People say to me, ‘so is the Stone Gods science fiction?’ Well, it is fiction, and it has science in it, and it is set (mostly) in the future, but the labels are meaningless.
I can’t see the point of labelling a book like a pre-packed supermarket meal. There are books worth reading and books not worth reading. That’s all.
This new world weighs a yatto-gram
The Stone Gods is written in four parts; The first part begins on Orbus, a world very like earth, and like earth running out of resources and suffering from the severe effects of climate change. This is a world where everyone is bio-enhanced and bored to death. It is a world that has run out of possibilities.
Then, a new planet is discovered, perfect for human life. This planet, Planet Blue, has only one drawback – the dinosaurs. A mission leaves Orbus to get rid of the dinosaurs.
Our guide through the novel is Billie Crusoe, a disillusioned scientist in Parts 1,3,4, and a young sailor, (Billy), in Part 2, which is set on Easter Island in the eighteenth century.
History is not a suicide note; it is a record of our survival
Billie is part of the mission to Planet Blue, and so is Spike, a perfect robo-sapiens. What happens between them explores the boundaries between carbon and silicon life forms – in other words, what is a human being, how do we define what is human, and how do we define what is love and what is possible when love is present?
Yes, it’s a love story along with a survival story. It’s the story of repeating worlds, repeating mistakes, chances for change.
I heard Stephen Hawking on the radio talking about how humans must colonise space to have any chance of survival, and I thought what a depressing prognosis of our condition that is. Maybe it’s a boy-thing, this infatuation with rocket ships and rocky worlds. I would prefer to stay here and honour the earth.
On the radio all the talk is of the new blue planet
And so I started to tell myself a story, which is how my books always begin, and the story was of a new world, and what we would do with it if we found one…
Part Two goes back to Easter Island because that island was a pristine and abundant environment, a balanced micro-system until humans arrived. 400 years it was an arid desert. There is no environmental explanation, only a human one, chiefly the pointless obsession with carving stone gods… but read the story for yourself.
In Parts Three and Four, Billie is back in our own near future, after a limited-strike war, in a bombed out city run by a ‘benign’ corporation called MORE…
Everything is imprinted forever with what it once was.
The Stone Gods is not linear, rather it follows a line of thought, and lines of thought only run in straight lines when we force them to do so. Our minds are more like a maze than a motorway, and for me, the pleasure is all in the connections, the not obvious connections, the twists and turns, double-backs, sudden full-stops, unlikely entrances and exits.
There is a proper story and real characters, but for me, as ever, the push is in the language and what language can do to provoke connection. The reader is always complicit with the writer. The reader anticipates, suggests, rejects, and even re-writes, as anyone who describes a book they have not read for a long time, knows well. The process is not passive; it is a strange give and take, and the best readers, like the best books, allow the process to happen.
People have asked me, ‘is this a political book? Is it a statement?’
I have said many times that I believe our time to be unique in the history of the world. Either we face our environmental challenges now, or many of us will perish, and much of what we cherish in civilisation will be destroyed. I am sorry to sound apocalyptic, but this is what I believe.
Stone Gods isn’t a pamphlet or a docu-drama or even a call to arms, it is first and foremost a work of fiction, but I am sure that change of any kind starts in the self, not in the State, and I am sure that when we challenge ourselves imaginatively, we then use that challenge in our lives. I want the Stone Gods to be a prompt, but most of all, a place of possibility.