Writing is an act of deliberation. Choices about words and syntax, the level of detail in the setting and character, the pacing and dialogue. Then comes the decision about time and reality: why does one write about the future, the logically feasible but non-realized, the un-lived?
“I’m interested in the possibility of time travel and its implications,” said the Maltese writer and translator, Loranne Vella, on Wednesday October 4th at Librebook during an event called Apero Chronicles with the Eutopianists. “When I started writing my novel, Rocket, I knew it would be set in the future. Because I’ve often wondered: is there such thing as linear progress in humanity, or do we, as civilization return to the same patterns. I do wonder about that. Does history have a cyclical shape?”
The novel takes place fifty years into the future in a continent that is fragmented; the EU as we know it, no longer exists.
“For me it is a very European novel,” said Vella. “You can say it’s speculative fiction, a little dystopian if you like, but it’s also very current. The main character lacks roots. And through the narrative arc of the novel, we see him going back to try to find them. He wants to know more about her grandmother, her country, Malta.”
The event was moderated by visual artist Agnese Rossi, and next to Vella sat novelists Damir Omeragic and Giuseppe Porcaro. Omeragic was born and raised in Sarajevo but lived for three years in Tanzania when he was nine. That experience, he believes, marked his life and became fundamental for his choice of English as the language in which he’s written his soon-to-be-finished novel.
“I found freedom in English,” said Omeragic. “At school in Sarajevo, we had very little room for having our own thoughts, for even daring to ask questions. When my parents and I moved to Tanzania, it was totally different. I have never forgotten that feeling.”
Omeragic’s novel takes place in Brussels, in a not too distant future where someone might appear dead in the morning, the cause unclear. Important people, decision makers seem to have fatal accidents. But something more mysterious, somewhat perverse, lies underneath the cause of those deaths. Characters live in a post-Brexit world.
“For me the story could be nowhere else. It had to be in Brussels,” said Omeragic. “Brussels reminds me a little bit of Sarajevo in the late 80’s. There was a lot of diversity, also different layers that sometimes never overlap. That’s what I’ve experienced here.”
Guiseppe Porcaro has chosen English over Italian for a different reason.
“It’s like you have a movie that takes place in China and all the actors speak Chinese. But maybe the director doesn’t. And the novel took shape in my head in English. As simple as that.”
For him, speculative writers use the future as device to reflect on what the world, with technology and its variations, will look like for the children of today, the generations to come.
“In my writing I prefer to think of a mix of both, utopia and dystopia. If you look at human history, I believe it’s accurate to say there’s a combination. In the past, let’s say in the 80’s, there was a level of optimism about the future. Now, the expectations that we have of the years to come, as a collective, is rather bleak.”
In his novel, Disco Sour, each European state has collapsed. Bavaria, for example, is now part of a canton in Switzerland. In the novel there is war, and one of the challenges that Porcaro faced was that people often asked, Is it a religious war?
“I wanted to get that issue out of the way,” he said. “In the novel, religion becomes a blend of all the main religions that we know. That freed me to focus on other things.”
Porcaro has opted for the route of crowd funding for his book, where interested readers pre-order the book online. “As of today, I have eighty five percent of what I need to bring the book to print,” he said. “I believe this is going to happen.”