Archive for SHINE excerpts
Since several award nomination time slots just opened, I will list the Shine stories that are eligible (well, all of them except “Summer Ice” which is a reprint), with their word count.
Short stories (less than 7500 words):
- The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up — Jacques Barcia: 7000 words (excerpt);
- Sustainabe Development — Paula R. Stiles: 1000 words (excerpt);
- The Solnet Ascendancy — Lavie Tidhar: 3400 words (excerpt) + (podcast);
- Twittering the Stars — Marie Ness: 6400 words (excerpt);
- Seeds — Silvia Moreno-Garcia: 1700 words (excerpt) + (full story @ HUB);
- Scheherazade Cast in Starlight — Jason Andrew: 1000 words (excerpt);
- Castoff World — Kay Kenyon: 5200 words (excerpt) + (podcast) + (full story @ io9);
- Paul Kishosha’s Children — Kenn Edgett: 7000 words (excerpt);
Novelettes (7500 – 17500 words):
- The Earth of Yunhe — Eric Gregory: 8000 words (excerpt) + (podcast);
- Overhead — Jason Stoddard: 9800 words (excerpt);
- The Church of Accelerated Redemption — Gareth L. Powell & Aliette de Bodard: 10,000 words (excerpt);
- At Budokan — Alastair Reynolds: 8200 words (excerpt);
- Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic — Gord Sellar: 10,000 words (excerpt) + (podcast @ StarShipSofa);
- Russian Roulette 2020 — Eva Maria Chapman: 10,000 words (excerpt);
- Ishin — Madeline Ashby: 9000 words (excerpt);
Excerpts of every story + four podcasts + two full stories online. If I give away anything more, the publisher will strangle me…;-)
Thanks everybody for your consideration.
Now, to spice things up a little. I came across three real-life events — sometimes via/via — that do have links to a few Shine stories.
First, via an article in the Guardian about how ‘green’ the UK’s coalition government (who promised to be “the greenest government ever”) actually is, I came upon this documentary: “The World According to Monsanto“, about the power politics of this huge GM company. It reminded me immediately of the fictional company Germingen in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Seeds“.
Second, a Facebook post of (someone whose name escapes me: my apologies!) linked to an article on the New York Times’ Opinionator: “To Beat Back Poverty, Pay the Poor“. Indeed, successful government programs for that are running in Mexico (where “Seeds” is set) and in Brazil: which immediately brought the opening section of Jacques Barcia’s “The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up” (which takes place in a Brazil that is much less poor).
Third, directly from the Guardian: “Nigeria: the Happiest People on Earth“. Counterintuitive, right? With all this trouble in the Niger delta where Shell is exploring oil? The country of the same-titled internet scams? And immense poverty?
Well, read the article: it’s not only doom and gloom, and these people are trying to change things for the better. And they keep a positive outlook throughout, just like the women in Paula R. Stiles’ “Sustainable Development“. In the Gallup Poll “Global Barometer of Hope and Despair for 2011” (opens PDF: the ‘Net Hope’ scores are on page 61) Nigeria ranks highest, with a score of 70. Vietnam (61) and Brazil and Ghana (both 47) are numbers two and three. France ranks as the most desperate: a negative score of -58, followed by Iceland (-51), Romania (-47) and the UK (-44).
If anything, that poll demonstrates that money doesn’t (necessarily) make you happy.
UPDATE 1: via John Shirley (on Facebook) I was pointed to this MSNBC article: “US Building a Network to Hit Militants“, about the use of drones. A few quotes:
Its targeting advice will largely direct elite special operations forces in both commando raids and drone missile strikes overseas.
Several military intelligence officials said the center is the brainchild of JSOC’s current commander, Vice Adm. Bill McRaven, who patterned it on the success of a military system called “counter-network,” which uses drone, satellite and human intelligence to drive operations on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a senior U.S. official reached Wednesday.
Which immediately reminded me of Madeline Ashby’s “Ishin“, in which a more positive application of the same technology is explored. Picture of the Predator Drone courtesy of the Support Daniel Boyd’s Blog, which has this choice quote:
The “pilots” say that the greatest problem is stress from “detachment.”
Which is exactly what one of Ishin‘s protagonists — Brandon — is suffering from. Hell of a well-researched and finely wrought story, that becomes more relevant by the day.
UPDATE 2: via de Volkskrant, I found “Young Children Share the Spoils” on Psychological Science. This research seems to suggest that sharing is innate. So I couldn’t help but think of Holly Phillips’s “Summer Ice“, where Manon shares a lot with the new community she’s moved into, and it pays back (with dividends).
