Tag Archives: sci-fi

Cautionary Tools

I was struck recently by a piece in Nature: the international journal of science on what science fiction has to offer a world where technology and power structures are rapidly changing.

As the headline says, “With technological change cranked up to warp speed and day-to-day life smacking of dystopia, where does science fiction go? Has mainstream fiction taken up the baton?”

It’s a fairly widely held view that sci-fi doesn’t predict the future very well, but it’s good at helping us think about on our own humanity in a changing world and some of the articles reflect on this.

We might be rubbish at predicting the future because technology doesn’t develop in a straight line, but many of the scientists I’ve spoken to will tell you about the sci-fi that inspired them. Although, I guess that’s influencing rather than predicting.

Something that I didn’t pick up in the articles that I think is important is whether we would be so sensitive to real-life ‘dystopia’ if we hadn’t had hugely popular sci-fi such as Nineteen Eighty Four, Brave New World, Blade Runner and more recently Black Mirror.

Have these works of science fiction made us more attuned to the attempts to manipulate us, or more wary of how technology might go wrong once you mix the messiness of humanity with the cracks in the code?

I think they have, I think they give us cautionary tools.

Whatever your view on science fiction these six articles by leading sci-fi writers are well worth a read.


photo credit: creative heroes The Supervision – Stop Mass Surveillance! via photopin (license)

The Age of the Ageless

Recently I was thinking about writing a story set in a world where you never die.

Now, that’s not an original idea I grant you, but nonetheless it is a fascinating idea that can be used to illuminate a lot about the human condition. I guess that’s why it’s been used so often.

We often think of health when we think about living for ever, but what about experience, knowledge, and good judgement – let’s call it wisdom.

And, that’s the twist in this particular tale – you have to choose the age you’re going to stay at. This then determines not only your health but also how wise you are, for ever. In other words, you keep maturing until the age you choose and then you stop and your health can’t get better or worse and you can’t gain any more wisdom.

I wanted to understand what age people would choose so I asked my mailing list if they wanted to help me, anonymously of course, and luckily they did.

Responses are coming in; their creative juices are flowing and enlightening me. Almost half of the survey respondents have chosen a similar age to their present age and the remainder are split 50:50 between choosing to be younger or older.

Of course, the explanations are the most fascinating and that’s where the real ‘flavour’ of the story will come from.

I wonder if you can you guess what age this respondent chose? “It was my last hurrah. I had tasted it all, learned my knowledge and experienced the ups and downs of love, life, friendship and work. Children yet to come, dreams still alive and ambition still believable.”

The survey will run for a little while longer and then I’ll write The Age of the Ageless. I reckon it’s going to be interesting to write and hopefully it’ll be a good read.

If you’re not on the mailing list and would like to contribute feel free to leave a comment at the foot of this post.

 


photo credit: byronv2 Carnival 2017 073 via photopin (license)

Open for submissions…

I’m really pleased to be able to announce that I’ll be curating another series of near-future fictions for Virtual Futures and this time I’ll be co-curating with Jule Owen, Allen Ashley, Britte Schulte and Vaughan Stanger.

It’s going to be good…

So, authors and poets, we need your best imaginings of the future of infection and infestation, of personhood, of war and of brains.

Successful stories and poems will form a series of live reading events in London between February and May 2018 with an opportunity to be included in an anthology of Virtual Futures Near-Future Fictions.

I’ve been asked about the fees to enter and payment if chosen; it’s a no fee, no payment London based event and we do ask that you attend in person (naturally, there’s no charge for you plus one).

If you’re unfamiliar with the Virtual Futures events, take a look at some of the video footage here https://m.youtube.com/user/virtualfutures

We are open for submissions until 21 December 2017 on the following themes:

The (dis)ease of the i-Mortal: Born of earth or brought back from far away, biological or viral invasions or diseases can affect humans on any scale; from protecting or plaguing an individual to becoming an epidemic that affects us all. Take on a topic that Literature has meditated on from its inception; from Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year, to Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, to Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, to Camus’s The Plague, to King’s The Stand.
Show us the good, the bad, but not the bland; we are relying on you to predict the future of infection and infestation in any of its various forms. What is the nature of the diseases, contagions or contaminations have in store?
Curated by Allen Ashley and Stephen Oram

E-Me’s: The digital world is a personality playground that offers us an unprecedented ability to curate and create a public persona — but what does this ability mean for the future of personhood?
As the digital world expands around us and the Internet of Things combines the physical and virtual do we have a moral obligation to represent ourselves with truth and integrity in the digital realm, or should we view it as an opportunity to explore new and radical ontologies?
Curated by Britte Schulte and Stephen Oram

Tomorrow’s Battles: War has, so far, been inevitable throughout human history – but what will the future of conflict or cooperation look like? Will the discoveries of the future lead us to a world without violent disagreement, or just result in us killing one another in more creative ways? Paint us your future of what kind of conflict – or lack of – will emerge from the caldron of tomorrow’s technologies: what utopia or dystopia will we be exposed to?
Curated by Jule Owen and Stephen Oram

Post-Brain: As technology gets smarter and smarter, the human brain is forced to reflect on itself in the mirror of the future and question what value it will have in a world in which wet tech, cerebral hacking and commodified consciousness could reign. A world not of enhancement or augmentation, but replacement. We implore you to enquire what the future of our most precious organ will be, while you still have one.
Curated by Vaughan Stanger and Stephen Oram

The deadline for submissions is 21 December 2017 and successful authors and poets will be notified in January 2018.

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