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 love reading science fiction that evokes a believable and complete world, a world that I can imagine coming into being. Tobias S. Buckell’s two recent science-fiction thrillers created an utterly plausible future where the arctic is no longer frozen, where the Caribbean is a player as well as a place where players go, and where string after string of heavy weather is survived with aplomb by the ultra-rich who attend hurricane parties.
Arctic Rising is a fast-paced thriller with a pretty fascinating female protagonist. I loved it. Hurricane Fever follows it. However, the books are loosely coupled – they can be read in either order. They tell different stories, which are linked by one character, and by the shared world that all of the characters inhabit.
These books belong on the shelves of futurists who are interested in a world we are barreling toward, and by those who love James Bond and want to read about that kind of character operating in a less well-heeled part of the world.
I’ve been off discussing the future at the World Future Society this month. It’s a topic I engage in fairly regularly online and other places. This is the most important conversation we can have a society. Perhaps telling your family that you love them or walking your dog and chatting with neighbors is more important on some daily soul-building level. But I believe that dinner and water cooler and political conversations should be at least partly consumed by the tsunami of change we’re riding. Yet, I’m amazed at how often I am finding mistaken thinking or lack of thought around our future (including, I’m sure, in myself). I hear us carrying our own false knowledge forward or falling into sound-bite land. When I catch myself doing this, its usually because I haven’t taken time to stop, talk, and think.
We’re living in a decade when the rate of change is increasing quickly, and as we climb the curves of this change, the things we know become outdated really fast. Things we “know” become untrue a few years after they were the best truth we had available. For example, I was just talking to a friend about desalination, and she mentioned that it was very difficult to figure out what to do with the extra salt. I did some research and in fact, the leftover brine has been (and in some cases is) a problem. But plants in Tampa have figured out how to return it to the ocean safely, and others have suggested ways to perhaps use that salt on roads in the winter. This is a rather pedestrian example, but in many cases things that were problems have been turned to opportunity, or had acceptable workarounds created for them. It’s important to assume our knowledge at any given point is wrong, and to go proof it. The knowledge we thought we owned may no longer be true. It’s not new math, it’s a new world.
We spend a lot of time on the Internet, which means we’re bombarded by misinformation constantly. Depending on where we spend that time, the signal to noise ratio can be pretty awful. I’ve always tried to avoid commercial television because the commercials are created by people who spend a lot of money (a LOT of money) to influence my thinking. There’s no reason to assume I’m immune to that. The Internet appears to have MORE advertising than a typical half-hour TV show used to have. So it’s even more dangerous. Add the polarized political atmosphere and corporate money flowing into politics like an engorged river of lies, and we probably intake more junk than real information. Let’s take a non-pedestrian example this time. People have conflated a single company’s business practices (much of which I disagree with, but which aren’t actually as evil as they’re made out to be) with a whole technology, and have turned GMO foods and animals into evil, no matter who created them or for what. Yet we’re almost certainly going to need this tool in the fast-changing adjustable climate-dominated world of tomorrow. The vitriol, hover, is so thick that it’s nearly impossible to have a rational conversation even in places where the audience is generally rational and thoughtful. On the internet, lies abound, and truths get picked up and exaggerated until they become lies.
Knowledge itself is changing and lies are regularly presented to as facts. There isn’t much we can do about that – it’s an external reality. But we can stop and think and talk. We can take quiet meditative time. We can make ourselves read whole essays and articles instead of skimming them for titles. I started this post yesterday, partly in reaction to a sound-bite of mine which has been getting retweeted (“What we grow up knowing and what we will die knowing will be different.”) Yesterday morning, I read an excellent essay in the New York Times, “No Time to Think,” by Kate Murphy. She did a nice job of expanding on something that disturbs me. Often it feels like I get up, give myself half an hour to read or FaceBook over coffee, and then I’m off and running with no real stops until I pass out for the night. On a good day, I get in an hour of dog walking, which is good thinking time. Many days, even that is rushed.
The best thing we can do for the the future is to spend some time with it, either in quiet contemplation or in thoughtful conversation. We have big problems to solve, and running around distracted by someone else’s soundbites isn’t going to solve them. Stopping and thinking clearly is more likely to help.
This sharp, shocking book covers the anthropocene extinction. Kolbert neither flinches nor reprimands, which creates a very powerful read. I read her “Field Notes form a Catastrophe” years ago (and heard her talk out here somewhere – maybe at Town Hall?) and that book helped to convince me that climate change is happening faster than any of our models suggest. The sixth Extinction convinced me that extinctions are happening even faster than I thought, and helped me understand the varying nuances of the primary cause, which is, of course, us.
Kolbert gives us information she has been gathering in the field through a series of short and readable vignettes. These stories are then surrounded and peppered with additional information, creating good readability. I’m often a bit tired and stressed with all of the hats I wear, and it’s become rare for me to find non-fiction that keeps me flipping pages and reading “one more chapter.”
I highly recommend this book to my futurist and science fiction writing friends, as well a the animal lovers I know. Or really, any humans.
Somewhere around a dozen years ago, I was sitting in a bar in Eastern Washington. It could have been Lake Chelan or Yakima. I really don’t remember. But I do remember meeting two cowboys. Real cowboys (we still have them in the west). They weren’t talking about herds of cows over their beers. They were talking about fires. I still remember the older of the two describing a fire he’d worked the previous season where the ground had been torched so thoroughly and with so much heat that the the grass wouldn’t re-seed. They explained to me how they had to bring in bales of hay and scatter the hay across acres and acres of seared ground in order to restore the badly-needed grass. Without it, the burnt hills would have washed away during the winter.
