Author! Stephen Baxter free-falls through deep time in “A Journey to Amasia”

17 Feb

If artificial intelligences existed, what clocks would they use?

Arc 1.1 launches on Monday with A Journey to Amasia, a new story by Stephen Baxter. Baxter is is a pure science fiction writer: for twenty years he has held to the belief that SF’s sense of wonder – its awe at the sheer scale of the physical universe – speaks as much to the human heart as any other fiction.

While generations of anxious new genre writers pursue maturity and nuance Baxter pursues stuff: new ideas, new ways of communicating ideas and new metaphors to comprehend realms normally only accessible to scientists.

In Arc 1.1, he invites us on A Journey to Amasia: a trip that crosses cyberpunk, classic English fantasy and New Scientist headlines in its passage from human to geological time-scales.

All this was metaphor. What was the sea supposed to represent? The dissolution of death, the origin of life? She dug her fingers into the ground on which she sat. Gritty sand. Further up the beach, the sand was heaped up in a line of hummocky dunes.

“Tides.” The voice, coming from behind her, was huge, echoing, like a murmur in a wooden hall.

She stood, staggering a little, dizzy from her long fall, and turned. The thing facing her was a human form maybe four metres tall, roughly assembled from wooden beams, planks, panels, fixed with rope and rusty nails. It had no sophistication of construction; she could see right through it, to the brush that was stuffed inside its cylindrical torso. It was like a wicker man, a thing to be burned on feast days. Yet it moved. It leaned with a groan of strained wood, a deep inner rustle, so its sketch of a face on a neckless head looked down on her. “There are tides here.” No lips moved, no expression changed, yet the hollow words came.

“Amasia. I’m seeking Amasia.”

With a ghastly creak the simulacrum raised an arm and pointed out to sea.

Explore Stephen Baxter’s myth of the near future in Arc 1.1, available in late February 2012 through Zinio for iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Windows PCs and Mac computers, and on Kindle.

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