Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nancy Kress: After...Before...During the Fall

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the FallI'm delighted to announce here that I have editorial credit on the recent book by multi Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Nancy Kress: titled After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, the novella (38,300 words) is published by Tachyon Publications.

In addition to proof reading, line editing, copy editing, and other such editorial stuff, the manuscript also required a bit of fact checking, given the story's sense of place in the three ultimately intersecting timelines: future, past, and present: 2035, 2013, and 2014.

I submitted the final, edited manuscript to Tachyon Pubs on June 13, 2011. A couple months later, on August 24, I received the following email from Jill Roberts, Managing Editor at Tachyon:

Marty --

From Nancy [Kress], re the copyediting job you did for After the Fall:
"Whoever the copy-editor is, he or she is the best one I've ever had: thorough, sharp-eyed, and willing to be editor instead of a co-author. Please thank him/her for me."
Pretty sure I told her it was you, but I will again. And I totally agree with her. Well done.

Obviously, at the time Nancy Kress sent that email, she didn't know I had been assigned to her manuscript; but thankfully Jill rectified that fact. When one [me!] is conscientious about a project, makes every effort to do the best job possible, those two sentences from the author can be extremely gratifying. Such praise typically isn't expressed often enough -- I mean, I'm just doing my job, right? -- so when it is, it makes the long hours I spend on a manuscript well worth the effort.

Later, I had an opportunity to briefly chat with Jill and Nancy about the project when we met at Tachyon Publications' "Sweet 16" birthday party at Borderlands Books on September 11, which I wrote about in a previous blog post.

After the Fall... has gotten some great press, and I believe the best way to give readers a taste of this novella is to share some excerpts from those reviews.

The first review (and the longest review) is courtesy of Stefan Raets on Tor.com:

Superstar SF and fantasy author Nancy Kress returns with After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, an elegant novella that combines several wildly different science fiction ideas into a tight package. There's a little bit of everything here: time travel, hard science, environmental collapse, aliens, post-apocalyptic dystopia. It may sound hard to combine all of these in such a short format, but Nancy Kress makes it work.

The novella's slightly unwieldy title refers to the three plot lines described above: the survivors in their Shell in the future, the mathematician trying to solve the "crimes" happening in the present, and the environmental changes. What makes this much more than just another story told from three separate points of view is the time travel angle: as the novella progresses, the stories occasionally connect and weave through each other. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall is really a series of interlocking flashforwards and flashbacks that continuously provide new information and different perspectives about each other to the reader.


The characters eventually lose [the misconceptions built into the story by the author] as everything inexorably works its way to a convergence, but until that happens there's constant tension between the three plot lines. It's this tension that ultimately makes After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall a great success. Expect to see this one on the final ballots of the major awards next year.
Another one of my favorite sources for book reviews is the UK's The Guardian, which contains a mini review of the Kress novella by noted British author Eric Brown:

It's 2035 and the 26 survivors of tsunamis and biological plagues that wiped out the rest of humanity exist in a dome [the Shell], imprisoned by the alien Tesslies, who they believe were responsible for the planet's destruction.... Kress succeeds in tackling major themes – societal responsibility, the stewardship of the planet and mother love – and the twist-in-the-tale finale, despite the role of the Tesslies being unresolved, is wholly satisfying. Recommended.
This next review, an uncredited mini review dated 03/19/2012, is on PublishersWeekly.com:

...Gruff teenager Pete makes brief runs back in time from the desolation of the year 2035, using alien technology that can only transport children, to pick up fresh supplies and recruits. Julie, a mathematician in 2013, finds a pattern in a series of kidnappings. They are, of course, Pete's expeditions, and as the two head towards their inevitable collision, the clock ticks down on the catastrophe that will turn Julie's orderly world into Pete's devastated landscape. Kress handles the crisscrossing timelines with cool elegance, making a complicated story clean and easy to read. Some readers may find both the setting and the characters a little severe, but the ultimate message of hope and understanding resonates strongly.
The fourth and last review that I wanted to share at this time is from The Denver Post in which reviewer Fred Cleaver writes:

...After the Fall, a small group is living in the Shell.... Pete is one of the children with various deformities who have been born in the Shell.

...Before the Fall, mathematician Julie Kahn is consulting with the FBI on a series of kidnappings. She's one of the few who sees a pattern and believes the claims of monsters stealing children and vanishing into thin air.

Connecting the stories of the future and the past are short episodes on various ways the environment is changing and leading toward cataclysmic events.

...Pete is an angry teenager in a very unjust world who is lashing out at all around him. Julie is making a life with her daughter while her analytic skills are telling her something is very wrong. Kress makes us care about both of these characters as well as the fate of the whole planet.
Pete is a child of the future living in the Shell and using alien technology known as the "Grab" to return to the past; Julie is an FBI agent, caught up in an ill-fated relationship while trying to work out the pattern she perceives in a series of kidnappings. These two lives -- timelines -- intersect During the Fall.

If I may, I'd like to conclude with one more sentence from Stefan Raets's Tor.com review: "Pete, one of the six children born in the Shell, is the story's most interesting character and one of the most tragic figures I've encountered in SF in a long time."

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