Science fiction survives on its metaphors, catching an echo from the human context then rifling current science for an image or chain of images to act as a correlative. The rationales behind this project (including the rationale that it’s all rational, the claim that the project has, or should have, more in common with scientific discourse than poetic, philosophical or political discourse) are less important to the general reader than the excitement of the found image. Science fiction is not read as a form of peer-reviewed publication.
Tag Archives: science fiction
She stood companionably next to him for a moment, hands on hips, looking around the mostly empty space as if oil-stained floors and fluorescent warning stripes held an innate interest for her. Epstein didn’t like the way she relaxed. She was too hard to avoid. Her tailoring occupied the warehouse like another personality: everything interested it, from a momentary change in Epstein’s breathing to the sound of footsteps half a mile away. Every time its attention shifted, he caught the rank, exciting smell of hormonal gradients. She would smile at you behind that as if remembering something sexual you had enjoyed together, while pictographs ran chaos patterns down the inside of her forearm, from elbow to wrist like print from the historical times. She was some cheap cutter’s idea of the future.
From Empty Space (excerpt here), third volume of the trilogy that began with Light and Nova Swing (winner of the Arthur C Clarke Award 2007). All three here & at Amazon US.
“That whole year, and to a lesser extent the year after, bodies were washed up all along that part of the coast, some whole, some in pieces … In the south of Autotelia, especially, it was a bad year for bodies; but the body of the vanished brother didn’t show up among them. Passive and silent, full of some incommunicable anger, the sister attempted suicide, spent time in institutions; then, her work suddenly becoming popular, left the country for a new life on our side of things.” When Cave meets Julia, he finds himself sucked into her strange alienated history of loss and sacrifice. “Cave & Julia” is a love story set between our world and Autotelia. Available from the Kindle Store today, 99p; or free to borrow from the Kindle Library. You can still find “In Autotelia”, the first Autotelia story, in Arc #1, here.
Just to round up what’s available, electronically and otherwise: you can buy Light, Nova Swing and Empty Space; The Centauri Device, cursed be its name, with its very fine paper-sculpture cover image; and Viriconium in the old paperback Fantasy Masterworks edition. The new edition of Climbers (coming in May) is ready for pre-order, both as paper and as ebook, with a fabulous new Sam Green cover and a very special introduction I’m not allowed to tell you about yet, although you probably already found out for yourself. The books you won’t find, except as pre-enjoyed or remaindered, are The Course of the Heart, Signs of Life and Things That Never Happen.
Since these three, along with Climbers and my new short stories, rather sum up the point of writing for me, I hope we can do something about that soon.
“Cave & Julia” being very much a product of the Ambiente Hotel, back-bar regulars will add value by tracing its beginnings in these entries over the last year or two. I’ve set up a “Cave & Julia” page: leave your criticisms, gasps of almost sexual delight & sighs of sarcastic disbelief etc there, where comments aren’t time-limited, rather than here, where they close after a few days.
Or, of course, leave a review at Amazon.
Buggy tracks in snow. Spindrift blowing off the roofs. Silhouette of a labrador dog hauling the silhouette of a woman across Grove Road; detail from a Lowry of the West London suburbs. Meanwhile the van from Bathrooms At Source–a constant visitor to this pleasant street–ploughs its way responsibly towards the river, first-responder to the morning’s soft catastrophe. Everything is so hushed as he makes his way down! In Barnes, bathroom commerce, second only in religion to kitchen commerce, must go on. He’s closely followed by Bespoke Carpentry. Meanwhile, over in “Burma”, no crates of preserved Spitfires have come to light. Buried Spitfires! The very words are like a knell, awakening the British retroconscious to a deep sense of itself. The earth with which they turn out not to be compacted is the authentic dark chocolate of myth. We dream that Spitfires lie buried in exotic ground, the exact way they are embedded in our diffusing memories of empire. Meanwhile, perhaps the Spitfires dream themselves, in some half-world of suspended purpose, the trope of sci fi war machines made obsolete by time, waking too late. It’s the final reinscription. Ballard would have loved it.
Drawn by the radio and tv ads of the twentieth century, which had reached them as faltering wisps and cobwebs of communication (yet still full of a mysterious, alien vitality), the New Men had invaded Earth in the middle 2100s. They were bipedal, humanoid–if you stretched a point–and uniformly tall and white-skinned, each with a shock of flaming red hair. They were indistinguishable from some kinds of Irish junkies. It was difficult to tell the sexes apart. They had a kind of pliable, etiolated feel about their limbs. To start with they had great optimism and energy. Everything about Earth amazed them. They took over and, in an amiable, paternalisitic way, misunderstood and mis-managed everything. It appeared to be an attempt to understand the human race in terms of a 1982 Coke ad. They produced food no one could eat, outlawed politics in favour of the kind of burocracy you find in the subsidised arts, and buried enormous machinery in the subcrust which eventually killed millions. After that, they seemed to fade away in embarrassment, taking to drugs, pop music and the twink-tank which was then an exciting if less than reliable new entertainment technology. Thereafter, they spread with mankind, like a kind of wrenched commentary on all that expansion and free trade. You often found them at the lower levels of organised crime. Their project was to fit in, but they were fatally retrospective. They were always saying: “I really like this cornflakes thing you have, man. You know ?” [From Light, 2002.]
