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Anne Charnock: The Utopia of Us Anthology. Pre-Order Available Now!

Cover of the author Anne Charnock
Anne Charnock on The Utopia of Us

The Utopia of Us anthology is now available for pre-order! Editor Teika Marija Smits has brought together 15 incredible writers and their stories, directly inspired by We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

It is a charity anthology, and given Russia's current war with Ukraine, royalties from the book will be donated to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

If you pre-order directly from the Luna website, you will also receive a discount. Check it out!

Today we'd like to introduce you to Anne Charnock and the story "The Earth Heals – Silent Days – Vagaries and Savagery".

About the author:

ANNE CHARNOCK’s writing career began in journalism and her articles appeared in New Scientist, The Guardian, International Herald Tribune and others. She has written four novels: A Calculated Life, Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind, Dreams Before the Start of Time and Bridge 108. Her debut, A Calculated Life, was shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick Award and The Kitschies (2014). Dreams Before the Start of Time won the Arthur C. Clarke Award (2018) and was shortlisted for the BSFA Best Novel Award in the same year. Her novella, The Enclave, won the BSFA Short Fiction Award (2017). Anne’s short stories and non-fiction have been published in anthologies including 2084 (2017), Best of British Science Fiction 2017 and 2020, and Writing the Future (2023). Anne lives on the Isle of Bute, Scotland.

Anne on the story:

I first read Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We in 2007, and its impact was immediate. At the time, I was polishing the manuscript for my first novel, a corporate dystopia set in Manchester. The main character in my novel, Jayna, works as a brilliant mathematical modeller, being genetically enhanced and augmented with cognitive implants. Disenchanted with her restricted life, she adopts reckless behaviours and encounters new emotions. The working title of the novel was The Analyst, but I changed that upon reading We.

I noticed the similarity between Zamyatin’s main character and Jayna. We is the diary of a mathematician, D-503, who discovers love for another human being. Love is an emotion long-forgotten within his world. At the same time, D-503 deplores the “irrational, chaotic world of trees, birds, animals”, which exists beyond the glass wall boundary of One State. Looking out one day into this green ocean, D-503 sees a savage, and I was struck by the following sentence:

“But a thought swarmed in me; what if he, this yellow-eyed being – in his ridiculous, dirty bundle of trees, in his uncalculated life – is happier than us?”

I immediately understood that my character Jayna was the polar opposite of Zamyatin’s savage living his uncalculated life. So, I changed the title of my manuscript to A Calculated Life, and I included the above quote as an epigraph to my novel.

In writing my short story ‘The Earth Heals – Silent Days – Vagaries and Savagery’ I returned to Zamyatin’s concept of a glass wall boundary separating civilisation from the chaotic world of trees, birds and animals. But I decided to flip that world. A devastated, scorched world exists beyond the glass domes in my story while, inside the domes, scientists are preserving the biomes of a temperate climate. And I reference the passage in We in “Record Twenty-Seven” in which I-330 climbs a skull-like rock, a gathering point outside the dome, and agitates for revolution to a crowd of naked beings and unifs, saying:

“And you know also that the day has come for us to destroy that Wall and all other walls, so that the green wind may blow over all the earth, from end to end.”

George Orwell managed to get hold of a copy of We, describing it as “one of the literary curiosities of this book-burning age” in a review for Tribune in 1946. He states:

“Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World must be partly derived from it. Both books deal with the rebellion of the primitive human spirit against a rationalised, mechanised, painless world, and both stories are supposed to take place about six hundred years hence.”

Orwell preferred We to Brave New World. “Huxley’s book shows less political awareness.” And I am inclined to agree.

TOC of The Utopia of Us
TOC of The Utopia of Us

More on the anthology:

The year 2024 marks the centenary of the first publication of We, the direct inspiration for George Orwell’s 1984, and many other novels, such as Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano.

Strikingly, the Russian novel was first published in English, and in the US. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1988 that it was published in the author’s native country. Clearly, this was a book that the people in power in the Soviet Union wanted erased. Yet it ushered in a new genre – the future dystopia – and in doing so gave birth to the many dystopian novels and films which have found their way into our popular culture.

Setting aside what its publication history says about Russia’s past, it also happens to be a beautifully written and page-turning novel, and one that is still currently relevant since it speaks to the very heart of what it means to be human. In short, the centenary of this wonderful novel should be, and needs to be, celebrated, and how better to do that than by a globally minded, independent press, publishing an anthology of science fiction stories inspired by We?

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