while the Vanuatu local in the story — Fatfat Freddy — in the last part of the story wistfully remarks: ‘“Fifty years of volunteerism—” he makes it sound like a rare type of disease, “and what did it get us?”.’ How ambiguous do you feel about volunteer labour in developed countries?

Lavie Tidhar: Sadly, I didn’t invent “volunteerism”. It’s an actual term used by development agencies. The fact that it sounds like a disease — and they don’t seem to get it — is quite sad, isn’t it? I know a lot of people in development, and I know a lot of them do feel ambivalent about it. How much good does it do? How much bad? How much of it is tied in with national or big-business interests, or with a very specific vision of what development means? It’s not things I can answer easily.

Jetse de Vries: When I spoke with John Berlyne at the last EasterCon, he was full of praise for your novel Osama (to be released by PS Publishing). An excerpt from it has gone up online recently on World Literature Today’s special SF issue (If I understand correctly). However, while John loved Osama, he also mentioned it was a near-impossible sell to the ‘big’ publishers. Do you intentionally try to write controversial material, or did it just happen? And do you think that something like — say — Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses would be published today by a major publisher?

Lavie Tidhar: What’s published in World Literature Today isn’t actually a part of the novel. It’s a story about a guy who wakes up one morning to find out he’s Osama bin Laden. I write a lot about politics, I think. The novel, Osama, actually owes part of its origin to a story I wrote a while back, My Travels with Al-Qaeda (in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s anthology Salon Fantastique), which is sort of a love story, about two people trapped by several bombing attacks — which is sort of what happened to my wife and me. We were in Dar-es-Salaam when the American embassy was bombed, my wife was in the Sinai during the Ras-al-Saitan bombinbgs, in London during the Kings’ Cross bombings… so you do get to the point where you think, hey, is this personal?

Osama is, I think, a very ambitious novel. And I do think that, at heart, it’s a love story. What John said is absolutely true. A lot of editors liked the book, but were afraid to publish it. And we’re very lucky Nick Gevers and Pete and Nicky Crowther at PS were so enthusiastic about it.

Now, I don’t set out to write ‘controversial’ material. But I do feel I should engage with what’s important, that I should write about things that matter. It’s not to say I don’t love the escapist stuff as well, but at heart I’m a political writer — because there’s so much that we need to talk about, need to understand.

Would The Satanic Verses be published today? I have no idea. So far, however, Osama has been turned down by, oh, well, a fair number of publishers, yes. But I’m lucky to have PS, and I am still hopeful someone would get over this fear and pick it up. We’ll see…

Jetse de Vries: Do you think science fiction (or any other writing) is capable of changing the world?

Lavie Tidhar: Well, everything we do changes the world, doesn’t it? It’s a question of scale, not effect. But yes, absolutely it does. Books have a tremendous power. And even it all it ever does is help someone pass a lonely night, well, that’s still changing the world to the better, isn’t it?

Jetse de Vries: Does being an Israeli inform your writing in any specific matter?

Lavie Tidhar: Obviously it does, though being also a naturalised South African and having permanent right-to-remain in the UK makes me feel like Uri Geller, sometimes… I find Israel fascinating, as an experiment in large-scale myth-making — it has an entire history written and patched-together to justify it. In a very real way it was, and is, an experiment in creating a fictional state. You’d have to be crazy, as a writer, not to want to engage with it.

Jetse de Vries: Finally, anything you want to plug (apart from The Apex Book of World SF and the World SF News Blog)?

Lavie Tidhar: I’d like to give a shout-out to Shine, an anthology of optimistic SF stories!

Truth is, I’ve got a ton of stuff coming out. The Bookman, my novel from Angry Robot Books, comes out in the US in October — it’s kind of a love letter to steampunk. And another novel in the same world, Camera Obscura, is coming out next year. Can you say kung fu-noir?

There’s also Martian Sands, a short novel coming out from Apex Books in the US — late this year or early next year, I’m not sure — which deals with the holocaust, kibbutzim on Mars, fictional detectives, digital intelligence and evolution, drugs, four-armed Martian warriors and, well, lots more. I think of it as Schindler’s List meets Total Recall.

