Category Archives: SHINE excerpts

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!

SHINE excerpt: “The Church of Accelerated Redemption”

Share/Bookmark

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the sixth one: “The Church of Accelerated Redemption” by Gareth L. Powell & Aliette de Bodard:

With a sigh, she closed her father’s mail. She knew she should call him but her migraine wouldn’t go away, and she couldn’t banish the image of the Bedouin-scarf man from her thoughts, and the sheer incongruousness of his presence at the demonstration.

On a whim, she opened her browser. A few clicks took her from the portal of Paris’ Préfecture to a list of the demonstrations that had been planned for the day, with an interactive map showing their itineraries, agreed routes, and some general background information on the causes they supported.

Let’s see…

In the vicinity of the Church’s headquarters, there’d been one demonstration scheduled for the early morning: the bus drivers’ union protesting against the new automated, self-driving buses. But that had ended at eleven, and as far as she could see, it had nothing to do with the Church of Accelerated Redemption. She kept scrolling.

Ah, there it was…

From four in the afternoon until seven, a protest by the Extraordinary Sapience Committee against the opening of the Church of Accelerated Redemption’s new headquarters.

A quick search netted her the website of the ESC: a slick multi-media presentation merging immersive audio, 3D-animations and overlaid reports to state its case against the Church.

The Committee themselves were a loose online collective of like-minded geeks, freaks and hackers. They believed the Church’s weak AIs were capable of being upgraded into independent, free-thinking beings, and therefore subject to the same protections afforded to infants and children under French Law. The weak AIs — the ones beaming the exaflops of automated prayers into the stratosphere — might well be saving the souls of the Redemptionists, but according to the Committee, they were shown no gratitude and were treated worse than slaves or imprisoned sweatshop workers, kept on a tight leash and pre-programmed to cheerfully accept their lot in life.

There was a link on the homepage to the Committee’s bulletin boards which, when she clicked on it, opened a fresh treasure trove of controversy. There were discussion threads comparing the AI’s gel-based neural chassis with those of natural mammalian brains, and others arguing that the occasional spikes seen in their bandwidth corresponded to similar peaks seen in the human brain during intense emotional eruptions…

It had never occurred to Lisa to consider AIs as living beings. She’d always thought of them as simulations, complex computer programs designed to perform specific tasks. She’d had no idea so many people could get so worked up about defending their rights, and that they’d be so desperately trying to free them from bondage, the same way animal liberationists used to bust ill-treated dogs and cats from the world’s cosmetic labs. And she still didn’t see where the man with the Bedouin scarf fitted in at all. She’d seen a few men on the streets with that type of costume, but they had been old and conservative, unlikely to associate with angry young left-wing protesters. Hopelessly, she searched the rest of the boards, hoping to see a post from him — although she knew full well that she had no idea of his name or what he looked like under the scarf, and all the posters on the boards used aliases…

Excerpt from “The Church of Accelerated Redemption” by Gareth L. Powell & Aliettte de Bodard. Copyright © 2010 by Gareth L. Powell & Aliettte de Bodard.

Picture credits:

Gareth L Powell is a regular contributor to Interzone. His stories have appeared all over the world and been translated into seven languages. His first collection, The Last Reef, was published by Elastic Press in 2008 and Pendragon will publish his first novel, Silversands, in 2010. He lives in the English West Country with his wife and daughters and can be found online at: www.garethlpowell.com.


Aliette de Bodard is a French computer engineer who moonlights as a writer, with short fiction forthcoming or published in markets such as Asimov’sInterzone and Realms of Fantasy. She’s a Campbell Award finalist and a Writers of the Future winner. Watch out for her debut novel, the Aztec fantasy Servant of the Underworld, published by Angry Robot.

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

Share/Bookmark

Review Quotes:

I looked first at The Church of Accelerated Redemption a collaboration between Gareth L Powell and Aliette de Bodard and found myself immediately sucked into their wonderfully intimate story of a computer engineer’s struggle with loneliness and discontent. I like Aliette’s writing having read parts of her novel Servant of the Underworld, yet in this story I found something altogether different — a main character whose search for meaning in a dead end job unexpectedly takes a turn she could not have predicted. Wonderful and full of promise, I liked her attitude and the fact that although she was pretty scared, she wasn’t too scared to grab a new future for herself.

