The White Library by Paul Voermans

Ian Mond reviews The White Library in Locus:

Melbourne’s State Library is the setting for Paul Voerman’s third full-length published novel, The White Library. 

What’s the weirdest thing you could imagine going on in a national library?

Dropout physics student Angela Donohoe is about to discover just that. Release it.  Become it. All in a world where colonial history did not quite turn out like ours, where the global power is the Federated Kingdom of Mendana and David Bowie was an astronaut, The White Library is a surreal escapade of library friends and enemies, love—and a remarkable woman.

Full review in Locus

It’s also a slightly sideways sequel-by-association to Paul’s The Weird Colonial Boy.
Says Paul:

“Unlike the faithful, who have ordered copies and even circulated them among poverty-stricken friends, I’m not expecting people to have forked out for a hardcover at about $65 including delivery from the UK and we are still working on the Australian distribution, so the link to the very reasonable e-book is https://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-white-library-ebook-by-paul-voermans-5316-p.asp
Only GBP 2.99! Please feel free to forward this to anybody you think might like a foolish SF novel set in the State Library of Victoria.”

[I’ve bought the e-book and it worked out at AU$5.89 — I received the email link within five minutes and had a choice of mobi or epub ]

Singularity Story Bundle

Curated by Lavie Tidhar

Nick Mamatas suggested a bundle looking at that nebulous concept, the “singularity”, and I thought it would be fun to take a wide-ranging approach to it, encompassing the post-human, A.I., space opera and much more. […]I love the variety of novels and authors in this bundle.

And what is the Singularity anyway? A silly hypothetical concept beloved by the neo-libertarian tech rich? A utopian vision? A dystopian one? Or is it a convenient shorthand for the possible convergence of human and machine that we already have?

The fun is in the asking. And I think each of the authors here grapple with some fundamental questions about human and others and our place in the universe. And, you know – they’re also terrific fun!

A Note About The Charity

I thought this being a hard SF-ish bundle, it would be appropriate to nominate as my charity of choice the Locus Foundation. Locus Magazine was established in 1968, and became the single most important news source for the SF/F field, offering unparalleled cover, in-depth reviews and author interviews, and so much more. […] Times are hard for everyone right now, and this seems a good cause to support! – Lavie Tidhar

* * * Note the bundle will be available online here until the 15th October * * *

Laura Jean McKay wins Arthur C Clarke award

Alison Flood reports in The Guardian:

Twenty years before Margaret Atwood won the inaugural Arthur C Clarke award for her seminal novel The Handmaid’s Tale, she published a poem entitled The animals in that country. Now Laura Jean McKay, who borrowed the title of Atwood’s poem for her debut novel, has gone on to win the prestigious prize, with judges praising her story of a pandemic that enables humans to understand the language of animals for “reposition[ing] the boundaries of science fiction once again”.

“This is an award for readers and writers who share a love of literature that dares to imagine sideways, backwards and future worlds to try to make sense of the world that we live in now. Speculative fiction – the sort of sci-fi that I adore – is particularly reflective of our times because it’s often set realistically, with extraordinary events (pandemics! Extinction! Talking animals!),” [McKay] said.

“That the Arthur C Clarke judges would recognise a novel that depicts how we as humans relate to other animals and environments is such an exciting outcome – for me (of course) but also for the many people who care about the state of the planet. And to win on such an extraordinary shortlist this year is gobsmacking.”

Reported 27th Sept in The Guardian

Ted Chiang on Scientific Method

‘‘I consider most of my work science fiction, even the stories that look like fantasy. To me, what makes a story science fiction is not whether the universe has the same laws as our universe or not, but whether it is a universe in which the scientific method works. That is a more interesting distinction for me. By that criterion, ‘Exhalation’ is a science fiction story, even though its universe bears no resemblance to ours. The same is true for ‘72 Letters’, and for ‘Tower of Babylon’.

‘‘’Exhalation’ is about conceptual breakthrough (to use the term from The Science Fiction Encyclopedia). It’s a way of describing scientific discovery and the experience of gaining a greater understanding of the universe. Recapturing the experience of conceptual breakthrough, dramatizing that, is one of the things science fiction is good at. You can just as easily do that in a completely made-up universe with a totally different set of physical laws. The underlying process is the same, and I still think of it as scientific investigation.”

Read the complete interview, and biographical profile, in the July 2011 issue of Locus Magazine.

Nova Mob, 1st Sept: Perry Middlemiss on Australian Futures

Perry Middlemiss on two 2020 novels of Australian futures: Of birds and beasts!

The Animals in that Country, by Laura Jean McKay
and The Rain Heron, by Robbie Arnott

THE ANIMALS IN THAT COUNTRY, by Laura Jean McKay

2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Literature – Winner 

2020 Aurealis Awards’ Best Science Fiction Novel – Winner 

2021 ABIA Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year – Winner 

2021 ALS Gold Medal – Short-listed 2021 Arthur C. Clarke Award – Short-listed 

2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award – Long-listed 

2021 The Kitchies’ Golden Tentacle Award – Short-listed 

2021 The Stella Prize – Short-listed 

2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction – Winner 

2020 The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction – Short-listed

“As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds, including Jean’s infected son, Lee. When he takes off with Kimberly, heading south, Jean feels the pull to follow her kin.

