Apocalypse Is Here, And It May Be More Fun Than You’d Think

Science fiction is on the verge of becoming the mainstream genre of serious literature, and it needs one more step: the natural connection of SF with the ancient global epic tradition. It’s making this connection that has been my life work. The Odyssey, the Japanese Heike, Beowulf, the Mayan Popol Vuh, the Indian Mahabharata, the African Mwindo all chose the vitality and economy of the narrative action poem to carry the core myths of their societies.

My new tale Apocalypse is a hard science fiction epic poem that takes on the greatest challenges we face in this century, envisages a set of ingenious technological responses to them, paints a picture of a global military conflict, and recalls the finest as well as the darkest moments in human history.

“I have read never anything like this before” sums up the reaction of the science fiction writers Kim Stanley Robinson, David Brin, the poets Jan Schreiber and Emily Grosholz, and the SF critics Chris Pak and David Crossley.

Feeling thirty years ago that the SF genre was not yet ready for epic poetry, I published my first two epic SF poems, The New World and Genesis, with traditional highbrow literary presses: Princeton University Press and Saybrook (a Norton imprint). For poetry (which is a small world these days) they were best sellers; they’ve recently been reprinted in second editions by Ilium Press, and are still selling. Genesis, the Mars terraforming epic, was adopted by NASA’s long range futures group as recommended reading, and I was a NASA consultant for some years.

But the connection I wanted hadn’t been made. Science fiction writers read them (and celebrated them) but the science fiction readers that I loved, with their hope and imagination, had been burned too often by unreadable subjective free-verse stuff, and largely missed my work.

But thanks to three visionary book people, my e-editor Tony Daniel (Baen Books), my print editor John Lemon (Ilium Press), and my amazing agent Sara Megibow (KT Literary), and two of the greatest living SF writers, Kim Stanley Robinson and David Brin, the puzzle that had haunted me, of how to bring together the fragmented parts of our literary culture, may have been solved. By means, I might add, that would have been science fiction four decades ago when I first began to write in the genre.

What’s happening is this. On July 15th 2016, tomorrow as I write this, Baen Books, the brilliant, rambunctious cutting-edge unashamed SF/Fantasy press, will start a ten-week electronic serialization of the poem on its very popular subscriber website , one epic “Book” at a time. At the end of the serial, Baen will publish the whole book as an ebook. And—here’s the kicker—Ilium will simultaneously issue the book in inexpensive but handsome hardback and paperback editions. It’s going to be something of a first in publishing history: an epic poem that is fast-paced science-based speculative fiction, published in both the new media and the old and by two different but complementary presses.

Apocalypse is my best work: I think I’ve mastered the combination of easy idiomatic hard-hitting narrative with the poetic resources of passion, image, songlike flow, and richer philosophical significance. I hope you will read it.

PS I’m going to be at WorldCon 2016 (MidAmerCon II) this summer, August 17-21. I’ll be on some interesting panels:
Space and Human Speciation
Futuristic Crime Investigations
Mars Needs Poets
Oh, Goddess!
Science Fiction as Epic

By Frederick Turner

Professor, poet, lecturer, black belt, and more.

6 replies on “Apocalypse Is Here, And It May Be More Fun Than You’d Think”

Thrilled to hear about your newest work, and intrigued by its serialized publication! Can’t wait to read it.

Good for you, Fred. I went to your blog, as I wanted to send the link to a young person who I think will appreciate reading it, and found your burst of activity after a two- year ‘blog-snooze’. Good.
It also prompted me to send you this – as you know, one of my hobbies is archaeologist-bothering, and I recently sent this to Nick Card, director of the dig at the Ness of Brodgar. It’s all there, Fred, it’s all there……….

“I keep telling myself that I should stop sending things to you, as the Ness and what’s happening there, is way beyond me. And maybe I should stop general ‘archaeologist bothering’. Then…………
I was looking for a good book to read and spotted “2001 – A Space Odyssey’ on our bookshelf. I’ve seen the film, I don’t know how many times, but have never read the book – usually it’s the other way round. So, I started reading it, and, well, I know how much I admire Arthur C. Clarke’s writing, but I was still struck by his writing, and his vision, in this book.
When I read this bit:-

“The stone club, the toothed saw, the horn dagger, the bone scraper – these were the marvellous inventions which the man-apes needed to survive. Soon they would recognize them for the symbols of power that they were, but many months must pass before their clumsy fingers acquired the skill – or the will – to use them.”

I thought of those even more ancient, ancient people, and how those few, basic tools did the job, for so long. All that was needed.

Great news, Fred! This book will be dynamite! I hope and pray you reach your dear SF readers!

I am going to the Baen site immediately.

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