Sarah Pinsker’s A Song for a New Day explores how society changes following two plausible disasters: a surge in terrorism and a deadly epidemic.
In the Before, people brush against each other in crowded cities, gather in stadiums to watch baseball games, and hang out in clubs to watch live music.
In the After, curfews and bans on public gatherings give rise to mega-corporations that allow people to work, study, shop, and socialize in virtual reality.
The two eras come to life through the stories of Pinsker’s main characters: singer-songwriter Luce Cannon, who misses the Before, and Rosemary Laws, who comes of age in the After.
The two collide when Rosemary starts recruiting musicians for StageHoloLive, a virtual reality entertainment company. In the After, most musicians would be thrilled to have Rosemary offer them an exclusive contract. But Luce is different. She would rather perform before a small flesh-and-blood audience (even if it’s illegal) than be turned into a holograph projected into millions of headsets.
“Having two characters with vastly different worldviews is a great way to get some interesting conflict,” Pinsker tells me on the new episode of New Books in Science Fiction.
A prolific short story writer, Pinsker has won Nebula and Sturgeon awards for novelettes. She is also a singer-songwriter, which helps explain the vividness of her portrayal of dedicated musicians like Luce. A Song for a New Day is her first novel.
“I’ve said a couple times that I don’t think I’m as good as Luce is, which is part of the joy of writing fiction. She’s not me and I’m not her, but I got to put the best of my favorite performers into her. I love live performance. I think the parts of me that are in Luce are the making-a-connection-with-an-audience parts; we’re trying to win people over.”
(A special thank you to Sarah Pinsker for allowing us to close the episode with an excerpt from her song Waterwings.)