Tuesday, 28 January 2014

10 Questions for the New Face of Science Fiction

As our editors are working on the second instalment in the unique sci-fi short story series, Idea War, we had author Abi Godsell answer 10 questions on why she writes science fiction and where her inspiration lies:

Abi Godsell, author of Idea War: Volume1. Fresh faced indeed.


Why do you write in the sci-fi genre?
Well, I'd classify myself as a Speculative Fiction girl mostly. Sci-fi is one of the genres I do a lot of work in at the moment, mostly I think because it combines story and science, future and fiction. It gives the distance that we need to say the things that are too painful and close, but never-the-less need to be talked about. It's also fun!

You have very interesting female characters in your books. Are they inspired by real-life people?
Absolutely. Not directly, but, bits and pieces are borrowed and extrapolated from the incredible girls and women I grew up with. I had the good fortune to be in monastic schooling, so got to see girls playing a lot of the roles that stories and media often relegate to the male realm. It took me a while to learn to write boys, though!

What was the book that inspired you to become a writer?
Sabriel by Garth Nix. It wasn't the first book I fell in love with, or my favourite book of all time, but it came at a time when I was verging on wanting to tell my own stories. It had everything, spooky setting with solid, chunky, believeable magic, a cross-over into a world much like our own, a strong and complex and very relatable female protagonist, military themes, and delicately handled romance. Part of it was also set at an all-girls' school. It was the first text that made me say, not just, 'This is so cool!' but 'This is cool ... I wonder how something like this would go down here?' And that was it, I was sold, and staring out of the window during a boring economics class was never quite the same again.

What is your favourite character of all time?
Wooo. Tough call. It changes, of course, every day, sometimes more than once a day, depending on I don't know, mood, weather, how annoyed I am by traffic. But there are staples, characters I like and respect and relax into reading about, like putting on a familiarly worn jersey. Merriman Lyon from Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising. The Maid, from William Morris' Wood Beyond the World. Karl from FreakAngels, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield. Coraline and The Sandman from Neil Gaiman's book and comic of the same names respectively.

Steampunk or dieselpunk. Why?
Neither! I'm a Junkpunk fan. Junkpunk out of Phillip Gross's Psylicon Beach. I guess that would mean I lean more towards the dieselpunk in that I like noise and mess and rust and oil. That great towering cement factory that you see coming along the N3 into Joburg, that's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. But, to be serious, it depends on the execution, and the story itself. With so much variety, so many voices and so many views coming into genre fiction lately, because the internet is a wonderful, wonderful thing, its hard to talk about homogenous genres, especially ones that are already so close.

How do you envision Johannesburg in 30 years' time?
Greener, quieter, good public transport. In 30 years time I hope we'll have solved the fragmentation along economic, and, still, racial lines that is this parting gift to this city from the Apartheid Government. We have some wonderful talent and passion in our local government and planning departments. So I envision good and exciting things.

If you could make one change to Johannesburg, what would it be?
Just one? Another tough call. Actually not as tough. Free, high-speed internet access city wide. First step along a difficult and slow road that ends with all of us being able to see and talk to each other. 

Do you think South Africans should read sci-fi, why?
Absolutely. We are governed, in a small way, by a truly exquisite piece of science fiction: The poem that is the pre-amble to the National Development Plan. It talks about a hopeful, accessible vision of our country in 2030. We spend quite a bit of time talking about what isn't working in the country, which is required, yes, but maybe it's also time to start dreaming of a future that does. We are a country in the process of re-writing our own future. I think sci-fi is essential.

Why did you include a map of the future Johannesburg in your book?
I like to work with very specific locations when I write, ones that I can visit and draw, map and study. Not so I know them, but to try and capture a little of the richness that is living in Johannesburg, and weave it into my work. I liked the idea that maybe, someone would look at the map and say, 'Hey! That's my house, there in the middle of this disaster zone!' or 'I know this road on which this firefight is taking place, I drive it to work everyday.'

Three books you suggest everyone to read?
Something your kids are reading, for school or otherwise. Something that someone your grandmother's age talks about fondly, and something, anything on a subject that you didn't even know existed before!



About Idea War: Volume 1
Sixteen-year-old Callie Baxter refuses to just sit tight and accept the invaders who have occupied her city. Underneath the new Government’s fa├žade of order and fairness lies the ugly reason for its being here, and it’s up to Callie’s group of underground rebels to expose its brutal objective.

She’s worked hard to keep her fledgling group of passionate rebels alive, but as the Government’s hit squads narrow in on them, she realises she has only just begun to understand the pain of loss, and the true cost of growing up.

Abi Godsell uses the groundbreaking new format of a short story science fiction series for a highly entertaining and smart read. In the first instalment of the Idea War series, we’re introduced to the characters behind the resistance to the Chinese occupation of Johannesburg, South Africa. Through the perspectives of various characters, it soon becomes clear that the new government’s first priority is far removed from the one they propagate on the blimps that dot the city’s skyline.

The city represents a shining example of recovery to the outside world, but can a small group of determined teenagers overcome the decay that has taken root at its core?

Buy the book here: 
Idea War: Volume 1

About Abi Godsell:
Abi Godsell has been writing sci-fi, horror and urban magic short stories since 2006. She has had several stories published in Something Wicked and in 2011 she won the South African Science Fiction and Fantasy's South African division of the Nova Short Story contest for her sci-fi piece "Taal". She also moonlights as an Urban Planning student.

She's dreaming of free public transport and internet access and musty basement libraries full of books and books and books. Creating new worlds is her speciality, and she set her first novel, Idea War, in a dystopian future Johannesburg, where the recovery is cautious, hesitant.
She has a thing for steampunk themes, engines and science fiction that includes strong female characters.
She has a blogis on twitter and can also be liked on Facebook. Just click on the links.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Free: Comprehension and language worksheet and content

Attention teachers looking for some local content: You can download the free Idea War: Volume 1 Comprehension and language worksheet for Grade 9's hereThe worksheet is CAPS-compliant and the story is relatable as it is set in Johannesburg. 

(The link takes you to Abi Godsell's blog, sorry for the redirect, but Wordpress can't host pdfs.)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

My top books of 2013 according to Goodreads

Wordsmack is back from holiday! And this year we will be bringing you some amazing books. In the meantime though, if you're looking for recommendations, you can go to my Goodreads profile. I am now the 11th top reviewer on Goodreads in SA.

In 2013 I fell just shy of my target of 50 books with 47 books. Here are my five-star books:



And some local favourites I enjoyed this year (I'm only including one of our own):


To see the full list, click here.