Sunday, June 11, 2017

BEA 2017: TOR Books presents Leading Women in Science Fiction

Tracey writes about the TOR Books presents Leading Women in Science Fiction panel that was presented at BookExpo America (BEA) on June 1st:

From left to right: Charlie Jane Anders, Malka Older and Annalee Newitz

Thursday afternoon, BEA offered the panel: TOR Books presents Leading Women in Science Fiction which was moderated by the author of All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders. During this 30 minute panel, Anders asked Malka Older, author of Infomocracy and the upcoming Null States and Annalee Newitz, author of the upcoming Autonomous, some fascinating questions on the factors that influenced them as they wrote their novels.

Anders started by asking how the authors prepared for setting their books in the future.

Older, whose book is set about 60 years from now, replied that it really depends on how far forward you want to go.

Newitz had more to say. Since her novel is set approximately 150 years in the future, she felt she had some "wiggle room" in terms of how current events might have transformed things. She describes her thought process in this way: First, she figured there would be 4 to 5 generations between now and then. Next, she looked back at history and thought about how much different her great grandmother's life was from her own. For instance, one contrast between her great grandmother's day and the present is that women can now vote. In her novel, there are robots who possess artificial intelligence. These robots have gone through their own civil rights movement and have gained civil rights. She stated that in comparison "there are civil rights for people of color in this country, nominally."

Next, Anders spoke about how fascinating each unique world is and asked the authors how they went about making their characters memorable.

Older stated that when she was starting to write Infomocracy she really wanted to talk about how government and politics could look different in the future. She wanted to write an adventurous story because that's the kind of thing she likes reading. So, she said, "it was really important to have characters who could connect with the present". Although her characters were born in the future, they still have a lot of the same concerns that people currently do.

One of Newitz's characters is a young robot on his very first mission and he's struggling to understand his place in the world. She said that her "first image was of (this) robot feeling physical pain. I was imagining this robot going through training exercises, climbing a sand dune, and getting sand caught in his actuators in his legs. How that would feel to him and what the emotional impact would be." This first experience with physical pain leads to emotional pain because he feels betrayed by the humans that raised him. She says she actually built the world of Autonomous around this character. Another important factor for Newitz was to find a balance between her "nerdy excitement about world building" and her "sense of human sadness and horror."

Anders then asked about the underlying theme of idealism followed by burnout that occurs in both novels.

Older says her novel is "a thought experiment in a lot of ways". She took a close look at politics and how things could be different in the future. She wanted her characters to be engaged in these politics and she knew that by the end, there was going to be a feeling of exhaustion. Also, she wanted to convey the feeling that there are limits of what can be accomplished; even by people who are so engaged and hopeful.

Newitz's other central character is Jack, a pharmaceutical pirate who starts out as a very idealistic grad student. Jack soon realizes that the world of medicine has been completely corrupted by corporations. Medicine has become too expensive for the poor, so she becomes an outlaw. She's completely burned out as she copes with working in underground labs to reverse engineer drugs and from fleeing from the law. The big question Newitz says she asks of her characters is, "if we are trying to change things, how far do we want to go, and how radical do we want to get?"

Anders commented that both novels have a very strong sense of place and wondered how the authors accomplished that. Both authors agree, by trying to visit the places that they write about.
For Older it was extremely important for her book to be global. She added that "they say write what you know but I think you can write about what you miss." It helps makes things very vivid.
Newitz stated that although she has not sailed on the Arctic Sea (like Jack), she spent a lot of time studying maps and geography. She says she also thought about new trades routes and how they would need to be based on climate change but also her world's economic system which is based on indenture. She said indenture "is just a nice term for slavery, but people like to call it indenture in the future so that they don't feel quite so bad for enslaving robots."

She believes the little details are huge. Newitz said Older "has amazing images of food in her novel and she also has a great way of showing what it's like to pass over a border." She says those are the kinds of detail that help people "smell the place and kind of see the place in their imagination."

Anders then asked about climate change and how both writers approached this when writing their books.

Older thinks it is an extremely important issue to take into consideration. She says she may have downplayed climate change a bit and made some optimistic assumptions but that even so, in her book there are certain countries completely under water. She says she looked at population maps as well because population is a major issue in her book. Studying maps helped her to keep things as realistic as possible..

