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Crow Reads is a podcast series by Rayanne Haines, in which she interviews intersectional women, LGBTQ+, and non-binary authors, publishers, editors, agents, booksellers, and more—all of whom are working and living in Alberta—about their books and the current state of the publishing industry. For this episode of Crow Reads, Rayanne speaks with Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author, Premee Mohamed.
“I genuinely don’t know how people expect to write Sci Fi from now on and set something in the future and not either acknowledge that the climate crisis has caused disasters and is causing disasters in the book or that it’s been fixed somehow. Like, I can’t imagine not addressing it.” –Premee Mohamed
An article in the New York Times from 2015 asked, Do Genre Labels Matter Anymore? As recently as 2021, LitHub published an article that said, “In Defense of Labels: On Genre as a Literary Conversation.” Back in 2019, I wrote an article for the Writers Guild of Alberta that asked, Is CanLit still CanLit if it’s Genre Fiction? So, what’s the answer?
Premee Mohamed’s book, The Annual Migration of Clouds, has been described as a post-apocalyptic, hope-punk novella. When I asked her about the label and how she sees her writing, Premee, like those authors I interviewed back in 2019, pointed to marketing departments and publishers for coming up with the particular label. Premee did, however, study up on the term because people assumed, this writer included, that she had created the term. What she found filled her with a sense of … hope. “Alex Rollins had said, hope-punk is the opposite of grim dark, pass it on. And I thought it was so interesting. I think what it distills down to for me, is that hope-punk isn’t about solving every problem. It’s not about being naive or ignorant in the face of overwhelming odds, either. It’s not about people shutting their eyes to the oncoming disaster and saying, I’m hoping for the best. It’s about persistence in the face of the odds and not giving up. It’s about working hard for the better future that the characters hope for. And I think most of all, it’s about not allowing those aspects that dominate grim dark books—the greed, selfishness, ambition, cruelty and that gratuitous violence—to overtake our better natures. I think what hope-punk says is, hope is our guiding star, not those other values.”
The Annual Migration of Clouds has also been labelled Sci Fi or Cli Fi. A new term for me, this is the genre label for Climate Disaster Fiction. While the book absolutely deals with climate disaster, disease, and future tech (or lack thereof), Premee says, “I’m not interested in being a genre purist or being pigeonholed.” A scientist herself, Premee argues, “I genuinely don’t know how people expect to write Sci Fi from now on and set something in the future and not either acknowledge that the climate crisis has caused disasters and is causing disasters in the book or that it’s been fixed somehow. Like, I can’t imagine not addressing it.”
While many authors choose to write major cities into their work, Premee sets her book in Edmonton, Alberta. The book’s blurb states, The world is nothing like it once was: climate disasters have wracked the continent, causing food shortages, ending industry and leaving little behind. Edmonton, Premee notes, is ground zero. “I love Alberta. I love what is tough and hard and durable about it, right down to the bedrock. And I also love what is soft and beautiful and fragile about it. What’s coming, in terms of climate change, is really going to tip that balance. . . . I just kept thinking, well, it’s the end of some things, maybe it’s the end of things as artificial as like, this is a province, here are the provincial borders. But it’s not the end of everything. That was what I was trying to communicate with something that I know so well and so intimately.”
To hear more from Premee about working with agents, how you know when your book is done, and facing truth even in world building, Listen Here:
Rayanne Haines is an award-winning and bestselling hybrid author of three poetry collections – The Stories in My Skin (2013), Stained with the Colours of Sunday Morning (2017), Tell The Birds Your Body Is Not A Gun (2021) and four Urban Fantasy/Romance novels. Rayanne is the 2022 Regional Writer in Residence for the Metro Federation of Libraries, an Edmonton Artist Trust Fund Award recipient and teaches in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Communications at MacEwan University.
Tell the Birds Your Body is Not a Gun
by Rayanne Haines
Published in April 2021 by Frontenac House
Premee Mohamed is an Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton, Alberta. Premee is the author of novels Beneath the Rising (a finalist for Crawford Award, Aurora Award, British Fantasy Award, and Locus Award) and A Broken Darkness, as well as the novellas These Lifeless Things, And What Can We Offer You Tonight, and The Annual Migration of Clouds. Her next novel, The Void Ascendant, is the final book in the Beneath the Rising trilogy and is due out Spring 2022. Her short fiction has appeared in many venues and she can be found on Twitter at @premeesaurus and on her website at www.premeemohamed.com.