 “Setting off on their trail, with Sue the dingo riding shotgun, they find themselves in a stark, strange world in which the animal apocalypse has only further isolated people from other species.”

💥 💥 💥

THE RAIN HERON, by Robbie Arnott

Shortlisted, Miles Franklin Literary Award, 2021

Shortlisted, ALS Gold Medal, 2021

Shortlisted, Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year, 2021

Shortlisted, Age Book of the Year, 2021

Longlisted, Not the Booker, United Kingdom, 2020

“The Rain Heron is set in an unidentified country in which a military coup has recently occurred. The first section of the novel proper (the opening story is headed ‘Part 0’, placing it outside the main narrative structure) is told from the point of view of a woman named Ren, who has retreated into the wilderness. She lives alone in a cave on a remote mountainside, where she subsists by hunting and foraging and growing a few vegetables, occasionally venturing into the lowlands to barter with a fur trader and his son. 

 “One day she encounters some soldiers, who are searching the mountainside for the mythical rain heron. Their leader, the efficient and cunning Lieutenant Zoe Harker, questions Ren about the bird’s whereabouts, but Ren denies all knowledge…”

Topic: Nova Mob 1 Sep: Perry Middlemiss on Australian Futures
Time: Sep 1, 2021 8 PM Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney; 7:30pm Adelaide

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/4177583193?pwd=VjdPL1BhSTBNclN2YnRsejN3Y1hlUT09

Meeting ID: 417 758 3193
Passcode: nova

At Last Dangerous Visions!

J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers August 12th that The Last Dangerous Visions has been finished.

THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS has at last been completed. The final draft went off to the agency that will be handling the sale about fifteen minutes ago. This has been a massive effort…112,000 words…tracking down the estates of the original writers to be included in the book, and nailing down some newer A List writers; fans of Harlan’s who wanted to be a part of TLDV. (And for the record, Harlan continued to buy stories for the anthology right through the 90s, and stopped only due to illness. He saw TLDV as a living document, and fought to keep it relevant when some stories became less timely or were supplanted by real world events.)

I will have more to say about the contents at a later date, but suffice to say that they include some of the most visionary writers in the science fiction genre over the last 48 years.

Awesome!

Marvel’s new What If…? animated series takes us back to the beginning with a rewrite of Captain America: The First Avenger. In this version, it’s Peggy Carter who takes up the Mighty Shield—and the shield has a Union Flag on it.

I have to say I think this is the most pure fun I’ve had watching any of the Disney Marvel series so far?

— The Sheer Bloody Fun of What If…? “Captain Carter Were The First Avenger” by Leah Schnelbach at tor.com
Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Ideal Utopias

The novel is usually regarded as a realist art form, and I’d go even further: By telling the stories we use to understand our lives, the novel helps create our reality. In novels, things go wrong—that’s plot. People then cope. That’s realism.

Utopia, on the other hand, is famously “no place,” an idealized society sometimes described right down to its sewage system. In utopia, everything works well—maybe even perfectly, but for sure better than things work now. So utopias are like blueprints, while novels are like soap operas. Crossing these two genres gets you the hybrid called the utopian novel: soap operas put in a blender with architectural blueprints. It doesn’t sound all that promising.

Then came Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. Published in 1975, this was the first great utopian novel, and it demonstrated just how good the poor, misbegotten hybrid can be. Of course, there’d been earlier utopian novels, like William Morris’s News From Nowhere, or H.G. Wells’s A Modern Utopia, or Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, or Aldous Huxley’s Island. These were all interesting efforts. But Le Guin’s book was a triumph. What she showed is that by describing a utopian society in a moment of historic danger, you create for it all kinds of problems that its characters must solve. It will get attacked from the outside, corrupted from the inside; things will go wrong, and so you have your plot. Le Guin combined an intriguing utopia with a compelling novel, and the result was superb. The people on her habitable moon, Annares, have formed an alternative society to the imperial capitalist world, Urras. They devised a system that is feminist for sure and either democratic socialist or anarcho-syndicalist, but in any case in a state of flux, its people doing everything they can to keep what’s best about their system while also fending off impositions from the home world. It’s political fiction at its best.

— “The Novel Solutions of Utopian Fiction,” Kim Stanley Robinson, The Nation, Aug 2nd

Cattitude!

The 2021 Cattitude Bundle, curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Cats. The internet loves them because we love them. We love cats in all their incarnations—playful, magical, irritating, and yes, occasionally evil. This StoryBundle explores the range of cats and cat behaviors as well. From the familiars to winged space cats, from cats who facilitate romance to cats who rescue others, every type of cat appears in this StoryBundle. Perfect for a day at the beach (without a cat) or at home in the AC (with cats nearby).

There are 10 books (four StoryBundle exclusives!) in the bundle :

More details at StoryBundleNote: available until 18th August