Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Cemetery That's Not by a Highway (Edingburgh, Scotland)

The New Calton Burial Ground was established around 1820 so it's "new" only when compared to the Old Calton Burial Ground. According to Wikipedia, some of the bodies from the old cemetery were moved to the new so that "a number of stones predate the cemetery but are indeed true markers of those interred."

In any event it's a beautiful place, drawing me in for a visit even though I have no connection (that I'm aware of) to those interred.

It's a stone's throw from Holyrood Palace and a block from the Royal Mile. Its central location makes it unlike many of the cemeteries I've seen in the U.S., which are often in out-of-the way places where they and their annoying habit of reminding us of death can be compartmentalized and forgotten. And they're often near highways so the living have easy access and can make speedy getaways.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pirates! In Space! James L. Cambias embraces the near future in his second novel

For his second novel, James L. Cambias chose one of the most challenging settings for a science fiction writer: the near future.

Unlike speculative fiction that leaps centuries or millennia ahead or takes place on other planets, a book about the near future presents a world that varies only incrementally from the present. The risk, of course, is that the author's vision will all-too-quickly be proven wrong.

In my conversation with him on New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Cambias explains why he was drawn to the near future and how he navigated those tricky shoals in the writing of Corsair, which follows space pirates as they hunt and plunder treasure (hydrogen mined on the moon) using remote-controlled spacecraft.

Cambias is certain that space piracy will come to pass. "I absolutely expect that some point that space piracy or space hacking... will become a criminal enterprise. Space hardware is just too valuable," he says.

Cambias also discusses the Hieroglyph Project, which is trying to get science fiction authors to write the kind of visionary fiction that has the capacity to spark brick-and-mortar innovation. Cambias contributed to the project's collection of short stories but also penned a series of blog posts in which he declares the project a "failure."

Related links:
  • This is Cambias' second appearance on New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy. His first interview, about his book A Darkling Sea, is available here.
  • An episode of New Books was also devoted to the Hieroglyph Project.
Follow host Rob Wolf on his blog or on Twitter @RobWolfBooks

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Science Fiction, Swedish-style; New Collection Offers Scandinavian Twist to Speculative Fiction

There's far more to Swedish literature than Pippi Longstocking and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That's the message my guests on the latest episode of New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Anna Jakobsson Lund and Oskar Källner, are trying to send the English-speaking world through their contributions to Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep (Affront Publishing, 2015), a collection of short stories by Swedish authors.

Until recently, the world of science fiction in Sweden was so small that it was possible to keep up with everything that was published. But no more. The genre, thanks in part to self-publishing, is "blooming," Lund says.

The few big Swedish publishers are starting to catch up. "The big publishing houses think [science fiction and fantasy] is something that stops with young adults... and there's not any status for a writer to be writing science fiction or fantasy," Lund says.

But Källner says, "Game of Thrones is beginning to change that."

Lund says writing a story in English provided a chance to use more ornate language. "As a Swedish writer ... you do things a bit minimalistic." But English allowed her a fresh take. "I [could] use a bit more adjectives than I usually allow myself."

In one sign of the difference between the United States and Sweden, Källner says he has had some of his most successful book signings in grocery stores. "I usually stand somewhere between the bananas and loaves of bread and smile," he says.