Category Archives: ebooks


Shackleton's Man Goes South, paperback in display case. Image: Science Museum

Shackleton’s Man Goes South, paperback in display case. Image: Science Museum

I have had some exciting news about my Science Museum novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South, but I can’t say anything just yet. In the meantime, James Bridle used his Observer column on 9 February to write about Shackleton’s Man Goes South (and my Bristol soundwork Missorts) under the headline ‘The novel: not heading south, any time soon’. Bridle continues:

At heart a book about climate change, it’s also, says White, “a kind of alternative history of publishing in extremis, examples of the apparent human necessity of finding new ways to tell and share stories, and how the future of writing, publishing and reading might need to be as much in the low-tech past as the hi-tech present”.

Visitors to the museum’s Atmosphere gallery can download the novel for free – as can anyone from its website. (Physical copies can be bought from the museum’s shop too.) For White, these collaborations allow him to explore the possibilities of writing further, and see their effects more directly: “As the physical square footage of the traditional book trade diminishes, these commissions have given me the chance to engage directly with readers and to learn from them.”

Elsewhere, publicist and campaigner Dan Bloom, who recently coined the term ‘cli-fi’ (a sci-fi soundalike abbreviation of ‘climate fiction’), is interviewed by David Holmes for Australian journal The Conversation. At one point Holmes asks, ‘What would you rate as the five most influential cli-fi texts to have emerged to date?’ I’m delighted that Bloom’s list of the ‘five most important cli-fi novels’  includes Shackleton’s Man Goes South.

645954Dan Bloom’s coining of the term ‘cli-fi’ echoes K.W. Jeter’s of ‘steampunk’ in 1987. In Jeter’s case this was pragmatic wit, a necessary way of drawing the influential editor of Locus magazine, and its readers’ attention to what he and fellow authors Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock were doing (at a time when ‘cyberpunk’ was all the rage). Bloom’s initial intentions are not dissimilar: to draw the attention of editors, reviewers and readers to new fiction (about climate change), and to make explicit the connection to an existing genre. But there is more at stake, too, as Bloom tells David Holmes that for him,

cli-fi is a fiction genre that might be helpful in waking people up and serving as an alarm bell.

‘Cli-fi’ is now certainly starting to gain a higher profile, but whether the genre will take-off in the way that steampunk has done remains to be seen. It may well do if the indefatigable Dan Bloom has anything to do with it: already it seems that some booksellers are using the term, while a number of emerging authors are identifying themselves as exponents of the genre. Bloom himself is currently seeking to establish a literary prize to raise awareness further, using the success of 1957 anti-nuclear novel On the Beach by Australian author Nevil Shute (1899-1960) as an analogy for the impact he hopes a ‘cli-fi’ novel could make. Mind you, it has taken twenty-seven years for steampunk to become the massive subculture that it is today. If ‘cli-fi’ is to achieve what Bloom hopes, it may need to catch on more quickly than that, since in twenty-seven years from now — if emissions keep rising  — we may already have seen further significant rises in global mean temperature, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Sir George C. Simpson. Photo: K.E. Woodley, courtesy the Met Office.

Sir George C. Simpson.
Photo: K.E. Woodley, courtesy the Met Office.

Shackleton’s Man Goes South was written in ignorance of Bloom’s work of course (since his idea hadn’t yet gone mainstream), but not of Jeter’s, nor the proto-steampunk of Michael Moorcock’s earlier ‘Nomad of the Time Streams’ series. My novel’s opening chapter (originally published as standalone short story ‘Albertololis Disparu’ by the Science Museum in 2009) features such steampunk staples as early telephony, difference engines, airships, steam-powered computing, etc. — plus a Moorcockian ‘sonic attack’ — which prompted one reviewer at the time to write:

Any eight-page story that references Michael Moorcock and ends with a fleet of Zeppelins attacking Imperial College with plasma weapons is a winner with us.

Image: Science Museum

Image: Science Museum

But any steampunk stylings in Shackleton’s Man Goes South are quickly dispatched as the novel deliberately moves from such parodic Edwardiana to the challenges presented by the real thing: an overlooked 1911 science fiction short story about climate change that was written in Antarctica by Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s meteorologist (and a future Met Office director) George Clarke Simpson (1878-1965).

