British Fiction Focus

Next Stop, Central Station

“I always wanted to write a novel in short stories,” explains World Fantasy Award winner Lavie Tidhar. “Science fiction has a long tradition of doing this—from The Martian Chronicles to Lord of Light—but my inspiration was also partly V.S. Naipaul’s Miguel Street.”

If Wikipedia is to be believed, that’s a semi-autobiographical wartime novel composed of prose portraits of the colourful characters who live on the titular street in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. But move over Miguel Street: Tidhar’s patchwork narrative, announced today by way of Zeno Agency, takes place in the wake of “a worldwide diaspora” in a city spread around the foot of a space station where “life is cheap, and data is cheaper.”

Next stop, Central Station.

When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. But his vast, extended family continues to pull him back home.

Boris’s ex-lover Miriam is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the data stream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin Isobel is infatuated with a robotnik—a cyborg ex-Israeli soldier who might well be begging for parts. Even his old flame Carmel—a hunted data-vampire—has followed him back to a planet where she is forbidden to return.

Rising above all is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change.

Tidhar went into a bit more detail about the project, and its origins, on his blog. Begun in 2010, when he was still living in Tel Aviv, and finished—excepting “some heavy editing”—in 2014, Central Station “represents everything I have to say about the shape of science fiction.”

“A large part of it is a sort of dialogue with older (mostly, admittedly, quite obscure) SF.” The remainder? Why, “a way of talking about the present,” because if we’re honest, for all its speculative bells and whistles, that’s what science fiction is for.

[The story] is set in the old central bus station area in south Tel Aviv, currently home to a quarter of a million poor economic migrants from Asia, and African refugees, and I wanted to explore that area through the lens of science fiction (one of the weird things I found recently is that the fictional sort of “federal” political vision of Israel/Palestine I have in the book is now being touted as a real solution by a group of political activists). My other ambition was to write a book which was mostly about character interaction: about extended families, about relationships, in which the “shiny” science fiction future serves as a sort of background rather than taking centre stage.

The result of this commingling of ambitions, Central Station, will be published by Tachyon Publications in the States in the spring of 2016. There’s been no news of a UK deal to date, but it’s difficult to picture a world in which Tidhar’s publishing partner on The Violent Century and A Man Lies Dreaming, namely Hodder & Stoughton, doesn’t pick up the project shortly.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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