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April 27, 2012 / schulerbooks

Schuler Guest Author Spot: A.M. Dellamonica & Ecofantasy

I was extremely intrigued when fantasy author A.M. Dellamonica (first name Alyx) pitched the idea of writing a guest author blog about Ecofantasy, a sub-genre I didn’t even realize existed. (Though now that I think about it, the film Avatar probably fits right in there!) I figured some of our book-geek buddies would be as intrigued as I, so here we are!

Alyx’s first novel Indigo Spring won the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, while her follow-up novel, Blue Magic, released on April 10th. You can read an excerpt of Blue Magic here! (at the bottom of the blog post, there is also a link to the first chapter of Indigo Spring.)


A.M. Dellamonica:

There’s a ton of science fiction that deals with humankind’s impact on the environment. A few of the hundreds of terrific stories in this subgenre include Bruce Sterling’s “Heavy Weather,” Derryl Murphy’s “The  History of Photography,”and Neal Stephenson’s eco-thriller, ZODIAC, which is one of my all-time best-loved novels. Ecologically-themed science fiction is a terrific platform for exploring an issue that’s on a lot people’s minds these days:  as the effects of global warming become harder to ignore or discount, we want stories that imagine both how bad it’s going to be and what concrete things we might do to address the problem.
I hadn’t heard the term ecofantasy until my first novel, INDIGO SPRINGS, was just about on bookshelves. I had tried to think of a term that encapsulated the idea of a quasi-toxic magical spill–the raw material that creates enchantment in these books mutates every living thing it touches, causing the plants to become enormous and the animals, including people, to become wilder and more primal. I’d spent silly amounts of time trying to make pronounceable words by mashing up eco and apocalypse and enviro and enchantment, and nothing quite fit.
Then one of the early reviewers–it might have been Publisher’s Weekly, actually–called the book ecofantasy and my reaction was “Oh, yeah! That’s exactly what it is.”
I didn’t set out to write in a specifically labelled corner of the urban fantasy playground, in other words — I just told the story I wanted to tell and that unknown reviewer was kind enough to provide me with the name of the sandbox I was playing in.
In INDIGO SPRINGS and BLUE MAGIC, enchantment originated as just another component of life on earth. It wasn’t always toxic; it had a niche within the global spiritual ecosystem. However, an attempt by a faction of Europeans to establish a monopoly over magic, to achieve total control over its power, over time, turns scattered magical particles into the liquid magic called vitagua, concentrating it in a way that makes it immensely powerful, and then laying a curse on it to make it impossible for others to access its abilities. The result is a world out of balance, which is the situation inherited by the books’ heroine, Astrid Lethewood. Once the magic is spilled, what follows is a race to establish some kind of new balance before the world tears itself apart.
I got to spend a lot of years peering at the edges of the work done by a team of environmental scientists in Vancouver. In the process, I picked up many bits and pieces of information about terribly sexy-sounding topics like forestry management and carbon budgets and the process of rebuilding fisheries and attempting to quantify the population of bats in Vietnam. If I’d written INDIGO SPRINGS or something like it as a science fiction novel, I might have tried putting this material to some kind of rigorous and plausible future use. Perhaps the vitagua would have been intended as some kind of benevolent and restorative nanotech, a technological bandage that had exceeded its programming in a bad way. (A grey goo thing.)

Instead I took my overall impression of complexity–the multi-layered interdependence evolved by natural systems, and the incredible difficulty involved in deliberately trying to restore them after they’ve been damaged–and infused the whole process with magic.
The last step, for me, was about adding in a very basic element of human nature, and that’s the fact that just because there’s a problem doesn’t mean we agree on the solution. So Astrid Lethewood has her way of trying to deal with the magical spill, and her former friend Sahara Knax has a very different approach. The Air Force is just trying to burn out the magical well, and the people who originally created the problem are still pursuing their centuries-old agenda of trying to get their hands on the whole powerful ball of wax.
What I like about writing about magic is that even when things are going badly and looking dark, there’s always that possibility that something stunningly good could happen: that the right combination of people and power will come together and there will be some kind of miraculous explosion of… well, not rainbows and ponies, but something profoundly good. When you’re writing science fiction, readers expect you to at least stay on the edge of what’s scientifically plausible. Me, I want to have my climate change and endangered species, but I want my monsters and unicorns, too.
If you’d like to explore more, here are LINKS, LINKS, KABILLIONS OF LINKS
My Official Site:
Social Networking
Tumbler (mostly Instagram Photos):
The UCLA Extension Writers’ Program:
Tor Stuff
TOR Stories: “The Cage” –
“Wild Things” (coming)
First chapter of Indigo Springs –

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