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An anthology of optimistic, near future SF

Archive for Relevant SF

Awards Pimpage: SHINE stories + Three Real-Life Links

Since several award nomination time slots just opened, I will list the Shine stories that are eligible (well, all of them except “Summer Ice” which is a reprint), with their word count.

Short stories (less than 7500 words):

  • The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up — Jacques Barcia: 7000 words (excerpt);
  • Sustainabe Development — Paula R. Stiles: 1000 words (excerpt);
  • The Solnet Ascendancy — Lavie Tidhar: 3400 words (excerpt) + (podcast);
  • Twittering the Stars — Marie Ness: 6400 words (excerpt);
  • Seeds — Silvia Moreno-Garcia: 1700 words (excerpt) + (full story @ HUB);
  • Scheherazade Cast in Starlight — Jason Andrew: 1000 words (excerpt);
  • Castoff World — Kay Kenyon: 5200 words (excerpt) + (podcast) + (full story @ io9);
  • Paul Kishosha’s Children — Kenn Edgett: 7000 words (excerpt);

Novelettes (7500 – 17500 words):

  • The Earth of Yunhe — Eric Gregory: 8000 words (excerpt) + (podcast);
  • Overhead — Jason Stoddard: 9800 words (excerpt);
  • The Church of Accelerated Redemption — Gareth L. Powell & Aliette de Bodard: 10,000 words (excerpt);
  • At Budokan — Alastair Reynolds: 8200 words (excerpt);
  • Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic — Gord Sellar: 10,000 words (excerpt) + (podcast @ StarShipSofa);
  • Russian Roulette 2020 — Eva Maria Chapman: 10,000 words (excerpt);
  • Ishin — Madeline Ashby: 9000 words (excerpt);

Excerpts of every story + four podcasts + two full stories online. If I give away anything more, the publisher will strangle me…;-)

Thanks everybody for your consideration.

Now, to spice things up a little. I came across three real-life events — sometimes via/via — that do have links to a few Shine stories.

First, via an article in the Guardian about how ‘green’ the UK’s coalition government (who promised to be “the greenest government ever”) actually is, I came upon this documentary: “The World According to Monsanto“, about the power politics of this huge GM company. It reminded me immediately of the fictional company Germingen in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Seeds“.

Second, a Facebook post of (someone whose name escapes me: my apologies!) linked to an article on the New York Times’ Opinionator: “To Beat Back Poverty, Pay the Poor“. Indeed, successful government programs for that are running in Mexico (where “Seeds” is set) and in Brazil: which immediately brought the opening section of Jacques Barcia’s “The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up” (which takes place in a Brazil that is much less poor).

Third, directly from the Guardian: “Nigeria: the Happiest People on Earth“. Counterintuitive, right? With all this trouble in the Niger delta where Shell is exploring oil? The country of the same-titled internet scams? And immense poverty?

Well, read the article: it’s not only doom and gloom, and these people are trying to change things for the better. And they keep a positive outlook throughout, just like the women in Paula R. Stiles’ “Sustainable Development“. In the Gallup  Poll “Global Barometer of Hope and Despair for 2011” (opens PDF: the ‘Net Hope’ scores are on page 61) Nigeria ranks highest, with a score of 70. Vietnam (61) and Brazil and Ghana (both 47) are numbers two and three. France ranks as the most desperate: a negative score of -58, followed by Iceland (-51), Romania (-47) and the UK (-44).

If anything, that poll demonstrates that money doesn’t (necessarily) make you happy.

UPDATE 1: via John Shirley (on Facebook) I was pointed to this MSNBC article: “US Building a Network to Hit Militants“, about the use of drones. A few quotes:

Its targeting advice will largely direct elite special operations forces in both commando raids and drone missile strikes overseas.

Several military intelligence officials said the center is the brainchild of JSOC’s current commander, Vice Adm. Bill McRaven, who patterned it on the success of a military system called “counter-network,” which uses drone, satellite and human intelligence to drive operations on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a senior U.S. official reached Wednesday.

Which immediately reminded me of Madeline Ashby’s “Ishin“, in which a more positive application of the same technology is explored. Picture of the Predator Drone courtesy of the Support Daniel Boyd’s Blog, which has this choice quote:

The “pilots” say that the greatest problem is stress from “detachment.”

Which is exactly what one of Ishin‘s protagonists — Brandon — is suffering from. Hell of a well-researched and finely wrought story, that becomes more relevant by the day.

