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It was in late 2007 that I proposed to John Scalzi an idea I called “The Shared Universe Project.” A group of authors would be given the same “what-if?” and write stories based in the new reality it posited. I even offered up what I thought were several clever concepts for what that operating principal might be. We then recruited a team of authors—who proceeded to boot all my ideas right out the door.

Which was the best possible thing that could have happened.

Instead, what John called “Our Little Cabal” spent an intense month building a world far richer and so much deeper than a single “what-if?” They created an all-too-possible future of zero-footprint cities, virtual nations, and armed camps of eco-survivalists. Each writer then claimed his or her own corner of this shared world to explore and wrote stories that were highly individualistic, yet fit together as a cohesive whole. Just nine months after that very first brainstorm, METAtropolis was published.

It wasn’t just the way METAtropolis was conceived and created that was unusual. Commissioned by Audible and appearing first as an audiobook original, it turned the traditional publishing cycle on its head.

Happily, the success of the original led to a sequel, METAtropolis: Cascadia (2010), and then another, METAtropolis: Green Space (2013). Along the way, the series earned the first-ever Hugo nomination for an audiobook and won the Audie Award, the highest honor in the audiobook industry. And several stories were deservedly chosen for “Best Of” and other major anthologies.

All the accolades are fantastic, of course. But, for me, the true joy of the METAtropolis franchise has been the experience of working with the best and smartest writers in the business. Even as the cast of contributors morphed from one installment to the next, and the timeline of the shared world moved forward, the overarching themes and the underlying premises remained remarkably consistent. And it was fascinating to see how the future the team created moved from one of growing despair to guarded optimism. Maybe when you live in a world for the better part of six years, it’s only natural to hope.

All of which brings me to the stories you’re about to read.

Over the three editions of METAtropolis, Jay Lake—later joined by Ken Scholes—created a story-within-the-story. It begins when a mysterious stranger called Tygre Tygre walks into the off-the-grid settlement known as Cascadiopolis—and ends many decades later when a very old man named Bashar races to save his wife, his daughter and, not incidentally, all of Seattle. I’m confident you’ll discover why Ken Scholes takes a back seat to no one as a storyteller and a world-builder—and that Jay Lake is one of the deepest thinkers in speculative fiction, predictable only in his unpredictability. For me, being able to witness their creative processes and to experience their craft first-hand has been a pleasure of the first order. (And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Jay for taking on the additional role of Project Editor for Cascadia—and Ken for serving with him as Co-Editor for Green Space.)

So … prepare to be blown away. And once you are, I hope that you go on to savor every novel, every story, every word committed to paper (and audio!) by these two wonderful artists.

Steve Feldberg
March 2014


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