Europe In, Europe In Autumn – by Dave Hutchinson
A lot of people have described the Europe in Europe In Autumn as ‘dystopian,’ but I don’t quite see it that way. True, there’s the thing about all the borders and the thing about the Xian Flu, but I see it as quite an exciting, vibrant place, a place of great possibility, a fabulous playground for a writer to indulge himself in.
The book is really about borders, about freedom, about going places others cannot go, and it wouldn’t have worked if I’d set it in present-day Europe. The Schengen Agreement means you can get a bus from Madrid to Warsaw – if you’re of a sturdy constitution – and never have to stop at passport control. I like that, but it’s less interesting as the background of a story and it also means that the Secret at the heart of the book would have had less punch and relevance.
I suppose I ought to nail my colours to the mast and tell you that I’m an enthusiastic European. I will grant you there are a lot of things wrong with the EU, both in theory and execution, but the spirit, the shining ideal of a borderless Europe is, I think, rather a wonderful one. I hate borders. I hate the big blue sign at airport passport controls in this country which says ‘UK BORDER’. To me, it’s not very far away from having a big blue sign saying ‘SOD OFF’.
Having said all that, it was necessary to break up this shining ideal and put the borders back up again – and then introduce more. The idea of polities and quasi-national entities isn’t a particularly new one in science fiction, but it was fun thinking them up and then trying to make them sound at least vaguely plausible. The Municipality – the gang-run ‘nation’ in Berlin – is really just an extension of that old Daily Mail bogeyman the ‘no-go estate,’ a place so over-run with criminals that the police daren’t enter.
So, having had the idea for the setting, you ask yourself the question the reader will quite reasonably ask: ‘How did this happen?’ Originally, it was just the flu pandemic, but as the EU became more and more fractious that got factored in, and when 2008 rolled around and national economies started to tank it seemed less and less likely that the European Union would survive, at least in its present form.
Myself, I didn’t think it was necessary to do much more than that, to suggest how Rudi’s Europe came about. Going any deeper into it would have made it a different book. It would certainly have made it a longer one.
I took a bit of a flier on how Scottish Independence might come about. I have no idea how that’s going to shake out – and if I’m honest I don’t think anyone else has either – but for the purposes of the story it needed to be quite chaotic. The idea of the Chinese bankrolling the infant nation was really intended as a joke, but a few weeks after I wrote that I heard that China was investing millions of pounds in the Manchester airport redevelopment and the Prime Minister had sold Britain’s stocks of pig semen to the Chinese, and I did begin to wonder…
Dave Hutchinson was born in Sheffield in 1960. After reading American Studies at the University of Nottingham, he became a journalist. He’s the author of five collections of short stories and one novel, and his novella “The Push” was shortlisted for the 2010 BSFA award for short fiction. He has also edited two anthologies and co-edited a third. His short story ‘The Incredible Exploding Man’ featured in the first Solaris Rising anthology, and appeared in the 29th Year’s Best Science Fiction collection. He lives in north London with his wife and several cats.
Title: EUROPE IN AUTUMN
Author: Dave Hutchinson
Publisher: Solaris Books
Genre: Speculative Fiction
BACK COVER BLURB
A fractured Europe, a cook-turned-spy, a mighty web of espionage – but what happens when conspiracy threatens to overwhelm even reality itself?
Europe in Autumn is a dystopian SF espionage thriller that evokes the Cold War novels of John Le Carré and the nightmarish world of Franz Kafka, taking place in a war and disease-torn Europe of hundreds of tiny nations.
Rudi is a cook in a Kraków restaurant, but when boss asks him to help a cousin escape from the country he’s trapped in, a new career – part spy, part people-smuggler – begins.