Tag Archives: Industrial Revolution

Tesseracts 17 Interview: Holly Schofield

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

Holly Schofield writes a thoughtful piece about one possible future of our digital world in “Graveyard Shift.”

CA: “Graveyard Shift” is about a moral dilemma. Why did you choose to explore it through the aspects Asian tradition?

I knew I wanted to write about the soul-crushing debt that post-secondary students are incurring now and how that may worsen in the future. By adding in a cultural challenge, I was able to increase the struggle of the main character, Ryan, and deepen the story.

Like many young Canadians, 23-year-old Ryan precariously straddles two worlds. He’s a child of mainstream urban Canada, with all its peer pressure, capitalism, and emphasis on a unique sense of self. And he was raised in a traditional Asian multigenerational household, with its sometimes conflicting components: an unyielding respect for elders, a severe work ethic, and a unified sense of family.

Ryan’s ability to choose which of the two culture’s many elements to apply to his growing set of problems is essential to the story.

CA: You story deals with a near and very possible future where the effects of automation and a global village are wiping out the need for certain jobs. In some ways, it’s what happened when the Industrial Revolution happened. Do you think we’re going to go through more of these industrial bumps? Is there a chance for people to be assimilated into new jobs or will we end up with a leisure society?

Asian culture, techology, SF, speculative fiction, Canadian authors, Alberta writers

Holly Schofield’s story is about straddling cultures and changes in the world.

History is full of speed bumps. I don’t see that changing. Our current challenges include technology’s effect on jobs, the uneven division of wealth, and the increasing need for life-long learning. In this story, Ryan has chosen an educational path that is perhaps no longer appropriate and needs to adjust his expectations accordingly—a familiar feeling to anyone applying for jobs in our post-2008 world.

The line between work and leisure may well blur as technology advances. Even ten years ago, it was almost impossible to imagine a job in the social media field, yet now that’s a burgeoning employment sector.

The key, in both real life and in the story, is flexibility. Does Ryan have enough transferable job skills to cope? Readers will have to learn for themselves.

CA: You mentioned that you hope to save the world through science fiction. Whether serious or not about that statement, do you believe that writing SF can make a difference?

I’m certainly hoping it can. I know that reading SF has made a difference in how I perceive the world and where our civilization is headed.
It’s proven that reading fiction, any fiction, measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people. Levels of emotional engagement rise in the long-term, compared to non-fiction readers.

Something not yet proven, but I tend to believe, is that SF readers have even more of that engagement and, even better, an understanding of the real potential of humankind. In my own case, watching the original Star Trek on TV as a child–seeing that imaginary future world without poverty, where humans can satisfy their need to simply explore–gave me a “big picture” view of how wonderful our civilization can be. Thousands of SF stories later, I’m sure I do see the world in a different way than a reader who has never ventured outside of mainstream fiction.

I would like to impart some of that optimism in my own fiction.

CA: What’s your next project?

I tend to work on several stories at once. Soon-to-be-published stories involve Alberta petroglyphs, a wimpy superhero, and a garbage-collecting cyborg. Stories in progress feature a brain-augmented cat, a woman who mind-melds with eagles, and a castle built by a time traveller. Keep checking hollyschofield.wordpress.com (http://hollyschofield.wordpress.com/) for upcoming publications.

Holly Schofield has several publications in the online magazines, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review and Perihelion. Her work will soon appear in three anthologies: Tesseracts 17, Oomph: A Little Super Goes A Long Way, and The Future Embodied.

She travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of a prairie farmhouse and her writing cabin on the west coast.
She plans to save the world with science fiction stories and home-grown heritage tomatoes.

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Sustainability and A Planet Out of Whack

We are talking more and more about sustainability, as an end to our oil resources is something almost calculable by now. As our living space will decrease with population growth and demands on usable water will increase. As our landfills overflow and seep toxic gunk into the groundwater.  As our land turns to dustbowls or swamps and arable land becomes scarce, as millions of cars belch fumes into the sky.

Right now fires are sweeping across BC, again, threatening people living in cities. In Westbank/Kelowna 11,000 people have been evacuated with another 6,000 on alert. This echoes the terrible, devastatingly traumatic fires that swept through parts of Australia earlier this year. Fires so intense and vicious that they caught people as they tried to get into their cars, that burned land to a cinder killing all living things, whether plant or animal, that stood upon the land. Australia faces the collapse of its wine industry, vines grown for years either burned to a crisp or without water to keep the crops going. Their cattle industry is also in danger. A whole country and continent without enough water.

This is not a new thing. Disasters and climatic devastation have happened throughout history but the ferocity and frequency are increasing as the planet warms and suffers under the onslaught of chemicals and fumes not meant to play with nature. The change in the planet probably began with the industrial revolution, once machines were chugging blue smoke into the sky and sluicing runoff into the streams. It began with the first car. And if we think about it, that was only about a hundred years ago. A tenth of a millennium and civilization has existed for at least twenty thousand years.

Think about it. We are exponentially increasing the danger to the planet and to ourselves, and sticking our heads in the sand won’t make it go away. So just what is sustainability? Let’s look at defining it first, from Merriam Webster: 1: capable of being sustained 2 a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture> b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society> 

So that a resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. Wow. Perhaps it’s easier to look at what is not sustainable than what is. What’s left over is what we have to work with. Let’s start with the biggest resource. Our planet. It is of a finite circumference with finite water and land. The world population is at 6.7 billion. It is expected to increase to 9 billion in 2040. That’s within a lot of our lifetimes. There will be less land to live on and the more building that happens takes away from land to grow upon. Water is already an issue in many places. What will it be like in thirty years?