Osama, as we mentioned, is coming out of PS Publishing in the UK, in a limited hardcover edition. This is probably next year sometime?

PS are also releasing my novella Cloud Permutations soon, which is about Melanesian colonists on a distant planet, a boy who wants to fly, possibly sentient clouds and a quest. You got to have a quest! And PS will release another novella from me at some point, Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God, which I think of as a guns & sorcery novella — think sex, drugs and violence, with no redeeming features!

And Apex Books are re-issuing my novella, An Occupation of Angels, very soon — a supernatural cold war thriller with angels. And there are quite a few short stories coming up — from Interzone to Ellen Datlow’s anthology Naked City.

Keeps me busy…

[End of interview]

Anyway, with the excerpt of his story posted yesterday here on the SHINE blog, and an interview with him today, and a podcast of his story tomorrow, we might as well call it Lavie Tidhar week.


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SHINE excerpts: “The Solnet Ascendancy”

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 seventh one: “The Solnet Ascendancy” by Lavie Tidhar:

1

It began, the way these things usually begin, with a Proposal.

This is Vanuatu. A Y-shaped archipelago of islands somewhere in the nowhere, South Pacific Ocean, home to Michener’s mythical Bali Rai, coconut plantations, coconut crabs, a few World War II downed planes, a sunken troop-carrier, volcanoes and coral reefs: its Internet domain suffix is .vu, its capital is the distant Port Vila, described by residents and visitors alike as a slightly dodgy Australian resort town, and known by the wider electronic world primarily for not having certain kinds of laws which make placing off-shore servers there profitable. There is a foreign volunteer for every thousand people on the islands, making Vanuatu the most volunteer-intensive country in the world. Welcome to Vanuatu! AusAid, Peace Corps, VSO, VSA, CUSO, JICA; EU, the Australian High Commission, the Alliance française, the Chinese, the Taiwanese, the Japanese, only the Arabs and the Israelis have so far forsaken Vanuatu – what is the nature of your project? What benefit does it have to the community? What is the amount of community buy-in? Please specify expected outcome and sustainability. How much do you need? What sort of materials?

It began, the way things in Sola usually begin, if they are to begin at all, in the Market House.

10

“I want e-mail,” Fatfat Freddie says. When he speaks English he has a slight Australian accent, a remnant of his four years at university on the continent, where he did tourism and hotel management. “I want to use the Internet. Can’t you do something?”

His companion is a waetman; the local most recent volunteer; Mike Rowe by name, pale despite the fierce glare of the sun, digging into the local chicken and rice without enthusiasm.

“If only they could actually cook,” he says. Fatfat Freddie nods and shovels rice into his mouth. There are three bony pieces of chicken on Mike Rowe’s plate, sitting lonely and forlorn on a mountain of rice. He pushes the rice with his fork and says, “You could set up a local e-mail network fairly easily.”

“Really?”

“Sure. Get a wireless router, a few wireless receivers, and a server. That might be the expensive bit, but…” he sinks into thought. “If you use an existing PC you won’t even have that expense. Run it on the Province’s generator… I reckon you could cover all the adjacent offices as well. Triangulate.”

The Province’s office sits in the midst of a cluster of offices—the entire administrative centre for Torba Province, encompassing the Banks and Torres Islands, thirteen islands, ten thousand people, eleven phones—and it is in wireless range of the following departments, being: Health, Education, Customs, Police, Court, Bank, Post Office. “Then, we can hook up the server to a phone line, get an Internet account, get it to send and receive e-mail once or twice a week. Turn it into an Internet gateway. Once you do this, once everything is in place, you can add users to the network at no cost, and charge them a membership fee. Piece of piss.”

Kan,” Freddie says in Bislama, which is very rude. “Then why don’t we do it?”

“Who’s going to pay for it?” Mike Rowe says, and makes the money sign. He pushes his plate—still half-full with rice—away and lights a cigarette instead.

“We can arrange that,” Freddie says. “The EU— ”

“—couldn’t find their ass if they sat on it,” Mike Rowe, twenty-three, cynical man of the world, says with feeling.

Fatfat Freddie smiles. “Let me worry about that,” he says. “Just write the proposal.”

Mike shrugs and waves his cigarette in the air, trailing smoke. “I’ll do it right now if you want to. Go back to the office?”

