Schroeder, Karl

Tagged: Author

(1962-    ) Canadian author who began publishing work of genre interest with "The Pools of Air" in Tesseracts3 (anth 1990) edited by Candas Jane Dorsey and Gerry Truscott, collecting some of his short fiction in The Engine of Recall (coll 2005). The Claus Effect (coll 1997) with David Nickle is a surprisingly savage Satire on the Near Future world, Equipoisally combining fantasy and sf (see Horror in SF); in the first section of the tale, "The Toy Mill" (in Tesseracts4, anth 1992, edited by Michael Skeet and Lorna Toolis), an embittered, misogynist Santa Claus [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] finds he can take revenge on Homo sapiens by giving children what they want; in the remainder of the novel, set in an exorbitant Media Landscape where consumerism rules, Santa has begun to respond to Christmas wishes from the American government, supplying it with advanced Weaponry. The portrayal of Santa's enslaved workers, elves working themselves to death in grim Satanic mills, is similar to some of the effects achieved in Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter (1993) (see David Nickle for further comments). Schroeder's next singleton, Permanence (2002), seemingly for the Young Adult market, is an exuberantly complicated Space Opera whose young protagonist, after discovering an ancient Starship, becomes engaged in interstellar affairs.

Schroeder's first series, the Ventus sequence comprising Ventus (2000) and Lady of Mazes (2005), is set on the planet Ventus, Terraformed a millennium before the action begins by AIs who apply sophisticated Nanotechnology to the task. On this world, now inhabitable by humans, the Utopian imperatives native to machine minds have created a regimented Dystopia, with diktats from on high enforced by Mecha; the story rapidly introduces Space Opera topoi, with interstellar Invasions in the offing, a boy Superman evolving into a culture Hero, and Planetary Romance shenanigans in the foreground. In the second volume, a region of stars known as the Archipelago (see Archipelago; Islands) houses a range of civilizations, with an effect modestly similar to that generated by Herman Melville in Mardi: And a Voyage Thither (1849 3vols); the scope of the tale begins to take on epic portentousness from this point, after the fashion of the new Space Opera, as Posthuman manipulations of Cosmology lead almost inevitably to Transcendence.

Perhaps less ambitious in cosmological terms, Schroeder's second sequence – the Virga series comprising Sun of Suns (2006), Queen of Candesce (2007) [for omnis see Checklist below], Pirate Sun (2008), The Sunless Countries (2009) and Ashes of Candesce (2012) – engagingly entwines the reader in the intricately detailed topography of the Macrostructure at its heart, where the long and at times Ruritanian tale is mainly set. Virga is a "balloon" in deep space, a Pocket Universe 5,000 miles in diameter, heated by an internal micro-sun and lit by dozens of others, but lacking gravity, its hugely numerous inhabitants managing their lives and small Wars and Transportation issues in ways redolent of early twenty-first century Steampunk. At times, given the fact that everything takes place within the ornately polished Labyrinth of Virga, the complex narrative seems occasionally as intimately tangled as some highly accomplished tale of the Hollow Earth.

A recent singleton, Lockstep (December 2013-April 2014 Analog; 2014), carries over some of the structuring elements of the Virga books, though its seemingly dislocated and possibly orphaned young picaro protagonist soon finds, after awakening from 14,000 years of Suspended Animation, that he remains the enormously wealthy scion of a planet-owning family, and enjoys numerous adventures on a planet-hopping Fantastic Voyage during which various civilizations display their wares. But echoes of Cordwainer Smith and Jack Vance are eventually darkened as a twenty-first century Space Opera plot locks in; the eponymous Technology-cum-lifestyle involves entire populations in synchronized, energy-efficient periods under suspended animation. During his own sleep, huge swathes of Future History have passed, compressed into Iconic patterns familiar to readers of the SF Megatext. The Satire is occasionally very sharp in a tale whose ambition is evident, as it is in The Million (2018), a Young Adult tale set in a Near Future Dystopian world infested every decade by interstellar tourists, and at all other times by an even more dominant cadre of the eponymous wealthy, who rule by guile and force. Just as complexly, the Fantastic Voyage structure of Stealing Worlds (2019) offers an increasingly interwoven perspective on a Near Future America floundering in the consequences of Climate Change; the intersections of Virtual Reality, whose occupants are combative, and the shaky "real" world, are proactively scrutinized by the narrative voice of the tale. After twenty years producing works that variously challenge preconceptions, Schroeder gives an impression that he will continue to stretch the genre. [JC]

Karl Schroeder

born Brandon, Manitoba: 4 September 1962

died

works

series

Ventus

Virga

individual titles

collections and stories

  • The Engine of Recall (Toronto, Ontario: Fitzhenry and Whiteside/Robert J Sawyer Books, 2005) [coll: hb/Erin Woodward and Fotosearch]
  • Jubilee (New York: Tor.com, 2014) [story: ebook: first appeared 26 February 2014 Tor.com: na/Victor Mosquera]

nonfiction

links

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