SF Revu;

the marvellous The Church of Accelerated Redemption by Gareth L Powell and Aliette de Bodard, which tells of a computer engineer’s dissastisfaction with her life and the impulsive search for meaning within it that leads her to a very unexpected discovery;

Catherine Hughes;

The second personal favorite of the anthology, this story starts quietly enough with the struggles of Lisa a young American expatriate in Paris; seduced by the charm of the city, she remained after her university days to work as a hardware tech consultant for a French boss who does not particularly like her and gives her the worst jobs nobody else wants; one such job involves fixing some servers for a new cult, The Church of Accelerated Redemption, which has a crazy-sounding way to “redemption”, way that would seem quite over the top unless you read today’s headlines. When a demonstration against the exploitation of the AI’s that the church supposedly uses for the “accelerated” part, keeps Lisa in the church headquarters, she becomes fascinated by a mysterious protester dressed in Bedouin garb; she seeks him out and gets involved with — read the story to find out!

While not particularly ground-breaking, this one has an excellent style and Lisa is a very endearing character that you cannot stop rooting for.

Fantasy Book Critic;

Shine has its share of good stories such as Overhead by Jason Stoddard and The Church of Accelerated Redemption by Gareth L. Powell and Aliette de Bodard.

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!

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 excerpt: “Sustainable Development”

Share/Bookmark

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the fifth one: “Sustainable Development” by Paula R. Stiles:

Normally, selling peanuts in Boubara is a job mothers send their children to do in the marché. As the spider heads up the steps into the bar, I try the usual way of calling a child—crooking my fingers at the robot. “Tsst! Petit! Viens ici!

The robot approaches me. Someone has left a carefully scrawled sign on the tray, “10 CFA par tas—10 Francs per pile.” Village prices. I pull out a 50 CFA coin for all five tas and toss it onto the tray.

The robot tilts the tray forward until the tas begin to slip. It probably has a weight measurement control inside that calculates the coin.

Prenez tous, grand merci—Take everything, thank you,” it says in a flat, metallic voice. I scoop up the tas and dump them on the dusty cement of the bar. After I empty the tray, the robot hurries off through the empty marché.

Talk about tech dumping. Who got the bright idea to dump intelligent robots in a small African village? My predecessor, that’s who. He got them to help the men grow cash crops. Scooping up my peanuts, I stand and follow it.

Excerpt from “Sustainable Development” by Paula R. Stiles. Copyright © 2010 by Paula R. Stiles.

Picture credits:

Possessing a quixotic fondness for difficult careers, Paula R Stiles has driven ambulances, taught fish farming for the Peace Corps in West Africa and earned a Scottish PhD in medieval history, studying Templars and non-Christians in Spain. She has also sold fiction to Strange Horizons, Writers of the Future, Jim Baen’s Universe, Futures, @outshine and other markets. She is Editor in Chief of the Lovecraft/Mythos ‘zine Innsmouth Free Press. You can find her at: http://www.geocities.com/rpcv.geo/other.html or on Twitter (@thesnowleopard).

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

Share/Bookmark

Review Quotes:

Sustainable Development by Paula R Stiles brought a huge smile to my face; in her future vision it is still the women who do all the hard work!

Catherine Hughes;

Sustainable Development by Paula R Stiles had me smiling. Very tongue-in-cheek and very clever, Stiles plays with stereotypes in a small, impoverished, African village where the men are seen never to be doing any of the hard work, but the women are constantly working and seemingly working themselves into the ground. It’s a very small story, but again it’s well edited and cleverly written, so that the final scene makes you smile that slow steady smile of happiness.

SF Revu;

A short and funny story with a twist about African women using considerable ingenuity to help with their backbreaking work.

Fantasy Book Critic;

Paula R. Stiles’ Sustainable Development envisions robots in unlikely roles in West Africa.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

Sustainable Development by Paula Stiles, about robots taking over the “women’s work” of a West African village, is rather too much of a happily-ever-after story, especially given the social dislocations that often accompany sudden technological changes.

