This morning it happened to me and I wanted to share this joy with you. It concerns my latest book, Forever Young, my climate fiction set in the near-future – well, not so near, 200 years from now because that’s the time I figure it will take for mankind to face extinction on Earth. Contrary to most science fiction and climate fiction that set environmental and societal catastrophe at some 40 to 50 years ahead, I wanted to give my novel a chance to be plausible: I really believe this final disaster will require about 200 years to mature…
So here is what Australian author Alana Woods wrote (that’s her picture – not me!):
“Some time ago I read Nougat’s short story compilation Death on Facebook, Short Stories for the Digital Age and was impressed with the range of stories and the skill with which they were presented. One that caught my imagination was I will not leave you behind, the futuristic story of a 122 year old woman who is part of an elite program that keeps you young until you die. In FOREVER YOUNG Nougat has taken that short story and woven its premise into a four-part series of short novels I enjoyed reading very much.
The over-arching theme is the approaching doom of Earth from climate change. The story is set 200 years into the future and what becomes apparent very quickly is that humankind never did learn the lessons of what it would take to save the planet. Everyone, including big business, is still only concerned with the present and what they can get out of it for themselves. People are still divided into the have’s and have not’s, only now the have’s—called the OnePercenters—can afford to have old-age and illness permanently eliminated right up until death, whereas the have not’s—the 99PerCenters—continue to struggle as we struggle in this day and age.
The story and struggle is told through three characters who all aspire to be a OnePercenter, highlighting the fact that even in Earth’s extremis we’re still only concerned with what advantages we can garner for ourselves.
You can come away from reading this series feeling a great despair for where we’re heading. The alternatives that the author presents, that of leaving Earth to inhabit a new planet and starting again, or remaining and hoping Earth regenerates itself, are stark contrasts.
A thought-provoking, confronting read.”
The review came as a total surprise and most welcome after I had received an awful review sarcastically titled “the future isn’t futuristic”. For this reviewer, my book “didn’t work at all” because “many of the same technologies that we use today are still prevalent. How many things popular 200 years ago, even 30 years ago are still in use today? It was not a forward-thinking, imaginative conception of the future and I just didn’t buy it.”
Not a “forward-thinking” conception of the future? I was crushed, I felt totally misunderstood. How could this reviewer not see that this was the whole point of my book? The “future” she yearns for does come in Forever Young for the ultra rich but only for them because they are the only ones who can afford the advances of science. Alas, it does not come for the rest of mankind, no one can afford the technological innovations the rich are enjoying!
Is that so unrealistic? I don’t think so. Consider further the argument she makes that many things “popular 200 years ago” are no longer in use today. Quite frankly, that argument doesn’t hold water. Anyone who has travelled in the Third World knows how the poor live, in conditions that are barely better than those prevailing in medieval times, no electricity, no running water, no public transport and only wood or dung to cook. And billions of people live that way, nearly half of the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 a day, and according to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
Collecting millet in Darfur (this woman has 5 children) UN photo library
This is why Alana Woods’ review was so welcome, she “got” it, that social difference between the poor majority and the rich minority – a trend that I think will only be exacerbated if we continue on the road of income inequality on which we have embarked (and I’m not the one saying it, Thomas Piketty is, in his Capital in the 21st Century – I highly recommend reading it).
What fundamentally differentiates Alana Woods’ review from the other one is this:it’s not a customer review that simply states “likes” and “dislikes” (unsubstantiated phrases like “I didn’t buy it”)but a carefully thought-out review that examines the book’s premise and follows how it was developed, critically analyzing it.
I also deeply appreciate Alana’s review for another reason: she is a demanding critic and, as she puts it on Amazon, “I like to choose the books I review.” In this case, she certainly chose my book, I was surprised when she told me she was reading it (she’d picked up the first book in the series for 99 cents) – I was surprised and pleased. Because she is truly a professional writer who knows the art of writing. She is the author of a guide to writing good fiction, chock-full of good advice:
Jason Mathews considers it “the best guide for indies” and hosted her on his site to discuss it with two other authors, Lisa Grace and Samantha Fury:
Alana Woods is not only an excellent literary critic but a remarkable writer in her own right, “the queen of intrigue”. Three of her books are currently available on Amazon, two award-winning literary suspense novels and an intriguing collection of short stories:
If you are wondering why she hasn’t published more books, that’s because she is very demanding of herself. As she puts it: “I’m a storyteller from way back but not a prolific producer like other authors. It can take me years to be satisfied with the quality of a story and my telling of it.”
