Utopia Now – today

Today, I’ll be at the launch of the zine that came from a project that I was involved in with King’s College London. It was a fascinating and very rewarding project, and made me want to do more of the same or similar. Here’s the blog post I wrote for the project:

Who decides which future we get?

There’s a lot of answers to that question and one of them has to be, “those that will have to live there.” That’s why, with no hesitation, I agreed to take part in the Utopia Now project for the young people of Lambeth and Southwark run by King’s College London.

A day in 2070 might seem like a difficult thing to imagine, especially if that’s over three times as many years away as you’ve been alive. Which is why we encouraged the young people to talk to anyone they knew who was alive in 1970 about what has changed and what hasn’t. I’m told there were some surprises, especially around communication and travel. A sense of wonder tinged with disbelief about having to write to relatives abroad or use telephones in boxes on street corners and about the rareness of owning a car or travelling abroad. This prompt is one of many set out in the 7 day challenge developed and hosted by King’s College London – a wonderful resource for anyone, whatever age, starting out in writing science fiction. As if the challenge of imagining a day in fifty years time wasn’t enough, the stories had to be under a 1,000 words. Now, I write a fair bit of flash fiction and I can testify that it’s no simple task to convey character, story, and a futuristic world in a story that takes less than 10 minutes to read.

I had a pleasant surprise when I received the competition entries for judging. They were fantastic. Such insight into possible futures and of human behaviour was heartening. There was some really good story telling too. Not only did they make me smile, chuckle, gasp and raise my eyebrows they made me think about things I’d not previously considered. I’ll let you discover what those things are for yourself.

The winners then took part in a day long workshop, virtual of course, where they developed their stories through discussion, sessions with KCL artificial intelligence experts and by asking and answering lots of questions. The one thing that stood out for me during the day was just how deeply these young people had thought about their story, not only the futuristic technology but also the motivations of government, society and individuals within the world they had imagined. These were not tiny tales run off with little thought. I was also very impressed with how they listened to the feedback and used the workshop to develop their stories into the ones you can read now.

By the end of the day I was left with a strong sense that these young people understand quite a lot about their possible futures, they have a good balance of scepticism and hope for their futures and they know how to tell a good story to get others to consider their futures.

I highly recommend this collection of flash fictions to you and hope you’ll give them the time they deserve to capture your imagination. This project reminds me of the proposition by Yancey Strickler in his book This Could Be Our Future where he suggests that as well as the ‘now me’ and the ‘now us’, we should consider the ‘future me’ and the ‘future us’ when making decisions. After all, “the future is ours and it’s up for grabs…”


More details on time and place on my events page.

John Doyle Remains

John Doyle Remains was published on 2 May in Abyss: stories of depth, time and infinity, the latest anthology from the always interesting Orchid’s Lantern.

Its opening line – “I had a girlfriend who ate my scabs.” – has caused some powerful reactions.

Orchid’s Lantern publish great work and although I haven’t read all of this anthology yet, I’m sure it’s no exception.

Here’s the blurb for Abyss: “Are we more than the sum of our memories? Does time always pass the same or can it be influenced by thought? What happens to consciousness after death? An exciting new anthology of horror, science fiction and experimental prose exploring these questions and many more.”