WORD Christchurch 2023: Pip Adam’s Audition: This is not a rehearsal

What do you do with people who are too big for their boots? You give them Space. Lots of space.

Pip Adam spoke with Kerry Donovan-Brown at WORD Christchurch about drag queens, hard science, body experience, minecraft and her wonderfully imagined speculative novel, Audition; in which people who have grown to giant-size are exiled from Earth.


Kerry opened the conversation with some huge accolades for Pip from other authors on twitter, adding:

As Sasha is a drag queen's favourite drag queen, you're an author's favourite author.

Pip says she's overwhelmed:

Phew! Okay I'll be cool now.

Pip reads us a bit from the sixty pages of dialogue that begin the story (sorry): the bit where Drew pimps their wife to Edward, who can't drive a stick shift, at the party. With a hand gesture that to anyone looking would be a wanking gesture. But isn't.

The dialogue is necessary: its rambling reflects the crew's state of mind. Imprisoned on a spaceship but still growing, Drew, Alba and Stanley must keep talking - both to avoid growing too big for the ship, and to power it.

Where are they going? Will they survive? Who were they before 'the classroom'? And what will happen if they get too big for the ship?

On the first day they were sat together, the three of them, and instead of, Let's run, they said, Nice to meet you.

In what resembles the beginning of Margaret Atwood's The Testaments, people who have outgrown their human-ness are corralled into a stadium and indoctrinated into compliance; trained to drive the very ships that will take them away.

Torren had convinced herself they wanted to go. But now as the ship got bigger and bigger, the closer they got, she could see they didn't. They were the unwanted. That was clear to them, perhaps it had been from the start. They took up too much room.


It's the mere size of them that's threatening: their potential for physical remonstration. The threat doesn't appear to be 'ideological, ...political or cultural.' Alba remarks that none of them would have complied anyway. Yet they do. They have. The bigger they get, the more compliant they become, observes Pip.

The setting of this book is mind blowing (no spoilers). How does setting inform Adam's work?

Pip's lived in Wellington and Ōtautahi; her parents were from Invercargill. She mentions a recent exhibition at Christchurch Art Gallery - Te Rā - an example of amazing history, innovation, technology cut short by colonisation - which gave her a strong sense of:

I'm a (not necessarily welcome) visitor here (NZ).

Audition, then, is a book about how to be a good guest, says Adam. The Audition is just part of her characters' journey - or trial - to better fit their surroundings.

This involves experiencing alien things that are quite earthlike and familiar that gradually become more alien: including a 'Cambrian evolution' scene, to acclimatise them to their new environment.

When the crew reach the event horizon of their inevitable critical mass, they perceive an unfolding of space 'something like a scene in minecraft' resolves as you run through it, says Pip.

Alba, Drew and Stanley 'are presented with softness, so softness is how they proceed.' The author wanted to imagine what we (Earth) would have been like without predation. Its breathtaking.

Audition is also a dialogue on what its like to be imprisoned. Adam says in the acknowledgements that this book is written as a call to abolish prisons and highlight the inadequacy of a punitive system for justice. The author advocates for Land Back as a beginning solution.

And the giant thing? That (partly) came from being pregnant, says Adam. 'Growing a baby', she thought a lot about it growing, and thought about tattooing 'quad marks' to see which bits grew bigger once born. Lol. She didn't do it. We do, actually, grow overnight, she says. 

Also, while pregnant, she bumped into things. And couldn't get at something under the sink.  She began to imagine the idea of physical power versus political power.

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