E.J. Swift’s debut Osiris had some interesting reviews when it came out, but since it was published by Nightshade Books and at the time didn’t have a UK publisher, I never got around to reading it. However, I did get an e-copy in one of Nightshade’s giveaways at some point and when I received an ARC for Cataveiro, the second book in The Osiris Project, it seemed like the universe was giving me a hint, so I’ll be reading both books in early June. In the meantime, I’m happy to bring you a guest post by E.J. Swift explaining some of the ecological politics in her series The Osiris Project.
Brave new world: post-ecological politics in The Osiris Project
There is a point in Cataveiro, the second book in my Osiris Project trilogy, where pilot and cartographer Ramona Callejas reflects that ‘the world was once small but now it is vast again’.
This has been the key to writing a trilogy that I sometimes think of as retro-futuristic in its nature. I’ve always loved the romantic quality of exploring the unknown, and putting your characters in a post-apocalyptic landscape gives the scope to create a world that retains a deep sense of mystery.
The backdrop to The Osiris Project is a world radically altered by climate change. Whilst researching the first novel, my bible was Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, an accessible, degree-by-degree guide to climate change, which guides you through by highlighting particular areas of impact. Climate change science moves so quickly that whatever you write, it’s probably out-of-date by the time your book is out there, and with this in mind there are points to the trilogy’s back-history which I’ve kept purposefully open to interpretation. But the essential dynamic is a world where a hotter, more extreme climate has resulted in a vast desert belt girdling the earth. Huge swathes of land are uninhabitable, and parts of the weather system are too unstable for travel. This has led to civilization migrating towards the poles, and a schism between north and south that is both geographical and political.
On this world stage, the Boreal States of the north have become the new global powers, and the Pan-African Solar Corporation supplies the world’s energy. Antarctica is an isolationist Republic, self-sufficient in every way. I’ve always been fascinated by Antarctica, and the idea of what it could become, and what it might mean, in a hotter world. As the trilogy progresses, Antarctica becomes increasingly pivotal. In Osiris, ‘Tarctica’ is only a legend perpetuated by the city’s inhabitants. Cataveiro sees an Antarctican character exiled in Patagonia, and the Cold War-style tensions between north and south underpin the narrative. As other habitable land continues to shrink, the rest of the world is essentially keeping an eye on the melting continent to the south, waiting for an opportunity to land grab.
What I’ve particularly enjoyed about developing the geo-politics of the Osiris Project is the opportunity to tease out different themes and focuses in each book. In Osiris, the idea of a last civilization is key: the book has a claustrophobic, insular setting, with the city divided between east and west – the western side of the city being the descendants of climate change refugees. Cataveiro expands the narrative, and is perhaps the book which most predominantly addresses some of the ecological issues close to my heart. For example, the loss of the Amazon rainforest is characterized through the story of ‘The Last Jaguar’ – now nothing more than a creature of mythology.
As for the third and final book – I’m still at the writing stage, so I’m not going to talk too much about it yet. But suffice to say, this is the point where the conflicting politics and perspectives of this brave new world come together – with potentially devastating consequences.
Bio: E. J. Swift is the author of Osiris and Cataveiro, the first two volumes in The Osiris Project trilogy. Her short fiction has been published in Interzone magazine, and appears in anthologies including The Best British Fiction 2013 and Pandemonium: The Lowest Heaven. She is shortlisted for a 2013 BSFA Award in the short fiction category for her story Saga’s Children.