I'm really excited to present a fresh voice in South African SFF fiction: Abi Godsell. Some of you might've read her story in one of the Something Wicked anthologies. But we're here to celebrate the release of her YA dystopian novel Idea War: Volume 1 which was published by Wordsmack quite recently.
So, without further ado, over to Abi! You're on a train and your stop is approaching. You've been chatting to a stranger who wants to know about your book, and you've got less than 30 seconds to tell them about it. Go!
South Africa Sci-fi! Young, relatable (no Mary Sues here!) female protagonist! Jet-Packs! Action! Witty hard-man banter! A layered story exploring complex themes through humour and extrapolation of a future that I hope will never be. Written to reintroduce the reader a side of Joburg they might not know and tap into the richness of what it means to grow up South African.
What parts of Joburg feature in your novel? How does the South Africa of your future compare to what we know?
The first few chapters occur in a combination of real and imagined space, real locations like End Street Extension, or the Sandton CBD, that have been integrated into the politically and geographically changed future of Occupied Johannesburg.
The future I'm trying to weave is an exaggeration of current sociopolitical trends that I've noticed over the past six or so years. Honestly this is a work of plausible-sounding fiction, rather than a serious attempt to predict the country's future. (Future predictions fall more under my other field of Urban Planning!) I hope the the future Johannesburg is similar enough to be accessible but portrayed in a light that makes it seem like a new and strange city, somewhere exciting to get to know. Not that present Johannesburg isn't that! I do try and keep my writing self-consistent, so that getting to know the city in the story is possible. For a careful reader there should be enough hints and clues to discover some of the causalities, why things are the way they are in story and how they should have come to be that way.
Tell us what makes Callie Baxter special.
Not very much! She's definitely the product of both her upbringing and her inexperience. She gets things wrong often and has to question her assumptions. That's what I like about her personally. She isn't an everyman, she's quite a definite character, and her views and actions stem from this.
Who (without giving spoilers) are these alien invaders and what do they want?
The CCA, the organisation responsible for the Restructuring of the city (for the explanation of the acronym I'll direct you to the free chapter peek on Amazon) just want to keep us safe. Very Safe. In a very specific manner. At least, that's what their Media Director would tell you, if you asked!
Who are the three authors you look up to the most and who have had the most profound impact on your writing?
Well, Garth Nix, for making me think things like "Huh, now that's cool. I wonder what it would look like if something like that happened in MY school?" Gerald Durrell, for teaching me both how writing can form a lens to perceive things about people and the natural world that simply observing cannot, and Ursula LeGuin, for showing me that serious and profound science fiction can be told in more than one kind of voice.
Where to from here? What's next for Abi Godsell writing wise?
Well, Idea War is a series, so keep an eye out for the next few volumes in the near future! I've also got an Urban Magic novel somewhere in the works, and various short pieces of sci-fi, horror and sundries that I'm working on.
Pick up your copy of Idea War on Amazon or Kobo, or add it to you TBR pile via Goodreads.
Catch up with Abi on Facebook, her blog or on Twitter.
Abi is a student at the University of Witwatersrand, where 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 in a dystopian future Johannesburg, where the recovery is cautious, hesitant.