Daily Archives: February 12, 2010

SHINE excerpt: “Twittering the Stars”

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the eighth one: “Twittering the Stars” by Mari Ness:

Note 1: Indeed, it’s a story told completely in tweets, and like the Twitter website, the most recent tweets show up on top. Yet, “Twittering the Stars” is written in such a way that you can read it in either direction (from top to bottom or vice-versa) and it still works beautifully.

Note 2: Our current astonauts are already using Twitter, sending twitpics from the International Space Station (via BoingBoing; via io9) from astronauts Jose Hernandez (@Astro_Jose) and Souichi Noguchi (@Astr_Soichi), who are both on Twitter. Simply breathtaking, indeed!

Note 3: when I was thinking about a name for the online magazine accompanying the Shine anthology, ‘Dawn’ immediately came to mind, but eventually I figured ‘DayBreak’ worked a bit better. I wasn’t aware of the ‘Dawn’ spacecraft concept — pictured below the excerpt — that NASA was (is?) developing for solar system exploration.

@the28thkarenbear Well, being the sweetest out of 6 doesn’t mean much.
6:54 pm March 13th, 2052 from distweet in reply to the28thkarenbear

@the28thkarenbear AWW. You are the sweetest person on the planet.
5:23 pm March 11th, 2052 from distweet in reply to the28thkarenbear

I probably could concoct some alcoholic thing from my plants, but probably not the best idea.
1:19 pm March 10th, 2052 from distweet

Still, if you’re reading this, please respond. Just so that I don’t feel so alone.
10:42 am March 8th, 2052 from distweet

Right. Keep forgetting that it now takes hours for my tweets to reach you and hours for you to respond.
10:42 am March 8th, 2052 from distweet

Is anybody reading this? Anybody?
7:18 pm March 7th, 2052 from distweet

I wish all of you could see this with me.
3:01 am February 26th, 2052 from distweet

Slightly upsetting to realize that a supernova is much brighter than Earth, but it’s so beautiful.
5:18 pm February 23rd, 2052 from distweet

We’re watching the Betelgeuse supernova too. It’s—I can’t tell you how spectacular it is from here. Only the sun is brighter.
5:16 pm February 23rd, 2052 from distweet

To make up for it, A had pictures of little red envelopes on our hand screens, that exploded into fireworks when we thumbed over them.
8:03 pm January 23rd, 2052 from distweet

A celebrated Chinese New Year today by opening every door on the ship. I think she just wanted to catch T naked.
8:02 pm January 23rd, 2052 from distweet

Sorry for the long silence. Just finding that I don’t have much to say. I’m caught in the silence of stars.
4:02 pm October 12th, 2051 from distweet

@frogheart29 My first niece! Congratulations! I wish I could hold her. Show her pictures of me for me, will ya?
7:43 pm May 17th, 2051 from distweet in reply to frogheart29

And when the plants are growing, they’re growing in weird directions.
12:49 pm May 5th, 2051

@loucheroo Oh, we’re fine for food even without the garden. I just miss biting into a real tomato, you know?
12:42 pm May 5th, 2051 from distweet

I think the plants know we’re leaving the sun.
10:31 am May 4th, 2051 from distweet

The garden isn’t producing as much as expected. We should have everything—real soil, water, fertilizer, robot pollinators—
10:31 am May 4th, 2051 from distweet

I keep finding myself looking out the portholes in the gardens and labs and in our living area, and wanting to sing to the stars.
6:02 pm April 23rd, 2051 from distweet

Trying to figure out how K passed the psych tests to get on here. I know, double PhD, quan comp/eng, 8 years Chinese Air Force. Still.
3:22 am March 27th, 2051 from distweet

Ok, our worst mistake? Letting R bring along his horror film collection. In space no one can hear you scream. Yeah, right.
4:06 am March 7th, 2051 from distweet

I say I keep everyone breathing.
10:13 pm February 26th, 2051 from distweet

T says he keeps everyone alive. Not that anyone’s needed a doctor yet, and we haven’t seen him do anything else except watch the stars.
10:12 pm February 26th, 2051 from distweet

A says she’s the only one with mission for the entire trip. The rest of us stop after we mine the iridium/lithium.
10:12 pm February 26th, 2051 from distweet

K and R say they are piloting the ship. Without them, no iridium/lithium.
10:11 pm February 26th, 2051 from distweet

Major fight broke out over who has the most important job on the ship. M says lithium entire point of trip.
10:11 pm February 26th, 2051 from distweet

Sigh. SOME people have no idea how to share living quarters. You’d think a doctor of all people would be less of a slob.
8:11 pm January 24th, 2051 from distweet

Excerpt from “Twittering the Stars” by Mari Ness. Copyright © 2010 by Mari Ness.

Picture credits:

Mari Ness lives in central Florida, and likes to watch space shuttles and rockets leap into the sky. Her work has previously appeared in numerous print and online venues, including Fantasy Magazine, Hub Fiction and Farrago’s Wainscot. She’s still hoping to spend time in a space station some day.