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 eighth one: “Twittering the Stars” by Mari Ness:
Note 1: Indeed, it’s a story told completely in tweets, and like the Twitter website, the most recent tweets show up on top. Yet, “Twittering the Stars” is written in such a way that you can read it in either direction (from top to bottom or vice-versa) and it still works beautifully.
Note 2: Our current astonauts are already using Twitter, sending twitpics from the International Space Station (via BoingBoing; via io9) from astronauts Jose Hernandez (@Astro_Jose) and Souichi Noguchi (@Astr_Soichi), who are both on Twitter. Simply breathtaking, indeed!
Note 3: when I was thinking about a name for the online magazine accompanying the Shine anthology, ‘Dawn’ immediately came to mind, but eventually I figured ‘DayBreak’ worked a bit better. I wasn’t aware of the ‘Dawn’ spacecraft concept — pictured below the excerpt — that NASA was (is?) developing for solar system exploration.
@the28thkarenbear Well, being the sweetest out of 6 doesn’t mean much.
6:54 pm March 13th, 2052 from distweet in reply to the28thkarenbear
@the28thkarenbear AWW. You are the sweetest person on the planet.
5:23 pm March 11th, 2052 from distweet in reply to the28thkarenbear
I probably could concoct some alcoholic thing from my plants, but probably not the best idea.
1:19 pm March 10th, 2052 from distweet
Still, if you’re reading this, please respond. Just so that I don’t feel so alone.
10:42 am March 8th, 2052 from distweet
Right. Keep forgetting that it now takes hours for my tweets to reach you and hours for you to respond.
10:42 am March 8th, 2052 from distweet
Is anybody reading this? Anybody?
7:18 pm March 7th, 2052 from distweet
I wish all of you could see this with me.
3:01 am February 26th, 2052 from distweet
Slightly upsetting to realize that a supernova is much brighter than Earth, but it’s so beautiful.
5:18 pm February 23rd, 2052 from distweet
We’re watching the Betelgeuse supernova too. It’s—I can’t tell you how spectacular it is from here. Only the sun is brighter.
5:16 pm February 23rd, 2052 from distweet
To make up for it, A had pictures of little red envelopes on our hand screens, that exploded into fireworks when we thumbed over them.
8:03 pm January 23rd, 2052 from distweet
A celebrated Chinese New Year today by opening every door on the ship. I think she just wanted to catch T naked.
8:02 pm January 23rd, 2052 from distweet
Sorry for the long silence. Just finding that I don’t have much to say. I’m caught in the silence of stars.
4:02 pm October 12th, 2051 from distweet
@frogheart29 My first niece! Congratulations! I wish I could hold her. Show her pictures of me for me, will ya?
7:43 pm May 17th, 2051 from distweet in reply to frogheart29
And when the plants are growing, they’re growing in weird directions.
12:49 pm May 5th, 2051
@loucheroo Oh, we’re fine for food even without the garden. I just miss biting into a real tomato, you know?
12:42 pm May 5th, 2051 from distweet
I think the plants know we’re leaving the sun.
10:31 am May 4th, 2051 from distweet
The garden isn’t producing as much as expected. We should have everything—real soil, water, fertilizer, robot pollinators—
10:31 am May 4th, 2051 from distweet
I keep finding myself looking out the portholes in the gardens and labs and in our living area, and wanting to sing to the stars.
6:02 pm April 23rd, 2051 from distweet
Trying to figure out how K passed the psych tests to get on here. I know, double PhD, quan comp/eng, 8 years Chinese Air Force. Still.
3:22 am March 27th, 2051 from distweet
Ok, our worst mistake? Letting R bring along his horror film collection. In space no one can hear you scream. Yeah, right.
4:06 am March 7th, 2051 from distweet
I say I keep everyone breathing.
10:13 pm February 26th, 2051 from distweet
T says he keeps everyone alive. Not that anyone’s needed a doctor yet, and we haven’t seen him do anything else except watch the stars.
10:12 pm February 26th, 2051 from distweet
A says she’s the only one with mission for the entire trip. The rest of us stop after we mine the iridium/lithium.
10:12 pm February 26th, 2051 from distweet
K and R say they are piloting the ship. Without them, no iridium/lithium.
10:11 pm February 26th, 2051 from distweet
Major fight broke out over who has the most important job on the ship. M says lithium entire point of trip.