“Let’s,” Freddie says. He pushes his empty plate away and belches. “I’m finished.”

They go.

11

There is one road in Sola, a long wide track following the shore line, stretching from the little airport, across the Arep School, past shops and the Market House, past the Province office and the rest of the administrative buildings, past the wharf and the football field. As Freddie and his companion walk down it (slowly, for Freddie considers each step carefully before executing it, and when he speaks he stops to rest) they do not yet know that it is towards the future that they are walking.

Excerpt from “The Solnet Ascendancy” by Lavie Tidhar. Copyright © 2010 by Lavie Tidhar.

Picture credits:

Lavie Tidhar is the author of linked-story collection HebrewPunk (2007), novellas Cloud Permutations (2009), An Occupation of Angels (2010), and Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God (2010) and, with Nir Yaniv, of The Tel Aviv Dossier (2009). He also edited the anthology The Apex Book of World SF (2009). He’s lived on three continents and one island-nation, and currently lives in Israel. His first novel, The Bookman, is published by HarperCollins’ new Angry Robot imprint, and will be followed by two more.

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with him at SF Signal. Or did he?

Review Quotes:

Lavie Tidhar’s The Solnet Ascendancy… what can I say? The guy is bloody brilliant. It’s not a large offering but it’s a story told with impact. It centres around how quickly and easily and with what devastating effect the redistribution of the future (you’ll understand it later) has when it occurs at an accelerated rate in a small backwater. It’s reading stories like Lavie’s that cause you look at technology and progress with caution.

SF Revu;

Perhaps the most memorable is Lavie Tidhar’s The Solnet Ascendancy, which describes how the miniscule Pacific island of Vanuatu transforms itself into an information superpower.

New Scientist;

[…] 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;

Lavie Tidhar makes a welcome appearance with The Solnet Ascendancy, a humorous story set on remote Vanuatu. It’s a brilliant little story that returns intermittently to see the unfeasible progress made as technology becomes available and local ingenuity puts it to good use. It’s a refreshingly different location for a story and makes for an enjoyable pleasant read.

SF Crowsnest;

The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar is a concise, witty and high impact offering that lures the reader into a thought experiment on the redistribution of the future. It also considers the risks and possibilities of the imaginative exploitation of second-hand technology.

—Interzone;

Despite this, the stories in the anthology show considerable variety. Some are Trickster parables. Lavie Tidhar’s The Solnet Ascendancy neatly reverses the cargo cult scenario, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Seeds describes the perfect blowback, while Alastair Reynolds’ At Budokan updates the impresario concept with panache.

The Huffington Post;

I liked the humour of The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar. Section numbers alone put the smile on my face. They reminded me of the following geeky saying: There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary and those who don’t.

Speculative Book Review;

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.

SciFi Wire;

The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar and Seeds by Silva Moreno-Garcia are, for the most part, trickster stories, but they work within the context of the theme.

Charles A. Tan;

An interactive map of SHINE story locations:

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!

ELECTRONIC:Buy SHINE at MobiPocket!Buy SHINE at Amazon Kindle!Buy SHINE at MobiPocket!

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

The Week in Tweet, Week 47

But when the climate changed
They tried their best to stay
But @outshine blew them all away…

Monday November 16:

[Quote for the Monday] “Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.”

[Source] Plato (428? BC – 347? BC) / Greek philosopher.

Tuesday November 17:

Like a street-theatre play by a busload of post-hardcore kids and your uncle’s classic prog rock records. Music to smile (or maybe gurn) to.

[#SoundBytes] THE MYTH ABOUT REAL LIFE (EP) by Aficionado — http://www.myspace.com/aficionado (self-released).

Wednesday November 18:

Avatar children gliding like thistle in the electron sky. A garden replenished by their light hands.

[Bio] Deborah Walker thinks: least said, soonest mended.

Thursday November 19:

Lots of walking, more walking, unrelieved trudgery. Makes two hours feel as dreary as a weekend in post-apocalyptic Preoria, then it ends.

[#Spitballs] The Road / Directed by John Hillcoat /http://www.theroad-movie.com/.

