Tag Archives: dystopia

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.


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Stop the Dystopia, I Want To Get On

Whether to write dystopian or utopian stories is an ongoing choice for science fiction writers and something I’m often questioned about. I’ve been pondering this for a while and my thoughts to date are featured in this month’s Focus, the British Science Fiction Association’s magazine for writers.

As the editor says, “Stephen discusses the implications for writers and also explores whether it’s a binary choice between the two.”

PS this was written before the current crisis, but it’s probably even more pertinent now.


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Bodies, breeding, robots & work

Another Loving, Autonomous Agents, Boundless Bodies and Lasting Labour. What a wonderful mix of potential futures are wrapped up in the 2019 Virtual Futures’ Near-Future Fiction series and I’m very excited that, in the same way as the 2018 series, I’ll be co-curating the events with other authors. 

We’re not searching for stories set on fanciful alien worlds,  post-apocalyptic landscapes in which steam-punk bandits with laser guns are fighting mutated zombies, or that feature technology so hypothetical it is almost unimaginable. Our aim is to promote stories that think critically about the sorts of technological developments that are just over horizon, and provide a unique perspective on contemporary concerns related to the perceived trajectory of scientific innovation. 

Those of you who have heard me answer the often asked question, “do you write dystopia or utopia,” will know I don’t believe in such a simple view of the world. You’ll have heard me respond with the shorthand statement that one person’s utopia is often another’s dystopia. As our call for stories says, “science fiction is often the victim of this binary between utopia and dystopia – fiction in which all of our problems are fixed or created by a specific technology or technologies. In reality, our relationship with our technology never follows these simple categories – it is frequently a messier affair. Stories that seek to criticize, predict, or complicate realistically will be more successful than those intended to shock with apocalyptic visions or please with plastic paradises.”

Whether you’re an established or emerging author we’re keen to receive your stories; the deadline for submissions is 2 December 2018 and you can download the full guidelines from the Virtual Futures’ website.

If you’re interested in attending the events to hear the inevitable variety of futures our chosen authors create, then you can read more about the themes and book your place via eventbrite; the last series sold out so get in early and book your place now.

I’m really looking forward to reading all the submissions, writing a story for each theme and reading them to a live Virtual Futures audience.

And don’t forget, the future is ours and it’s up for grabs…


photo credit: Frits Ahlefeldt – FritsAhlefeldt.com global-trends-population-growth-culture-illustration-no-txt-by-frits-ahlefeldt via photopin (license)