A brand new story by The City and the City author China Miéville went up at Tor.com yesterday, and it's a wonderfully weird and panoramic tale of nature gone berserk. When massive icebergs appear over London, nobody knows what to do... but some people want to climb them.
Top image: Winky/Flickr.
The great thing about "Polynia" is that it captures the huge scale and massive disruption from an unexpected natural event. The icebergs change everything, even though nobody knows how they arrived. And eventually, you realize that nature has been going haywire elsewhere in the world. Also, Miéville includes a lot of real-life science about icebergs, which only makes them more scary and unpredictable.
All in all, it's a good reminder that Miéville is one of the reigning champions of the New Weird. Here's how it begins:
When cold masses first started to congeal above London, they did not show up on radar. By the time they started to, perhaps two hours later, hundreds of thousands of people were already out in the streets and gaping skyward. They shielded their eyes—it was cloudy but very bright. They looked up at glowing things the size of cathedrals, looming above the skyline.
They'd started as wisps, anomalies noticed only by dedicated weather-watchers. Slowly they'd grown, started to glint in the early winter afternoon. They solidified, their sides becoming more faceted, more opaquely white. They started to shed shadows.
Social media went mad with theories. The things were dismissed as mirages, hoaxes, advertising gimmicks for a TV show. They were heralded as angels, abominated as an alien attack or a new superweapon.
The first appeared over City Hall. This was plausibly a strategic target, which increased the sense of panic, though Parliament was only a few miles away and would have seemed a more obvious choice. Others quickly thickened into visibility over Lewisham and Elephant and Castle and up my way.
Some stayed still. Others began to drift slowly, seemingly randomly, according to their own currents, not the winds.
All but military flights over the city were banned. The army and specialist police units came onto the streets. Jets glided low overhead, and bristling helicopters rose suspiciously and seemed to sniff at the sides and undersides of the eddying things.
This was almost fifteen years ago. I was about eleven. There was me, Robbie, Sal—she was big for her age and bossed the rest of us around a bit—and Ian, a nervous kid to whom I wasn't nice.
We were under Mass 2, as it was later dubbed. It rocked sedately from side to side over the skies of Neasden as I and my friends ran in urgent delight around gawping north Londoners. We ran to keep up with it, following it towards Harlesden. It seemed like the most excitable of the visitations, heading east and south like an unstable ship.