2, 2 and 2: Annabel Smith talks about The Ark

My fourth guest in the 2, 2 and 2 series, which features writers with new books, is Annabel Smith, and it’s a huge pleasure and very exciting to be showcasing her new novel, The Ark.

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Annabel and I have been sharing work—one way or another—for fifteen years. I edited her first novel, A New Map of the Universe, for UWA Publishing. As part of a writing group with Annabel and Robyn Mundy, I watched the evolution of her second, Whisky Charlie Foxtrot (Fremantle Press), as we read and reviewed chapter by chapter. Similarly, I have seen The Ark grow from its beginnings, and cheered for Annabel when she was the recipient of a two-year Creative Australia Fellowship from the Australia Council, for emerging artists working on interdisciplinary projects, to enable her to develop The Ark as an interactive work.

The Ark is unlike Annabel’s first two books—not only in its digital form but also in its style and genre. It is a work of dystopian speculative fiction, and its story is told in documents (read more about that here). Here is the book’s blurb, and you can also browse the book’s fabulous interactive website:

Wool meets Super Sad True Love Story

The year is 2041. As rapidly dwindling oil supplies wreak havoc worldwide a team of scientists and their families abandon their homes and retreat into a bunker known as The Ark, alongside five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth. But The Ark’s sanctuary comes at a price.

When their charismatic leader’s hidden agenda is revealed it becomes impossible to know who to trust. Those locked out of The Ark become increasingly desperate to enter, while those within begin to yearn for escape.

The Ark delves into the fears and concerns raised by the environmental predicament facing the world today, exploring human nature in desperate times. At its heart it asks: can our moral compass ever return to true north after a period in which every decision might be a matter of life and death and the only imperative is survival?

Over to Annabel…

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Super Sad True Love Story meets Wool

The year is 2041. As rapidly dwindling oil supplies wreak havoc worldwide, a team of scientists and their families abandon their homes and retreat into a bunker known as The Ark, alongside five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth. But The Ark’s sanctuary comes at a price. 

When their charismatic leader’s hidden agenda is revealed it becomes impossible to know who to trust. Those locked out of The Ark become increasingly desperate to enter, while those within begin to yearn for escape.

The Ark delves into the fears and concerns raised by the environmental predicament facing the world today, exploring human nature in desperate times. At its heart it asks: can our moral compass ever return to true north after a period in which every decision might be a matter of life and death and the only imperative is survival?

– See more at: http://annabelsmith.com/?page_id=51#sthash.uQG57e6c.dpuf

Super Sad True Love Story meets Wool

The year is 2041. As rapidly dwindling oil supplies wreak havoc worldwide, a team of scientists and their families abandon their homes and retreat into a bunker known as The Ark, alongside five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth. But The Ark’s sanctuary comes at a price. 

When their charismatic leader’s hidden agenda is revealed it becomes impossible to know who to trust. Those locked out of The Ark become increasingly desperate to enter, while those within begin to yearn for escape.

The Ark delves into the fears and concerns raised by the environmental predicament facing the world today, exploring human nature in desperate times. At its heart it asks: can our moral compass ever return to true north after a period in which every decision might be a matter of life and death and the only imperative is survival?

– See more at: http://annabelsmith.com/?page_id=51#sthash.uQG57e6c.dpuf

Super Sad True Love Story meets Wool

The year is 2041. As rapidly dwindling oil supplies wreak havoc worldwide, a team of scientists and their families abandon their homes and retreat into a bunker known as The Ark, alongside five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth. But The Ark’s sanctuary comes at a price. 

When their charismatic leader’s hidden agenda is revealed it becomes impossible to know who to trust. Those locked out of The Ark become increasingly desperate to enter, while those within begin to yearn for escape.

The Ark delves into the fears and concerns raised by the environmental predicament facing the world today, exploring human nature in desperate times. At its heart it asks: can our moral compass ever return to true north after a period in which every decision might be a matter of life and death and the only imperative is survival?

– See more at: http://annabelsmith.com/?page_id=51#sthash.uQG57e6c.dpu

2 things that inspired The Ark

A few years ago I read Adrian Atkinson’s foreboding essay ‘Cities After Oil’, about the likely collapse of society as we know it, in a period of chaos following post-peak oil. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then, in the ‘environmental lifestyle’ magazine G, I saw a snippet about the Svalbard Global Seed Bank, also known as the Doomsday vault. These two ideas came together in my mind and The Ark was born.

