Tag Archives: Short Stories

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.

Vital Signals

I’m exceptionally pleased to be able to announce that the anthology I edited with Dan O’Hara and Tom Ward, which consists mainly of short pieces from Virtual Futures’ events plus some other longer pieces, is now available for pre-order from NewConn Press direct or other outlets such as Amazon.

Published by NewCon Press, this set of stories are:

“A volume of short sharp stories that present alternative or unconsidered visions of the future; stories that draw attention to the potential impact of cutting-edge science and technology on society and humanity.
In addition to established SF authors such as Tim Maughan, Geoff Ryman, Simon Ings, and Ken MacLeod, the anthology features stories by producers, civil servants, artists, and more – delivering a broader appreciation of what the future might hold. 
This is science fiction with intent, providing quick bursts of conjecture and insight, guaranteed to both entertain and stimulate.”

CONTENTS

Introduction – Dan O’Hara, Tom Ward, Stephen Oram

Virtual Persons: Memory Inc. – Anne McKinnon; The Test – C.R. Dudley; Conjugal Frape – Jamie Watt; iDentity – Britta Schulte; Concrete Genocide – Sophie Sparham; The Smile – Simon Ings

Post-Brain: Biohacked & Begging – Stephen Oram; Forever Live – Mark Huntley-James; A Letter From My Celia – Jane Norris; Drug Of Choice – Adrian Reynolds; Anomaly In The Rhythm – Viraj Joshi; Brain Dump – Frances Gow; Brain Gun – Paul Green; Secrets Of The Sea – Jennifer Marie Brissett

Disease: Do Not Exceed Stated Dose – Allen Ashley; Not Best Pleased – Geoff Ryman; An Honest Mistake – Tom Ward; The Needs Of The Few – Jennifer Rohn; The War That Ended Yesterday – David Turnbull; L-One-Ly Virus – Jessica Laine; Transmissions From The Vitality Pod – Dan Coxon; Inside The Locked Cupboard – Pippa Goldschmidt; Cholesterol5.9, BigFLY – Antoine Saint Honoré

Conflict: Trial By Combat – John Houlihan; The End Of War – Jule Owen; Why We Fight – Paul Currion; The Changing Man –  David Gullen; Second Skin – Bea Xu; An Excerpt From The Post-Truth And Irreconcilable Differences Commission – Brendan C. Byrne; Safe From Harm – Tim Maughan

Epilogue: [Citation Needed] – Ken Macleod

Call For Submissions: Future Communities

Throughout 2021, I’m working with Cybersalon as co-host for ‘Tales of the Cybersalon’, a series of interdisciplinary technology and policy investigations through science-fiction storytelling.

We want your stories and we want you. Help us imagine the future of our digital revolution in industry and society, and to identify and explore its emerging cultures.

Event #3: A Sense of Community: the Internet’s role as a force for rapidly changing our experience of community was provided some surprise competition this past year, in the form of Covid-19. We’ve met our neighbours clapping for the NHS, sometime for the first time, and stayed in touch through hyper-local, social media and chat. We’ve traded hugs for high-definition video calls and the euphoria of crowds for the endless recycling of cardboard delivery packaging. As we emerge from our lockdowns and self-imposed isolations into the world again, is this our chance to choose our communities anew? Who might they be next? What could they look like? Have we discovered Covid-19 ‘keepers’ or developed ones we should never want again?

In their seminal 1986 study, McMillan and Chavis identified four elements contributing to a “sense of community”: Membership, Influence, Reinforcement, and Shared Emotional Connection. As our territorial and technological landscapes continue to evolve, we invite you to explore that definition with us and to offer new visions of community in our near-future.

Submissions close at 11:59pm (BST) on 15 August 2021