SciFi Wire;

There are also stories which are quite competent , but simply fail to be striking, such as Sustainable Development by Paul R. Stiles and Scheherazade Cast in Starlight by Jason Andrew.

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!

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: “Summer Ice”

Share/Bookmark

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the fourth one: “Summer Ice” by Holly Phillips:

The art school can’t afford to pay her much. The people who run the place are her hosts as much as her employers, the work space they give her counts as half her salary. She has no complaints about the room, tall, plaster-walled, oak-floored, with three double-hung windows looking north and east up a crooked street, but her tools look meager in all this space. She feels meager herself, unable to supply the quantity of life the room demands. Create! the bare walls command. Perform! She carries the delicate lattice of yesterday’s images like a hollow egg into the studio, hopeful, but cannot decide where to put it down. Paper, canvas, clay, all inert, doors that deny her entry. She paces, she roams the halls. Other people teach to the sound of industry and laughter. She teaches her students as if she were teaching herself how to draw, making every mistake before stumbling on the correct method. Unsure whether she is doing something necessary or cowardly, or even dangerous to her discipline, she leaves the building early and walks on grass and yellow poppies ten blocks to her other job.

During the years of awkward transition from continental wealth to continental poverty, the city’s parks were abandoned to flourish or die. Now, paradoxically, as the citizens sow green across the cityscape these pockets of wilderness are being reclaimed. Lush lawns have been shoved aside by boisterous crowds of wild oats and junipers and laurels and manzanita and poison oak and madrone and odorous eucalyptus trees shedding strips of bark and long ribbon leaves that crumble into fragrant dirt. No one expects the lawns to return. The city does not have the water to spare. But there are paths to carve, playgrounds and skateboard parks and benches to uncover, throughways and resting places for a citizenry traveling by bike and foot. It’s useful work, and Manon mostly enjoys it, although in this heat it is a masochistic pleasure. The crew she is assigned to has been working together for more than a year, and though they are friendly people she finds it difficult to enter into their unity. The fact that she only works with them part-time does not make it easier.

Today they are cleaving a route through the wiry tangle of brush that fills the southwest corner of the park. Bare muscular branches weave themselves into a latticework like an unsprung basket, an organic form that contains space yet has no room for storage. Electric saws powered by the portable solar generator buzz like wasps against dead and living wood. Thick yellow sunlight filters through and is caught and stirred by dust. Birds and small creatures flurry away from the falling trees. A jay chooses Manon to harangue as she wrestles with a pair of long-handled shears. Blisters start up on her hands, sweat sheets her skin without washing away debris, and her eye is captured again and again by the woven depths of the thicket, the repeated woven depths hot with sun and busy with life, the antithesis of the cold layered ice of yesterday. She drifts into the working space that eluded her in the studio, and has to be called repeatedly before she stops to join the others on their break.

Edgar says, “Do you ever get the feeling like they’re just growing in again behind your back? Like you’re going to turn around and there’s going to be no trail, no nothing, and you could go on cutting forever without getting out?”

“We have been cutting forever,” Anita says.

“Like the prince who has to cut through the rose thorns before he can get to the sleeping princess,” Gary says.

“That’s our problem,” Anita says. “We’ll never get through if we have no prince.”

“You’re right,” Gary says. “All the other guys that tried got stuck and left their bones hanging on the thorns.”

“Man, that’s going to be me, I know it.” Edgar tips his canteen, all the way up, empty. “Well, come on, the truck’s going to be here in an hour, we might as well make sure it drives away full…”

The cut branches the crew has hauled to the curbside lace together like the growing chaos squared, all their leaves still a living green. As the other three drag themselves to their feet, Manon says, “Do you think anyone would mind if I took a few branches home?”

Her crewmates glance at each other and shrug.

“They’re just going to city compost,” Edgar says.

Manon thanks him. They go back to work in the heavy heat of late afternoon.

Excerpt from “Summer Ice” by Holly Phillips, originally appeared in The Palace of Repose. Copyright © 2005 by Holly Phillips.

Picture credits:

Holly Phillips is the award-winning author of In the Palace of Repose and The Engine’s Child. She lives on a large island off the west coast of Canada, and is hard at work on her next novel.