Interestingly, the nadir and historical death-knell of what has come to be steampunk’s defining icon was even directly presided over by Scott-survivor Simpson, whose subsequent directorship of the Met Office encompassed both the establishment of its Airship Division and his penning of an obituary of said Division’s late head — M.A. Giblett — following the latter’s death in the R101 disaster in October 1930. This event prompted the Airship Division’s disbanding, and — seven-years before the Hindenberg disaster of 1937 — led to the abandonment in the UK of the development of the airship as a significant form of civil aviation.

Coincidentally, the aforementioned Australian novelist Nevil Shute also worked on the short-lived UK airship programme. As well as writing many novels, including the one that inspired Dan Bloom, Shute played a leading part in the team that built the R100, a competing airship design which was also scrapped following the R101 disaster.

Airships! Genres! Talking of things taking-off, within the world of Shackleton’s Man Goes South it is suggested that the dominant passenger aircraft of our own time – glimpsed in a refugee camp’s fleamarket — is similarly defunct:

There are relics: here a box of broken calculators and there – trailing wires and hydraulics, partly covered by tarpaulins, bigger than their shelter and recognisable from illustrations in books – the best part of the flight deck of an airliner.


Download Shackleton’s Man Goes South free and DRM-free from the Science Museum website or from the touchscreen ebook dispenser that is part of the exhibition accompanying the novel in the Science Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery.

Press about Shackleton’s Man Goes South

Listen to or download free audiobook extracts of Shackleton’s Man Goes South on the Science Museum’s Soundcloud page.

Image © Science Museum

Image © Science Museum

‘Something odd’s happened, but we’re gripped’

I pricked up my ears at an interesting but only half-heard fragment of conversation on the BBC Radio 4 programme Start the Week this morning. I had to go back and listen again in order firstly to see who had been speaking, and secondly how the theme of climate change had briefly emerged in a conversation that had otherwise been largely devoted to news reporting of ‘the whistle-blower Edward Snowden’, and a posing of the question of why there had been so ‘little outcry among the British public’.

Click-through to listen to the programme again on BBC i-Player (until 9am 10.02.14)

Click-through to listen to the programme again on BBC i-Player (until 9am 10.02.14)

Joining host Anne McElvoy had been former GCHQ director Sir David Omand, journalists Annette Dittert and Luke Harding, and writer Alain de Botton (I resist using his self-styled title of ‘philosopher’).

What had caught my attention comes at around thirty-four minutes in to the programme (34:54), when the conversation takes a slight detour into the need to ‘popularise’, i.e. to create a wider and more engaged readership for, complex issues such as climate change (here called ‘global warming’).

Here is a transcript of that part of the conversation. It is worth bearing with the solipsistic newsroom jargon, the talk of ‘packages’ etc., because de Botton particularly begins (albeit fleetingly) to make an interesting case for the value of art, of literature and stories in understanding climate change. Even if ‘climate change’ here is being used as a proxy for any complex and international mega-news story, this strikes a chord. I’ve said for a while that if you want to hear interesting and engaging stories about climate change you might do better to ask writers of fiction rather than the vast committees of scientists and civil servants who are charged with generating the reports of the IPCC. Indeed this was part of the motivation for writing my 2013 novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South (Science Museum).

We pick up the conversation as host Anne McElvoy asks whether it matters that more people click on celebrity froth than serious stories:

Alain de Botton: It matters hugely, because we’re in a democracy. And in a democracy you have to win a majority in order to get things to change. So it’s all very well, making a cogent, sober case and then blaming everybody else for being too stupid to care about it, but the real challenge is how do you get people to care as much about global warming as they do about Taylor Swift. That is an artistic, aesthetic, communication problem that places like the Guardian are only just beginning to think about. Because that’s–

Anne McElvoy: Well OK, you’ve beaten up the Guardian a fair bit there, but just look to the readership–

Alain de Botton: It’s a problem of all serious, a problem of all serious news.

Anne McElvoy: –here, an emerging readership, and the fact that we were just discussing where our children read news and if they did, did they read it online, and did they read it in the same sources as we did, and the answer for a lot of people is probably not, but in effect people probably vote with their eyeballs now. So, however brilliantly you presented a package on, say, global warming, you might find that you’re outdone in hits by a piece on Taylor Swift, and there’s not much you can do about it.

Alain de Botton: Well, you have to, I think, too often the most serious journalists think that the seriousness of the issue absolves them from the challenge of popularisation. And popularisation is a word with a sort of ambiguous history of associations. It’s seen normally as a sort of cheapening thing. If you popularise something you’re cheapening it, and serious people are very averse to popularisation. In a democracy, if you care about something, you have to know how to popularise it, because otherwise– [inaudible]

Anne McElvoy: But what would that, I don’t quite understand what that would look like.

Alain de Botton: Well, what it would look like, we all know that we’ve sometimes seen packages on very serious issues, and we’ve yawned and switched channel or flipped to another page on the internet. In other words, it is to do [with], I mentioned the word ‘art’, you know. Think of Shakespeare. Shakespeare takes us into the machinations of political dramas etc., and he makes us care about pretty weird stuff. So suddenly there we are in the Danish court and something odd’s happened, but we’re gripped. It’s really exciting. You know, sometimes when we get taken into what’s happening in Turkish politics, people are falling asleep, because the article that is telling you about it has not done it with sufficient artistry and imagination. And that’s a real problem in a democracy.

Anne McElvoy: For some reason I have a mental image of a piece on global warming accompanied by an image of Miley Cyrus saying, ‘Phew, it’s hot in here.’ [Laughs.] Annette, as news correspondent for many years, do you recognise that conundrum that Alain throws up.

Annette Dittert: I totally see the point and the problem, although you cannot accuse the Guardian of being too boring here, because it’s a complex story, but I think in general this is a problem: how do you get a story that complex still in the public interest. How do you make sure that the sense of outrage doesn’t wear off before something has changed and that is certainly a big challenge not only for the Guardian but for all the media all over the world …

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 14.37.31The discussion then returns to Edward Snowden. Perhaps climate change is too off-topic so late in the programme. In any case that aspect of the discussion is closed down rather than expanded. McElvoy seems to still be responding to some pejorative idea of what the popular might be, rather than to the larger more expansive point that de Botton’s talk about ‘popularisation’ presaged: how good art can engage the imagination on the most complex and/or arcane subject matter. (Dittert then seems to be about to speak of the challenge of making a complex story stick in the public imagination, but instead speaks of ‘the public interest’, and we return to Snowden.)

Perhaps it’s just me, but for a minute de Botton came close to saying something much more interesting than his usual ‘art-as-therapy’, self-help schtick.

Also listening — and commenting on Twitter — was Hannah Redler, director of the Science Museum Arts Programme.

Shackleton’s Man Goes South was published by the Science Museum as their Atmosphere Commission 2013, with an accompanying display in the Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery, out of a stated and specific desire to commission art works that might ‘explore potential political, social and cultural impacts of climate change.’ In other words, the Science Museum at least are already bringing the ‘artistry and imagination’ that de Botton calls for into how they are prepared to engage the public with climate change.


Download Shackleton’s Man Goes South free and DRM-free from the Science Museum website.

Press about Shackleton’s Man Goes South


Prizes are all we’ve got left

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 11.15.13It is great to hear that Shackleton’s Man Goes South has been nominated for a British Science Fiction Association award, especially because BSFA awards are nominated anonymously by members of the Association.

Shackleton’s Man Goes South is one of about fifty novels nominated. From this long-list, the BSFA shortlist is ‘drawn up from the most popular titles’, and will be released shortly.

Interestingly, another science fiction prize, the Arthur C Clarke Award, has just begun to release information about their nominations received. Unlike the BSFA Awards, nominations for the Arthur C Clarke are made by publishers, but the first announcement is made more interesting because it lists the thirty-three novels by women that have been submitted.

Arthur C Clarke award director Tom Hunter hopes that this

will be a positive contribution towards further raising the profile of women writers of science fiction in the UK and beyond. We’ll be releasing details of the full submissions list shortly, and will be encouraging readers everywhere to review and comment on the data in as many creative ways as possible.

I think this is a great idea. When I was a teenager, the late Doris Lessing’s Canopus in Argos Archives series of novels (borrowed from my then local library) were a big part of reinforcing my interest not just in science fiction, but in literature generally.

I’m pleased about the BSFA nomination for Shackleton’s Man Goes South as — obviously — it may bring the novel to the attention of readers who might not otherwise have heard of it. As review space in the broadsheets starts to get pinched, and if (as one frequently hears) orders from traditional bookshop chains are a fraction of what they were only a few years ago, I’m reminded of something that a publisher colleague said on the panel of a recent conference we were speaking at. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like: ‘Don’t quote me on this, but prizes are all we’ve got left!’

You can download a free ebook of Shackleton’s Man Goes South in formats compatible with most devices (Kindles, iPads etc) from the Science Museum website, or you can email the novel to yourself from the touchscreen ebook dispenser that is part of the display about the book in the Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery. Shackleton’s Man Goes South was launched in April 2013, and both the free download offer and the accompanying exhibition are due to run for a whole year, until the end of April 2014.

For those who prefer print formats, there are also a few copies of the Science Museum’s beautiful paperback edition currently available at half-price in the Science Museum shop’s January sale. So if you are visiting the Museum for any of the other current exhibitions, or find yourself in the South Kensington area, pop in and grab a bargain.


Shackleton’s Man Goes South is available free and DRM-free (in ebook formats compatible with most devices) from the Science Museum website.

An exhibition accompanying the novel runs in the Science Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery until 24 April 2014.

Press about Shackleton’s Man Goes South.

Manifesto paperback

rotm_cover_digtal-1_1Manifesto for a Republic of the Moon, is now up on the Republic of the Moon exhibition microsite. The book, which costs £3.00 from the exhibition shop, includes my short story ‘Occupy the Moon.’ Here is the blurb, plus further info about the free ebook version:

Introductory essay and edited by curator, Rob La Frenais with contributions from the exhibiting artists – Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Leonid Tishkov, Liliane Lijn, Katie Paterson, WE COLONISED THE MOON, Joanna Griffin and additional material from Tony White, Andy Gracie, Dr Ian Crawford and from the Whole Earth Catalog.

Download Manifesto for a Republic of the Moon epub (open standard for most devices including iphone, ipad, Android phones, Kobo, Sony and Nook readers).  You can also read the epub version on your desktop comptuer using various browser plugins or other applications.

 Please note that the formatting has been optimised for reading in colour using the epub format. To download the file and start reading follow these instructions:

On iphones, ipads and android devices, first install some eReader software.

  • On iphones and ipads, ibooks is most commonly used and is free
  • On android try the free FBReader or other app if you prefer

Then download the .epub file.

Manifesto for a Republic of the Moon pdf

This eBook is DRM-free – you may copy and redistribute the eBook in its entirety.

Other traditional books published by The Arts Catalyst are listed in our online Bookshop.

ISBN 9 780992 777609

Exhibition price £3 (hard copy).


Republic of the Moon — London

10 January – 2 February 2014
Open daily, 11am-6pm
Admission free

Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf
, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH

Antarctic negatives?

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 14.41.07Thanks to the anonymous British Science Fiction Association members who have nominated my novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South for a BSFA award.

Rather less pleasingly, a few news stories that have emerged over the Christmas and New Year period have seemed to echo elements of Shackleton’s Man Goes South, or to be redolent of the fictional world in which some of the novel’s action takes place. These news stories are in addition to the series of storms, gales and floods (with their attendant severe weather warnings), that have hit the UK in recent weeks. I was astonished in the early hours of Christmas Eve, for instance, when the usually highly codified language of the Shipping Forecast (broadcast at 00:48 on 24 December 2013), was interrupted by discussion of ‘a massive area of low pressure of almost unprecedented depth’ that stretched from the UK to Iceland.

First, the announcement that some extraordinary items of Shackletoniana have been discovered in Antarctica. Twenty-two cellulose nitrate negatives of photographs were found in Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition hut at Cape Evans. The photographs turned out to have been taken not by Scott’s expedition photographer Herbert Ponting, but by person unknown during the occupation of the hut a few years later by members of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Ross Sea party, who used the hut as a base when they became stranded on Antarctica while attempting to lay supplies for Shackleton’s Endurance party. The terrible hardships endured by the Ross Sea party, and the deaths of Arnold Spencer-Smith, Victor Hayward and party leader Lieutenant Aeneas Mackintosh are often omitted from more triumphalist accounts of Shackleton’s expedition. See a slideshow of the photos on the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust website.