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan with her at SF Signal.

Review Quotes:

I started reading the story from the beginning… then realised that it’s written in the present and what I really should do is start at the end of the story and read forward! Make sense? (It will if you tweet yourself) And I loved it. Cleverly constructed, the author manages to tell a heartbreaking story across the time period of four years. We see the main character go from an over-excited and slightly egotistical botanist going on a space mission to a deeply thoughtful, sad and very humane being. A very clever piece of writing and one I’d recommend.

SF Revu;

One of the most original stories I’ve read in years is Twittering the Stars by Mari Ness, which is constructed entirely of tweets (messages of 140 characters or less) and tells the story of a deep space crew mining lithium and iridium – and a discovery that will change them all forever.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

and my personal favourite, Twittering the Stars by Mari Ness: an account of a space expedition, told as a series of tweets.

Twittering the Stars really made me think about how we tell our stories.

Catherine Hughes;

In the case of Mari Ness’ Twittering the Stars, the literary constraint is structural. What could have been little more than a gimmicky format (the clue is in the name) is used to break a tale of unlucky asteroid miners into pithy, revealing chunks that comprise a grippingly personal narrative.

New Scientist;

Mari Ness offers a formally challenging tale of an astronaut gardener’s tweets, and the messages are even presented in reverse chronological order, which makes for an evocative experience. “Discussion over what to do with T’s body” is just one of many powerful lines, but the story is hurt by an uninspired little fart of a title: Twittering in Space.

(Editor’s note: actual title is Twittering the Stars.)

SciFi Wire;

Twittering the Stars by Mari Ness could be interpreted as gimmicky due to its use of the Twitter format but Ness makes the most out of her medium. The story immediately engulfs you in the drama and wins you over to the protagonist’s side. What’s deceptive about the piece is that it’s quite lengthy but because Ness uses Tweets, it doesn’t feel overbearing. Another bonus is that the story could be read in reverse order and would still be just as relevant.

Charles A. Tan;

A second story I want to mention is Twittering the Stars by Mari Ness. De Vries is apparently a big fan Twitter. He mentions the medium a number of times in the introductions to the various stories. I’m not a great fan my self, I will sacrifice knowing things now to knowing them in a bit more detail at a time of my own choosing but you can’t deny it’s popularity. Ness wrote a story that is completely conveyed in the form of Tweets and starts with the newest message at the top. The story is that of a space ship returning to earth after visiting the asteroid belt. Clearly something has going wrong en route and we gradually work our way back to the point where we find out what. This story can be read in the reverse order as well and that makes it pretty unusual. It’s a very interesting and quite succesfull experiment in using such a new medium for literary purposes.

Val’s Random Comments;

The one story I disliked immensely for its twitter format; for me this kind of short paragraphs interspersed with the twitter paraphernalia is annoying in the extreme; otherwise the content seemed interesting enough with a space expedition and some biology experiments, but I just hate fiction formatted like that…

Fantasy Book Critic;

An interactive map of SHINE anthology story locations:

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

SHINE excerpts: “The Solnet Ascendancy”

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the seventh one: “The Solnet Ascendancy” by Lavie Tidhar:

1

It began, the way these things usually begin, with a Proposal.

This is Vanuatu. A Y-shaped archipelago of islands somewhere in the nowhere, South Pacific Ocean, home to Michener’s mythical Bali Rai, coconut plantations, coconut crabs, a few World War II downed planes, a sunken troop-carrier, volcanoes and coral reefs: its Internet domain suffix is .vu, its capital is the distant Port Vila, described by residents and visitors alike as a slightly dodgy Australian resort town, and known by the wider electronic world primarily for not having certain kinds of laws which make placing off-shore servers there profitable. There is a foreign volunteer for every thousand people on the islands, making Vanuatu the most volunteer-intensive country in the world. Welcome to Vanuatu! AusAid, Peace Corps, VSO, VSA, CUSO, JICA; EU, the Australian High Commission, the Alliance française, the Chinese, the Taiwanese, the Japanese, only the Arabs and the Israelis have so far forsaken Vanuatu – what is the nature of your project? What benefit does it have to the community? What is the amount of community buy-in? Please specify expected outcome and sustainability. How much do you need? What sort of materials?

It began, the way things in Sola usually begin, if they are to begin at all, in the Market House.

10

“I want e-mail,” Fatfat Freddie says. When he speaks English he has a slight Australian accent, a remnant of his four years at university on the continent, where he did tourism and hotel management. “I want to use the Internet. Can’t you do something?”

His companion is a waetman; the local most recent volunteer; Mike Rowe by name, pale despite the fierce glare of the sun, digging into the local chicken and rice without enthusiasm.

“If only they could actually cook,” he says. Fatfat Freddie nods and shovels rice into his mouth. There are three bony pieces of chicken on Mike Rowe’s plate, sitting lonely and forlorn on a mountain of rice. He pushes the rice with his fork and says, “You could set up a local e-mail network fairly easily.”

