I spent the last week vacationing in the Mexican Riviera Maya, which runs from Cancun west along the Caribbean sea. The first time I came here, in 1998, a long somewhat sleepy highway ran along the coast and hand-made signs led to beach locations. We stayed in a small hotel, the Blue Parrot Inn in Playa Del Carmen. There was only one large resort in Playa, and another under construction at that time, and the tourist road, 5th avenue, was somewhat sleepy. The population of Playa was under 40,000 people. Playa has since grown so that it resembles a smaller and lower version of Cancun, which is a nightmare of a place where humans ruined a beautiful, ecologically critical location by scattering bits of Las Vegas across a pristine beach, although there is more city planning and residents are proud of the three story height limit. Today there over 150,000 residents. Almost all of this growth is fed by the tourist industry.
On this trip, I stayed in the Princess Riviera Maya, which is one of a long string of resorts that follows the coast, as if someone had taken a hundred cruise ships or more, split them open, and folded them out flat. Huge busses show up in lines every morning and take people to Mayan theme parks, snorkeling locations, and ruins like Chitzen Itza and Tulum.
One of my best memories from the first trip was when my son (who turned eighteen that year) and I went snorkeling in Akumal. At the time, it was a sleepy seaside Mexican town only a little swelled by ex-pats and dive shops. I remember that it had out large tourist hotel. Essentially, we simply drove up near the beach, parked, and walked across blazing white sand to the ocean. We were immediately surrounded by huge sparkling schools of multicolored fish, so many that it looked like a river of fins. The reef below us was full of purple and red and orange and brown. Colorful life blossomed and swam and moved everywhere we looked. Sea turtles and angelfish and parrotfish, barracuda and a hundred other species we had no names for. The ocean was full to bursting. We were enchanted.
I believe there were no more than about ten others snorkeling the beach the day we were there.
I didn’t get to Akumal on our middle trip, but I went there on this trip, with our family eighteen-year-old for whom I am a handy extra adult. The large schools of glittering fish were gone. Most of the color had faded, at least if my memory serves me at all. The quiet was certainly gone…the entire bay is ringed with high-end resorts and tourist shopping and restaurants. Most Mexicans can no longer afford to live there. We did see a number of turtles, a single barracuda (very big!), two rays, and some squid. I spotted one parrotfish, a few yellow angels, and a number of smaller and less distinctive fish. The coral was almost all brown and white, with a few pale purple colors.
We shared the water with hundreds of people. Hundreds. I would bet a thousand people snorkeled there the day we did.
It has become wholly unrecognizable as the place which enchanted David and I almost two decades ago. The picture above is what happens to sea turtles when one is spotted: snorkelers float nearby and watch for up to two minutes, being careful not to come too close to the turtles. Our guide made sure we were careful. In spite of that, I felt intrusive. This must happen to each turtle something like a fifty times a day.
Our guide, Gil, grew up in Akumal. He now lives on the other side of the large, busy highway and yet he can still be found on the Akumal beaches almost every day. He is part of a collective working to save the bay, and to save the turtles. The collective works together to take snorkeling trips out, to monitor people’s behavior and make sure they resect the coral and the turtles. They share any money they make evenly between all of the guides in the collective.
According to Gil, the bay was even worse a few years ago, and it is now rebounding. We watched for turtles who had not yet been tagged – which meant that they were new young ones who appear as juveniles (apparently there is a specific set of juvenile years that the turtles spend in Akumal eating a specific sea grass). We saw at least two, maybe three untagged turtles. Gil reported that the turtle population last year was about fifty-five and that now it may be sixty or more. He is very proud of the work that he and his collective are doing, much of which seems to be managing tourists in such a way as to create a win-win situation. Others in Akumal protect nesting sites, herd baby turtles to the beach, and help educate the tourists.
In spite of how the differences in the reef saddened me, this was a real and unexpected “Backing in Eden” moment for me. The entire bay is known and mapped. Almost every turtle is tagged, and they get a yearly doctor’s visit. A fragile and nearly–destroyed ecosystem is beginning to bounce back. The locals are in on the preservation efforts, and my be driving them. The turtle’s chances of survival are increasing.
As always, more links for you to follow. Fewer than usual since the connectivity down here is nasty and I didn’t need to go the Internet for the lesson. The one came to me in person.