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

Share/Bookmark

Review Quotes:

Summer Ice by Holly Phillips is at once evocative and dreamy and maybe a bit sad — we follow the main character with the beautiful name of Manon, as she tries to come to grips with a new life in a new city. But this new city in turn is struggling to cope with the effects of climate change. It’s a beautifully uplifting story in which Manon realises that she’s not the outsider she feels herself to be, and that being part of a community is not too different from being part of a family.

SF Revu;

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the contemplative Summer Ice by Holly Phillips, a well-written and quiet story that could have been published in a leading literary journal if there weren’t just a mild hint of global warming in the background.

SciFi Wire;

After the 3 very sfnal stories above, here is a tale of a painter that inspires a renewal in a run-down city. The main strength of Summer Ice is its great style and the story also works beautifully as a change of pace from the fast and furious of the previous three.

Fantasy Book Critic;

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!

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: “Overhead”

Share/Bookmark

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the third one: “Overhead” by Jason Stoddard:

“Candy!” Nils Loera said.

“No,” Ani Loera told him.

“Yes!” Nils jumped over Ani’s shoulders. Another bounce took him to the corridor ceiling, where he swung ahead of her on the exposed steel beams.

Ani shook her head. At 6 years old, Nils had already formulated his most important equation: SHIPMENT = TREAT. Nils was black-haired, blue-eyed, round-faced, and an endless bundle of energy. She couldn’t help grinning at him.

I have a kid. On the moon.

And he’s cute.

“Candy!” Nils yelled, disappearing down the corridor.

Ani caught up to him at the shaker. Nils bounced up and down in front of the scarred plastic window, frowning.

“Where’s the people?” Nils asked.

“What?”

“Nobody there.”

Ani squinted through the foggy, scratched plastic. There was only one person in the airlock. His spacesuit bore a faded tag: SHAO. Jun Shao. His silver-visored helmet reflected stark gray walls and her furrowed brow.

Ani ticked an impatient tune on the cold steel walls as the shaker knocked the abrasive moon-dust from Jun’s suit. Nils tried to do the same, but his young fingers weren’t quite coordinated enough.

Eventually, the airlock door swing open. Jun stepped out, popping his helmet. His expression was blank, unreadable.

“What happened?” Ani asked.

Jun shook his head. “Nothing there.”

“Nothing there? What do you mean, nothing there?”

“No shipment.”

“No newbies?”

“No people, no parts, no nothing.”

Ani felt fear twist her guts. They’d never missed a shipment. Ever. Not for—

Not for 15 years.

Jun shucked his gauntlets and hung them under his name in the rack. He sat down on a bench and began wriggling out of his suit. Nils helped him pull. Jun gave the kid a weak grin and let Nils unlatch his boots.

“Maybe it went off-course.”

“Has it ever gone off-course?”

A sudden thought, clear and distinct, as if someone had spoken in her ear: What if this is the end of the shipments?

Ani paced. “Did you look around?”

“Yes.”

“Thoroughly?”

“Peep my stream!” Jun looked up at her. For the first time, she saw his too-wide eyes. He was terrified, too.

Ani’s watchstream buzzed, signaling a direct message. She glanced at it; messages scrolled, as watchers realized something bad was happening. They’d be looking to her for direction.

What a terrible time to be Prime, she thought. She’d won the lottery last month.

“We have to go back out,” she told Jun. “We have to look for the drop. The shipment may have gone off course.”

“It’s never gone off course—”

“I know. But we have to look.”

Jun stopped moving and just looked at her, his face an unreadable mask of exhaustion. Ani wondered how many shifts he’d run in a row. Two? Three? More?

“Put your suit back on,” she told Jun.

Nils stopped helping Jun with his suit and looked up at her, frowning.

Ani sighed and addressed the nearest surveillance dot: “Anyone else with outside experience and a suit, come down. We need to make as many tracks as we can.”

Slowly, Jun started putting his suit back on.

“No candy?” Nils asked.

Ani forced a smile. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Excerpt from “Overhead” by Jason Stoddard. Copyright © 2010 by Jason Stoddard.