Friday November 20:

[Quote for the Friday] “Human nature won’t flourish, any more than a potato, if planted and replanted, for too many generations, in the same worn-out soil.”

[Source, paraphrased] Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 – 1864) / U.S. novelist & short-story writer / The Scarlet Letter, “The Custom House”.

Saturday November 21:

News from CERN: smallest subatomic particles found, massless, information only. + & –: binary code. Neat. I yawned, returned to my Sims game.

[Bio] William Clunie can be read at www.pemmicanpress.com.

Sunday November 22:

Novelist Huston’s attempt to reboot the rebel military cyborg returns to the future, but recasts it as a labored satire of corporate media.

[#ShineComics] DEATHLOK THE DEMOLISHER #1 (of 7) by Charlie Huston (script), Lan Medina (art); Marvel Knights, 2009, $3.99.

SHINE Reviews, part 3: For a Few Dollars More

More reviews of SHINE (I seem to be doing them in batches of six: so this one would make the number of the beast complete, and prove SHINE is really a badass anthology for the good…;-), and these are already a week old:

“De Vries has assembled an excellent anthology. There are no real duds, and fully half the stories are absolutely outstanding; while there are no hard and fast correlations, the majority of the latter are among the longer stories. If another collection of stories as good as this is published this year, it will be an annus mirabilisShine is one of the best single anthologies of recent years.

  • Gardner Dozois in the April Locus Magazine (link leads to Table of Contents: review is not online) discusses at some length how truly difficult writing optimistic SF is, and says that “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.” He also says that SHINE “also contains good work by Jacques Barcia, Ken Edgett, Madeline Ashby and others.” A quote:

“although not all the stories work, a fair number of them do a credible job of successfully balancing drama and optimism without sacrificing cultural complexity.”

While Gardner Dozois admits that writing near-future, upbeat SF is very hard (and that “portraying yet another desolate and decaying dystopia where all hope has been lost and the future promises nothing but more of the same or worse” is “taking the easy way out”), he still seems to implicitly assume the default position that optimistic SF must run the tightrope (“this complex balancing act”) without sacrificing cultural complexity, while pessimistic SF somehow does *not* need to run that same tightrope (after all, in most cases it has already destroyed most ‘cultural complexity’). I do prefer to be kept to a higher standard, but I also find this general uncritical attitude towards downbeat SF somewhat ‘taking the easy way out’.

Finally Gardner Dozois conclude with “Perhaps optimistic SF is just more upbeat mundane SF?” As I said in the previous reviews post, the theme of SHINE is *near-future*, optimistic SF (very much on purpose, because that is the greatest challenge: I wanted writers to think, very hard, about solutions to today’s problems). That doesn’t mean I’m defining *all* optimistic SF as near-future, or mundane.

  • Rich Horton in the April Locus Magazine (link leads to Table of Contents: review is not online) is positive overall, if not enthusiastic (giving a special mention to Gord Sellar’s Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic):

“I approve, on the whole, and I enjoyed the stories, on the whole, but … I want greatness, and this book is full of goodness.”

I suppose we can agree to disagree about the ‘greatness’ of certain stories, but I do wonder why an anthology full of stories where people try to change things for the better needs to be ‘approved’, while anthologies where the population is decimated, the Earth is brought to the brink of destruction (sometimes beyond) and nihilistic characters gleefully engage in violence get that stamp of approval by default. Maybe this says something about the current mindset of written SF?

  • Paul Graham Raven at Futurismic chimes in, and is critically positive (as can be expected of him: he won’t take my word on anything…;-), picking and choosing the stories that worked for him (and those that didn’t):

“[…] it also ably demonstrates the potential of optimistic science fiction to entertain and speculate at the same time.”

“Shine left me feeling like a cat lazing in the sunshine, happy and inspired.  It’s vital and relevant, an almost living thing.  If it’s not looked back on as a significant early step on a new path for sci-fi – along with The Apex Book of World SF – I’d be surprised.”

“One thing that does deserve significant praise, though, is the international scope of the stories. The solutions, the hope, comes from around the world, from Africa to South America to Asia to Europe to North America.  There’s no focus on a single continent or culture. I think, perhaps, that’s what makes the collection so inspiring.”

