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Science Fiction Summers

January 2, 2012

My summers have always been about big fantastical reads.  Mind-bending reads.  A little escape and a whole lot of ideas.

I spent all the summers of my teens reading speculative fiction in a beautiful and remote part of New Zealand.  There was something really important to me about reading about different futures for our planet while I was in a part of the world that I loved, but when I was also far away from my life in the city.  During summer holidays there is time for reflection, time to put down your day-to-day worries and think big.  This summer was no different, as I got to reflect on my life and the world around me in a new beautiful part of the Southern Hemisphere, while enjoying a new amazing read.

The Village, my favourite Falls reading spot

I spent the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 at the Falls Music Festival in Lorne, Victoria.  The festival site is in the middle of the Otway Forest Park, and it was a very chilled out festival with great music, lots of sitting around in the sun (or shade!) and plenty of time for reading.  I saw lots of people with paperbacks in hand, and lots of ereaders.  People even had solar powered chargers that they used to charge their devices over the four-day festival, so that they could keep reading.

It’s fitting that in the middle of a festival with solar cells and composting toilets, I was reading a book about a future in which the world’s oil resources are gone and people must come up with alternative energy sources.  The book I took with me to Falls and found myself escaping into between acts was The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, and I’m still only halfway through but it’s blowing my mind.

From the first moments of the first chapter Bacigalupi introduces us to a future Bangkok that is so distant from our comfortable existence that it really made me reconsider all the things that I take for granted.  Bacigalupi’s technical speculation in a future in which the world’s food resources have been corrupted by bioengineering is fascinating.  This is a world of refugees, shifting geopolitical power bases, and the capitalism and geography of food – where it comes from and how it is created.  It makes me think about everything from Barbara Kingsolver’s locavore food bible Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to geographer Mike Davis’s reflection on uneven development Planet of Slums.

If science fiction is all about breaking down our expectations and making us look at our world with new eyes, then this author is one of a new generation of writers following in the footsteps of Ursula Le Guin and William Gibson – making me completely overhaul the way I see the world and the way I imagine the future.


One Comment leave one →
  1. January 11, 2012 11:28 am

    What a lovely, evocative post. I enjoyed The Windup Girl, particularly its Bangkok setting. Also found its low-energy future very plausible – you might like Richard Heinberg’s The Party’s Over, about peak oil -though ‘like’ probably not right word. Terrifying would be more apt.

    The Windup Girl is fascinating and true to the little I know of Thai culture. Also love your linking it to Planet of Slums – a terrific book and one that was essential to my research too.


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