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An anthology of optimistic, near future SF

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!

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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;

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!

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

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

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.

SHINE reviews, part 2: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Things are moving so fast in the day job and with SHINE (I hope to announce where you can get DRM-free E-versions of the anthology soon, thanks to the people of Solaris Books working very hard on this behind the scenes), meaning I’m struggling to keep up.

Here’s a catch-up with some of the earlier reviews out there (I know: there are more recent reviews: I will post about those in a few days, otherwise this post will just burst out of its seams…;-). Cue to Ennio Morricone:

The Good:

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.

Outreach again! Make no mistake: if SHINE becomes one of the gateway drugs to lure innocent readers into SF, then I’m all the happier for it.

  • Sumit Paul-Choudhury at New Scientist proclaimed: ‘The near future looks brighter than ever‘, and while — like every other reviewer — he didn’t like certain stories (and interestingly this differs very much from reviewer to reviewer), in the end his thumbs are up:

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.

  • While Val (not his real name) at Val’s Random Comments admits that ‘I am by no means optimistic about the (near) future’, it does seem that SHINE won him over (even if only temporarily):

The diversity of the stories and the consistently high quality of this collection is testament to his passion for this project. Where some themed anthologies struggle to collect enough stories that fit the scope of the anthology well enough, Shine manages to make one statement out this diversity. It does not propose solutions to the world’s problems but it does offer hope that we’ll be able to climb out on that handbasket after all. A shining example of what positive thinking can achieve.

  • Jonathan Cowie at Concantenation took the trouble to write a lengthy review where he touches upon almost every aspect of the anthology (he told me at the SHINE launch party at Adyssey that it took him a full day to write it: it shows, and thanks). In the end, he’s quite positive about it:

More than enough tales to keep you satisfied. As I indicated, this is not a perfect collection (few are) but it did set itself very ambitious goals. Yet there are enough sufficiently good tales, if not outright hits, to say that this anthology does in its way markedly stand out from the crowd, and so serious SF readers will want to keep an eye out for it.

The Bad:

  • Well, the worst mention so far — on a good place, at that — isn’t that bad: Neville Hawcock of the Financial Times initially proclaims it (in his very short review) a ‘mixed result‘, and takes me to task for the intro- and outro tweets (“the tweets appended to each story are toe-curling”). But he also mentions the stories (which are considerably longer than the tweets) that he enjoyed:

But there are some strong stories: “Overhead”, Jason Stoddard’s sketch of a moon colony, is the best; Holly Phillips’s “Summer Ice”, set in a greener future metropolis, and Kay Kenyon’s “Castoff World”, also satisfy.

For any value of ‘bad’, I’ll take it.

The Ugly:

  • To be frank, Liviu Suciu’s review at Fantasy Book Critic isn’t actually bad (he rates SHINE a B+), and as any reviewer he’s totally entitled to his opinion and taste. The ‘ugly’ part I’m referring to is in an assumption he makes right in his first paragraph:

“Shine” is an anthology that comes with a lot of hype and an introduction that is utterly misleading — or maybe it’s me and Mr. de Vries having quite different definitions of the terms *sf* and *optimistic* — since what Shine is about is mostly *mundane near future sf* extrapolated from current headlines, or sometimes even yesterday’s headlines like carbon trading — and by optimistic, Mr. de Vries means something that to me is almost Utopian considering what human history teaches us [more…]

I have no problem with Liviu Suciu having a totally different view of *optimistic*: each to his own. However, I am *not* limiting the *definition* of SF to that of the near future: no, the theme of this particular anthology is — as clearly written above the huge “SHINE” letters on the cover — ‘an anthology of near-future optimistic SF’. Also, in  the introduction I write:

This was not an easy task, or as Jason Stoddard had it: ‘There’s nothing like taking on two kinds of impossible’

Impossible part 1 is getting SF authors to write an optimistic story. Impossible part 2 is getting them to write about the near future, which is immensely hard to do right, as well.

That Liviu Suciu doesn’t like near-future SF is also totally up to his taste and preferences. But at no point did I state that SF should be limited to *mundane near future SF*: that’s a bit like saying that Ellen Datlow, with her recent anthology Tails of Wonder, is limiting all of the genre to just stories about cats, or that John Joseph Adams, with The Living Dead (1 or 2) is limiting horror to just zombies.

Having said that, his verdict can be summarised as:

This being said, “Shine” starts with a bang with six stories that I enjoyed a lot and could not stop reading, but after that it became very hit and miss for me though several stories from the second part are quite touching but without the sf-nal intensity of the first ones.

More reviews (plenty more reviews) to be linked to soon. Stay tuned!

SHINE excerpt: “Sustainable Development”

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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 fifth one: “Sustainable Development” by Paula R. Stiles:

Normally, selling peanuts in Boubara is a job mothers send their children to do in the marché. As the spider heads up the steps into the bar, I try the usual way of calling a child—crooking my fingers at the robot. “Tsst! Petit! Viens ici!

The robot approaches me. Someone has left a carefully scrawled sign on the tray, “10 CFA par tas—10 Francs per pile.” Village prices. I pull out a 50 CFA coin for all five tas and toss it onto the tray.

The robot tilts the tray forward until the tas begin to slip. It probably has a weight measurement control inside that calculates the coin.

Prenez tous, grand merci—Take everything, thank you,” it says in a flat, metallic voice. I scoop up the tas and dump them on the dusty cement of the bar. After I empty the tray, the robot hurries off through the empty marché.

Talk about tech dumping. Who got the bright idea to dump intelligent robots in a small African village? My predecessor, that’s who. He got them to help the men grow cash crops. Scooping up my peanuts, I stand and follow it.

Excerpt from “Sustainable Development” by Paula R. Stiles. Copyright © 2010 by Paula R. Stiles.

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Possessing a quixotic fondness for difficult careers, Paula R Stiles has driven ambulances, taught fish farming for the Peace Corps in West Africa and earned a Scottish PhD in medieval history, studying Templars and non-Christians in Spain. She has also sold fiction to Strange Horizons, Writers of the Future, Jim Baen’s Universe, Futures, @outshine and other markets. She is Editor in Chief of the Lovecraft/Mythos ‘zine Innsmouth Free Press. You can find her at: http://www.geocities.com/rpcv.geo/other.html or on Twitter (@thesnowleopard).

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

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Review Quotes:

Sustainable Development by Paula R Stiles brought a huge smile to my face; in her future vision it is still the women who do all the hard work!

Catherine Hughes;

Sustainable Development by Paula R Stiles had me smiling. Very tongue-in-cheek and very clever, Stiles plays with stereotypes in a small, impoverished, African village where the men are seen never to be doing any of the hard work, but the women are constantly working and seemingly working themselves into the ground. It’s a very small story, but again it’s well edited and cleverly written, so that the final scene makes you smile that slow steady smile of happiness.

SF Revu;

Paula R. Stiles’ Sustainable Development envisions robots in unlikely roles in West Africa.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

A short and funny story with a twist about African women using considerable ingenuity to help with their backbreaking work.

Fantasy Book Critic;

Sustainable Development by Paula Stiles is a charming short tale of ‘appropriate’ technology in a less-developed nation.

Concatenation;

Sustainable Development by Paula Stiles, about robots taking over the “women’s work” of a West African village, is rather too much of a happily-ever-after story, especially given the social dislocations that often accompany sudden technological changes.

SciFi Wire;

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