“Whilst a great number of Sci-Fi books look at the darkside of mankind’s future, this offering Edited by De Vries really does look at some of the positive aspects of what is yet to come. Its put together with a lot of raw new talent and as such allows a reader the chance to try new people for a relatively cheap price. A great deal all round and back that up with the different angle it’s a real gem of a title to own.
Great Stuff.”

Finally, while the indefatiguable Charles A. Tan has interviewed almost all authors of the SHINE anthology on SF Signal, he missed one. Who? Find out in “The Lost Interview” coming here and at DayBreak Magazine soon…

SHINE excerpts: “The Church of Accelerated Redemption”

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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 sixth one: “The Church of Accelerated Redemption” by Gareth L. Powell & Aliette de Bodard:

With a sigh, she closed her father’s mail. She knew she should call him but her migraine wouldn’t go away, and she couldn’t banish the image of the Bedouin-scarf man from her thoughts, and the sheer incongruousness of his presence at the demonstration.

On a whim, she opened her browser. A few clicks took her from the portal of Paris’ Préfecture to a list of the demonstrations that had been planned for the day, with an interactive map showing their itineraries, agreed routes, and some general background information on the causes they supported.

Let’s see…

In the vicinity of the Church’s headquarters, there’d been one demonstration scheduled for the early morning: the bus drivers’ union protesting against the new automated, self-driving buses. But that had ended at eleven, and as far as she could see, it had nothing to do with the Church of Accelerated Redemption. She kept scrolling.

Ah, there it was…

From four in the afternoon until seven, a protest by the Extraordinary Sapience Committee against the opening of the Church of Accelerated Redemption’s new headquarters.

A quick search netted her the website of the ESC: a slick multi-media presentation merging immersive audio, 3D-animations and overlaid reports to state its case against the Church.

The Committee themselves were a loose online collective of like-minded geeks, freaks and hackers. They believed the Church’s weak AIs were capable of being upgraded into independent, free-thinking beings, and therefore subject to the same protections afforded to infants and children under French Law. The weak AIs — the ones beaming the exaflops of automated prayers into the stratosphere — might well be saving the souls of the Redemptionists, but according to the Committee, they were shown no gratitude and were treated worse than slaves or imprisoned sweatshop workers, kept on a tight leash and pre-programmed to cheerfully accept their lot in life.

There was a link on the homepage to the Committee’s bulletin boards which, when she clicked on it, opened a fresh treasure trove of controversy. There were discussion threads comparing the AI’s gel-based neural chassis with those of natural mammalian brains, and others arguing that the occasional spikes seen in their bandwidth corresponded to similar peaks seen in the human brain during intense emotional eruptions…

It had never occurred to Lisa to consider AIs as living beings. She’d always thought of them as simulations, complex computer programs designed to perform specific tasks. She’d had no idea so many people could get so worked up about defending their rights, and that they’d be so desperately trying to free them from bondage, the same way animal liberationists used to bust ill-treated dogs and cats from the world’s cosmetic labs. And she still didn’t see where the man with the Bedouin scarf fitted in at all. She’d seen a few men on the streets with that type of costume, but they had been old and conservative, unlikely to associate with angry young left-wing protesters. Hopelessly, she searched the rest of the boards, hoping to see a post from him — although she knew full well that she had no idea of his name or what he looked like under the scarf, and all the posters on the boards used aliases…

Excerpt from “The Church of Accelerated Redemption” by Gareth L. Powell & Aliettte de Bodard. Copyright © 2010 by Gareth L. Powell & Aliettte de Bodard.

Picture credits:

Gareth L Powell is a regular contributor to Interzone. His stories have appeared all over the world and been translated into seven languages. His first collection, The Last Reef, was published by Elastic Press in 2008 and Pendragon will publish his first novel, Silversands, in 2010. He lives in the English West Country with his wife and daughters and can be found online at: www.garethlpowell.com.


Aliette de Bodard is a French computer engineer who moonlights as a writer, with short fiction forthcoming or published in markets such as Asimov’sInterzone and Realms of Fantasy. She’s a Campbell Award finalist and a Writers of the Future winner. Watch out for her debut novel, the Aztec fantasy Servant of the Underworld, published by Angry Robot.

