I’ve read Alastair Reynolds before and, like many, fallen in love with his grand, robust, yet wry take on the staples of SF. His tarnished futures, his untidy, yet awesome universes. Here was a writer who made me believe his futures, however extraordinary. Here, more importantly, was a writer who made sure his SF was a home to real people, real people who nevertheless had the sort of characters that drove exciting plots.
So when I inherited the job of editing Alastair I was excited. I’d met him a good few times before but spending longer with him in the run-up to publishing Blue Remembered Earth a lot of things fell into place. For a man with such an exotic imagination Alastair is a very down-to-earth character. At first glance the world view might appear to be a little bit downbeat but behind the laconic turn of phrase and the healthy cynicism about politics you quickly discover deeply held passions, quietly pursued enthusiasms, huge optimism. He’s grounded but only so he can hang on to a lot of light-headed excitement.
And you can see that in the books. Of course, we are instructed by our literature courses, that the author is dead; that reading books with the author’s biography at our elbow is a false reading. And, of course, I don’t KNOW Alastair – I’ve still only met him a few times but, but…
With its near future setting, its science that takes no great leaps from current understandings, Blue Remembered Earth is something of a departure for Alastair but it’s clear to me that it is VERY much an Alastair Reynolds novel. The sympathy for the outsider; the fascination with other cultures; the readiness to see the best in individuals; the love of nature, the understanding of its richness and variety; the abiding belief that science has massive potential to do good for everyone; the boundless optimism that we can survive the future and even prosper in it; the passion for the promises that SF has made, they’re all in this book and I’ve seen all of them in Alastair.
I loved editing Blue Remembered Earth, loved seeing a bit of the processes that produced it. And I can’t wait to see where Alastair’s ambitions for us and our place in the Universe take the subsequent books in this amazing, yet very grounded, future history. And I think you’ll feel the same.
I’m really excited that all this week we’ll be sharing the first four chapters with you here on the Gollancz Blog. Do let us know what you think. Happy Reading!
BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH
“And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.”
— Dylan Thomas
It is necessary to speak of beginnings. Understand one thing, though, above all else. Whatever brought us to this moment, this declaration, could never have had a single cause. If we have learned anything, it’s that life is never that simple, never that schematic.
You might say it was the moment when our grandmother set her mind to her last great deed. Or that it started when Ocular found something worthy of Arethusa’s attention, a smudge of puzzling detail on a planet circling another star, and Arethusa in turn felt honour bound to share that discovery with our grandmother.
Or that it was Hector and Lucas deciding that the family’s accounts could not tolerate a single loose end, no matter how inconsequential that detail might have looked at the time. Or the moment Geoffrey was called out of the sky, torn from his work with the elephants, drawn back to the household with the news that our grandmother was dead. Or his decision to confess everything to Sunday, and her choice that, rather than spurning her brother, she should take the path of forgiveness.
You might even say that it goes back to the moment in former Tanzania, a century and a half ago, when a baby named Eunice Akinya took her first raw breath. Or the moment that followed a heartbeat later, when she bellowed her first bawling cry, heralding a life of impatience. The world never moved quickly enough for our grandmother. She was always looking back over her shoulder, screaming at it to keep up, until the day it took her at her word.
Something made Eunice, though. She may have been born angry, but it was not until her mother cradled her under the stillness of a Serengeti night, beneath the cloudless spine of the Milky Way, that she began to grasp for what was forever out of reach.
All these stars, Eunice. All these tiny diamond lights. You can have them, if you want them badly enough. But first you must be patient, and then you must be wise.
And she was. So very patient and so very wise. But if her mother made Eunice, what shaped her mother ? Soya was born two centuries ago, in a refugee camp, at a time when there were still famines and wars, droughts and genocides. What made her strong enough to gift this force of nature to the world, this child who became our grandmother ?
We didn’t know it then, of course. If we considered her at all, it was mostly as a cold, forbidding figure none of us had ever touched or spoken to in person. Looking down on us from her cold Lunar orbit, isolated in her self-erected prison of metal and jungle, she seemed to belong to a different century. She had done great and glorious things – changed her world, left an indelible human mark on others – but those were deeds committed by a much younger woman, one with only a distant connection to our remote, peevish and dis- interested grandmother. By the time we were born her brightest and best days were behind her.
So we thought.