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Apr 07, 2014
The intersection of installation art and fiction
On Saturday, May 3 and Sunday May 4, 2014, I will be hosting a workshop called Feedback Loops, on the mutual influence of art and speculative fiction, at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery here in Toronto. Using the works on view as starting points for narrative development, participants will learn the mechanics of writing and refining a speculative short story, resulting in an original piece of fiction that may be published in the gallery's online journal Switch On.
The workshop is being co-hosted by the Power Plant, the International Festival of Authors, and the Humber School for Writers. If you're interested in attending, please contact the Harbourfront Centre Box Office at 416-973-4000.
Mar 21, 2014
Saturday, March 29 at 3, at Bakka Books here in Toronto
Fresh out of a dentist's appointment, I will be launching Lockstep at Bakka-Phoenix Books on Saturday, March 29 at 3:00. There'll be entertainment (me), copies of Lockstep to be signed and book-related ideas to be explained, and other novels to be bought (hint: we'll be breaking into the vault to offer some out-of-print hardcover editions of novels like Ventus and Permanence).
If you're really lucky you'll get to hear me do a reading with my mouth still frozen from the dentist. Major fun!
You can get to or contact Bakka-Phoenix here:
84 Harbord St., Toronto, Ontario M5S 1G5
Mar 18, 2014
Derek Künsken gets it
I'm finding that the more a reviewer knows classic space opera (the 20th century version) the more they "get" Lockstep. Young Adult reviewers have been particularly kind, but now Derek Künsken, writing in The New York Review of Science Fiction, has explicitly compared Lockstep to its predecessors, and to what's often called the "new space opera." In the article (which you can find here, mind that it's $2.99 to buy the issue) he takes as a challenge my own assertion that with this book I've reinvented space opera, and sets out to see whether I'm right. To do this he compared the novel to its classic forerunners as well as recent works by Banks, Greenland, McCauley, McDonald, Reynolds and Stross. He starts by admitting that
Schroeder has preserved the interesting bits of the space opera setting, the light-year-spanning civilization, without jettisoning respect for known physics. This is an impressive addition to the canon.
His analysis is a fascinating read and a good reminder to those of us who've lost track over the years, of where this beloved branch of science fiction came from and what it's evolved into. In doing so, he highlights one of the issues that led me to write the novel: the pessimism of much of the current genre. There's no sense of innocence in science fiction these days. Now, I'm a firm believer that SF needs to shed its technophilic naivete; the time has passed when we could write starry-eyed tales about how science will cure all our ills. The hero of my long-running short story cycle, Gennady Malianov, is a pathologically shy Ukrainian arms inspector who, in tale after tale, ends up cleaning up the messes left by exactly that kind of naivete. So, I'm right there.
However, not only is there space for a mature optimism in SF, I believe it's absolutely essential. Anyone who has kids has to be an optimist, and we who are to bequeath a transformed world to our descendants are equally obligated, as a society, to work toward a positive future. That doesn't preclude being grimly aware of the mess we're in and the messes we could still create, as Gennady well knows. But it means we can still dare, and dream big, and care about the world we're for good or ill bringing into being. Space opera is a primary myth-form for that civilizational task.
As Künsken puts it,
Schroeder does not undermine, as Letson and Wolfe noted for writers of new space opera, the optimism present in the classic space opera form—quite the opposite. Lockstep is a novel overflowing with the optimism of a simpler time, fully embracing in its tone the adolescent yearning for the adventure, grand gestures, and romance of the classic space opera. Lockstep asserts thematically that it is possible to go back, to recover that innocence of an earlier age.
So, in the end, does he think I've "reinvented" space opera? Actually, no. Instead,
He created conditions under which the charm and wonder of classic space opera could live again. This is an equally valuable feat.
Good enough. I'm happy now.
Feb 20, 2014
I'll be one of the speakers at the Fields Institute's panel discussion
How does math influence science fiction? In my case, I'm functionally inumerate and yet have created hard-SF universes that others have written scientific papers about. How does that work? This Saturday myself, Suzanne Church and Tony Pi will be talking about the intersection point of math and imagination--and perhaps, about the idea that there's no real difference between the two.
See you there!
Jan 28, 2014
Head over to Goodreads and enter today
You can enter to win a free copy of my newest book, Lockstep. Goodreads and Tor Books are sponsoring the draw, which is open until February 25, 2014.
Early buzz on Lockstep is very flattering (see this blogger's review, and this one). I had a lot of fun writing this novel; like 2002's Permanence, it's something of an homage to the Andre Norton juveniles I grew up reading.
One cool aspect of this particular draw is that what you'd be winning is an ARC--an Advance Reader's Copy of the novel. These are generally the same as the hardcover edition on the inside, but paper-bound and usually without cover art. Plain, intended for reviewers--and collectible.
So what have you got to lose? The contest's open to anyone in the U.S. and Canada, and goes for another month.
Jan 16, 2014
Wearing my foresight hat, I've contributed to an article on open source biotech in this new book
A couple of years ago I contributed to a paper, "Open Source Biotechnology Platforms for Global Health and Development: Two Case Studies," whose other authors are Hassan Masum, Myra Khan and Abdallah S. Daar. The subject was open source models for drug discovery and alternatives to standard patent processes. The paper has now been published in the book Open Development: Networked Innovations in International Development (available from various sources, for instance here on Amazon).
Open development is closely related to ideas of collective intelligence (and I contributed to a book on that a couple of years ago) and to radical innovations like Bitcoin and the redesigning of democracy that I discuss in my Hieroglyph contribution. But in this case, it's the nitty-gritty details that matter rather than the grand sweep of exciting ideas. What are the open-source alternatives to traditional patents, and how do they operate? How can open-source ideas be practically applied to the problem of discovering new treatments, particularly for "orphaned" diseases that the big pharmaceutical companies find difficult to address? Open Development is a book for those who're interested in the details of how we can make a collaborative civilization work. As such it's important and timely, and I'm proud to have contributed to it if only in a minor way.