Newitz, says she thinks it's crucial to include climate change in any vision of the future. She stated "We are heading into a world where geography will be changed by the environment transforming." Newitz, who is also a science journalist, has interviewed geoscientists who have said that things are going to be really screwed up for the next 1000 years. She concluded by saying "If you are setting a book in the next 1000 years, then absolutely, you have to be thinking about how settlements of humans will change, settlements of animals will change and (how) the composition of the ocean will change. There's just no getting away from it."

Finally Anders commented that both book have amazingly diverse cultures and ethnic groups. Anders asked the authors if this occurred naturally or if it was a reflection on how they wanted to portray the future.

Older didn't think it was a big change from the present. She said that we live in a diverse place with many different groups of people, To Older, the interesting part of writing her book was to decide "what are the things that we worry about now that have disappeared in the future and what are the new things that might come up." She said that "as a species we tend to find new ways to dice and slice ourselves into different groups."

Newitz candidly announced that she is "just not that interested in white people." She went on to say that she was more interested in writing about nonhumans. She felt it would be really interesting to explore how a robot would look at humans. She said that she had always been drawn to stories about nonhuman animals and aliens and their experiences. For Newitz it was a natural way to get away from the standard sci-fi plot.

Malka Older (left) and Annalee Newitz (right)

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders is available now and has won the 2016 Nebula Award for Best Novel, the Crawford Award for a novel published in 2016, and is nominated for the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Infomocracy by Malka Older is available now and Null States, the second novel in the Centenal Cycle, will be available on September 19, 2017. Malka Older a finalist for the The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (presented at the Hugo Awards). Infomocracy is a Locus Award Finalist for Best First Novel.

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz publishes on September 19, 2017 and is Annalee's debut fiction book. Annalee Newitz's most recent non-fiction book is Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction which was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist in Science & Technology.

We have a fabulous giveaway for you: signed copies of All the Birds in the Sky (Trade Paperback), Null States (printed paperback ARC) and Autonomous (printed paperback ARC)! Follow the directions in The Giveaway section below to enter.

 All the Birds in the Sky
Tor Books, April 11, 2017
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 26, 2016

From the former editor-in-chief of, a stunning novel about the end of the worldand the beginning of our future

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky is a deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

Null States
The Centenal Cycle 2, September 19, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

"Kinetic and gripping" —NPR on Infomocracy

Null States continues Campbell Award finalist Malka Older's Centenal Cycle, the trilogy beginning with Infomocracy

A Locus Award Finalist for Best First Novel
The book The Huffington Post called "one of the greatest literary debuts in recent history"
Named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, The Verge, Flavorwire, Kirkus, and Book Riot

The future of democracy is about to implode.
After the last controversial global election, the global infomocracy that has ensured thirty years of world peace is fraying at the edges. As the new Supermajority government struggles to establish its legitimacy, agents of Information across the globe strive to keep the peace and maintain the flows of data that feed the new world order.

In the newly-incorporated DarFur, a governor dies in a fiery explosion. In Geneva, a superpower hatches plans to bring microdemocracy to its knees. In Central Asia, a sprawling war among archaic states threatens to explode into a global crisis. And across the world, a shadowy plot is growing, threatening to strangle Information with the reins of power.

Tor Books, September 19, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

The highly anticipated science fiction debut from the founder of io9!

Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can’t otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.

Hot on her trail, an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack’s drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understand.

And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?

The Giveaway

What: All the Birds in the Sky (Trade Paperback) by Charlie Jane Anders, Null States (printed paperback ARC) by Malka Older and Autonomous (printed paperback ARC) by Annalee Newitz. Each book is signed by the author! INTERNATIONAL

  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ [remove the spaces]
  • In the subject line, enter “TOR SF“ with or without the quote marks.
  • In the body of the email, please provide your name and full mailing address. The winning address is used only to mail the novel(s) and is provided to the publisher and/or The Qwillery only for that purpose. All other address information will be deleted by The Qwillery once the giveaway ends.
Who:  The giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address.

When:  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on June 23, 2017. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*


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