“Really?”

“Sure. Get a wireless router, a few wireless receivers, and a server. That might be the expensive bit, but…” he sinks into thought. “If you use an existing PC you won’t even have that expense. Run it on the Province’s generator… I reckon you could cover all the adjacent offices as well. Triangulate.”

The Province’s office sits in the midst of a cluster of offices—the entire administrative centre for Torba Province, encompassing the Banks and Torres Islands, thirteen islands, ten thousand people, eleven phones—and it is in wireless range of the following departments, being: Health, Education, Customs, Police, Court, Bank, Post Office. “Then, we can hook up the server to a phone line, get an Internet account, get it to send and receive e-mail once or twice a week. Turn it into an Internet gateway. Once you do this, once everything is in place, you can add users to the network at no cost, and charge them a membership fee. Piece of piss.”

Kan,” Freddie says in Bislama, which is very rude. “Then why don’t we do it?”

“Who’s going to pay for it?” Mike Rowe says, and makes the money sign. He pushes his plate—still half-full with rice—away and lights a cigarette instead.

“We can arrange that,” Freddie says. “The EU— ”

“—couldn’t find their ass if they sat on it,” Mike Rowe, twenty-three, cynical man of the world, says with feeling.

Fatfat Freddie smiles. “Let me worry about that,” he says. “Just write the proposal.”

Mike shrugs and waves his cigarette in the air, trailing smoke. “I’ll do it right now if you want to. Go back to the office?”

“Let’s,” Freddie says. He pushes his empty plate away and belches. “I’m finished.”

They go.

11

There is one road in Sola, a long wide track following the shore line, stretching from the little airport, across the Arep School, past shops and the Market House, past the Province office and the rest of the administrative buildings, past the wharf and the football field. As Freddie and his companion walk down it (slowly, for Freddie considers each step carefully before executing it, and when he speaks he stops to rest) they do not yet know that it is towards the future that they are walking.

Excerpt from “The Solnet Ascendancy” by Lavie Tidhar. Copyright © 2010 by Lavie Tidhar.

Picture credits:

Lavie Tidhar is the author of linked-story collection HebrewPunk (2007), novellas Cloud Permutations (2009), An Occupation of Angels (2010), and Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God (2010) and, with Nir Yaniv, of The Tel Aviv Dossier (2009). He also edited the anthology The Apex Book of World SF (2009). He’s lived on three continents and one island-nation, and currently lives in Israel. His first novel, The Bookman, is published by HarperCollins’ new Angry Robot imprint, and will be followed by two more.

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with him at SF Signal.

Review Quotes:

Lavie Tidhar’s The Solnet Ascendancy… what can I say? The guy is bloody brilliant. It’s not a large offering but it’s a story told with impact. It centres around how quickly and easily and with what devastating effect the redistribution of the future (you’ll understand it later) has when it occurs at an accelerated rate in a small backwater. It’s reading stories like Lavie’s that cause you look at technology and progress with caution.

SF Revu;

Perhaps the most memorable is Lavie Tidhar’s The Solnet Ascendancy, which describes how the miniscule Pacific island of Vanuatu transforms itself into an information superpower.

New Scientist;

[…] a fair number of them do a credible job of successfully balancing drama and optimism without sacrificing cultural complexity. The stories here that probably do the best job with this complex balancing act are The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar, Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic by Gord Sellar, and The Earth of Yunhe by Eric Gregory.

—Garner Dozois in the April Locus Magazine;

Lavie Tidhar makes a welcome appearance with The Solnet Ascendancy, a humorous story set on remote Vanuatu. It’s a brilliant little story that returns intermittently to see the unfeasible progress made as technology becomes available and local ingenuity puts it to good use. It’s a refreshingly different location for a story and makes for an enjoyable pleasant read.

SF Crowsnest;

The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar is a concise, witty and high impact offering that lures the reader into a thought experiment on the redistribution of the future. It also considers the risks and possibilities of the imaginative exploitation of second-hand technology.

—Interzone;

Despite this, the stories in the anthology show considerable variety. Some are Trickster parables. Lavie Tidhar’s The Solnet Ascendancy neatly reverses the cargo cult scenario, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Seeds describes the perfect blowback, while Alastair Reynolds’ At Budokan updates the impresario concept with panache.

The Huffington Post;

The state is viewed with suspicion, while the market moves so quickly that malevolent corporations die off with a minimum of fuss. China, Brazil, tiny Vanuatu all have powerful roles in a post-superpower future.

SciFi Wire;

The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar and Seeds by Silva Moreno-Garcia are, for the most part, trickster stories, but they work within the context of the theme.

Charles A. Tan;

An interactive map of SHINE story locations:

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

ELECTRONIC:Buy SHINE at MobiPocket!Buy SHINE at Amazon Kindle!Buy SHINE at MobiPocket!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!Order SHINE via Pick-a-Book!