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Friday, June 5, 2020

SPOTLIGHT: Gravity is Heartless by Sarah Lahey @gosparkpoint @shewritespress

Gravity is Heartless 
by Sarah Lahey

Publisher: She Write Press
Publish Date: June 2, 2020
Series: The Heartless Series, #1
360 Pages
Genre: Science Fiction

What will the world look like in thirty years’ time? How will humanity survive the oncoming effects of climate change? Set in the near future and inspired by the world around us, Gravity Is Heartless is a romantic adventure that imagines a world on the cusp of climate catastrophe.

The year is 2050: automated cities, vehicles, and homes are now standard, artificial Intelligence, CRISPR gene editing, and quantum computing have become a reality, and climate change is in full swing―sea levels are rising, clouds have disappeared, and the planet is heating up.

Quinn Buyers is a climate scientist who'd rather be studying the clouds than getting ready for her wedding day. But when an unexpected tragedy causes her to lose everything, including her famous scientist mother, she embarks upon a quest for answers that takes her across the globe―and she uncovers friends, loss and love in the most unexpected of places along the way. Gravity Is Heartless is bold, speculative fiction that sheds a hard light on the treatment of our planet even as it offers a breathtaking sense of hope for the future.

Sarah Lahey is a designer, educator, and writer. She holds bachelor’s degrees in interior design, communication, and visual culture, and works as a senior lecturer teaching classes on design, technology, sustainability and creative thinking. She has three children and lives on the Northern Beaches in Sydney, Australia.

What was your biggest inspiration while writing your book?
My children are in their mid 20s and I was initially interested in what the world would be like for their children, or my grandchildren. The year 2050 is thirty years away, or one generation and the key questions I asked myself when I began to write were, What will cities and the built environment be like, and How will humanity survive the oncoming effects of climate change? Then I considered the most significant technological influences, such as, automation, Artificial Intelligence, CRISPR gene editing and quantum computing. But I didn’t want to write a depressing dystopic novel about the future because that’s not in my nature. I’m an optimist and I believe humanity is fundamentally good. So it became a sci-fi adventure romance.

What message do you hope readers will take from reading your book?
The background for the novel is a world grappling with climate change, so sustainability is a key theme, which I hope readers will relate to. In the novel the world is divided into those who have access to cool air and those that don’t. So the economic divide has shifted to include an environmental divide. Two distinct factions also divide humanity. Transhumans embrace technology and merge with it. They can’t see a future on Earth; their future lies in the stars. While Humanists will never leave the planet, believing they’re connected to every tree, rock and river. So, I hope the novel raises questions about our reliance on technology and its effect on the Earth’s ecological systems and environmental balance. I would like readers to consider how connected to technology they really are, as well as what makes us human.

Your book deals with a lot of big topics – climate change, artificial intelligence, economic divide, etc. – why did you choose to write about these?
Science fiction is a great metaphor for working out our aspirations (and misgivings) about the future, and our engagement with new technologies. Gravity Is Heartless explores many what-ifs of the future. Such as, how we deal with climate change, what happens when machines can be programmed to think like humans, or feel pain; will they take over our jobs, leaving us unemployed. And what will it be like to live in a smart city, or have a driverless car and an automated home? In this new technologically driven and complex world of the future, people will seek the same things they’ve always sort - shelter, food, cool air, clean water, good health, a job, to love and be loved, so how relevant is the internet to our survival?

Your book also includes a global pandemic within the plot – can you tell us a bit more about it?
Building a believable world of the future is great fun, but it’s also a complicated task. The book is set in a world grappling with climate change, but that’s not the only thing that’s happened. Capitalism has collapsed, but is rising again, there was an eight-year war, quantum computing is now a reality, and in the early 2040s a global pandemic killed 5 per cent of the world’s population.

The pandemic is a side plot that will be explored in another book and I wrote this a few years ago, but Quinn, the main character, has a close friend, a scientist who works programming AI, and she’s close to the singularity—the creation of a super intelligent machine that continues to evolve—but she’s struck down by a third wave of Feline Flue (FF). Her symptoms mirror an ordinary flu; joint-pain, headache, fever, sore throat, but the exception is the yellow-streaks that show up in her irises. Her only chance of survival is to enter CyberSleep until a new vaccine can be found.

In the book FF is a coronavirus that mutated from a cat virus. Environmental heat factors caused a switch in the feline gene trigger, and the disease spread to birds, larger mammals and then to humans. It was particularly difficulty to control as the virus constantly mutated, so a new strain meant a new vaccine, and it took years to get on top of the disease.

Briefly tell us about your journey to publishing your book.
I come from a family of journalists – my mother was chief of staff at the local newspaper, my father, stepfather, sister and ex-husband are all journalists. So books, reading and writing were a significant and influential part of my childhood. But my adolescent years were not happy times and our home was not a safe or pleasant place. So I was never going to follow in the footsteps of my parents, particularly not my fathers. I chose to study design when I finished high school. But writing was never far away. I studied literature part time when I was pregnant in my late twenties. I wrote a couple of not very good novels in my thirties, and another one in my forties. Then I completed a degree in Communication and studied the classics in my fifties. I’m now a lecturer and I teach sustainable design, future design technologies, and I love hard science, so I guess Gravity Is Heartless is a culmination of these elements.

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