Berit Ellingsen

Transcript of Twitter chat #NotDarkYet

Thank you to everyone who participated in, retweeted, favorited, and read last night’s chat on Twitter under the hashtag #NotDarkYet!

I had a blast chatting with readers and writers and other people on Twitter.

Those who participated in the chat had a chance to win Not Dark Yet and 10 other ebooks curated by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer in their StoryBundle.

This offer of novels and anthologies is only available in December.

For those who were not there or isn’t on Twitter, here is a transcript of the chat:

Good afternoon, everyone! I’m , the author of , published by in Nov.

If you want to join the chat, and have a chance to win 11 ebooks, including , please use the hashtag , or @ me.

Q 1 You’re fiction writer + science journalist, do you ever fear including topical issues of sci in your fiction?

Since I write about science and keep up with science news, it’s almost impossible to keep science out of fiction –

– not all of my writing features science or touches on the subject, but some of my short stories do.

Maybe also because these days, one particular part of science, ie climate science, is in the news a lot.

Q 2 How long did it take to write? How many drafts?

It’s a while since I wrote the first draft, but I think it took 3 or 4 months.

I started on the second draft soon after finishing the first, and that’s why it’s a bit fuzzy exactly how long writing took.

It then had several rounds of edits over the rest of the year, until I started submitting it.The whole process took about a year.

Q 3 In you also deal w/ personal responsibility, which is hard to imagine in face of large scale issues like climate.

I agree that personal responsibility is a very difficult subject when it comes to climate change –

to the greatest extent each of us has a responsibility when it comes to climate change –

but at the same time it’s difficult to see how one person’s actions can really make a difference –

that’s part of the conundrum with climate change and probably part of why global action has been so sluggish.

I think that some people may feel a strong personal responsibility, such as the protagonist does in .

There is something called the degrees of grief re. climate change and one stage of that is desire for action.

Q 4 Can you say something about the desiccated monk in ? Is he a sort of astronaut too?

The desiccated monk is part of an East-Asian Buddhist tradition of extreme ascetism and physical trials –

there are such “holy” mummies in temples in Japan, China, and Korea, and also, I think, in Tibet.

I can give you the name of the Buddhist direction/sect these monks belonged to, but I have to look it up.

For many cultures death is a journey to another place where they cannot be easily reached.

For the Egyptian pharaos it was important that the pyramids’ tombs had a tunnel out to specific stars –

because these stars were the place where the dead pharaos went to after death.

Many Latin-American cultures had mummies too, and for them, the surface of water, in lakes, were gates to the underworld.

I was inspired by various forms of water in the novel, and some have pointed out that –

the protagonist seems to fight all four elements, water, air (space travel), earth (the agricultural project) and fire.

Q 5 Which other writers (if any), that incorporate science in their fiction, do you feel a kinship with?

One of the few writers I know who incorporate science in their writing is who has written about physics –

used a lot of biology and ecology in his Southern Reach novels –

and JM Ledgaard used biology, ecology, and mathematics, as well as anthropology and spycraft in his book Submergence.

has a story about neuroscientists in her collection Together We Can Bury It. –

And of course, the famous Saturday by Ian McEwan has a neurosurgeon as protagonist and describes his work in detail.

Q 6 I love your book not only for its story but for the beauty of your prose & striking images . Inspirations for you?

General influences would be space science and images, such as the fantastic ones from the Hubble space telescope –

and the so detailed images from Mars by the Mars rovers. But also dark matter and particle physics –

other inspirations are zen philosophy, Tibetan Buddhism, ecology, of course, the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, –

and also Scandinavian crime series, in how the climate and weather is a character in its own.

I love Tarkovsky’s films, especially Stalker. His expertise w filming water is a big inspiration.

Q 7 How did you get connected with ?

I heard about via friends, other writers, lit mags, publishers, and end of year-lists, and read Binary Star –

plus all the excerpts from ‘s books I could find online. –

The downside w living in Europe is that shipping from indie presses can sometimes cost more than the book itself, — so ebooks!

In that connection I should of course mention who was inspired by astronomy and physics in Binary Star.

Q 8 Climate change has been a staple of SF for some time. Dystopian fiction, as well.

– As climate change moves from speculative SF (like Ballard) to everyday, how do you think it’ll be written?

That is so true. There’s been a lot of dystopian fiction lately

JG Ballard’s Drowned World and Highrise are frighteningly modern in their apocalypses. –

and Ballard’s Crash is nihilistically cutting about our times. Same with French philosopher Baudrillard’s work.-

I hope climate change will be written and talked about more in literature outside of sci fi and dystopias –

or in post-apocalyptic literary fiction. I hope to see more of it in literature in general.

We might soon be talking about climate change as the new normal, not as anomalies, but as an ongoing process we must adapt to –

with the occasional climate change disaster striking now and then. I think it will become more of a subject in literature.

Q 9 Does writing in a second language effect your process? If so, how?

Great question! At least editing in a second language slows me down. Not sure 1st draft is slower, but –

when it comes to editing I do several rounds and still to my disappointment find non-English-sounding phrases.

I regard writing in a 2nd language to be a lifelong learning process. And one has to like that language a lot to edit in it.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to start writing in a 3rd language now as an adult. It would require a lot of work –

although I saw something about Jhumpa Lhairi having started to write in Italian instead of English. That’s brave.

Translations are frustrating I find. A good translation is invaluable, but –

a translation is always a barrier, no matter how accurate or well-written it is.

I think this is one reason why I find it very hard to translate my own fiction.

There is certainly a discussion about literature in translation and why so much goes from English to other language.

An example of te opposite is Finnish writer Leena Krohn’s fiction, which is part of the ebook prizes in this chat –

and of course, Norwegian Knausgaard’s epic My Struggle, and Per Petterson’s work.

My impression is that the biggest hurdle for translated work to English is to find a publisher.

However, lots of lit mags do accept translated submissions.

Q 10 What would be the most ridiculous tie-in merchandise for you could imagine? Can we look into branded life boats?

A video game, maybe. That could be strange. Or an action figure. 🙂

An indie game version of could have been interesting, like the beautiful Journey or Night In The Woods –

or the game Tale of Tales which was made by two visual artists. But a Call of Duty style game would be awful.

With 3D printing these days, action figures or figurines can be made of oneself, so maybe it’s not so far fetched. 🙂

Maybe not lifeboats, but lifejackets at some stage. 😉

An indie game manuscript of would have been cool to write, I almost started it once.

Q 12 Is it true you spend a lot of time in the Arctic, and how does that affect your writing?

Do you actually write when you’re in the arctic or just soak it up?

I’ve been to the Arctic 3 times and will return in the summer. –

I also wrote a story titled The White inspired by the Arctic, although the story is set in the Antarctic.

The barren and impressive landscapes of the high Arctic inspire me to be more aware of the our natural world –

and how it is changing. I could see a difference in a glacier even from 1 summer to the next. –

climate change is happening the fastest in the Arctic and it’s really noticeable. Last summer they had 17C at 77N –

for a few days it was warmer in the high Arctic than here in southern Norway. That’s crazy.

Last summer in the Arctic I watched The Thing for the first time. It sadly wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. 🙂

But I can at least say that the landscape and brutal nature of the high Arctic takes the breath away from most people.

I’d love to write there, but for now I stay for such short time it’s only soaking.

In the Arctic you want to be outside and experiencing it, not sit inside, at least not in the summer. 🙂

The 100% dark 2 month long winter night in the high Arctic would probably be a perfect time to stay in and write.