On a cold Monday night, January 7, a crowd of about 40 people packed the reading area upstairs at Trident Booksellers & Cafe on Boston’s fashionable Newbury Street to hear a reading from Replay Earth. Old friends, new friends and total strangers alike engaged afterwards in a discussion of various aspects of the book, from the validity of the science part of the fiction to the importance of empathy to questions about the creative process.
Although we are working to do multiple readings, this one was special because Effie Weisstein was able to come from the West Coast and be part of it. He talked about the genesis of the book five years ago, and how we worked out many of the ideas in it.
Effie (l) and I discuss how Replay Earth came to be
In preparing for the reading, I had decided to talk about how creative writers often adopt a cloak of secrecy while they’re working on a book. Often we won’t even say what it’s about. No doubt, not having to react to the inevitable “Wow, that’s great and it would be even greater if you did…” kinds of comments can make life easier. But we also lose the opportunity to brainstorm about the themes and test plot ideas with a willing listener. Effie was the perfect blend of challenging and contributing without falling into “change this color from red to blue” type direction that can lead to committee writing (see: bad TV shows).
But as I thought about this, I thought about the other collaborators that had in writing groups and workshops. In addition to the usual contributions those settings offer, in recent years they have become attuned to helping writers do a better job of representing a fuller spectrum of people across gender, race, ethnicity, and other crucial social divides. Readers increasingly demand that writers — especially white male writers such as myself — make the effort to get outside the limits of their own social context if they are going to include characters who fit that description. For me, how could I write about a world wracked by climate change without doing that? So bottom line, I think this book has made me think a lot more about how to “source” creative ideas, analogous perhaps to the way reporters have to think about who the best sources are to document the story they’re writing about.
Where Replay Earth is available now
At this point, my goal is to use the book to be a small part of the effort to raise awareness of the urgency of fighting global warming. The clock is ticking, and Nero is fiddling even before we burn. If you are part of any kind of environmental group, I’m offering to do readings, give away books or other ways to help the cause. As well, I’ll be working on talking to book clubs and other similar kinds of groups about the book and the issues it raises.
Meanwhile, books are still available in limited quantities at these bookstores, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble:
In Cambridge, MA:
Porter Square Books
Harvard Book Store
Trident Booksellers & Cafe
In the Portland, OR:
Annie Bloom’s Books
Another Read Through
If you’ve read it, please consider reviewing/rating it online at Amazon, B&N or GoodReads. Online reviews and ratings factor into how much exposure these sites give to any book, and we need your help with that. In addition, we’ve set up review pages on Goodreads and LibraryThing.