Picture credits:

Jason Stoddard is trying to answer the question, “Can business and writing coexist?” with varying degrees of success. Writing-wise, he has two books coming out in 2010 from Prime Books: Winning Mars and Eternal Franchise. He’s also been seen in Sci Fiction, Interzone, Strange Horizons, Futurismic, Talebones, and many other publications. He’s a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the Sidewise Award. On the other side, Jason leads Centric / Agency of Change, a marketing agency he founded in 1994. In this role, he’s a popular speaker on social media and virtual worlds at venues like Harvard University, The Directors Guild of America, Internet Strategy Forum, Loyola Marymount University, and Inverge. Jason lives in Los Angeles with his wife, who writes romance as Ashleigh Raine.

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

Share/Bookmark

Review quotes:

Jason Stoddard, whose extraordinary ability to extrapolate today’s emerging technology into tomorrow’s everyday reality, provides perhaps the book’s crown jewel with Overhead, a story of an emerging post-scarcity society.

The Guardian;

and — arguably the anthology’s standout story — Jason Stoddard’s Overhead follows a colony on the Moon through a series of potential disasters and exemplifies some of humankind’s finest traits: perseverance, ingenuity, and hope.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

Jason Stoddard’s Overhead should be made into a movie or a TV-series at least! I rooted so hard for these guys on their moon, ignored by Earth and left to struggle in the face of adversity. I can’t really explain too much as it’s a pretty involved plot and so tightly written. But I’ve given you the gist: people on the far side of the moon; ignored by those on earth; left to fend for themselves; brimful of hope, just excellent.

SF Revu;

For me this was the best story of the anthology and not surprising it is the one that involves exploration of Outer Space, namely a colony on the dark side of the moon — so it stays out of touch with humanity except for regular deliveries of technology and people that want to join — where humanity can “reboot” if needed and where the rules are designed to create a better society. In a past thread that mixes with the current one and explains how the colony came to be, we follow executive Roy Parekh setting up an insurance company with a twist. Sense of wonder, memorable characters and a superb ending made Overhead a story that induced me to follow Mr. Stoddard’s career from now on. I would love a novel that would expand this story since I think the necessary depth is there.

Fantasy Book Critic;

Jason Stoddard’s Overhead is better as summary (idealists go to the moon) than as story. In it, a good idea is damaged by characters who speak their ideologies as if quoting from an instruction manual: “’An algorithmic search of online habits can easily be correlated with tendencies towards religion, economic philosophy, gluttony, and many other undesirable influences,’ said another geek”—a geek said that? Really?

SciFi Wire;

An interactive map of the 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!

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 excerpt: “The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up.”

Share/Bookmark

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the second one: “The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up” by Jacques Barcia:

(UPDATE: phishers have stolen around $4 million in carbon credits [as reported in Wired, via Boing Boing]. Just to show that carbon credits are already a highly important — and interesting — item today, and will be even more so tomorrow. Ideally, SHINE stories are highly relevant, and increasingly, they prove to be exactly that…;-)

(UPDATE 2: while some — at New Scientist, no less — may think Jacques’ story may ‘teeter into transhumanist follies’, others like Jamais Cascio — a top 100 Global Thinker of 2009 — think it will eventually become so normal that it’ll bore people [via io9]. As always, YMMV…;-)

The pricking under his shirt had stopped. They talked in a dedicated moIP connection for no more than ten minutes, with only one of those spent on discussing the many zeroes being offered to Inácio as a reward and how they’d known his lover. Lúcio met them at the Shigeru Awards and apparently gave them Inácio’s contact details.

The three clients wore encrypted avatars that masked their features, appearing as nothing but dark cloaks with plasma globes for heads. But out of recklessness or sheer confidence their voices weren’t jumbled. They were all teens.

“And that’s it, Inácio. We want you to find everything you can about Gear5’s policies.” The taller avatar had an older but more casual tone. Advanced physics algorithms made the somewhat anthropomorphic illusion dodge waiters, tourists and other rich media floating in the augmented reality.

In the real world, Inácio sat at a round stone table close to the escalator leading to the avenue down below. Rush hour had passed, but the traffic systems were still operating. The street drove the cars so close to each other they looked like a single line of black bars and yellow spots. “You understand that what you’re asking is extremely unusual, don’t you?” The analyst already had three search engines running in his field of vision, along with dozens of other eydgets, including some custom market research apps, blabber feeds and text clients, sending private messages to trustworthy contacts and opening anonymous topics in professional social networks’ forums. “And your deadline is impossible to meet. I just can’t provide you a full report about this Gear5 in less than eight hours.”

