We talk with Ray Nayler about his novel of speculative fiction, The Mountain In The Sea. It was named by Slate Book Review as one of the Best Books of 2022.
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We’ve all heard the classic question, is there other intelligent life in the Universe? But what about other intelligent life right here on Earth?
Of course, we are already learning about the many forms of intelligence among the other animals we share our world with, from ants to whales. And some say plants also have consciousness and intelligence.
But we’re really asking: is there any other species that matches us in complexity of thought and creativity? Could we be on the brink of inventing that species with the development of advanced Artificial Intelligence? And how would we respond to other intelligences, whether natural or human-made?
Ray Nayler explores these questions In his brilliant and beautifully written novel of speculative fiction, The Mountain In The Sea.
In a world where ocean life is under constant threat of extinction from human activity, a species of octopus with highly evolved intelligence— Octopus Sapiens, if you will — is discovered. One of the discoverers is the world’s only fully aware and self-conscious android, Evrim, a nonbinary being banished to an island marine refuge in the Con Dao peninsula of Vietnam after being rejected by the rest of humanity.
Nayler’s novel questions society’s assumptions about human superiority and the right to dominate other species. It urges us to understand that we are connected to all the life around us, neither above or below, but in equal relationship to it.
Ray Nayler’s critically acclaimed short fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction. He has worked in the Foreign Service and the Peace Corps, including a stint as Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Officer at the U.S. consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. He currently serves as the international advisor to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Mountain and the Sea is his first full-length novel.
Long time Nation magazine editor Victor Navasky died January 24 at the age of 90. Navasky came to The Nation as editor in 1978, and was made publisher and general partner in 1995. He chaired the Columbia Journalism Review and was Director of the George Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism.
He was an editor for the New York Times Magazine, and a columnist for the Times’ Book Review. His book Naming Names won the National Book Award in 1982.
We spoke with him in 2006 about his book, A Matter of Opinion. It’s a passionate, funny look at his life in journalism and at the field of magazine journalism in general.