It began, the way these things usually begin, with a Proposal.
This is Vanuatu. A Y-shaped archipelago of islands somewhere in the nowhere, South Pacific Ocean, home to Michener’s mythical Bali Rai, coconut plantations, coconut crabs, a few World War II downed planes, a sunken troop-carrier, volcanoes and coral reefs: its Internet domain suffix is .vu, its capital is the distant Port Vila, described by residents and visitors alike as a slightly dodgy Australian resort town, and known by the wider electronic world primarily for not having certain kinds of laws which make placing off-shore servers there profitable. There is a foreign volunteer for every thousand people on the islands, making Vanuatu the most volunteer-intensive country in the world. Welcome to Vanuatu! AusAid, Peace Corps, VSO, VSA, CUSO, JICA; EU, the Australian High Commission, the Alliance française, the Chinese, the Taiwanese, the Japanese, only the Arabs and the Israelis have so far forsaken Vanuatu – what is the nature of your project? What benefit does it have to the community? What is the amount of community buy-in? Please specify expected outcome and sustainability. How much do you need? What sort of materials?
It began, the way things in Sola usually begin, if they are to begin at all, in the Market House.
Over at the Shine Anthology Blog, Jetse de Vries interviews me about optimistic SF, travelling, world SF, development and politics – some good questions there.
Jetse de Vries: When I spoke with John Berlyne at the last EasterCon, he was full of praise for your novel Osama (to be released by PS Publishing). An excerpt from it has gone up online recently on World Literature Today’s special SF issue (If I understand correctly). However, while John loved Osama, he also mentioned it was a near-impossible sell to the ‘big’ publishers. Do you intentionally try to write controversial material, or did it just happen? And do you think that something like — say — Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses would be published today by a major publisher?
Lavie Tidhar: What’s published in World Literature Today isn’t actually a part of the novel. It’s a story about a guy who wakes up one morning to find out he’s Osama bin Laden. I write a lot about politics, I think. The novel, Osama, actually owes part of its origin to a story I wrote a while back, My Travels with Al-Qaeda (in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s anthology Salon Fantastique), which is sort of a love story, about two people trapped by several bombing attacks — which is sort of what happened to my wife and me. We were in Dar-es-Salaam when the American embassy was bombed, my wife was in the Sinai during the Ras-al-Saitan bombinbgs, in London during the Kings’ Cross bombings… so you do get to the point where you think, hey, is this personal?
Osama is, I think, a very ambitious novel. And I do think that, at heart, it’s a love story. What John said is absolutely true. A lot of editors liked the book, but were afraid to publish it. And we’re very lucky Nick Gevers and Pete and Nicky Crowther at PS were so enthusiastic about it.
Now, I don’t set out to write ‘controversial’ material. But I do feel I should engage with what’s important, that I should write about things that matter. It’s not to say I don’t love the escapist stuff as well, but at heart I’m a political writer — because there’s so much that we need to talk about, need to understand.
Would The Satanic Verses be published today? I have no idea. So far, however, Osama has been turned down by, oh, well, a fair number of publishers, yes. But I’m lucky to have PS, and I am still hopeful someone would get over this fear and pick it up. We’ll see…
This was supposed to be published a while back, but it’s up now: my survey on Optimism in Israeli SF, over at the Shine Anthology blog. And it’s illustrated!
Below are the three books in the Adventures of Captain Yuno series of YA SF from the 1950s. It might not be a total surprise to learn that I do, in fact, possess all three (incredibly rare these days). Aren’t they beautiful?
Looks like I will be sharing the table of contents with some cool writers – no official ToC announcement yet, but you can find some of the other names with a Google blog search. All part of Jetse’s masterplan, I believe… There’s also going to be a competition, and all kinds of other things as Jetse takes over the world promotes the book.
It’s been in the works for a while, but it’s only now official to announce: my story, “The Solnet Ascendancy” will appear in Jetse de Vries’ forthcoming anthology of optimistic SF, Shine, coming April 2010 from Solaris Books.
“The Solnet Ascendancy” is one of my Vanuatu stories, set on Vanua Lava (the island I lived on for a year) and charting, tongue somewhat in cheek, the rapid rise of a technological revolution, South Pacific style…
And here is Vanua Lava from the air: