Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crazy but Fairly Likely

What is going to happen if the predicted global warming occurs?

Paolo Bacigalupi is a sci-fi author writing out of Colorado. He is the author of the Nebula nominated Wind-Up Girl and a phenomenal book of short fiction entitled Pump Six and Other Stories. He also writes for an environmental rag, where he most have a lot of time to think about what will happen if the environment goes the wrong way.

If infrastructure goes the way of the dinosaur, Bacigalupi pretty much has it in the bag. It's likely that we will move quickly away from the fossil fuels that have caused so many problems. What happens though if we don't get an alternate system set up? Society has some major problems at this point. The basic pieces of American modern culture change quickly and drastically. Population crashes, we either all gather to urban areas, or disperse ourselves across the country in small bands. All support for the suburbs is eliminated. There will be massive movement of people.

Bacigalupi's stories are so cool because his explanation for the crash of society is solidly based on where we are now and what we won't have. His future allows for generipping and manipulation of entire species. The work is done on a computer powered by a treadle. Think about how much work it would take just to process a gene sequence.

Calories become extremely important. Anything that needs to be powered needs to be powered by wind, water, or as Bacigalupi posits the work of giant modified elephants that only purpose is to take the calories they burn and put them in giant "kink springs" that will effectively hold the joules.

Because the ability to burn calories in order to get power becomes essential to run any advanced technology, any one that can control food production puts themselves in a position of immense power. A company entitle AgriGene creates a weevil that will eat the grain that is powering society, at the same time creating a grain that is resistant to the same weevil that they engineered. I would guess that is a pretty decent way to create a monopoly. Paolo's writing is so slick.

Wind-up Girl is a most read. Pick it up! This is a novel of ideas that are probably a lot closer than we think. Maybe this will be the survival guide for the 22nd century.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brief Interview with Emma Clayton; Author of the Roar

Emma Clayton, the fabulous author of The Roar was gracious enough to answer questions that I posed to her. Thanks so much for taking the time Emma. If you haven't already, please take the time to pick up your own copy of The Roar. It was certainly one of my favorites from this last year.

If you wouldn’t mind, tell us a little bit about yourself (a short bio)?

I was born in 1968. My father was an officer in the RAF, so we moved a lot when I was small. He died when I was seven, while we were living in Gibraltar and I returned to England with my mother and brothers and lived in and around Oxford until recently.

At school I was quite shy, but really into books, comics, music, art and film. I read and drew a lot and played in bands. English and Art were my favourite subjects.

I left school when I was 16, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. At the time I was told you could only make a living out of art and English through graphic design or teaching, and neither of these appealed to me. It was only after I’d made friends with people working in comics and film that I realized there were more exciting paths to follow.

In my late teens, I trained as a Field Archaeologist. I spent a brief time working as a freelance illustrator, then I returned to education in my mid-twenties, studying film and screen writing. I wrote my first novel after the birth of my daughter when I was 26, and wrote The Roar several years later, while I was studying for a HND in Visual Communication.

How did you come to be a professional writer? Was there any one event that pushed you into the field?

While I was writing The Roar, I entered the first three chapters of an early draft into a competition organized by the bookseller, Waterstone’s and the publisher, Faber and Faber. The competition was called, ‘The Wow Factor’ and the prize was a publishing deal. I entered because I wanted to test my manuscript before sending it to agents and luckily, it reached the shortlist. This gave me the confidence to approach my agent, Sophie Hicks, who secured my publishing deal with Chicken House and Scholastic.

I would recommend competitions to new writers. It’s a great way to get your work read by the right people.

Do you ever tire of people comparing your work to other books in similar genres?

No. When ‘The Roar’ was first compared to ‘Ender’s Game,’ I was surprised more than anything, because like many writers before me, I thought I’d come up with an original idea! After I’d read ‘Ender’s Game’ I felt humbled to dust, because it’s such a great book. However, when I thought about it, I realized Orson Scott Card and I were exploring a similar idea in very different times. Orson Scott Card wrote the first version of ‘Ender’s Game’ over thirty years ago, in 1977, when virtual environments and computer games didn’t exist. I am writing for young people in a world dominated by them. I was trying to create an environment that worked as an interface between games, films and books and would consequently encourage young people to read. Orson Scott Card was visionary. I am responding to a culture that exists. I find this very interesting.

The Roar is also compared to The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. I did wonder while I was writing my book if I was part of a movement - whether there were other writers out there exploring similar ideas. The Roar was published in the UK at the same time as The Hunger Games in the US, and we were both observing a media obsessed world. It feels exciting to be part of this new wave in youth literature and I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games.

In terms of logistics, when can expect the new book?

I’m still writing it, so I’m afraid I don’t know yet!

If you could deliver one important message to the world, what would that be?

People have already said much smarter things than I ever will. One of my favourite quotes opens The Whisper, the sequel to The Roar.

‘War does not determine who is right, only who is left.’

Bertrand Russell