I asked him why that fire was so bad.
Now, recall that this man is not a Seattle-area liberal. He’s wearing jeans worn smooth by saddle-leather on the inside of the thighs, he’s chewing tobacco, and if he doesn’t have a gun on him, he almost certainly has one in his truck. He says, “It’s climate change.”
At this point, I was just becoming interested in the topic, and I wanted to know how he came to that conclusion.
“Why, it’s pine beetles. Now that the winters are warmer, they’ve taken to infesting trees that they didn’t used to bother. The trees die, and a forest of dead trees makes a hot fire.”
How did he know it was about climate change? He’d spent every year working the same large farm. He knew change when he saw it, and he knew the difference between a bad year and change that settles in and stays.
I suppose part of why I remember that conversation so clearly is because my son is a wildland firefighter. A fire hot enough to sear the seed from the ground is frightening. It could sear people easily, and take houses and farms.
Multiple recent studies have backed up the cowboys’ story. A Seattle Times article from May of this year reported on the National Climate Assessment. The article said, “Warmer and drier conditions are already blamed for insect infestations and an increase in the number and ferocity of wildfires across the West since the 1970s. By 2080, the amount of forestland that burns every year in the Northwest is expected to quadruple, to 2 million acres.” Just last month, the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, suggested that the extreme wildfires that his state has experienced recently are caused by climate change. In 2013, Super-hot fires raced through Tasmania and New South Wales, Australia, fueled by the hottest and longest heat wave on record. Valparaiso, Chile, was almost completely razed by wind-whipped forest fire earlier this year.
Climate change is not the only cause of fire activity. Many ecosystems such as our own in the Pacific Northwest, and California chaparral, benefit from regular fires. The cycle of burn/renewal can be disrupted when we fight wildfire so effectively that fuel builds up. Conscious fire management is going to be very important as we work toward a sustainable world.
Fire has always been with us, and without it much of modern human life might not have been possible. Our close relationship with fire has not historically extended to wildfire, but in the more controlled and gardened world of our future we may have to become masters of wildfire, both to adopt healthy wildfire as our friend and to mange the incidence of fire so hot that the seeds are seared from the soil.
As always, here are some links:
The World Future Society took a short parable of mine as an article for The Futurist Magazine. It was an interesting process to create it – they asked for what I interpreted as a more serious article, but this is what wanted to come out and play. I usually have more control of the tone of my writing than this, but they must have liked it since it showed up in their magazine and on their website. It may morph into the beginning of the Backing into Eden book which I hope to get to right after I finish Edge of Dark (my next novel).
I often do book recommendations. Seemed like time for a bit of a travel recommendation. This one is especially for science fiction writers and fans. The World Future Society’s annual meeting this year is themed “What if?” – a core question for science fiction fans, and certainly the starting question for many science fiction books and stories.
I’ve been helping them some with organizing the a science fiction symposium within the convention, and the speakers are fabulous.
In addition to the symposium, many of us will also be speaking in the other tracks of the conference. I’ll be there talking about my Backing into Eden concept blog, with a particular focus on ethics and GM animals.
So what happens when a techno-philospher, a volcano surfer, and a CIO walk into a bar…come to the World Future Society Science Fiction Symposium and you might just find out.
The conference is in Orlando in July, and registration is open. There’s even a discount if you sign up by the end of April. Join me for some of the best conversations of the year.
I live in Washington State, and all the news for the last two weeks has been the unthinkable Oso mudslide. Slides are not unusual here, although I have never heard of one with this much destructive force. It got me reflecting about the relationship between earth and water.
The desert near my parent’s home in Mesa, Arizona can do well with very little water while parched farmland turns into a spiderweb of empty cracks with the same amount of rainfall.
As the climate changes, soil changes. When the balance transforms dramatically, we can get flood or drought, and the soil – described by the World Wildlife foundation as, “the fragile skin of the Earth,” can change consistency or place and richness. It can become incapable of sustaining the same life that it was once in balance with.
Soil is complex. It’s made of eroded rocks, silt, sand, dead plants, living organisms, water and air. Soil composition varies from place to place, but always the basic elements are in a dance and the points of balance matter.
This series is about gardening the Earth, and if there is anything gardeners know, it’s to tend to the soil.
The US Department of Natural Resources suggests that we change our way of thinking, and begin to treat soil as an organism, that we imagine it as something that can experience health and disease, as something that can be nurtured. Something living. This is directly in line with the concept of humans as caretakers of the environment. So let’s explore some ways to do that:
Soil is critical. So is learning more about the world we walk on. Doing research for this blog series and general research on fracking, I’ve learned that there are living organisms far below the surface, some as far as two miles below the surface. We know almost nothing about these organisms, but to me they seem to be yet more proof of the tenacity of life. Perhaps they are the type of life that we will find on Mars some day, or even living on the moon. Perhaps they perform functions we need in order to have the right balance in the soil on the slopes above our houses.
Climate change management is about the air that we breathe, but it’s also about water and land, about the soil on which we walk and on which we depend for food. It’s about the earth we live on, and the land that we don’t want to have thundering down onto our heads and turning our houses to splinters.
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.