Tag Archives: dystopia

Stop the Dystopia, I Want to Get On.

The article I wrote for the Spring 2020 edition of the British Science Fiction Association magazine Focus is now available on Medium.

It starts with the question: “Is it true that dystopias predict doom-laden futures and utopias inspire better futures?”

It ends with a quote from Laurie Penny: “Right now, the future seems dark and frightening and it is precisely now that we must continue to imagine other worlds and then plot ways to get there.”

What comes in between can be found here.


photo credit: MU Hybrid Art House http://www.flickr.com/photos/36256936@N04/49803647563

The Right to ‘Opt Out’

I’ve just come across this talk that I gave at a festival back in 2015 just after Fluence had been published. I reckon it still has some pertinent post-pandemic points, especially in the Q&A.

The premise of the talk is that society has accepted capitalism and consumerism and we’re not able to opt out even if we want to.

The question posed is: “If the state created the opportunity for you to opt out, would you take it? And what if everyone did? ”

In the talk I touch on UBI, an idea that is better known now than it was back then. I also talk about guaranteed sabbaticals and a more extreme version of devolution.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


photo credit: Richard Ricciardi The Joy of Dancing via photopin (license)

Imagine (and act) if you can.

“The future is ours and it’s up for grabs…”

I know this is a phrase I use a lot, but it really is true. There’s a lot of talk at the moment about what the ‘new normal’ will look like. Well, who do you think will decide that?

Us, hopefully.

I wrote an article before this crisis that discussed whether to write dystopias or utopias. I settled in the grey area between the two where real life takes place, using the conflict of getting from a dystopia to a utopia as the basis for the story. The article ended with a quote from Laurie Penny that is at least as pertinent now as it was in 2015 when she said, “Right now, the future seems dark and frightening and it is precisely now that we must continue to imagine other worlds and then plot ways to get there.”

Fiction is one way of imagining and plotting a new future, and science fiction that deals with the near-future is well placed to do that. A lot of my work is written with that in mind, often with a warning of what best to avoid, as well as a glimpse into the positive side of humanity and its emerging technologies.

As this review from Orchid’s Lantern says, “In summary, Biohacked & Begging skillfully extrapolates ideas from cutting-edge tech and applies them to daily routines, exposing our greeds and vulnerabilities but also, I think, our saving graces.”

That’s my current challenge – to write stories that at least point to the possibilities of a better future. That’s not to say they have to be idealistic about us humans or evangelistic about the fragile technology, that would be naive. But, they can explore the grey area that is our day-to-day reality in a way that gives options, and positive ideas about the different directions we can take.

My point being that there is no magic solution to our future, but the more of us that get involved in understanding its possibilities and then shaping it, the more likely we are to get a future that works for us all.

Over the past couple of weeks while I’ve been thinking about this I’ve been reminded of quite a few stories from my collections. One of these is Effort Less, which imagines a different way of attributing value to someone’s work. Others are US and Biohacked & Begging; both set in the same world where human skin is designed crack and fail without human contact.

Is it stupid to believe that fiction can be of any use other to help us escape the dystopia we find ourselves in?

Well, as Ursula LeGuinn said in 2014, “Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.

So for those of us that are safe and secure enough to have the luxury of being able to think beyond tomorrow, let’s be angry about what’s wrong, warn about what could go wrong and paint some positive possibilities of what could be.


photo credit: solutionist999 12611897_m via photopin (license)