2 places connected with The Ark

Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Global Crop Diversity Trust)

Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Global Crop Diversity Trust)

Since the Svalbard seed vault was the inspiration for my book, I’ll never be able to think about The Ark without picturing Svalbard. Tunnelled into a mountain on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, it can protect its seeds from nuclear war, asteroid strikes and climate change. Even if the power fails, the seeds will be preserved at or below zero by the mountain’s permafrost, and most seeds can survive at this temperature for two or more years.

However, I didn’t want to set my novel at Svalbard, for two reasons. Firstly, direct experience of the facility seemed essential for verisimilitude, but my son was only two years old when I began writing and it wasn’t practical for me to travel to the Arctic Circle. More importantly, I didn’t want my story to be constrained by reality. I decided to create my own seed bank. Research revealed that in the last ice age, there was a small glacier on Mount Kosciusko, and though it no longer has permafrost, this, if I wanted an Australian setting, was as close as I was going to get. Here I ‘built’ the National Arboreal Protection Facility, aka ‘The Ark’.

2 favourite methods of communication in The Ark

The Ark is a novel-in-documents. The story is revealed through blog posts, text messages, emails, memos and a variety of other forms. I really had fun coming up with some of these forms and inventing brand names for the software programs.

One of the document types I got a kick out of creating was a type of email called a Headless Horseman. Allegedly developed by the Yakuza, the program enables people to communicate in secret: The horseman cannot be detected by voyeur systems and can outride all known e-mercenaries.

Perhaps the most fun I had was with the voice recognition software program I invented, called Articulate. Articulate has the capacity to create transcripts of conversations, so it was a way to provide written evidence of some of the conversations (and arguments) which were essential to the novel’s action. Articulate also enables people to write the drafts of speeches, including notes to themselves for their delivery, which read as stage directions. One of the main characters, Aidan, loves to make speeches and has some particularly pompous stage directions in his draft transcripts.

You can follow Annabel on:
her website
Facebook
Twitter
You can buy The Ark here

23 Comments

Filed under 2 2 and 2 (writers + new books)

23 responses to “2, 2 and 2: Annabel Smith talks about The Ark

  1. Glen Hunting

    At the risk of pointing out the bleedin’ obvious, I think The Ark, or certainly the “Articulated” (TradeMark) parts of it, would adapt very well for the stage. The Blipps and Kaos Kronikles might require audio visual media, which might be expensive but not impossible.
    Patrick Marber broke new ground with this sort of thing in the late 90’s with his play Closer. It was early in the days of online communication, and prior to text messaging, so the actors were onstage typing on their computers while their messages were flashed above their heads onto a projection screen. I’ve written something recently where I have the characters tapping on their mobiles onstage, and their messages are heard as voiceovers in their own voices.

  2. Hi Amanda (and Annabel)

    I love the format of these 2, 2 and 2s! They’re short but they give a completely different insight into the novel!

    Annabel, I didn’t realise Svalbard was a real place.

    Emily

  3. Lovely review, and I’m looking forward to reading this. thanks Amanda 🙂

  4. Maureen

    Haven’t yet had the chance to read The Ark, but I was captivated by the countdown via emails that Annabel sent in the lead-up to its release. And the website is brilliant. Can’t wait to get through my current compulsory reading so I can get started on this interactive reading experience. Congratulations on such an original approach to fiction, Annabel; and thanks for another fascinating 2, 2 and 2, Amanda.

    • Thanks, Maureen, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading The Ark as much as you’ve enjoyed the website 🙂
      If only we could speed up the compulsory reading part of our lives—although the compulsory can be as much a joy!

  5. Glen Hunting

    I’m posting this here because it ties in with the discussion above i.e. the incorporation of contemporary communication technologies into literature. I just read this story about the pratfalls of the same. Funny and instructive:
    http://www.readshortfiction.com/2014/09/too-smart-by-michael-haynes/#more-859

    • If you ever have the opportunity to see a local short film called The Fan, I think you’d enjoy it, Glen. It’s not about contemporary communication technologies at all but still I was reminded of it 🙂

  6. Rose van Son

    Fantastic Annabel; looking forward to reading it too!

  7. Love the 2, 2 and 2 format too. I loved that Smith used Thredbo and Mt Kosciuszko as it’s a place dear to our hearts. We go there every summer. When we go next summer, I might leave a little message on one of the message boards for Felipe to tell him not to despair because people will come looking for him. I’ll have to put a LEAVE UNTIL date on it though won’t I?

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