10:11 pm February 26th, 2051 from distweet
Sigh. SOME people have no idea how to share living quarters. You’d think a doctor of all people would be less of a slob.
8:11 pm January 24th, 2051 from distweet
- Earth & Moon picture: astronaut Jose Hernandez of the ISS;
- Supernova: via Grant Chronicles;
- Dawn Spacecraft: via Wikimedia Commons;
Mari Ness lives in central Florida, and likes to watch space shuttles and rockets leap into the sky. Her work has previously appeared in numerous print and online venues, including Fantasy Magazine, Hub Fiction and Farrago’s Wainscot. She’s still hoping to spend time in a space station some day.
I started reading the story from the beginning… then realised that it’s written in the present and what I really should do is start at the end of the story and read forward! Make sense? (It will if you tweet yourself) And I loved it. Cleverly constructed, the author manages to tell a heartbreaking story across the time period of four years. We see the main character go from an over-excited and slightly egotistical botanist going on a space mission to a deeply thoughtful, sad and very humane being. A very clever piece of writing and one I’d recommend.
One of the most original stories I’ve read in years is Twittering the Stars by Mari Ness, which is constructed entirely of tweets (messages of 140 characters or less) and tells the story of a deep space crew mining lithium and iridium – and a discovery that will change them all forever.
and my personal favourite, Twittering the Stars by Mari Ness: an account of a space expedition, told as a series of tweets.
Twittering the Stars really made me think about how we tell our stories.
In the case of Mari Ness’ Twittering the Stars, the literary constraint is structural. What could have been little more than a gimmicky format (the clue is in the name) is used to break a tale of unlucky asteroid miners into pithy, revealing chunks that comprise a grippingly personal narrative.
Mari Ness offers a formally challenging tale of an astronaut gardener’s tweets, and the messages are even presented in reverse chronological order, which makes for an evocative experience. “Discussion over what to do with T’s body” is just one of many powerful lines, but the story is hurt by an uninspired little fart of a title: Twittering in Space.
(Editor’s note: actual title is Twittering the Stars.)
Twittering the Stars by Mari Ness could be interpreted as gimmicky due to its use of the Twitter format but Ness makes the most out of her medium. The story immediately engulfs you in the drama and wins you over to the protagonist’s side. What’s deceptive about the piece is that it’s quite lengthy but because Ness uses Tweets, it doesn’t feel overbearing. Another bonus is that the story could be read in reverse order and would still be just as relevant.
A second story I want to mention is Twittering the Stars by Mari Ness. De Vries is apparently a big fan Twitter. He mentions the medium a number of times in the introductions to the various stories. I’m not a great fan my self, I will sacrifice knowing things now to knowing them in a bit more detail at a time of my own choosing but you can’t deny it’s popularity. Ness wrote a story that is completely conveyed in the form of Tweets and starts with the newest message at the top. The story is that of a space ship returning to earth after visiting the asteroid belt. Clearly something has going wrong en route and we gradually work our way back to the point where we find out what. This story can be read in the reverse order as well and that makes it pretty unusual. It’s a very interesting and quite succesfull experiment in using such a new medium for literary purposes.
The one story I disliked immensely for its twitter format; for me this kind of short paragraphs interspersed with the twitter paraphernalia is annoying in the extreme; otherwise the content seemed interesting enough with a space expedition and some biology experiments, but I just hate fiction formatted like that…
An interactive map of SHINE anthology story locations:
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.
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:
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
- Waterfall West Vanua Lava: via Panoramio;
- Solnet logo: via Solnet in Switzerland;
- Solar panel: via University of Lleida;
- Stones: via Aeschlih;
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.
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.
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.
[…] 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
An interactive map of 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 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.
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.
- Artificial Intelligence: via AI and Philosophy of Mind (or/and mind uploading: via Accelerating Future);
- Préfecture de Paris: via Wikimedia;
- Bedouin Scarf: via Flickr (!Shot by Scott!);
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’s, Interzone 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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
An interactive map of 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 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.
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).
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!
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.
Paula R. Stiles’ Sustainable Development envisions robots in unlikely roles in West Africa.
A short and funny story with a twist about African women using considerable ingenuity to help with their backbreaking work.
Sustainable Development by Paula Stiles is a charming short tale of ‘appropriate’ technology in a less-developed nation.
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.
