Episode 156: Live with Sofia Samatar

Cover art for A Stranger in OlondriaThis week Jonathan and Gary are joined in the Gershwin Room by Sofia Samatar, author of the brilliant debut fantasy novel A Stranger in Olondria, which was published by Small Beer Press this April.

In a wide-ranging discussion, we look at the origins of  A Stranger in Olondria, re-encountering genre fiction, the power of language and how we encounter it, and much, much more.
As mentioned in the podcast, you can read more of Sofia’s fiction here:
Another new story is coming up shortly at Lightspeed, and a sequel to A Stranger in Olondria is in the works.
As always, we would like to thank Sofia for taking the time to join us, and hope you enjoy the podcast.
Amended to add: The brilliant Cheryl Morgan, of this parish, did what I failed to do in comment she said:
“The Cuban book is The Island of Eternal Love by Daina Chaviano. “Ricky” is Rikki Ducornet. Jeff VanderMeer has been promoting her for some time. The zombie book is A Questionable Shape by Bennett Sims.”
Many thanks for the information, and the follow up, Cheryl!

New Space Opera audiobook

The New Space Opera audiobookThe New Space Opera audiobook
The New Space Opera audiobook

Back in 2007 Gardner Dozois and I co-edited The New Space Opera, a big anthology that at least in part was intended to provide an overview of what was happening in space opera at the time. It was a sprawling book filled with interesting stories, and it went on to win the Locus and Ditmar Awards as best anthology of the year.

The book is still available, but I’m really delighted that it’s also now available in audiobook from the good people at Blackstone Audio, as well as from Audible, Ambling, and other good audio retailers.

The Infinity Project



A year or three ago I was having drinks with the Solaris team in a bar. It was at a convention somewhere. We’d crossed paths a few times across the weekend and had talked about working together, but nothing concrete had been decided. We were trying each other on for size.

With the convention winding down we met one last time and, after a drink or two, they asked me if I’d edit a hard SF anthology for them. I don’t recall the remit was anything more specific than that. An unthemed hard SF anthology. I was delighted. Solaris were doing great books, I was eager to work with them, and I love hard SF (however you define it).

I went home and began to sketch out plans for the book that would become Engineering Infinity. I knew who had to be in it. Charlie Stross, Hannu Rajaniemi, Peter Watts and a bunch of others.  Some of the writers I wanted to be involved weren’t available but many were, and the book ended up being something pretty special.

My recollection is that the book was barely done when we were discussing another “Infinity” book. I’d just read James S.A Corey’s Leviathan’s Wake and Stan Robinson’s 2312. I was thoroughly engaged by the idea of an industrialised, settled and populated solar system, but one where the unrealities of interstellar travel hadn’t come into play. I suppose I was thinking of stories that sat on the cusp between hard SF and space opera. Again, I knew who I wanted to get involved, and many of them were available. That book became Edge of Infinity, which just recently won the Locus Award for Best Anthology of the year.

I don’t think I’d long delivered Edge when we started discussing a third “Infinity” book, this time Reach for Infinity. Jonathan Oliver, my editor at Solaris and a terrifically talented writer and editor himself, and I discussed what the book could be.  Having done a far future book (Engineering Infinity) and a mid-period future book (Edge of Infinity) it seemed appropriate to do a book focussing on the period when humanity was struggling to get off Earth, to find its way to the stars, if indeed it was going to make it at all. That lead to Reach for Infinity, the third “Infinity” book.

Even now I’m tossing ideas around for a fourth “Infinity” book. It’s far too early to agree to do another one – that will possibly come some time after Christmas – but I can see how the next episode in what I’ve come to think of as “The Infinity Project” might unfold. In some ways, it’s nothing less than a view of science fiction itself and of the future.


This time…Jungleland!

Bring back that Wrecking Ball!
Bring back that Wrecking Ball!

In March of this year I flew to Sydney with my brother to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform live at Allphones Arena. It was my second Springsteen show. The first was in Oakland in 2007 on the Magic Tour at Oakland Arena.  It had been something of a disappointment, if only because I’d fallen for Springsteen’s music in 1979 when a record store owner put “Jungleland” on a pair of headphones and told me he thought it was something I might like. I was lost to it immediately, and have never stopped loving it. That night, though, was a Magic show. There were a lot of people on stage and they were all playing at once. In truth, I think the band was still working out how to play in the post-Seeger sessions mode that has dominated everything since, and just weren’t clicking. The setlist was ok. We got “Racing in the Street”, “She’s the One”, “Badlands”, and of course “Born to Run”. But no “Jungleland” – my all-time favourite Springsteen song and one of my top three or four songs of all time.

At Allphones Arena, though, the show was different. The band were tighter, Springsteen was more energetic, the sound was more focussed, and Tom Morello sitting in for Steve Van Zandt was electric. The setlist was better, too. More and more favourites: a crackling “Tom Joad”, an even better “Badlands”, a powerful “Youngstown”, and more.  There were only two disappointments, as we clocked off the “Seven Nights to Rock”: one, the show was short (less than three hours!) and two, no “Jungleland”. Springsteen went on to play one of the greatest tours to hit these shores. And he played “Jungleland” several times, just not when I was there.

And then this morning the official news hit: Bruce is bringing the Wrecking Ball back to Australia, this time in February/March 2014 with both Van Zandt and Morello, and they’re coming to Perth. I’ll be there if I can lay my hands on tickets. I hope to see him in at least one other city too – maybe Melbourne. And this time, fingers crossed, after more than thirty years, maybe he’ll play “Jungleland”!

Rumours and sighs

If this Bruce Springsteen tour blog is to be believed, Bruce Springsteen is planning to head back Down Under in February 2014, and this time he’ll be coming to Perth. The date rumoured is February 7, and a cursory look at the Perth Arena event calendar suggests that there’s nothing on there for several days either side of that date. It’s my guess Perth could get more than one show and if it does I definitely plan to be there.  This is the best news I’ve had all day!