One of the disadvantages of a paper book is that when the power goes down & the batteries run out, it can only be read during the hours of daylight; one of the advantages of a paper book is that when the power goes down & the batteries run out, it can be read during the hours of daylight.
I see your objection here, which is that because the fairies of modernity will always keep the electricity on now, mine is both a trivial & an old-fashioned argument (as well as being a cheap syllogism generated by someone who doesn’t really appreciate the full modernity of modernity). Because of those fairies, adverse change of any kind is a thing of the past or perhaps other less-fortunate countries. I’m sure you’re right & of course I bow to your superior understanding of history; although I wonder if, when you insist that it can never happen to us, you really mean that it must never happen to us–it’s a reversal so upsetting that it can’t even be contemplated.
Paulie deRaad had boltholes all over Saudade. This one was a bleak single room off Voigt Street in the noncorprorate hinterland, no different from the rest except Paulie kept a military cot there, which he always made up himself; along with a few things he valued from his vacuum commando days. He also ran some of his communications through it, via the various FTL uplinkers and orbital routers which made him nationwide. As soon as he opened the door, a foul smell came out. It was like shit, urine and standing water.
“Jesus, Paulie,” Vic said.
Paulie told him he didn’t know anything yet. Along with the smell, there was a kind of bubbling sound. Lying on Paulie’s cot, partly out of its clothes, was the entity that called itself “the Weather”. Last time Vic saw it, they were at Suicide Point together. Somehow it had choked on Vic’s artefact, and the two of them were glued together at some level no one but another Shadow Boy could understand. A wedding had taken place. Whatever tied the knot had also wed them to the Point kid. They were all three stuck with one another–although, to judge by the Point kid’s unfortunate condition, not for long. He looked frightened and ill. He had tried to undress himself and get under the blanket, for comfort as much as warmth. His shorts were half down, his skin a fishy white under the low wattage illumination. Every so often he convulsed, his mouth gaped open and he threw up what looked like cold tapioca.
“So what’s this, Vic ?” Paulie DeRaad wanted to know.
The kid heard Paulie’s voice. It sat up trembling and looked from one to the other of them. It caught Vic’s eye. It recognised him. He could see the operator far down inside, and the Point kid, and in there with them both the artefact, still white and unknown, some animal-like thing running towards Vic across the event site. There was no way to avoid the directness of this: something wrong was happening. Wherever Vic and Paulie situated themselves in the room they couldn’t hide from it. They still caught flashes of the Shadow Boy’s unhomely charm. For a moment the foul air would be full of rain falling through sunlight, the smell of the sea. Between moans from the kid and bursts of code like music, they heard its voice.
“Am I here ?” it appealed to Paulie. “I can’t seem to see myself.”
“This happened two or three days afterwards,” Paulie said to Vic. “I can’t pass this off on my buyer. I can’t use it for myself, even if I knew what it was. This ain’t good business, Vic.”
“I see that,” Vic said. “Can we get out of here ?”
The Point kid laughed. “No one gets out of here,” it whispered, in three separate voices at once.
[From Nova Swing, 2006.]
Adam Roberts rounds up the year’s science fiction. Jonathan McCalmont continues his assault on “the hotbed of empty phrases” that is traditional sf criticism. While Tim Maughan explains himself to Sense of Wonder. I like Maughan’s first answer– “the western middle classes … feel like the future – which they were always told would belong to them – is slipping out of their grasp” –because I’m interested in writing the deflation & melancholy of the people he describes. More interested, in a way, than pursuing the “future” that has left them behind. Science fiction has always defined a future as a global trend successfully isolated & described: the futurologist’s future, the cultural analyst’s future. All that interests the sf writer is the wavefront, the shock of the new. Cold, man. Because the future is also the umwelt of those who are left behind & muddle on–accepting this, rejecting that, failing to acknowledge or even detect macroeconomic shifts. In fact that’s really the only actual future, the non-discourse future, the non-speculative, non-theoretical future, the future on the ground. It’s all around, now. One of the many ways science fiction might delimit itself is to write in that direction, rather than always going for the shiny stuff, the Googie of the day. Bruce Sterling meets Anita Brookner & they totally fail to understand one another at the Hotel du Lac.
It’s hardly a new story. The priests convinced people that the world wouldn’t work without their intervention. They constructed myths about which anything we can say is only another layer of intervention, a wad of the same cultural chewing gum which sticks to everyone’s shoe. So usually I would bypass “history” & write about the site as it is now, the ruins I see in front of me & the people I see working among them. But today no-one’s working, so that’s out too. In the end there’s the landscape, the footprint planed off the top of the hill thousands of years ago for reasons I can’t hope to understand, the white tower of cloud building up in the blue sky above the mountains to the south; the black smoke on an adjacent hilltop. Oh, & I can say I like the shade trees, which are a shock and a comfort in this high, dry heat. Down in the town, which is named after a local plant with seedheads like accretions of oily dust at a street corner, people drive around in pick-up trucks trying to sell one another liquid propane; all the computer keyboards are configured so that to produce some quite common symbols you have to make no less than four keystrokes; there are oompah bands & parades of children in identical tracksuit bottoms. After two or three days it’s the most boring place you’ve ever been. The gods don’t come forth. The priests are long dead. The approaching thundercloud stays on top of the hill & after a few grand but silent flashes of light, nothing happens. & that’s a good thing, because they were all quite clearly mad anyway.