An interactive map of 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 fourth one: “Summer Ice” by Holly Phillips:
The art school can’t afford to pay her much. The people who run the place are her hosts as much as her employers, the work space they give her counts as half her salary. She has no complaints about the room, tall, plaster-walled, oak-floored, with three double-hung windows looking north and east up a crooked street, but her tools look meager in all this space. She feels meager herself, unable to supply the quantity of life the room demands. Create! the bare walls command. Perform! She carries the delicate lattice of yesterday’s images like a hollow egg into the studio, hopeful, but cannot decide where to put it down. Paper, canvas, clay, all inert, doors that deny her entry. She paces, she roams the halls. Other people teach to the sound of industry and laughter. She teaches her students as if she were teaching herself how to draw, making every mistake before stumbling on the correct method. Unsure whether she is doing something necessary or cowardly, or even dangerous to her discipline, she leaves the building early and walks on grass and yellow poppies ten blocks to her other job.
During the years of awkward transition from continental wealth to continental poverty, the city’s parks were abandoned to flourish or die. Now, paradoxically, as the citizens sow green across the cityscape these pockets of wilderness are being reclaimed. Lush lawns have been shoved aside by boisterous crowds of wild oats and junipers and laurels and manzanita and poison oak and madrone and odorous eucalyptus trees shedding strips of bark and long ribbon leaves that crumble into fragrant dirt. No one expects the lawns to return. The city does not have the water to spare. But there are paths to carve, playgrounds and skateboard parks and benches to uncover, throughways and resting places for a citizenry traveling by bike and foot. It’s useful work, and Manon mostly enjoys it, although in this heat it is a masochistic pleasure. The crew she is assigned to has been working together for more than a year, and though they are friendly people she finds it difficult to enter into their unity. The fact that she only works with them part-time does not make it easier.
Today they are cleaving a route through the wiry tangle of brush that fills the southwest corner of the park. Bare muscular branches weave themselves into a latticework like an unsprung basket, an organic form that contains space yet has no room for storage. Electric saws powered by the portable solar generator buzz like wasps against dead and living wood. Thick yellow sunlight filters through and is caught and stirred by dust. Birds and small creatures flurry away from the falling trees. A jay chooses Manon to harangue as she wrestles with a pair of long-handled shears. Blisters start up on her hands, sweat sheets her skin without washing away debris, and her eye is captured again and again by the woven depths of the thicket, the repeated woven depths hot with sun and busy with life, the antithesis of the cold layered ice of yesterday. She drifts into the working space that eluded her in the studio, and has to be called repeatedly before she stops to join the others on their break.
Edgar says, “Do you ever get the feeling like they’re just growing in again behind your back? Like you’re going to turn around and there’s going to be no trail, no nothing, and you could go on cutting forever without getting out?”
“We have been cutting forever,” Anita says.
“Like the prince who has to cut through the rose thorns before he can get to the sleeping princess,” Gary says.
“That’s our problem,” Anita says. “We’ll never get through if we have no prince.”
“You’re right,” Gary says. “All the other guys that tried got stuck and left their bones hanging on the thorns.”
“Man, that’s going to be me, I know it.” Edgar tips his canteen, all the way up, empty. “Well, come on, the truck’s going to be here in an hour, we might as well make sure it drives away full…”
The cut branches the crew has hauled to the curbside lace together like the growing chaos squared, all their leaves still a living green. As the other three drag themselves to their feet, Manon says, “Do you think anyone would mind if I took a few branches home?”
Her crewmates glance at each other and shrug.
“They’re just going to city compost,” Edgar says.
Manon thanks him. They go back to work in the heavy heat of late afternoon.
Excerpt from “Summer Ice” by Holly Phillips, originally appeared in The Palace of Repose. Copyright © 2005 by Holly Phillips.
Summer Ice by Holly Phillips is at once evocative and dreamy and maybe a bit sad — we follow the main character with the beautiful name of Manon, as she tries to come to grips with a new life in a new city. But this new city in turn is struggling to cope with the effects of climate change. It’s a beautifully uplifting story in which Manon realises that she’s not the outsider she feels herself to be, and that being part of a community is not too different from being part of a family.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the contemplative Summer Ice by Holly Phillips, a well-written and quiet story that could have been published in a leading literary journal if there weren’t just a mild hint of global warming in the background.
After the 3 very sfnal stories above, here is a tale of a painter that inspires a renewal in a run-down city. The main strength of Summer Ice is its great style and the story also works beautifully as a change of pace from the fast and furious of the previous three.
An interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology: