Category Archives: London

From . to Venice



Sarah Lucas has been selected to represent Britain at the 56th Venice International Art Biennale. She will present a major solo show in the British Pavilion, which will run from 9 May to 22 November 2015.


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

Resonance 104.4fm annual fundraiser

I have been listening to Resonance 104.4fm and valuing the station’s unique contribution to the arts since its earliest days, when I was lucky enough to have been involved via my then job at the national office of Arts Council England. Since leaving the Arts Council, and wanting to continue to support the excellent work of Ed and the rest of the team, I have been a director and I currently chair the Resonance board, but I am still also a listener and a supporter, and Resonance 104.4fm continues to make an incredible and growing contribution to the arts in London and the UK. That is why I am devoting this post to sharing the information about some of the events that are being put on around London by Resonance 104.4fm programme makers as part of the annual fundraiser.

resonance web logoIf you haven’t tuned in before, Resonance 104.4fm is London’s award-winning arts radio station. It was established by London Musicians’ Collective and licensed as a community radio station by Ofcom. Resonance 104.4fm started broadcasting on May 1st 2002 as one of the first community radio stations licensed by the then Radio Authority, and it provides a radical alternative to the universal formulae of mainstream broadcasting.

Resonance 104.4 fm features programmes made by musicians, artists and critics who represent the diversity of London’s arts scenes. With hundreds of live sessions every year, with weekly programmes from, by and about just about every art form, and with regular weekly contributions from nearly two hundred musicians, artists, thinkers, critics, activists and instigators; plus numerous unique broadcasts by artists on the weekday “Clear Spot”.

Resonance broadcasts 24 hours per day on 104.4fm in London or online and via the Radio Player app. The station’s annual fundraiser runs from 10-16 February this year. Here’s the blurb from the Resonance site:

with a series of live events, an on-line auction and plenty of special broadcasts. We hope you will join us in our efforts to raise funds. The boring bit: we need to secure £50,000 reserves in order to bolster our next funding application to Arts Council England, who have generously supported us for the last 11 years. The exciting bit: our programme makers and many friends have organised a variety of amazing entertainments for you – all proceeds going to Resonance. With your help we can keep our unique and exceptional broadcast service on air and advert-free!

Resonance104.4fm Fund-raising Events!

Resonance programmes makers have organised a series of events from tonight. Featuring art movies, debate, ukulele luminaries, high tea with Max Keiser, Rough Trade DJs and Sound Art Superstars.

Please check your diaries and the booking info below, and do come along if you can. It would be great to see you at one or other of these events.

Monday 10th February

Facing the Music

The Pod Delusion and Little Atoms with Soho Skeptics present “Facing the music” – a cultural debate with Charles Shaar Murray, David Stubbs, Andrew Mueller, Jude Rogers and more. Lively discussion about popular culture and sound: a chance to meet like minds and disagree with them. T-shirt stall, bar. Buy tickets here.

Monday 10 February 8pm £6, NB: Change of venue and start time: The Slaughtered Lamb, 34-35 Great Sutton St, London EC1V 0DXL

Tuesday 11th February

Henry Scott-Irvine presents a night of blues & folk

Henry Scott-Irvine presents a night of blues & folk – Mollys Daggers + The Bermondsey Joyriders + Sasha Ilyukevich + Ronnie Golden + Howard & Clack. A rollicking gig with former members of Chelsea, The Little Roosters, and Johnny Thunders – and a Belarusian Troubadour.

Tuesday 11 February 8pm £5, 12 Bar Club, Denmark Street WC2H 8NJ

Thursday 13th February

Sine of The Gravy

Sine Of The Times & The Gravy present LV (Hyperdub), My Panda Shall Fly, Only Rays (Circles and Squares), DJ Bobafatt (Rough Trade), Will Ward and Patrick from The Gravy plus Sine of The Times’ very own Rita Maia.

More details here.

Thursday 13 February 7pm till 1am £5, Candela Clapton, 159 Lower Clapton Road E5 0QX

Thursday 13th February

Gala Sound Art Concert

Resonance104.4fm presents sound-art superstars Janek Schaefer + Rie Nakajima + Yuri Suzuki + Oscillatorial Binnage. Headlined by the UK’s leading sound-artist Janek Schaefer, this bill also features Arts Award Foundation Experimental Music fellow Rie Nakajima and BASCA Composer of the Year (and Resonance station manager) Chris Weaver.

Thursday 13 February 8pm £8, Cafe Oto, 18 Ashwin Street E8 3DL

Friday 14th February

The Relatively Good Valentines Do

The Relatively Good Valentines Do – Dulwich Ukulele Club + The Gents + Double Bass Dan and Friends + Santa Mozzarella + The Relatives. Resonance’s Relatively Good Radio Show presents a night of all-star local talent in London’s first cooperatively owned pub. Buy tickets here.

Friday 14 February 8pm £15, Ivy House, 40 Stuart Road SE15 3BE

Saturday 15th February

Bermuda Triangle Lovely Audio Visual Extravaganza

BTTTB presents Bermuda Triangle Lovely Audio Visual Extravaganza featuring Bruce Gilbert + Bermuda Triangle Test Engineers + Greta Pistaceci + James Alec Hardy + Chips For The Poor + DJs Art Terry and Dave Ball. A night of audio-visual treats with cult musicians including Gilbert (Wire), Ball (Soft Cell) and numerous Resonance luminaries. MC is The Man From The Bermuda Triangle. Bar, bar food, t shirt and merch stall.

Saturday 15 February 8pm to 2am £5, The Roxy, 128 Borough High Street SE1 1LB

Sunday 16th February

High Tea with Max and Stacy

Join outspoken financial pundits Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert of The Truth About Markets for a face to face high finance Q&A session.

Tickets available at the WeGotTickets website.

Sunday 16 February 4pm £15, The Roxy, 128 Borough High Street SE1 1LB


Clarke Awards

Clarke-Award-submissions-If you didn’t already see it, the Arthur C Clarke Awards released this great photo yesterday via SFX Magazine, along with the full list of submissions to the prize.

The Arthur C. Clarke Award

is given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year. The award was established with a grant given by Sir Arthur C. Clarke and the first prize was awarded in 1987 to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Last week, the Clarke Awards released a list of the novels by women that had been submitted. Award director Tom Hunter hoped that this would make ‘a positive contribution towards further raising the profile of women writers of science fiction in the UK.’ It also ties in nicely with the brilliant Joanna Walsh a.k.a. Badaude’s Readwomen2014 campaign — a year-long celebration of women’s writing — that can be followed on Twitter and/or joined by using hashtag #readwomen2014.

The Clarke Award publish the list of submissions,

as a snapshot of the current state of science fiction publishing and to help readers everywhere get a fuller understanding of the judging process before the official short list is announced in March.

I think it’s a great idea to open up this information for discussion and analysis in this way. Perhaps it is something that other literary prizes might learn from.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 11.15.13Shackleton’s Man Goes South is just visible up in the top left corner of the picture, between James Lovegrove’s The Age of Voodoo and James Brogden’s Tourmaline.

Shackleton’s Man Goes South is available from the Science Museum as a free and DRM-free ebook, compatible with most devices. These are available free online and also via a touchscreen ‘ebook dispenser’ that is part of a display about the novel in the Science Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery. The Museum have also produced a limited edition paperback of the novel. Print aficionados may be interested to know that signed copies of this first paperback edition of Shackleton’s Man Goes South are currently available from the Science Museum shop for the sale price of £5.00.


Download Shackleton’s Man Goes South directly from the Science Museum website

Read press and reviews of Shackleton’s Man Goes South

‘Like’ Shackleton’s Man Goes South on the novel’s official Facebook page

Visit the Shackleton’s Man Goes South display in the Science Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD. Opening hours: 10.00 – 18.00 (last entry 17.15) every day except 24 to 26 December. 

Animate Me

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 13.41.16Here courtesy of PEER and Animate Projects is a PDF of the Joe Ewart-designed pamphlet edition of ‘Animate Me’, my short story that was commissioned to accompany Out of Site, four new films by Savinder Bual, Kota Ezawa, Karolina Glusiec and Margaret Salmon.

You were always blagging equipment. Not like now when you can do stop-motion with any old digital camera – or on your phone – bung it through whatever free graphic converter software you can find and have the Quicktime on Youtube in the space of an hour! Back then it was about booking the studio, putting your name down for a lightbox; getting in early to use the rostrum camera or one of the Steenbecks. A different world.

Pick up a copy of ‘Animate Me’ in the gallery, or download a copy here, by clicking on the link above, or clicking-through this cover image.

N.B. It may take a bit of trial and error to print the pamphlet double-sided, depending on your printer. You might be able to do it by adjusting your printer settings, or by printing page 1 and then reloading the paper manually, so that both sides are the same way up when the PDF is printed in landscape format.


Out of Site, PEER in association with Animate Projects, runs from 16 January to 8 March 2014. The films are viewable from Hoxton Street between 3pm and 8pm Wednesday to Saturday, or watch the films online here.

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

Out of Site

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 13.41.16My new short story, ‘Animate Me’ has been commissioned by PEER and Animate Projects, for publication alongside four new commissions by artists that go on show from Thursday 16 January 2014.

There were dozens of them – a generation, near enough – working as ‘inbetweeners’ and cleaners-up, doing thumb-nailing or little animation tests, getting to know particular characters and ending up as animators, compositors. That’s where it all starts […] So why was I the only one in the Hawley Arms not wearing a Roger Rabbit UK crew jacket?

PEER in partnership with Animate Projects has commissioned four new moving image works to be back-projected through PEER’s gallery windows and viewed from Hoxton Street, from 3pm to 8pm Wednesday to Saturday, until 8 March 2014.

‘Animate Me’ is published as a free, A5 one-fold pamphlet, typeset by the brilliant Joe Ewart, and will be available in the gallery throughout the exhibition.

On Saturday 1 March at 4pm I am chairing a panel discussion with artists Savinder Bual, Karolina Glusiec and Margaret Salmon. This will take place at the gallery, and is free, but booking is essential. Click here to reserve your place.

Images clockwise from top left: Kota Ezawa, Paint on Glass, 2013; Savinder Bual, Wing, 2013; Margaret Salmon, Housework, 2014; Karolina Glusiec, Out of Sight, 2013

Images clockwise from top left: Kota Ezawa, Paint on Glass, 2013; Savinder Bual, Wing, 2013; Margaret Salmon, Housework, 2014; Karolina Glusiec, Out of Sight, 2013

Republic of the Moon

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 09.04.06I’ll be reading from my short story ‘Occupy the Moon’ on Thursday evening, at the private view of The Arts Catalyst’s exhibition Republic of the Moon — London, which has been getting some good press in the run-up to opening. Coverage includes the Space Policy blog, Wall Street Magazine and the Guardian.

Liliane Lijn, Moonmeme. Click through to go to Liliane Lijn's website.‘Occupy the Moon’ was first published online by The Arts Catalyst two years ago, having been commissioned to accompany an earlier version of the exhibition at FACT, Liverpool. The story responds in particular to the work of Agnes Meyer Brandis and — especially — Liliane Lijn’s Moonmeme (left). It was also an attempt to write a science fiction short story in the mould of those great, old, yellow-jacketed Gollancz anthologies that I loved to borrow from my local library when I was a child.

This is the first time that ‘Occupy the Moon’ has been available in print form, where it is among the writings included in A Manifesto for the Republic of the Moon. (Bibliographical info etc. to follow.)

Eagle-eyed readers will know that I have worked with Liliane Lijn and blogged about her work before.

Here’s the exhibition blurb from The Arts Catalyst’s site:

After two decades working with space dreamers from the European Space Agency to anarchist autonomous astronauts, The Arts Catalyst will transform Bargehouse into an Earth-based embassy for a Republic of the Moon, filled with artists’ fantastical imaginings. Presenting international artists including Liliane Lijn, Leonid Tishkov, Katie Paterson, Agnes Meyer Brandis, and WE COLONISED THE MOON, the exhibition combines personal encounters, DIY space plans, imaginary expeditions and new myths for the next space age.

Marking the start of its twentieth anniversary year, The Arts Catalyst will animate the exhibition with performances, workshops, music, talks, a pop-up moon shop by super/collider and playful protests against lunar exploitation.  A manifesto declaring the Moon a temporary autonomous zone, with responses from artists and scientists to novelist Tony White’s call to “occupy the Moon!” will be published in print and e-Book formats to coincide with the exhibition.

Speeches and readings will begin at Bargehouse at 7:30pm, Thursday 9 January.


Republic of the Moon — London
Oxo Tower Wharf
South Bank
London SE1 9PH

10/01/2014 – 02/02/2014
11am-6pm daily, late opening 6.30-8.30pm Thursday 9 January and 6.30-10pm Thursday 16 January

There is an extensive events programme to accompany the exhibition. For more information see The Arts Catalyst website.

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.


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