To take years to be satisfied with one’s manuscript is the mark of a careful, professional writer but also of one who respects her readers. It think that’s remarkable and I believe more indie authors should take Alana as an example and think twice before publishing. There are times when I wish I hadn’t rushed into self-publishing and waited for my books to “ripen” until they were ready.
Good writing takes time, and now (I think) I have learned my lesson and no longer publish too soon. How about you? Has it ever happened to you to publish a book only to discover six months later that it could have been better? Have you ever had the urge to revise it and upload a new, better edition? I plead guilty to having done that and would love to know whether you’ve done it too!
Hugely talented writer Bob Rector, author of Unthinkable Consequences (I highly recommend it, great romantic thriller) and of the acclaimed play Letters from the Front that successfully toured the world for 15 years, has just put my new climate fiction book, FOREVER YOUNG, Part 1, on his list of “hot new reads”. This is a serialized novel exploring the future that I believe awaits us all, and three more parts are soon coming up, the next one, Part 2, The Immortality Trip, to be released tomorrow on Amazon (and later on all other e-platforms). Look for it!
I’m deeply honored that Bob singled my work out and his review makes me particularly happy. Here it is:
5-STAR REVIEW OF FOREVER YOUNG PART ONE by Claude Nougat
If you’re a boomer and this book doesn’t send a chill up your spine, you’d better check your pulse. I don’t want to give too much away but it’s no spoiler to say that Claude Nougat’s Forever Young series takes place about 200 years from now. Unlike so many stories set in the future, Ms. Nougat creates a very plausible future. Too plausible. Scarily plausible.
The changes that have taken place on the globe sound eerily prophetic. It’s hard to single out a protagonist. Forever Young is comprised of an ensemble cast, each with conflicting interests. They are all faced with the choice of whether to remain forever young for a hundred or more years or receive a billion dollars.
Thrown into the mix is a quest for true love, family bonds, greed, sculduggery, duplicity, and humans basically behaving at their worst. In other words, some things never change despite all the glittering marvels science can bestow upon us.
Ms. Nougat creates characters that jump off the page at you. Her dialogue is so razor sharp you find yourself sometimes saying “Ouch!” The climax is as hair raising as an old west shoot out. Is there humor? Oh yes, and it’s dark as molasses and just as tasty. You’ll be tempted to lick it right off the page.
As a reader, when I pick up a new book, I want to feel like a mail sack on a railway platform waiting for a speeding train to snatch me away to a new destination. That’s just what Claude Nougat does with this first book in her Forever Young series, Gateway To Forever.
It’s always comforting to be in the hands of a real pro. Ms. Nougat certainly is that. Highly recommended read.
Update: this morning, another 5-star review was posted on Amazon by author Marsha Roberts, see here I’m wowed!
And here’s the cover of my book:
Available on all e-platforms; click here for Amazon
BIG NEWS: Drum roll please! Part 2, The Immortality Trip is out! Find out what happens to Alice, Lizzie and Jamie as they are given the chance to fly off to a pristine planet one thousand light years away where humanity can start again…Click here to see it on Amazon and here on Smashwords in the Premium Catalogue, which means it’s available on all e-platforms, for the Nook, Kobo and iPad as well as mobile devices.