“I told you,” said the third plasma globe. It had the sweet voice of a girl, but naturally distorted like a bad death metal guitar plug-in. “We should have contacted him much earlier.”

The youngest avatar seemed to turn to the angry girl and back to face Inácio. “Unfortunately, Mr. Lima, it’s a very tight window of opportunity. But we know you’re probably asking questions to your acquaintances by now and they’ll certainly ask their own in the following minutes. We couldn’t let an avalanche of gossip be spread before the markets were closed. Besides, we decided to make our move just a few hours ago when word has reached us that the company will open part of their codes tomorrow morning.” The globe’s innards were filled with a storm of pink lightning. The avatar leaned closer to Inácio. “But I don’t think you really find the task unusual, do you?”

He didn’t. There was this indigent startup wikindustry operating for eleven months now with an ever rising stock of carbon credits and these kids, whoever they were, wanted to know whether the thing Gear5 had under development, besides the occasional crowdvertising for rising mobbands they claimed to do, was sustainable or not. That all meant he had to find out everything about the company and their product using, he’d say, unconventional methods. “Like I said, the deadline is impossible,” he said.

“Just give it a try. We trust you.”

Rich teenage wallets were not uncommon, especially in the tech business. But this group was different. They were too young and seemed to have a different focus, too knew for him to clearly identify. So his only option was to treat them as a common group of aggressive investors, the kind of people he had a history of hating. “Look, I know you know exactly what that company has been developing. You won’t tell me for competitive reasons, of course, but if you are considering the investment then you’ve already measured how much money you can get from that. So why bother with carbon market regulations they’re certainly meeting? Just go there and put your cash on it.”

The young foreigner put his cloak-and-globe body back straight and raised, for the first time, a pair of ghostly hands. “You’re not getting it, Mr. Lima.” He looked like he was giving a lecture. “Money has meaning only to those old enough to remember it. No, Mr. Lima, we don’t want to put a single penny on it. We want to find out if this project conforms to our working ethics. We want to invest our brains and bandwidth on it.”

Excerpt from “The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up” by Jacques Barcia. Copyright © 2010 by Jacques Barcia.

Picture credits:

Jacques Barcia is a speculative fiction writer and information technology reporter from Recife, Brazil.  His short fiction has appeared in Brazilian, American and Romanian online markets. He’s one of the authors actively supporting Greenpunk.net and the Outer Alliance initiative. When he’s not writing, Jacques acts as the lead singer of Brazilian grindcore band Rabujos. He’s married and has the smartest, loveliest, bookishiest daughter in the world. Jacques is currently working on his first novel. He can be reached at http://www.verbeat.org/blogs/thedreammachine/.

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

Share/Bookmark

Review Quotes:

In a near future Recife, Brazil, Inacio Lima a middle aged former “green soldier”, haunted by the untimely death of his husband Lucio, works as a “sustainability consultant” when he is approached by some mysterious foreigners to investigate Gear5, a company that is supposed to announce a new revolutionary product and is buying carbon credits like mad. The investigation will carry Inacio to unexpected places and encounters. Another superb story that works as atmosphere, style, characters and world building.

Fantasy Book Critic;

This story is very relevant given the present-day, myopic ‘group-think’ support of carbon trading that has resulted in inevitable profligate funding as well as what is in effect fraud. In this story a cyber-jock checks out a new trading group for a team of young Turks…

Concatenation;

A mysterious group of young people ask a self-employed sustainability analyst to do some very quick work for them. But what is the real product and what is really going on?

**** 4 Stars! Mysterious, vague, and a bit confusing until all the pieces begin to fall into place. ****

First Amazon Customer Review;

And if the most radical aims of transhumanism are realised, could mortality itself become a thing of the past?

The Guardian;

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 Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up by Jacques Barcia — sadly, the final short story in Shine and the second one in the anthology which I could not rap my mind around. I re-read it several times and the story became clearer but again, I strongly suspect that this is for true fans of the genre.

