In this issue you’ll find several insightful articles: “The Dystopian Narrative: an Analysis of Texts that Portray Nightmarish Futures” by Giovanna Chinellato; “The Needle and the Wedge: Digital Games as a Medium for Science Fiction” by Monica Evans; and “Amazofuturism and Indigenous Futurism in Brazilian Science Fiction” by Gama and Garcia.
Paul Kincaid‘s regular column, “Kincaid in Short,” is devoted in Vector 291 to a short story by Brian Aldiss, “The Girl and the Robot with Flowers”. There are three highlighted book reviews from The BSFA Review by Andy Sawyer, Maureen Kincaid Speller and Kate Onyett, as well as a special review-essay by Nick Hubble about Sideways in Time: Critical Essays on Alternate History Fiction, edited by Glyn Morgan and C. Palmer-Patel. Finally, this issue features a review-essay by Dev Agarwal “Us: A film about ‘Them’?”, a conference report by Jasmine Sharma on “Productive Futures: The Political Economy of Science Fiction,” and several artworks by the artist David Lunt.
Chilling Effect, Valerie Valdes’s resplendent debut novel, was published last month in the UK by Orbit. It’s an action-packed space opera bursting with wit and wacky hijinks. Liz Lutgendorff caught up with Valerie Valdes to spill the space tea …
Right from the start, Chilling Effect throws you into the deep end. Was that a deliberate choice?
I do usually prefer novels that approach their stories through immersion rather than exposition. I like to create context while something is happening, rather than trying to explain everything up front. That’s how I tend to build my worlds as well: by having things be introduced as the character thinks about them or interacts with them, a very tight POV that can mean some things aren’t immediately clear and some readers will be frustrated by the lack of explicit description.
It can be a difficult approach to manage because you want the reader to be engaged, and sometimes starting on action or dialogue means the whole thing is occurring in a void and they have no reason to care about what’s happening yet. But also the first chapter, “Save the Cats”, is an allusion to the technique where you get the audience to empathize with your main character by having them do something noble like … save a cat! So I was not only beginning with as much immersion as I could manage, but also joking about the method usually used to get the buy-in from audiences.
That makes sense. Chilling Effect is filled with great worldbuilding, and a lot of action and intrigue, but it’s also very funny and silly! Did you worry about how silly you could be? Or did you leave that your editor if you went too far?
At the point where I started writing this book, I’d spent years trying to write “serious” sci-fi and fantasy and horror stories, because that seemed like the most important thing I could do with my time and energy. The world is a mess, and we need thoughtful fiction to help us find a way to deal with our problems meaningfully, both externally and internally. But as important as catharsis is, as important as it is to engage with contemporary issues, I think it’s also important to imagine a future where humanity has more or less transcended some of those problems.