I asked Sue Isle to talk a bit about Nightsiders, which was the very first volume in the Twelve Planets series, because it perfectly represents the kind of stories we’re looking for in Kaleidoscope.
Nightsiders captures, to me, the core of what science fiction tries to do – act as a sounding bell to warn us off going down a bad path. Nightsiders is set in a post climate change apocalypse in my home town Perth, Western Australia and the four stories follow several different characters not just surviving, but making lives for themselves in this abandoned town. Apart from these being simply great, well written and engaging stories, they appealed to me as well because it’s not often you see science fiction set in your own home town, when you live outside of America. It feels sometimes like in order to get published, writers must set their fiction inside the USA or in a default, nondescript world that could be the USA. It’s actually really rare to read science fiction set in Australia and even rarer in my hometown. I loved the idea of challenging whether the reader could enjoy a story set in an unfamiliar setting (to those who aren’t from WA). And more than that, Sue has told these stories from a very diverse array of perspectives, something that makes this story so much more realistic, to me.
Nightsiders was published in 2011, as the first volume or the Twelve Planets series. The Twelve Planets are twelve boutique collections by some of Australia’s finest short story writers. Varied across genre and style, each collection offers four short stories and a unique glimpse into worlds fashioned by some of our favourite storytellers. Each author has taken the brief of 4 stories and up to 40 000 words in their own direction. Some are quartet suites of linked stories. Others are tasters of the range and style of the writer. Each release brings something unexpected to our subscribers’ mailboxes. Volume 10 will be out before the end of this year.
The novella “Nation of the Night” was longlisted for the Tiptree Award and won the Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Short Story. The full collection, Nightsiders, was shortlisted for Best Collected Work for both the Aurealis and the Ditmar Awards and received an Honourable Mention for the Norma Hemming Award, Australia’s equivalent of the Tiptree Award. Backers of our Kaleidoscope Pozible campaign can receive a copy of Nightsiders as one of many rewards.
Nightsiders is my most recent writerly project. Before this, I’ve been writing and publishing short stories since the 1980s, mostly in Australian sf genre magazines. I’ve also had two previous books published for children; Scale of Dragon, Tooth of Wolf and Wolf Children.
The Nightsider stories came out of my interest and concern on the subject of climate control, combined with the fact that, with many sf/horror writers, I find it’s a lot of fun to destroy my hometown in print. My other interests include history, environmentalism, attending sf conventions, roleplay gaming and gardening.
These stories are about a future world, concentrating on Australia, in which extreme climate change over the next 40 years cause Western Australia’s capital city, Perth, to be abandoned by government. In the 2050s, most of the state’s citizens have been evacuated to the East, although major mining industries still exist in the north. A few thousand obstinate and independent souls cling to the city and to the southern towns where, living mostly by night to endure the fierce temperatures, they are creating a new culture in defiance of official expectations. These include a teenaged girl stolen from her family as a child, a troupe of street actors who affect their new culture with memories of the old, a boy born into the wrong body and a teacher who is pushed into the role of guiding those who grow up in the Nightside.
I didn’t think you could just write stories about the climate changing. That’s the sf equivalent of watching the grass grow. You have to have people living their lives, experiencing problems and solving them, wherever and whenever they are. Whatever is going on in the environment, people are going to be falling in and out of love, fighting with one another and dealing with personal crises.
It would be a lot easier for my transgender boy, Ash, had he grown up in a time with easy access to hospitals and counselling. He didn’t, he lives in a world trying to heal itself from the effects of humans. To him this is normal. I think the people who would stay behind in an abandoned city would be the different ones, the folk not accepted by “mainstream.” They would be the ones able to survive and ultimately to heal their world.
I don’t intend this to be a project of despair. The earth has an amazing capability for repair, given a chance, and I believe that the future generations who inhabit it, though I expect they’ll be angry at us, will learn the lessons we haven’t and flourish.
Kaleidoscope is nearly 50% funded! Thank you to all our backers! Let’s get %100 of the way there!