SF Revu;

Others, like Jacques Barcia’s The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up strive so hard to transcend present-day troubles that they teeter into transhumanist follies.

New Scientist;

An interactive map with locations of the SHINE stories:

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!

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

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

SHINE excerpts: “The Earth of Yunhe”

Share/Bookmark

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the first one: “The Earth of Yunhe” by Eric Gregory (podcast of the story here!):

He came to us with promises of dirt. I was outside of the city that day, checking up on the outermost ring of accumulators, but I saw the whole mess on the network once it was over. I saw it from every angle, through the beady eyes of two dozen different wi-mo cameras. On some impulse that I didn’t quite understand, I brought up the most popular video now.

Xiaohao strode into Little Yunhe Square, right up to the Administrators’ Quonset hut offices. He wore the black skinweave favored by the Ecclesia—likely the first of his many mistakes—and waved his arms like an attention-starved child. “It’s time to return to our ancestral home!” he shouted. Xiao had never been a very good public speaker; he compensated for anxiety with breathtaking pompousness. “The day is today! The hour is this hour! Follow me, and we’ll raise Yunhe from new soil!”

With each word, more and more of the square’s homeless raised their wi-mos to record the madman’s performance. Two security officers outside of the Quonset hut exchanged uncertain glances and advanced cautiously, hands on the butts of their pistols.

“New soil!” Xiaohao cried again. “Smart soil from the Ecclesia, soil to reclaim Yunhe―the real Yunhe―from the ash. I’m giving this to you. We will built it together. Look! Explore!” That last bit made no sense; did he carry some of the magic dirt in his hand? Xiao went silent as something approached from offscreen. The camera jerked to one side, zoomed in on the Little Yunhe Administrators as they emerged from their offices. Papa, dressed in his trademark gray suit, took the lead.

“Father,” said Xiao, barely audible now, “I’ve brought—”

Papa moved faster than the wi-mo filmmaker could follow. When the camera found him again, the old man stood over his son, who was crumpled on the ground clutching his face. “I’m giving this to you,” screamed Xiao, and Papa reared back to kick him in the gut.

I couldn’t watch any further.

My fingers shook as I folded up the wi-mo. Could I really say that Papa wouldn’t kill him? I’d winced when I saw the video for the first time, but assumed the worst was over. After all, Xiaohao hadn’t been the first criminal beaten by our father, and Little Yunhe had never executed anyone before. My brother had come here practically wrapped in the flag of Ecclesia; of course Papa would show him hard justice, give him a week or two in the Whale. But he wouldn’t kill his own son.

Would he?

Excerpt from “The Earth of Yunhe” by Eric Gregory. Copyright © 2010 by Eric Gregory

Picture credits:

Eric Gregory’s stories have appeared in Strange HorizonsInterzoneBlack StaticSybil’s Garage, and more. He has also written non-fiction for Fantasy Magazine and The Internet Review of Science Fiction. Visit him online at ericmg.com.

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

And don’t forget to check out Kate Baker’s terrific podcast of the story!

Share/Bookmark

Review Quotes:

Eric Gregory’s sublimely powerful The Earth of Yunhe takes place in a region of China devastated by a flood of toxic coal waste and a dissident native son who risks everything to find a solution — a solution that could transform the entire planet.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe has to be my favourite out of all of the stories in Shine. It deals with two siblings in rebellion against their father and the current state of things. Gregory’s descriptions of the world of Yunhe is tightly controlled, allowing us glimpses of a future where China could perhaps be the garden of the world. What I truly liked in this was how quickly I grew fond of the characters and to be honest, I am willing Mr. Gregory to put pen to paper and offer up a full length novel soon because he writes very well indeed.

SF Revu;

The opening story, The Earth of Yunhe by Eric Gregory is a strong one. […] Gregory weaves a very interesting tale of a displaced people, conflict within a family and nanotechnology. What I particularly liked about this story is the way the author manges to capture such a complex theme as the conflicts arising within a community of displaced people in one family. Do you resign yourself to finding your place in your new environment or try to reclaim what was lost? And what if technology allows you to reclaim but politics won’t?