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 15.00.11Secondly, in an echo of the 2007 sinking of the MS Explorer, which struck an iceberg and capsized while attempting to retrace parts of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, a Russian vessel, the MV Akademik Shokalskiy has been trapped in ice for more than a week, with seventy-four scientists, tourists and crew on board. The Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2012-14 set out to retrace the 1911-14 expedition of Douglas Mawson, conducting ‘a programme of research across the region, building on the work 100 years ago, to try to better understand present and future change in Antarctica and Southern Ocean.’ All attempts at rescue have so far failed, and yesterday the BBC speculated that at least one of the rescue vessels — the Chinese vessel Xue Long — had itself become stuck in ice. Back in 2007-8, Dr John Shears of the British Antarctic Survey told me that the passengers and crew rescued from the MS Explorer had been ‘lucky to survive’. One hopes that those trapped on the Shokalskiy share that luck. (Note: Thankfully, 24-hours after I posted this, Chris Turney posted this video clip: ‘The first of the helicopters to take us home!’)

Shackleton’s Man Goes South, square thumbnailThirdly, an article published by the Nation reports the views of a number of scientists who fear that climate change may be both far worse and much more sudden than anticipated, to create what one of those interviewed (John Nissen, chairman of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group) describes as an “instant planetary emergency.” Dahr Jamail’s article for the Nation is a must-read, and it echoes the suggestions of scientists that I’ve interviewed, that IPCC forecasts, however grim-sounding, have been underestimative, best-case scenarios. Another article, published in Nature and widely reported on New Year’s Eve, backs this up, suggesting that (in the words of the Guardian newspaper’s Damian Carrington):

Temperature rises resulting from unchecked climate change will be at the severe end of those projected, according to a new scientific study. The scientist leading the research said that unless emissions of greenhouse gases were cut, the planet would heat up by a minimum of 4C by 2100, twice the level the world’s governments deem dangerous.

In the most alarming echo of Shackleton’s Man Goes South, Dahr Jamail’s Nation article quotes atmospheric and marine scientist Ira Leifer, who says:

“Some scientists are indicating we should make plans to adapt to a 4C world,” [ ... ] “While prudent, one wonders what portion of the living population now could adapt to such a world, and my view is that it’s just a few thousand people [seeking refuge] in the Arctic or Antarctica.”

My novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South follows Emily and Jenny, refugees who are trying to reach the safety of  Antarctica. In the slang of their post-melt world, Emily and Jenny are refugees known as ‘mangoes’, a corruption of the saying ‘man go south’. Emily and Jenny’s journey purposely echoes not only Sir Ernest Shackleton’s heroic escape, but those of many contemporary migrants. Even having written about just such a world, I am still surprised and shocked to read Leifer’s vision of the future: ‘a few thousand people [seeking refuge] in the Arctic or Antarctica’.


Shackleton’s Man Goes South is available free and DRM-free (in ebook formats compatible with most devices) from the Science Museum website.

An exhibition accompanying the novel runs in the Science Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery until 24 April 2014.

Press about Shackleton’s Man Goes South.

Missorts Volume II at the Winter Shuffle

I am delighted to have been invited to read at the Winter Shuffle Festival taking place in and around the old St Clements workhouse in Mile End, London. I’ll be reading from my novella Missorts Volume II, which is published in a new paperback edition the following week. I’m sharing a bill with fellow Faber author Michael Smith, which is great news because I’ve been looking forward to getting hold of his new book Unreal City.

There is loads of other great stuff on. Here’s the full programme. Click through for tickets and bookings, and more information about the Winter Shuffle film programme.


Touchscreen ‘ebook dispenser’ at Science Museum

A central component of how the Science Museum has published my novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South — and thus of the display about the novel in the Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery — is that it is being given away in the Science Museum via a touchscreen ‘ebook dispenser’ developed especially for the purpose. (Read more about the novel itself here, here or here. Read more about how we published here.) The touchscreen has now been up and running for nearly six months, which may be a good point to look at how it has worked so far.

Touchscreen kiosks and information points are of course a familiar feature in museums, but as far as we know this is the first time one has been used to give away an ebook ‘on-gallery’ (as they say). Of course, museum or industry-spec touchscreens of this kind (whether wall-mounted or free-standing) are expensive, but certainly not beyond reach of other kinds of arts venues or in parts of the book trade. One could easily imagine a kiosk like this being used to give away an ebook of an exhibition catalogue or a programme, or being used by larger bookshops, by literary festivals or even publishers to distribute a promoted title. The Science Museum are giving away Shackleton’s Man Goes South for free, that is part of the ethos of the project, but there is no reason why the process couldn’t include a secure purchase page.