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with them at SF Signal.

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Review Quotes:

I looked first at The Church of Accelerated Redemption a collaboration between Gareth L Powell and Aliette de Bodard and found myself immediately sucked into their wonderfully intimate story of a computer engineer’s struggle with loneliness and discontent. I like Aliette’s writing having read parts of her novel Servant of the Underworld, yet in this story I found something altogether different — a main character whose search for meaning in a dead end job unexpectedly takes a turn she could not have predicted. Wonderful and full of promise, I liked her attitude and the fact that although she was pretty scared, she wasn’t too scared to grab a new future for herself.

SF Revu;

the marvellous The Church of Accelerated Redemption by Gareth L Powell and Aliette de Bodard, which tells of a computer engineer’s dissastisfaction with her life and the impulsive search for meaning within it that leads her to a very unexpected discovery;

Catherine Hughes;

The Church of the Accelerated Redemption gives those concerned with their effect on the environment the chance to earn back some karma via the use of ‘Artificial Intercessors’— sub-singularity AIs that pray on behalf of the Church’s sponsors. Both Gareth L Powell and Aliette de Bodard who wrote the story, have earned considerable reputations in their own right; in collaboration de Bodard brings scientific weight to the story, while Powell’s innate romanticism makes it soar. An outstanding early contender for Year’s Best lists.

Suite 101;

Shine has its share of good stories such as Overhead by Jason Stoddard and The Church of Accelerated Redemption by Gareth L. Powell and Aliette de Bodard.

Charles A. Tan;

The second personal favorite of the anthology, this story starts quietly enough with the struggles of Lisa a young American expatriate in Paris; seduced by the charm of the city, she remained after her university days to work as a hardware tech consultant for a French boss who does not particularly like her and gives her the worst jobs nobody else wants; one such job involves fixing some servers for a new cult, The Church of Accelerated Redemption, which has a crazy-sounding way to “redemption”, way that would seem quite over the top unless you read today’s headlines. When a demonstration against the exploitation of the AI’s that the church supposedly uses for the “accelerated” part, keeps Lisa in the church headquarters, she becomes fascinated by a mysterious protester dressed in Bedouin garb; she seeks him out and gets involved with — read the story to find out!

While not particularly ground-breaking, this one has an excellent style and Lisa is a very endearing character that you cannot stop rooting for.

Fantasy Book Critic;

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The Week in Tweet, Week 46

Stand inside the temple as @outshine is opening
The priestess stands before you, offering her handout, rising…

Monday November 9:

[Quote for the Monday] “Democracy is the superior form of government, because it is based on a respect for man as a reasonable being.”

[Source] John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 – 1963) / U.S. president / Why England Slept.

Tuesday November 10:

All the dumb excessive clichés of dope ‘n’ devil-worshippin’ thrash metal laid end to end without any dull bits in between. Simply glorious.

[#SoundBytes] ACCELERATED LIVING by Saviours —http://www.myspace.com/saviours666 / Kemado Records –http://www.kemado.com/.

Wednesday November 11:

She wakes to the gentle vibration of the roof changing angle to catch the sun, to the smell of hands-free cappuccino, to a doable Monday.

[Bio] Ben White edits @nanoism and writes @midnightstories.

Thursday November 12:

The James Michener of disaster flicks does a predictably banal apocalypse with an Arks-worth of characters and a cute dog.

[#Spitballs] 2012 / Directed by Roland Emmerich /http://www.whowillsurvive2012.com/.

Friday November 13:

[Quote for the Friday] “I am a woman who enjoys herself very much; sometimes I lose, sometimes I win.”

[Source] Mata Hari (1876 – 1917) / Dutch spy and dancer.

Saturday November 14:

I’d never felt so close to a pet, never felt the need to boast about a pet, and I’m not even fully dilated yet… can you see her head?

[Bio] Engineerish writer lost near Austin.

Sunday November 15:

Set a few years in the future, this inconsequential miniseries tosses aside Grant Morrison’s work with the character in favour of…nothing.

[#ShineComics] THE LAST DAYS OF ANIMAL MAN #1-#6 by Gerry Conway (script), Chris Batista (art); DC, 2009, $2.99 each.