This means no matter how much you love children, think they’re cute, want to be surrounded by bundles of joy or your religion has said, go forth and multiply, it is just not sustainable. Everyone can take personal responsibility and for every couple have one child. That will bring our population down. It will make the planet breathe a sigh of relief and continue a bit longer. Plagues, diseases and flus won’t spread like wildfire. And yes, businesses will have to restructure from the grow grow grow buy more mentality. But we’ll survive.

What is not sustainable is manufacturing more and cheaper cars, SUVs, Hummers and every gas guzzling monster. For sustainability they should be outlawed. And we see right now the glacial progress of moving to electric cars. Governments need to move faster on this and provide incentives to get people to change. More cars plug city thoroughfares and raise costs in maintenance, accident prevention and care. Fewer cars and bigger carpool systems will lessen the strain and road rage. Electric cars, bicycles, viable and cheap public transit will help alleviate both pollution and the sucking of the world’s limited oil and metal resources. Another unsustainable depleting resource.

Manufacturing that uses water needs to be looked at, if our water is becoming limited. Healthy, interactive systems of filtration need to be used to keep our water pure and reusable. We could end up like the people in the novel Dune, having to wear suits that recycle and sweat and urine into drinkable fluids over and over because the planet is desert. Water saving devices for taps, toilets and showers must be used. Education will help stem the tide there.

Building homes and offices, making paper all work on depleting trees. The forestry industry has been made responsible for replanting for quite a few years. But you can chop down more trees in a day than will grow in  a year. it takes years to get a big tree, centuries. Ripping out too many tress not only affects flora and fauna of an ecosystem but also affects the topsoil, the nutrients and the infrastructure of the land for both stability and water.

I could go on but every person as well as every company and government must take responsibility and look at what they use and how it’s reused or discarded. Everything from food to clothing. If we don’t start now, we should have started fifty years ago. And if you truly love children, start now and look at what you can do for sustainability because there could be no tomorrow.

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Machine Animals and Giants

Nantes, Machine de L'ile, machine animals, Jules Vernes

The Sea Diver is about 30 feet tall and was looking for his lost niece. Photo by misterstf flickr

I seriously want to go to Nantes. Where is that? Good question. I didn’t know until a few months ago but then I’m not the biggest brain on geography, especially if I haven’t been there. When I saw an article on a giant spider that was built there, it piqued my interest. Nantes (pronounced nont)  is a tiny place in France, well, relatively so with a population of about 800,000 and sits on the Loire River. It is famed for being an important historic city in Brittany and being the birthplace of Jules Verne.

Maybe Verne’s fertile bed of great imagination, he who was pretty much the father of science fiction, left a seed of creativity that continues to grow. For Nantes is a place of magic. Giants have been seen on the streets and enormous sea creatures are being born. In fact, these creatures have toured to other cities. Marionettes (first the Little Giantess and of late the Sea Diver) as tall as 9 meters have walked the streets. Elephants, spiders and squids of enormous sizes have also been seen.

These animals are like animatronics and marionettes and most of all, amazing works of art. Made of wood, with moving parts and very lifelike in proportions and expressions (except always larger) they are creations of Royal de Luxe and Les Machines de L’ile. The first is a theatrical group that does street theatre and was first conceived in 1979. The pictures of the giant awaking show the scope of the piece and the crew required to move the marionette through the streets. How does one manipulate the “strings” of a 30-foot puppet? By having scaffolding that is even higher.

These amazing pieces are made of wood for the main sculptural elements but various mechanisms and hydraulics are added for the functionality. The related company, Les Machines de L’ile is a factory in Nantes where the creatures are created. La Machine is the performance company that takes the shows on the road, such as in Japan or London where the giant 50-foot spider, La Princesse, crawled through the streets.

François Delarozière is the main designer of the pieces but it takes a large crew to fabricate each sculpture and of course many people to run it. Royal de Luxe’s people all dress in costume, adding to the out of time and place feel. Weighing in at over two tons for the giant or 40 some tons for the Sultan’s Elephant, these works are not cheap to make. They come in at millions of pounds (or Euros), moneys brought about through different cultural mandates, and free to the public. (Indeed one would have to close their eyes to miss seeing these grandiose creatures.)

Some would call these sculptures steampunk, that genre of science fiction that emulates an earlier period of the Industrial Revolution, often in Victorian times, where brass, levers, pneumatic tubes, punch cards, steam and alternative methods of locomotion are the norm. And indeed, there is an essence of otherworldly or of a bordering time that the pieces bring about. The diver harkens back to Verne’s novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and is the star of the Estuary Festival, a big thing for Nantes, a long-time shipping port.

Although some critics consider these performance art affairs to be a waste of money I think they are an awesome statement of humankind’s imagination. If we were only to turn our minds to more events of this magnitude and less on how to maim, subjugate or denigrate others, then in truth we would live in a magical world. I would love to see such works as these performed in North America. Jules Verne began reaching into the great unknown of what-if in a different way. The artists of La Machine and Royal de Luxe keep that magic alive.

Royal de Luxe’s Giant in Nantes: http://www.socyberty.com/Folklore/A-Giant-Awakes-in-Nantes.763695

Les Machines de L’Ile: http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/english/

Le Princesse in Japan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACH3leVMFIU

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