© Science Museum

© Science Museum

The touchscreen we are using to give away Shackleton’s Man Goes South is a portrait format unit, with sound, that is housed in a steel box and wall-mounted beneath Jake Tilson’s melting logotype, at one end of the custom-designed display case. The glowing screen is just visible at the far left of the installation shot of the Shackleton’s Man Goes South display above.

Using a simple, six-button homepage, the Museum visitor can e.g. find out more about the novel, listen to a short audiobook extract, or participate in a visitor poll about climate change. They can also email themselves the book, a function that enables many smartphone users to begin reading the novel there and then.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 16.55.42Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 16.56.04Rather than emailing every reader all possible files, the email contains a link to a closed page on the Science Museum site from which they can open or download the book in whichever format is compatible with the device they want to use. Email addresses are not kept. The Museum offer the novel as an EPUB or mobi file (both are DRM-free) and as a PDF for on-screen reading on PC or laptop (based on reader feedback, we recommend PDF rather than Adobe Digital Editions for on-screen reading). Some readers with Android tablets also report opting for PDF.

The aim was to make the transaction as quick and simple as possible. The comparison we used was that it should be as easy as buying an ebook on Amazon. Readers with Kindles and some other devices need to side-load the files via USB, which is still very straightforward, but the really exciting thing has been that readers using iBooks on iPhones or iPads, and some other devices, can be reading the book in situ and within a matter of seconds, in just three taps of their screen.

The concept of this as a reader experience came first, before we knew if it was achievable. In the earliest stages of the commissioning process, the Museum asked me to think about how visitors might encounter and engage with the novel, so I had a bash at drawing some ‘experience maps’ to show how I thought it might work. Here are two of those sketches. An existing Museum system (the Antenna news service) already allowed visitors to email themselves a static HTML page, and I initially thought we might need to piggyback on that, but to do so would only have given us a very brief platform in a quickly changing news cycle, so we switched to the idea of visitors emailing themselves from a dedicated terminal. This raised its own technical challenges and for a while it seemed to be touch and go if it could be made to work at all.

In the event it has worked brilliantly well, and proved to be very robust, only breaking down once to date (as an unforseen by-product of a planned server migration) a couple of weeks ago. Interestingly it was a reader who noticed that the system had broken down and alerted us to the fact instantly, via Twitter.

One breakdown — under punishing museum conditions — of a custom-built piece of kit like this in the six-months since the book was launched is pretty good going I think, so full credit to the teams at the Science Museum for doing such a great job.

© Jake Tilson

© Jake Tilson

Whenever I’ve been to show people around the display or demo the touchscreen unit, as I frequently need to do, there have always been people playing with the screen and emailing themselves. Often singly, but sometimes as a group (e.g. two or more people with iPads or tablets, or someone showing a companion how to do it).

The Shackleton’s Man Goes South display runs for a year (until 24 April 2014). The initial plan was for the novel to be available via the touchscreen for the full year, but from the Museum’s website only for the first three months. However we found that readers and reviewers quickly found a workaround, starting to link directly to the files on the closed page even before the three months were up, rather than to the more controlled information page that was promoted around the launch. In response to this the Museum and I now also point readers straight to the files where-ever we can.

The visitor poll that we are running on the terminal asks, ‘Is everything going south?’ Six-months in, I can reveal that 65% of participants in the poll have said YES.


Shackleton’s Man Goes South

Missorts cover design prize


Situations have today announced the winner of the Missorts Volume II cover design prize. From a very strong shortlist of ten, the judging panel (i.e. design historian Emily King, graphic designer Fraser Muggeridge and me) unanimously picked this beautifully understated design by An Endless Supply. I love everything about this design. A limited edition paperback of the novella is being published in December. More info on launch events coming soon. See my events page for updates, or follow Situations on Twitter.

Missorts Volume II is published to accompany Missorts, my permanent public soundwork for Bristol, which is produced by Situations, the award-winning Bristol-based arts producers, and funded by Bristol City Council for the Bristol Legible City initiative. 


More about Missorts.

