Novel 'O Man of Clay.' After sea-level rise.

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County Durham, United Kingdom
'O Man of Clay,' set in Hartlepool and Siberia in the near future while the tundra is thawing and the sea level rising, was published in January 2020 by Stairwell Books.

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Dan Bloom interviews me on Cli-Fi

The thoughtful Dan Bloom believes that fiction can do stuff in the world and needs to shake hands with science. The future for cli-fi: interview with Dan Bloom

Dan has a blogspot for writers and readers of cli-fi fiction and was good enough to do an interview of yours truly:…/meet-cli-fi-novelist-eli…Dan Bloom interviews Eliza Mood

This is my interview with Dan:


 Your cli-fi novel ‘O Man of Clay’ is set in Hartlepool, UK. For those not familiar with your region of the UK, where is hartlepool and why is your novel set there?


Hartlepool and the North bank of the Tees caught my imagination when, as a young teacher, I lived nearby. The old city of Hartlepool, on the East coast of Northern England and on the estuary of the river Tees began as an Anglo-Saxon monastery and later became a mediaeval walled city. Nearby, iron and coalmines fed the British Empire but its traditional industries - fishing, steel and magnesium processing - are, for the most part, gone.
When the tide draws back around the Headland, it sometimes, exposes fossilised trees: a prehistoric forest. Fossilised bones of animals, skulls and human artefacts have been trawled there. Mesolithic people were here long before the city: hunters. These signs of earlier human lives fascinate me – and the Tees water spirit, Peg Powler.
But, what we call Doggerland, the once forested land between Britain and the continent became inundated as the ice started to melt 8,500 years ago. And, if we do nothing the melt will accelerate as it has been doing over twenty years and the sea will rise further. In the novel I imagine the houses and buildings at the edges of the city part submerged.


 Cli-fi as a genre has the potential to effect change if we can move ourselves and readers - in both senses. The power of oral storytelling and narrative is important to the main characters of ‘O Man of Clay' who realise our human story needs changing.  In your opinion, why does our human story need changing and in what ways?


We manufacture and move on, abandoning sites and people, leaving scars in the landscape and disease, trauma and loss in communities and people. Some scientists propose that the current geological period, the Holocene, has ended. Instead we are in the anthropocene, the age in which a stratum will be composed predominantly of materials deposited by human beings, materials such as radioactive elements, soot from power stations and plastics – even chicken bones. We can change this and we must; the remnants of the nuclear industry will be potentially  harmful for thousands of years.
Perhaps we can carry on the story-telling and realize how to try out different endings/new beginnings; it’s about getting enough little things happening to make the powerful do the big things.


  What is the meaning of the title of your novel? What is it a reference to?  


Many cultures have a creation myth involving a half-man/ half-God figure sculpting humans of earth material such as wood, bone or clay: in Greek mythology, Prometheus moulded men of earth and water; in the Sumerian myth Enkil uses clay and blood. There are similar hindu, Yoruba ad Maori myths. I conceived my novel as a kind of re-creation myth, only this time the creators and animators are female. And they reshape their story by re-telling it.
The title is also a supplication, a vocative address to the human species to think who we are and where we have come from: animal, spirit and consciousness and the product of thousands of generations before.


 Who is your main target audience of readers? In the UK,? what age group? 


‘O Man of Clay’ is a literary-speculative novel for which the main target is adult readers, though I would hope to reach older teenage readers, too (seventeen onwards): those who want to stay near home or travel and wrestle a bit with ideas. The main characters are seventeen and sixty-seven and the points of view cover this range. The book is certainly not aimed at the UK only; one of the pleasures of reading is to discover somewhere new. We are all in this together; I hope males can read female characters, young read old, and vice versa in both cases. Many of us retain the desire to play with ideas as we age; the book is for those who want to peer into possible futures.


Are you an optimist or a pessimist re climate change issues locally where you live and worldwide?


The sense of coming close to a tipping point is unavoidable. I try to hold both perspectives together; perhaps psychologically this is the only way for me. I do think it is possible to draw back from the brink but the changes will have to be radical: at governmental and community and individual levels. Young people are active – but this will only spread if people have got a social investment in it; if it’s part of what we do to live in the community; if it’s expected of us; if it becomes natural and routine to think this way; if it isn’t exclusive. There is no moral high ground; we have to help each other. If we do so redemption is possible, I think.
            When, around 2007, the Arctic sea ice began partially melting in the summer, continental shelves became the object of a colonial land grab and I asked myself how did we come to believe that this is acceptable? How can we delude ourselves this way? To stop plundering the fossil fuels we need to value ourselves as respected and responsible and we need not to have been forced into labour in a mine or an oil well under the sea. We need scientific method and to be inclusive of traditional knowledge. We need the arts and sciences to collaborate: to value ourselves; not to be afraid to examine our own beliefs and perceptions and our history of living in the environment.



 What's your favorite clifi novel that you've read and recommend?


 Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behaviour is a wonderful book: warm and humorous, yet simultaneously serious and thoughtful, it is about how we come to terms with a terrifying unknown future of changing climate and nature off kilter - by working together, talking, taking practical steps, by small actions, by setting about trying to see and understand so that we can do what might be needed. This is a tale of a moment of epiphany and its gradual aftermath; one minute the main character is looking for a way out of the humdrum and the next, she gets more than she bargained for. Having been making ends meet on the lower slopes of an Applachian mountainside, a momentous experience leads her to examine her old life and see her children and relationships in a different light. At a juncture in life when she was frustrated and yet open to something new, she finds the change she wanted and needed lie in a deeper understanding of her own surroundings. Her moment of awakening is, of course, the one we may desire, need and fear, the one that will allow us to see ourselves as we really are - as part of nature - and, at a time when the way we live and use the planet is pushing nature out of joint, show us other possible ways of being.

I would also like to recommend, ‘The Chernobyl Privileges’ by Alex Lockwood, my fellow County Durham writer.
All nuclear reactors emit carbon 14, a radioactive isotope, invalidating the industry’s claim that reactors are carbon free. And the fuel that reactors burn is carbon-intensive.
‘The Chernobyl Privileges’ is a novel about bonds: those of blood and those that bind particles in the nucleus of an atom – and about the forces that break each apart. It is narrated from the point of view of Anthony, both in the current narrative time and during his childhood and shows how incidents in his adult life force him to face what happened in the past. It deals sensitively with that instinct for self-preservation that causes distance to open up between people. The moments when Anthony could have drawn closer to those he loves yet fails to do so multiply, and the reader is right there looking across the widening gulf and weighing up each choice and decision with him. The reasons that prevent people from choosing to alleviate their own suffering are thrown into stark relief, and we see how, at a time of crisis, political forces can seek to exploit human vulnerabilities for their own ends.
 Alex is a superb craftsman, holding back the increasingly inevitable; when they come, acts both small and life-changing strike the reader with a terribly poignancy. A compelling read, this is a novel for the present moment with intimations of how little, it seems, we have learned.


 What are your PR and book promotion plans locally and nationwide,? Radio interviews? Tv? Newspapers? Websites? Blogs? Have you seen my blog tour platform?


My novel ‘O Man of Clay’ is my debut for 2020. I’m starting local in County Durham and Northumberland in Northern England but by September, I’ll be National when i’ll be at Fantasycon in London on the 25th-27th September with Stairwell Books, my publisher. My website,  has some press and radio interview with more coming up.
I’ve looked but I am not sure what a blog-tour platform is.

Thank you very much for interviewing me Dan and for your interesting questions.
Eliza Mood
End of questions

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