Centro Ecologico Akumal: https://www.facebook.com/CEA.AKUMAL
A great tale of the work being done in Akumal http://www.sac-be.com/a_day_of_sea_turtle_conservation.shtml
Interesting because it talks about conservation and the reviews, of course, are written by tourists. http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g499445-d2522660-Reviews-Centro_Ecologico_Akumal-Akumal_Yucatan_Peninsula.html#REVIEWS
The tour company I went with, Local Quickies, which seems reasonably ecologically conscious. http://www.localquickies.com/index.html
Skiffy an Fanty asked me to post about the current topic of the day – women in science fiction. My thoughts are now posted over at their site – please do drop by and read. If you want to include this as part of the meta-coversation, please post this on social media and comment etc.
I also have in Interview up at SFFWORLD.
Chapter One is up at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist.
Chapter Two is up at Civilian Reader.
I’m pleased with this duology, and very happy to see book one go off into the world. I’ve been on retreat working on book two, and the meta-story is coming along really well. I’m really pleased to have this part of it available.
Here’s what people are saying about it so far:
“Playing God is dangerous: Edge of Dark is an intelligent, thoughtful look at what it might mean to coexist with superior AIs that we ourselves have created. Brenda Cooper’s universe is detailed, inventive, and ultimately dazzling. I will remember Chrystal for a very long time.”
—NANCY KRESS, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula awards
“Edge of Dark is bold, immersive, boundary-pushing sci-fi; a new breed of transhuman space opera. It asks all the right questions: What’s the line between human and posthuman? How would immensely enhanced creatures treat mere humans? And how would we baseline humans view them—as our successors, our future selves, or our exterminators? Whatever opinion you enter this book with, it’ll surprise you. Read it.”
—RAMEZ NAAM, author of Nexus and Crux
I’ve got a number of appearances coming soon. The first is at the University Bookstore on the 4th of March. This will be my first public reading of Edge of Dark where the book is actually available. So it’s pretty much to launch party. Come on down! I’d love to have a full house of friends for this.
The very next week, I’ll be in Portland on Monday the 9th at Powell’s Cedar Hills Crossing. I don’t often get a chance to read in Portland; this is a rare appearance!
After that, I’ll be at Norwescon 38, April 2nd – 4th, where I will be on a number of panels and will have a readings.
I’m super excited to announce (finally!) the launch day for my very first Kickstarter. I’ve backed 50 (yes, 50) Kickstarter projects. They’ve varied from my Pebble watch to my friend’s books, from expensive things I haven’t yet gotten (but almost certainly will) to perfectly delivered delights. Only 5 have failed to fund. And here I am leaping into the Kickstarter water. At least I’m not going in alone – there’s six of us! How lucky can a writer be?
The project: Six by Six. That’s six fabulous stories from each of six writers. The writers include me, Tina Connelly (one of our SFWA readers and the author of the very enjoyable “Ironskin” and two sequels), the Hugo winner Will McIntosh, Stephen Gaskell (who’s work brought me to tears once when Kate Baker read Paper Cradle), well-known fantasist Martha Wells, and Bradley P. Beaulieu, who has been our guiding light on this project (I believe I have read ALL of his books so far, which is a big deal – I don’t read that much fantasy).
Which leads me to my secret for this project – my six stories are all fantasy. Most people think of me as a science fiction writer, but about a quarter of my short work in fantasy. Here, I am pleased to present six linked stories set in a world I call the High Hills. The world-building is based on some of the most magical moments of my teenaged years, when I worked at the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach.
I hope that you give us a chance and back us, and I promise that between the six of us, there will be stories that you love. And I want to also shout out to Julie Dillon, who’s art is being used for the Kickstarter (with permission, of course).
I spent Wednesday – Friday of last week working on a far brighter side of gaming than gamergate. In support of its mission to eradicate poverty, the World Bank has been deploying a game called Evoke, which is designed to engage young adults in developing countries with social good issues. They used a hackathon to start the next round of game stories. The Bank gathered science fiction writers, topical experts, curriculum designers, and artists around grey industrial tables with power cords hanging overhead, a maker space right next door, and plentiful moderately bad coffee.
Each team worked on a topical “big” issue from conservation through nuclear disarmament (Remember the nukes? Some of us do. Viscerally. But millennials may not).
The hackathon designers drew authors from the Hieroglyph anthology inspired by Seattle superpower Neal Stephenson, with the apt addition of Kim Stanley Robinson. Participants included Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn (the editors), Kathleen Ann Goonan, Karl Schroeder, James Cambias, and me. Academics and experts came from multiple Universities and from the Bank itself. Every table had an artist; they might have been the most amazing people there. Worlds and characters were drawn into life very quickly.
Each team produced about 8 pages worth of graphic story, and a number of tasks to accompany it. Some groups proposed linking the game to the player’s real world.
Will these games work?
