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Plants as Protagonists: An Interview with Semiosis author Sue Burke

Plants as Protagonists: An Interview with Semiosis author Sue Burke

Semiosis Sue Burke-smallThe science fiction world has been abuzz with the release of the novel Semiosis by Sue Burke. Known for her short stories in publications such as Interzone and Asimov’s, this Clarion alumnus is now making waves with her debut novel, out from Tor this month. James Patrick Kelly said it’s “a first contact novel like none you’ve ever read… The kind of story for which science fiction was invented.” David Brin wrote, “In Semiosis, Sue Burke blends science with adventure and fascinating characters, as a human colony desperately seeks to join the ecosystem of an alien world.”

Those recommendations would be enough for me to buy a copy if I hadn’t already read it several years ago. Sue and I used to be in the Madrid Writer’s Critique Group here in Spain before she moved back to Chicago. The early draft I read fascinated me with its tale of human colonists settling on a planet only to find that is already inhabited by intelligent life… plant life. I caught up with Sue to talk with her about her new publication.

What was the seed of an idea that grew into a giant, sentient plant?

Seed… I see what you did there.

It started back in the mid-1990s when a couple of my houseplants attacked other houseplants. One vine wrapped around a neighbor, and another vine tried to sink roots into another plant. I began researching botany and discovered that plants are active, aggressive, and fight to the death for sunlight. They have weapons and cunning strategies, both offensive and defensive.

For example, strangler figs (several varieties of Ficus) start as seedlings germinating up on tree branches and trunks in jungles, and as they grow, their roots wrap around the host tree and eventually strangle and kill it. The fig starts halfway up to sunshine, which is an advantage. But how do the seeds get up there? Birds eat fig fruit, and the seeds have a gluey covering that sticks to a bird’s feathers when it defecates. The bird wipes off its vent on tree branches and trunks, where the seeds adhere and germinate.

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SFFWorld Announces Kickstarter for Ecotones Ecological SF Anthology

SFFWorld Announces Kickstarter for Ecotones Ecological SF Anthology

ecotoneslrgThe folks over at SFFWorld are working on their latest in a series of themed “pro-am” anthologies. These anthologies bring together big names, rising stars, and relative unknowns around a common theme. This year’s book, Ecotones, is taking a speculative look at ecological issues with stories by Lauren Beukes, Tobias S. Buckell, and Ken Liu. It will come out in December 2015. Other authors include Matthew Hughes, Stephen Palmer, Daniel Ausema, Victor Espinosa, Andrew Leon Hudson (also the editor), Kurt Hunt, Christina Klarenbeek, Jonathan Laidlow, Igor Ljubuncic, P. J. Richards, and Rebecca Schwarz.

(Full disclosure: Contributor/editor Andrew Leon Hudson is a friend of mine here in Madrid. He’s also my most obnoxious beta reader, so he’s serious about clean prose.)

You can check the project’s teaser page to learn more about the stories, which appear to span the realm of speculative fiction from space opera to urban fantasy.

SFFWorld is trying to raise £1,000 to cover costs and pay the authors via a Kickstarter campaign. As inducements they’re offering the anthology, plus bundles including their three previous anthologies and other goodies. Rewards start at the £3 mark, which is cheap for a Kickstarter. While the authors have already been offered a nominal fee, the Kickstarter is pushing for additional  £2,500 and £5,000 goals in order to pay them semi-pro or pro rates.

The Kickstarter is on for the entire month of November.

Click here to help the Kickstarter. Check the anthology’s blog for more information and updates.

Sean McLachlan is the author of the historical fantasy novel A Fine Likeness, set in Civil War Missouri, and several other titles, including his action series set in World War One, Trench Raiders. His historical fantasy novella The Quintessence of Absence, was published by Black Gate. Find out more about him on his blog and Amazon author’s page.