Val’s Random Comments;

In the relocated village of Little Yunhe, Yuen the daughter of the “village chief” tries to save her brother Xiao who has “defected” in college to Ecclesia, a transnational organization that plays the role of a state in this environmentally troubled Earth, only to return with a discovery that may allow Yunhe to be “grounded on soil” again. However Xiao is regarded as impious and “heretic” and his brash manners on return did not help, so he got flung in jail by his father. An excellent story that works at all levels — world building, action, inventiveness and characters and a superb start to the anthology.

Fantasy Book Critic;

Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe takes the reader to a future China suffocating beneath ash and pollutants. The remedy takes the form of nanite soil a hyper-complex algorithm, but the real problem is not pollution, but the government unwilling to compromise. Highly Recommended, and a promising opening.

Suite 101;

Eric Gregory likewise goes for technical plausibility in The Earth of Yunhe, though he keeps things closer to home as his characters use social networks mobilise support for rebuilding a climate-wrecked city with nanobots in the soil.

Futurismic;

[…] 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;

Also, though half the stories take place in unusual locations, few present worldviews that diverge significantly from the default Anglosaxon mindset. Interestingly, the two that go farthest are those in which the first-person narrators don’t match the gender of the authors (Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe, a happy-outcome alternate of Tiananmen Square; Jason Andrew’s Scheherazade Cast in Starlight, an upbeat version of the Iranian election Tweeter phenomenon).

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;

Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe is a more reflective and nuanced tale of repression and rebellion. The spare prose and the nicely drawn characters reaffirm the notion that sedition is always a possibility.

—Interzone;

An interactive map of the 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!

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

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

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

SHINE: the Table of Contents

Share/Bookmark

As a way to close off 2009, while simultaneously promising something for 2010, here is the Table of Contents for the Shine anthology (UPDATE: Shine has been released in the USA March 30, and in the UK April 15; story titles link to story excerpts, complete with pictures, review quotes, exclusive interviews & interactive maps; in some cases to podcast or even the full text; author names link to their websites):

Cover Image:

UPDATE: here are some review quotes:

That’s why Shine is such a significant — dare I say, historic — anthology. And with a rich diversity of settings and thematic speculation, this is a collection most science fiction fans will undoubtedly embrace.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

…just about a textbook example of how to do it…

Having read hundreds of anthologies it isn’t often that I want to revisit one soon afterwards, Shine is definitely one such.

Not Free SF Reader;

Overall, Shine is utterly worth reading.

SciFi Wire;

On all counts, it’s a rousing success, the very model of a modern project, and points the way toward a healthy future for SF short stories.

Salon;

But it would be difficult — some might say doubly impossible — for every entry in an anthology as ambitious as Shine to appeal to every reader. It is to de Vries’ credit that all but the most hard-hearted of sci-fi readers should find their own brand of optimism represented somewhere among Shine’s array of bright futures.

New Scientist;

But if we are to have some some influence over how that change unfolds, isn’t it important that our stories, whether they be in the news, on television screens or in the pages of science fiction novels, fully explore the optimistic possibilities that technology represents?

The Guardian;

To round off this very long review I’m happy to report that Shine was a truly fascinating and enjoyable read. I’m not the biggest SF fan in the world, but I’ll happily promote this to others who, like me, feel the same way. Here are authors with stories and characters I could relate to. But then, I suspect hardened SF readers out there will devour this with gusto. Jetse de Vries has done a truly remarkable job putting Shine together and I’d like to be signed up to read any follow-up anthology because this one has genuinely broken down some preconceived ideas I’ve had about the genre.

SF Revu;

For an anthology with a very tight remit — optimistic near-future science fiction — there is a huge variety in the stories themselves. It occurs to me that this book is the perfect introduction to SF for readers who wouldn’t normally venture into the genre.

Catherine Hughes;

The diversity of the stories and the consistently high quality of this collection is testament to his passion for this project. […] A shining example of what positive thinking can achieve.

Val’s Random Comments;

An interactive map of SHINE story locations:

SHINE is slated for an April 2010 release. I am working on an official SHINE launch party at Odyssey, the 61st British National Science Fiction Convention. More news as it happens.

In the meantime, DayBreak Magazine will feature—apart from other great, near-future SF storiesexcerpts of the stories (two at a time).

For now: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Share/Bookmark

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!