That’s tough to say. But they very well might. It seems that the linkage to the real world will matter. For example, if someone gaming about literacy can read to someone else, there could be an extra win.
Another trick will be creating engaging experiences. Each table might have benefitted from one more person: an actual game designer from a commercially successful game. Perhaps designers from Zynga, Bungee, and Valve.
Some episodes of Evoke are already in use. If the game continues to get better and grow its base, the payoff could be fabulous. Many target players are in countries with broken education systems. Interactive games could provide a window into a world where players can connect with the global community and global mentors so that they become armed with new knowledge and skills, as well as a feeling of empowerment.
It’s hard to create compelling entertainment with an agenda. But it’s possible. I’m very pleased that the World Bank did this, and that they invited me to play a small part. I wish them all the success in the world.
The Hieroglyph anthology was born in Arizona and nurtured at ASU, at the Center for Science and the Imagination. The center is an academic effort to mash up SF writers and scientists and see what comes out. Hieroglyph is one child of the center. This anthology of ambitious near-future SF was goosed along by Neal Stephenson’s poke at society about how much trouble we have building big things, or “moonshot projects”. We writers chatted together on a board that included scientists, and had a grand time writing about big ideas.
There are two events coming soon….
There’s one on October 22nd at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s going to be a fun series of short talks about the big ideas in the book, and the cast of writers will be awesome. I’ll be there (and yes, I’ll talk!). Madeline Ashby, Kim Stanley Robinson, James L. Cambias, Kathleen Ann Goonan, and Karl Schroeder will also all be on stage, as well as the editors Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn, and physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies. That’s a lot of smart, fun people in the room with a lot of big ideas. It’s essentially free if you buy the book and you get a second person in for $5.00 if it sounds like date-night. You really do want to the book — there are some great stories in Hieroglyph, and a lot of big-idea optimistic thinking as well. If you’re going, tickets will be available at the door if it doesn’t sell out, but it might be smarter to get them in advance.
In Seattle, there are rumors that a few tickets might be had if you stand in line outside of the sold-out Town Hall event there on Sunday the 26th, where Neal Stephenson and Cory Doctorow will hold a conversation about the future. Town Hall is an amazing venue that hosts talks about a ton of culturally relevant ideas. I’ve been to about a dozen events there, and liked every one of them.
We had both heard Nancy read from the beginning of this novella at Worldcon in San Antonio, and been hungry for the rest of the story ever since. Gisele finished and let me pry the ARC out of her hands. I devoured it on the plane. My plane ticket is still stuck in the last page. I’ve just been waiting until people could get it before I wrote up a recommendation.
Yesterday’s Kin is a fabulous look at first contact through the eyes of a family. Like all of Nancy’s work, the characterization and the science is impeccable, and the story so well done that I was sad when it was over. Nancy delivers a complete package, and shows her chops as one of our best modern science fiction writers.
I can’t say too much without delivering spoilers, but this is well worth your time.
I’m really excited about the release of the Hieroglyph anthology. I enjoyed the process of researching and writing my story, and I’m tickled to be part of the project. The table of contents is fabulous, and includes many of my favorite writers. Here’s a bit of the description from the back cover:
“Born of an initiative at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, this remarkable collection unites a diverse group of celebrated authors, prominent scientists, and creative visionaries–among them Cory Doctorow, Gregory Benford, Charlie Jane Anders, David Brin, and Neal Stephenson–who contributed works of “techno-optimism” that challenge us to imagine fully, think broadly, and do Big Stuff.”
–Official site: http://hieroglyph.asu.edu
–Free Excerpt on Scribd: http://www.scribd.com/book/237106434/Hieroglyph
PLACES TO BUY A COPY:
–William Morrow/HarperCollins: http://bit.ly/hieroglyph2014
I’ve got a story out in a new anthology that I wanted to be sure people don’t miss. It’s called “Coming Soon Enough,” and the anthology has six stories — by Nancy Kress, Mary Robinette Kowal, Greg Egan, Cheryl Rydbom, Geoffrey Landis, and me. It’s really very well done and I very much enjoyed the stories by the other authors (and had fun writing mine). You can get it online in the kindle store for 1.99. As far as I can tell it’s only available in electronic format at this moment. Stephen Cass edited the anthology. As a bonus, it’s also nicely illustrated.
I am a writer, public speaker, and a futurist. I’m interested in how new technologies might change us and our world, particularly for the better.
I’m excited about my most recent book series, a duology called “Ruby’s Song” which includes the books The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep, both published by Pyr. I’m also doing a non-fiction blog series, Backing into Eden, which comes out roughly twice a month and explores ways to care for the world, now and in the future.