Category Archives: Events

Young writers competition

Calling young writers with something to say! ‘Future Stories’ is a writing competition and series of writing workshops for young people aged 11 to 16 who have a story to tell about life in the future.

The “Future Stories: One Day in 2070” competition is part of the King’s College London Utopia Now project and open to young writers in the London boroughs of Lambeth or Southwark.

The competition is open from now until 6 September with some fantastic prizes:

  • Ten of the most creative writers will be selected to take part in a creative writing day, exploring the world of the future.
  • Finalists will also receive a £30 Book Voucher. 
  • All entries will be put into a prize draw to win either a Build Your Own Robot Kit or Book Voucher worth £15.  

Alongside the competition is the 7 day writing story starter challenge. This is a great set of resources, starting with a section on What is Science Fiction followed by 30 to 40 minute sections each day. It takes you through the creative process of writing a science fiction story with writing prompts, film clips, book extracts and loads more to help you along your way.

For those of you who are not eligible to enter, don’t despair. The resources are there for you to use as well.

As one of the judges I’m really looking forward to having my mind stretched by all the speculative stories sent our way so get cracking, you have until 6 September to create your version of the future.


photo credit: wim hoppenbrouwers Bijenkorf Rotterdam 3D via photopin (license)

Inspired by Cyborg Cadavers

Caro data vermibus
(flesh given to worms)

I’m inspired by the people I meet, the science I’m exposed to and the tech that might become, but it’s unusual for me to use art to inspire my near-future fiction. So, it was interesting to be asked to write a piece for Hallidonto’s latest exhibition – Cyborg Cadavers.

I read the blurb and pondered, studied the art and pondered and then had a few too many beers with the artist. Then, I let all that sink in and allowed a story to surface.

The result was Death Life Transfer and in the video below you can watch me reading it at the opening night of the exhibition, along with other contributors and Hallidonto himself.

The exhibition:

“Are we the fallen and in what image will be the re-imaging of our flesh.” Hallidonto 2019.

Hallidonto’s work explores these themes in an attempt to answer the complex questions that ever-evolving technology poses to humanity. In his latest work, ‘Cyborg Cadavers’ a series of nine pencil works that explore the very of concept of the body, and if we don’t choose wisely, we won’t be in a position to select the body we need or for that matter the body that is required. This poses deeper questions of we view ourselves within our technological world. Is the flesh redundant and shall we proceed with the morphological freedoms embedded within the post-humanist/ trans-humanist discourses where alteration and the evolution of body intertwined Halliidonto with other leading, artistic luminaries to explore the rise of the artificially sentient and the ascent of the cyborg. Hallidonto has curated nine speakers to respond to the work and pathos created by the artist.

You can find him at:

Website: https://hallidonto.onfabrik.com/ | Twitter: @Hallidonto
Insta: @hallidonto | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hallidonto/


Image: (c) Hallidonto

Am I AI?

Tonight, I’m on a panel on the future of storytelling at the Barbican FutureFest lates.

As part of the preparation I’ve been looking into stories written by AI and came across the recent “1 the Road” which is an interesting road trip written by an AI with a camera, a GPS unit, a microphone and a clock attached to a car. The ‘writer of the writer’ is Ross Goodwin.

I have also ‘co-written’ a short piece with Transformer – a modern neural network that completes your text. Below is a short piece we wrote together with me starting, Transformer adding more text and then me writing the next connecting piece. And so on. Transformer only knew about the most recent text so it was for me to try and create coherence across the whole thing. It was a fascinating experience – take a look at the result and see if you can spot which is mine and which is Transformer’s.


The Piece, by Stephen Oram and Transformer

An advanced artificial intelligence has uncovered a glitch in our social media news feeds. It found that posts have been attributed to the wrong people, causing at least one suicide.

What does that mean for the future of the human race? And will we ever be able to tell the difference?  Is this an automated glitch? Will we get rid of the news feed and adopt something new? Or will we never see anything new, or just a whole lot of the same? The short answer to that is: it doesn’t matter.  We have an online media universe that is largely populated with people who do not care what information is presented to them. If all we had was the same content over and over, it would still be a better and safer place.  They wouldn’t be in any danger of suicide. But we have a vast number of news feeds, and many are created by human beings, not robots.  There is nothing that prevents a system from coming up with an algorithm that automatically chooses who to share what information with and who doesn’t, based on a mixture of interests, biases, and the underlying ideology that it was created to propagate. The big question is whether this is a glitch or the beginning of something more sinister.

(To get a glimpse of our system in action, click this link to browse the “Masthead.” See our list of people who’ve taken us seriously in the past.)

How does this system work? In principle, it works like this. First, each user knows their identity, or “identity.” We share our identities to keep track of what’s going on. We also have a system in place to keep track of who you were before you were in Masthead and the person or people you interacted with before that. If the user is using this service to share stories with one another, we share their stories to build an ever-growing database that’s updated every time you share a story.

In the next step, our users know if their stories will be included in the machine learning system, and we know how to resist manipulation, unlike other systems such as that revealed by the advanced AI. We may not be able to detect all possible manipulations by a given system, but we also have an incentive to avoid manipulation because we want the users to enjoy their stories.

Machine Learning is a field known for being very open-source but this post is less about a technical overview like this, and more about a personal experience in learning machine learning in my current work. If you have any questions, concerns or just want to share what is going on with your team, I’d love to meet you.


Why not have a go at writing something with Transformer for yourself – I’d love to read the results, so feel free to post them in the comments below.


photo credit: Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 45 Million views) Listening to FDR via photopin (license)