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Palmer, Ada

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1981-    ) US academic and author, who teaches Early Modern European History at the University of Chicago. She is of sf interest for an ambitious ongoing sequence, the Terra Ignota series, comprising Too Like the Lightning (2016), Seven Surrenders (2017), The Will to Battle (2017), and Perhaps the Stars (New York: Tor, 2021), all to date set in the twenty-fifth century, 200 years after a planetary Utopia has been established through the downgrading of nation states and the prohibiting of public manifestations of Religion either formal or informal. Governance is shaped around the thought and behaviour of the historical Voltaire and other figures of the eighteenth century Enlightenment, and is conducted through an ongoing theatrical conversazione whose main participants are the sexually (see Sex) and familially linked heads of the seven vast affinity groupings which (not very explicitly demonstrated) contain the ten billion floating citizens of a planet fortunately free of the consequences of Climate Change, though by no means immune to a perhaps fatal destabilization of the immensely complicated, myth-ridden, sevenfold hegemony of rulers (see Politics). The dramaturgic reconstruction of the eighteenth century world in Terra Ignota echoes Palmer's academic work –her first book is Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance (2014) – on Renaissance reimaginings of Classical culture.

Perturbations threatening this dynamic are uncovered in volume one; further volumes may see an eventual restoration of balance, though almost certainly pyrrhic outrage and disturbances wrack the planet in The Will to Battle, after it has become widely known that the consort of intended societies has been maintained through subterfuge and violence. The scope and thrust of Palmer's utopia – as with the similarly expansive Just City sequence by Jo Walton – may mark a significant revival of this form of speculative enterprise. Too Like the Lightning won the Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award for best debut novel. [JC]

Ada Palmer

born Washington, District of Columbia: 9 June 1981



Terra Ignota



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