Cli Fi, or Climate Fiction, is rapidly becoming a widely accepted term to designate a new genre of books dealing with Climate Change but not only: many elements taken together – like the demographic explosion, growing income inequality, urbanization and the rapid industrialization of the Third World – contribute to threaten our survival on Earth. Personally, I am convinced that things will get from bad to worse in about 200 years and go kaput in 600 years, if we don’t do anything about it. And that’s the worst of it: because it is a relatively slow process, a lot of us don’t feel the urgency and even deny that the process is going on. Result: on a political level things are moving at a snail’s pace and the end of the world could really sneak upon us in 600 years! The involvement of literature in the Climate Change debate is growing, and one UK academic, Dr. Adeline Johns-Putra recently noted that in the past eight years, at least 150 novels dealing in one way or another with the likely future collapse of humanity have been published, fifty of them pure “cli-fi” (I blogged about it here). In this regard, I had an interesting email exchange with Dan Bloom, the man who coined the term back in 2008, and he quoted to me something Adeline Johns-Putra, Reader in English Literature at the University of Surrey in the UK told him: ”I think climate change fiction (or ‘cli-fi’) has, in just a few years, moved beyond simplistic apocalypse scenarios to engage intelligently with questions of science and policy (Kim Stanley Robinson‘s Science in the Capital trilogy) and environmental justice (for example, Barbara Kingsolver and Paolo Bacigalupi, in very different ways). By making us ‘live’ both the devastating impacts of climate change and ways of dealing with these, these novels can’t help but intervene in the ongoing debate on climate change policies.” I love that: “these novels can’t help but intervene in the ongoing debate on climate change policies”…Makes me happy, I certainly hope my Forever Young will be viewed that way, I conceive of it as a contribution to the debate though my main objective always remains one of a story teller at heart! Now I am working on the cover of my cli-fi/sci-fi book Forever Young that will soon be published and I need your help. Dear reader, this is a difficult challenge, there are no established norms for the covers of Cli-Finovels…Consider the variety, from New York submerged in water (like on the cover of Nathaniel Rich’s novel Odds against Tomorrow) to the bucolic charm of Barbara Kingsolver’s novel (about a monarch butterfly invasion). What do you think of my two book covers? I’ve set up a poll below where you can answer, voting for your favorite. Version 1, through a porthole:
Version 2, the full woman:
Why a woman instead of space ships and distant planets as is the norm for science fiction?
Because space travel is not the point of the book. One particular woman is – she’s a major character, her name is Alice. She’s young and beautiful, warm-hearted and very, very independent. One of my beta readers, Bob Rector, who also happens to be a hugely talented writer (he just published Unthinkable Consequences that is fast becoming a best seller), quite literally fell in love with her and asked me to put her on the cover.
So I did a portrait of her, here it is:
To help you decide which cover is best, here’s a quick word about the book:
Forever Young, a serialized novel in 4 episodes, is set 200 years from now, in a world divided between the ultra rich, the One Percent, who live in gated communities and the others who don’t and suffer the full onslaught of pollution and Climate Change. The One Percent are the only ones who can afford all the advances of technology, in particular the exclusive Age Prevention Program (APP), whose members wear special Life Watches that enable them to expand their life span to the genetic maximum of some 140 years and look young till the day they die.
The novel interweaves several plot lines; the first is a love triangle between Alice, a young Swiss nurse, beautiful and independent, Lizzie, a talented golf player, the descendant of the mythical Tiger Woods, and Jamie, an ambitious reporter who works for the World and US Post, an amalgam of the Huffington Post and the New York Times.
The second covers the rising threat to life on earth, as humanity is headed for extinction; there are only two options, both reserved to One Percenters: one, escape to another world, a pristine exoplanet a thousand light years away; the other, retreat to Antarctica, the last virgin continent.
The third follows the murderous attempts of one determined 99 Percenter, a retired Blue Beret who has served all his life in the United Nations Peace-keeping Forces and is hell-bent on carving a place for himself in the Age Prevention Program. And here’s the poll:
Please vote, let me know what you think in the comments below (not on the poll site, I may miss it there). To show my gratitude for your help, I’ll send an advance copy of the book (digital – pdf) to the three best and most useful comments (lottery drawn if there are too many!). Again, many thanks for the help! Post scriptum. Just as I closed this post, I came across an article in the New York Times Magazine, about the amazing “Uncivilization” festival organized in the UK by the Dark Mountain Project led by British author Paul Kingsnorth (see here).
His vision of a future “global collapse” is exactly the one I envision in Forever Young – a future that will come slowly but inexorably and that you have to live with…like Alice and her friends. Yes, there is a good reason why the sky above Alice is blood red, or alternatively, why she is plunged in a frightening sick-greenish world…