Friday, January 18, 2019

A conversation with the future

So. Been a while, huh? Next time I feel bad that it takes me five years to write a book I can say "Yeah, but considering it takes me three and a half years to write a blog entry that's pretty good!"

Anyway, I do have news: Fall From Earth has been included in the Bundoran Buddies Sci-Fi Bundle, a Storybundle curated by Bundoran editor Hayden Trenholm and including, as well as other Bundoran books such as Ed Willett's Right to Know and Jennifer Rahn's The Cyanide Process, works by writers including Tanya Huff, Robert J. Sawyer, Matthew Hughes, Ramez Naam, and Madeline Ashby, as well as a brand-new collection of short stories by James Alan Gardner.

When Hayden (whose own books were among Bundoran's very first publications) took over from founding editor Virginia O'Dine, one of the things he changed was to narrow the line's focus to just science fiction, which the press's tagline calls "our conversation with the future." It's a good description for most of the books Bundoran's published since then, but I've sometimes wondered how well it really fit Fall From Earth. I've said before that I think there are two basic premises in SF/F -- "What if?" and "If this goes on..." -- and I've always leaned more towards the first. It's hard to draw a line between today and the generally undefined future-time in which a space opera like Fall From Earth is set, making it not so much a conversation with the future as a game of telephone.

Looking at the other books in the bundle, though, I wonder if maybe that's the point. Sure, we may not be about to make contact with an enigmatic alien civilization (though their space junk may be drifting through our solar system) but we face just as many problems communicating with each other, down here on Earth: a few hours spent on Twitter, for example, could easily convince you that people on different sides of the political spectrum are as mutually incomprehensible to each other as the aliens in Fall From Earth are to us. A lot of the questions in the book -- where we draw the outer limit of our definition of "humanity," how we deal with the centripetal effects of technology, how and when speech is action -- are ones we're facing right now, even if they're happening on our screens and in our living rooms rather than on alien planets.

So I guess Hayden was right and I was wrong (as usual). Calling something a conversation, after all, doesn't mean that everyone will agree on what was said, and maybe that's the point: every book, as John M. Ford said, "is three books... the one the writer intended, the one the reader expected, and the one that casts its shadow when the first two meet by moonlight."

The Bundoran Buddies Sci-Fi Bundle is available until January 30, 2019.


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