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Cities crumbling, zombies attacking, tsunamis engulfing, brutal regimes or killer machines crushing the human race to dust. Dystopia has now become so pervasive it’s almost engulfed the entire science fiction genre.

I felt driven to search for an alternative to the tiresome predictions of everything getting much worse; I wanted to imagine a world where everything has got much better.

Thus begins the pitch for News from Gardenia, the forthcoming novel by one Robert Llewellyn. The nerds among us will recognize the name which will forever be evocative of a head covered in rubber as Kryten in the belived scifi comedy Red Dwarf. Yes, I said pitch, not press release, not announcement, for the publication of this book is funded with support from fans and readers. Here’s where it gets interesting to one who has been involved in two crowd funding campaigns in 2011, namely the successful bid to fund the filming of Strange Factories and the current campaign to help bring Modern Mythology to the next level.

Unbound is a platform for authors to pitch their book ideas directly to readers for readers to support through funding, or as they put it: Unbound is a new way of bringing authors and readers together. We believe both deserve a greater say in which books get published. Wired mag called Unbound “The Kickstarter For Books”, but with a targeted domain of authorial endeavour and curated list of authors, which I note includes Terry Jones and one Mrs. Stephen Fry, could prove to be of much more use to writers. What makes the service stand out is that those who pledge to fund a project get to be in on the process of its creation through access to a private area, called the author’s “shed”, and they get a copy of the book and several levels of goodies depending on the level of financial support they give, much like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, but here the turtles al the way down are books.

Here’s the rest of the pitch for News From Gardenia:

A world where we eventually get it right, where we don’t oppress each other, where we don’t burn anything to make anything else, we don’t rip the planet to shreds to maintain our way of life and we don’t need to rely on endless growth to achieve contentment.

News From Gardenia will be a science fiction novel; a man called Gavin Meckler who was born in 1979 arrives 200 years into the future where he discovers a world that is recognisable and yet utterly different. It’s a place where it’s possible to travel from one side of the world to the other in a matter of minutes without burning fuel, but it’s also a place where everyone is a gardener because that’s how they can be sure to eat.

It is at once extraordinary and mundane. It is not finished, it is, as in any period of history, a world which is

constantly changing, but the changes are sustainable, gentle and by default put people first.

As Gavin learns about this new world and the society he eventually becomes a part of, he also begins to learn about himself.

Everything in News from Gardenia could happen, there is no technology in Gardenia that hasn’t already seen the light of day. In the current turmoil it could be argued that such optimism could only be suggested by a fool, indeed, such benign developments may not be very likely, but we may need to be reminded that they are entirely possible.

I would think that this premise would be immensely challenging to a writer. In contemplating a fictional future where humanity has “gotten it right”, first thoughts go to the world of Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game and its owlrd where culture and conflict has been settled in amber, as it were, the chaos of new creation and thought wiped out and dad culture is in the hands of the Magister Ludi of the Glass Bead Game. Another one that springs to mind is “Amelior”, the saccharine, turgid runaway bestseller of a novel within a novel in Martin Amis’ “The Information”. In The Information Amis describes Amelior thus:

 In Amelior itself twelve youngish human beings forgathered…. Each of them boasted a serious but non-disfiguring affliction: Piotr had hemophilia, Conchita endometriosis, Sachine colitis, Eagle Woman diabetes. Of this twelve, naturally, six were men and six were women; but the sexual characteristics were deliberately hazed. The women were broad-shouldered and thin-hipped. The men tended to be comfortably plump. In the place called Amelior, where they had come to dwell, there was no beauty, no humor and no incident; there was no hate and there was no love.

Above: Wet Liberal Whenever: Occupy Wall Street

I’ll be interested in seeing where it falls either within or outside this spectrum. The latter case is quite unlikely, coming from a man who comes across as pretty self-aware, a self confessed “wet liberal” and being possessed with the bite and wit in the authorial voice in evidence in previous work. Characteristically, Llewellyn entertains conversation on his G+ stream. Here’s what he says on the reception of the funding campaign:

…I do want to try and find ways to develop ideas and take input from a wide variety of sources. Google+ strikes me as the ideal platform to try it. I now have to be patient and read that book about delayed gratification I’ve been delaying reading.

So far the reaction to the Unbound book launch of News From Gardenia has been nothing short of record breaking. Unbound have never had such a response, I am equally nervous and proud, it’s a big thrill but I have to believe the book will live up to expectations. Okay, I’ve got all my digits crossed which makes typing a little tedious.

An announcement for my new book. A utopian vision of how the world could be, a science fiction novel set 200 years in the future. Gavin Meckler, an engineer from 2011 arrives in a new world that is oddly familiar yet incredibly different.

This use of new media tech is nothing new for Robert Llewillyn, nor is writing fiction:

I wrote my first novel at the age of 12. By the time I’d published The Man on Platform 5, my first grown-up work of fiction, 30 years had passed. In the intervening period I’d worked as an artist’s model, a bespoke shoemaker, a tree surgeon, a screenwriter, a comedian, actor and TV presenter.

I’ve appeared on British television regularly since 1987 in various guises including under quite absurd amounts of rubber in Red Dwarf, covered in grease and dust inScrapheap Challenge, in terrifying machines on How Do They Do It? and sitting in a car chatting in Carpool.

I write under a rack of solar panels in Gloucestershire and News From Gardenia is my fifth work of fiction.

I was delighted to come across his web show Carpool when there were but a dozen or so episodes and was struck by how simply and effectively he used the means of production at hand, a simple premise and services like blip.tv with their lost and much missed multi-episode player embedded in the front page of a hosted wordpress site.

Carpool is a web series presented by English actor and comedian Robert Llewellyn. In each episode he interviews a guest while giving them a lift in an eco-friendly car (normally a Toyota Prius hybrid electric vehicle). The guests are often well-known British television personalities such asJonathan Ross or Ade Edmondson. However Llewellyn also interviews less-well-known figures as long as he feels that they will prove to be an interesting subject. The guests have also included Llewellyn’s fellow Red Dwarf actors, Danny John Jules, Craig Charles, Chris Barrie and Hattie Hayridge (as well as Tony Hawks, Arthur Smith and Ruby Wax who all appeared in cameo roles in Red Dwarf).

The show became very popular His early adoption of, massive presence on and enthusiastic evangelizing of twitter has become somewhat of a calling card. Combine the media production with committed engagement on youtube, facebook and G+ with free services like Audioboo, which lets one record messages and share to twitter quite easily, (and lately using the latter for transmitting a complete audio book, which is a first, as far as I know), and you have an example of someone from “old” media (BBC) transitioning into a combination of self-produced projects while still doing Red Dwarf and the televised version of Carpool for Dave TV. So for the creative types who are fleet of mind his example show one need not panic because the big house is collapsing.