- Name: Nate White
- Grad year: 2005
- Major: English, Creative Writing (Poetry) Track
- Extracurricular activities while at CC: Intramural Hockey, Skiing, ORC
- Current location: Carbondale, CO
- Current occupation: High school English teacher at Glenwood Springs High School
Nate White ’05 won the 2023 Colorado Book Award in Science Fiction/Fantasy for his novel, Conscious Designs. Congrats, Nate!
How did your time at CC guide your writing?
Learning the craft of poetry at CC was invaluable to me as a fiction writer. Even now, when I teach creative writing courses, I always start with poetry. It is the most refined form of writing. You learn about the precision of language, about the importance of every word, every piece of punctuation. You learn the art of concision. Most of my favorite fiction writers are also poets. My philosophy classes at CC also had a huge impact on the world of Conscious Designs. The book is itself a philosophical novel that explores the nature of consciousness and selfhood.
What was your inspiration for writing Conscious Designs?
Like many writers of speculative fiction, I find that writing is an important process to explore and understand the dystopian aspects of our own world, such as the existential threat of AI, technologies of escape, the climate crisis, global capitalism, cultural sterility and our ever-growing hedonism. I also wrote the book as a way to ascribe meaning to my physical pain from the spinal cord injury I suffered seven years ago. The main character, Eugene, also tries, often in vain, to find meaning for his neuropathic pain. He considers purchasing a Second Self, which entails having his mind copied and uploaded into a digital mindspace so that at least there could be a version of him that could live pain free. The book began as a fantasy and a thought experiment.
What was your reaction to winning the Colorado Book Award?
This was my first published work of fiction and so I was really surprised and honored when it was picked up for publication. I was even more pleased with the great reception it’s had along the way, culminating in the Colorado Book Award.
Are you working on a new project now?
I have a few projects that I’m working on right now, all in their infancy.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Obviously reading is the most important thing. I also think that for writers in genre fiction, it is so important to read outside of the genre in which you write.
Anything else you’d like to say to your fellow CC alums?
My favorite part of this whole process has been the thoughtful conversations I’ve had with friends and strangers about the book. If you do read the book, drop me a line. I’d love to chat!
- Title: Conscious Designs
- Author: Nathanial White
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Published: May 2023
Eugene, a wealthy paraplegic, must decide whether to preserve his consciousness forever in a digital utopia or suffer the pain tormenting his existence. Yet the more he learns about digital replication, the more deeply he understands personhood, empathy, and the value of suffering.
“This novella is a marvel: a vision of a not-so-distant future in which our bodies are virtually obsolete and our consciousnesses immortal. Into an otherwise nihilistic world, Nathanial White encodes a kind of tragic beauty suffused with longing. Reading Conscious Designs made me want to download the author’s brain, harness its powers of imagination, and wrestle with the questions he so intelligently dramatizes in these pages.” – Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men
“Nathanial White brings his lived experience of paralysis and recovery to Conscious Designs. What follows is a journey into ethics, morality, and the philosophy of being and personhood. Each time I thought I knew where the story was going, it surprised me, and drew me deeper. The prose is reminiscent of classic science fiction greats such as Asimov or Aldiss who played with ideas like colors on a canvas.” – Marie Vibbert, author of Galactic Hellcats
Conscious Designs knows what it is–which is more than its characters can say for themselves. Nathanial White’s fiction has its mind on human consciousness and artificial intelligence and an exoskeletal boot planted firmly on story. If you find yourself returning to the sci-fi of Philip K. Dick and the philosophical provocations of Brian Evenson, Conscious Designs is for you–at least, the version of yourself you call “you.” – Christopher David Rosales, author of Word is Bone