If you can’t wait for this paperback edition of the novella featuring An Endless Supply’s gorgeous cover, you can download Missorts Volume II as a free ebook compatible with most devices from the Missorts website.


Here is a quick link to Karen Regn’s excellent review (for the Manchester sustainability portal, Platform) of my event last week at Manchester Literature Festival. It’s a great piece, and Karen has really engaged with Shackleton’s Man Goes South:

White’s novel is structured with a converging dual narrative in which a fact-based strand telling of the discovery of an “overlooked” short story, written in 1911 by polar explorer and scientist George Clarke Simpson, plays off and adds tension to what White calls the “melodrama”, a tale of refugees fleeing south, who are undertaking Shackleton’s journey in reverse. In this second strand, Emily and daughter Jenny are traveling to meet John, Emily’s husband, who has gone ahead to find work. They travel with Browning, a sailor who has already saved their lives more than once. In the slang of their post-melt world, Emily and Jenny are known as “mangoes”, a corruption of the saying “man go south”.

The dual structure reflects White’s belief that science and human experience are inextricably linked … 

Karen Regn is also a photographer and took this fantastic shot of me in mid-reading, framed by the beautifully lit and Piranesi-esque stairs and vaults of Manchester Museum’s Life Gallery.

Photo: © Karen Regn, 2013

Photo: © Karen Regn, 2013

Interestingly, Karen also uses the review to discuss the Festival’s policy and approaches to climate change and sustainability. Issues that may be of interest to artists and audiences just as much as arts organisations. Karen points out that:

Manchester Literature Festival organisers chose White’s novel as part [of an] ecologically-minded commitment to sustainability in the hopes that through this event and others of climate change-themed literature audiences will engage with sustainability agendas.

I was really impressed with Manchester Literature Festival’s use of Twitter to promote the event to climate change and other environmental interest groups and networks, as well as to the Manchester Museum Book Club who had chosen the novel for their September read. The Festival also collaborated with event sponsors Gaeia, who held an ethical investment workshop earlier in the day. The event was very well chaired by novelist Gregory Norminton, editor of the Beacons short story collection, which I am now looking forward to reading. I enjoyed my visit enormously.


Shackleton’s Man Goes South is available free and DRM-free from the Science Museum at

A London event at the Science Museum at 2pm on Thursday 24 October has been organised by future-publishing consultants The Literary Platform. Booking is essential, and the modest ticket price of £15.00 includes a tour of my exhibition and a signed copy of the limited edition paperback. Info and booking here.


Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 16.03.59Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 15.05.59Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 15.05.21Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 15.04.55Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 15.04.36Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 15.03.52Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 15.03.07Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 15.35.05Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 15.34.36I just got back from Manchester Literature Festival, where I was talking about — and giving a short reading from — my Science Museum novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South. Chairing the event was novelist Gregory Norminton, who recently edited the Beacons collection of climate change-themed short stories. Our venue was a beautiful old-fashioned room in Manchester Museum, in which two ranks of tall glass vitrines were filled with animal skeletons and other curiosities, while above our heads hung not the sword of Damocles, but an enormous whale skeleton.

There was a good-sized audience, too, which included members of Manchester Museum’s Book Club who had chosen Shackleton’s Man Goes South as their title for September. Feedback from these readers was incredibly positive but also useful, as the Science Museum and I have been discussing preparing a page of information about the novel for book groups. It was fascinating hearing which aspects of the novel had provoked discussion. These included the fact that central characters Emily and daughter Jenny are women, for example, but also questions about what a particular shift of focus might mean, partway through the story, or about Emily and Jenny’s lives beyond the confines of the novel. I’m wondering if it might be useful to give some prompts for discussion around these and other questions, and also how to do this without giving too much away.

One thing that I’ve also realised would be incredibly useful for future Shackleton’s Man Goes South events, is a small flyer giving the URL where people can download the novel free and DRM-free on the Science Museum website.

The link is:

At right are a selection of tweets about yesterday’s gig. Manchester Literature Festival very actively used social media to promote the event, and — as you can see — to give some live commentary during it. I was also very interested to see how people in the audience continued the conversation on Twitter, and that a couple of people tweeted that they are reviewing the book and/or the event.

My next event is at Ilkley Literature Festival this Saturday 19 October, where writer and broadcaster Siân Ede will chair a discussion between me and IPCC lead author Professor Andy Challinor.


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