UPDATE 2: via de Volkskrant, I found “Young Children Share the Spoils” on Psychological Science. This research seems to suggest that sharing is innate. So I couldn’t help but think of Holly Phillips’s “Summer Ice“, where Manon shares a lot with the new community she’s moved into, and it pays back (with dividends).

Utopia: A Vindication?


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As the second comment (by Paul Graham Raven) already noticed, maybe I could see Charlie Stross’s post about Utopia as a kind of vindication?

[Picture: Vindication Island: a destination, never to be reached, like Utopia?]

For one, science fiction in general is—again, see the huge catch-up exercise called cyberpunk ( the punk label itself was already a few years outdated back in 1983, which indicates how pathetic the ‘punk’ label sounds in steampunk, dieselpunk, mythpunk and what-have-you-punk. Where is SF’s imaginative use of neologisms when you really need it?) when SF belatedly realised it had been neglecting these dang computers for too long—behind the curve: see, for example, last year’s four-issue special called Blueprint for a Better World that New Scientist featured from September 12 until October 3 in 2009.

In other words—and I have already voiced this almost ad nauseam here on this blog—while SF wallows in its dystopias, gloom’n’doom scenarios and total apocalypses, people in (gasp) the real world are already looking for solutions to our problems.

I am already tired of SF fandom’s idea that science fiction should inspire science, or the real world. It has been the other way around, mostly, and increasingly overwhelmingly in the past few decades.

What use does an African boy have for apocalyptic science fiction if he wants to build to a better future? Why would people in rural Bangladesh need to read the latest eco-disaster if they are visited by the InfoLadies instead?  People in the real world aren’t longing for depictions of dystopia to show them how it shouldn’t be done: they’re way too busy to improve their own lot.

So, in the larger scheme of things, it’s probably a minor vindication for an idea—optimistic SF, *not* Utopia—whose idea seems finally, and belatedly to be entering the SF writing community’s mindset.

{BTW: not Utopia. the term ‘Utopia’ alone is a button-pusher in the science fiction crowd, immediately unleashing the all-too-predictable clichés: “Utopias are booooooooring”, “There can be no conflict in Utopian stories” (hence, when I demonstrate that conflicts are part and parcel of a near-future, optimistic SF story—one needs to overcome big hurdles to achieve improvements—Kathryn Cramer laments that ‘SHINE delivers (mostly) happy endings in dystopias rather than actual utopian speculation‘: true, as I never intended SHINE to be a plethora of Pollyannas), “Dystopias are the signs of the future saying ‘do not go there’.” (so in which direction should we go? We only need negative incentives?), “One man’s Utopia is another man’s Dystopia”, Etcetera, ad nauseam.}

For another, this review gives me much more vindication:

Anyway, just about a textbook example of how to do it [...]

I thought this book would be decent – so when it hits around the excellent mark and is a great price currently you really should buy it.

Having read hundreds of anthologies it isn’t often that I want to revisit one soon afterwards, Shine is definitely one such.

Finally, an editorial remark. To quote Blue Tyson from the above-mentioned review:

Interestingly, he says most of the writers around are pathetically incapable of writing a story along these lines – which is odd, given as they say, ideas are a dime a dozen.

Unfortunately, this is true. I have sollicited many, very many of today’s well-known SF writers for Shine, and the utmost majority of them wouldn’t or couldn’t (or shouldn’t?) produce a near-future, optimistic SF story. One in particular—whose name shall remain unknown—telling me that ‘near-future SF is mind-numbingly hard these days’.

So there you go: is near-future, optimistic SF too hard to do, or are contemporary SF writers suffering from—and here I’m quoting another well-known SF author, with whom I discussed this at a recent WorldCon—”a failure of the imagination”?

To be continued, I hope…


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SHINE: the Table of Contents

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As a way to close off 2009, while simultaneously promising something for 2010, here is the Table of Contents for the Shine anthology (with links to the excerpts):

Cover Image:

UPDATE: here are some review quotes:

That’s why Shine is such a significant — dare I say, historic — anthology. And with a rich diversity of settings and thematic speculation, this is a collection most science fiction fans will undoubtedly embrace.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

Overall, Shine is utterly worth reading.

SciFi Wire;

But it would be difficult — some might say doubly impossible — for every entry in an anthology as ambitious as Shine to appeal to every reader. It is to de Vries’ credit that all but the most hard-hearted of sci-fi readers should find their own brand of optimism represented somewhere among Shine’s array of bright futures.

New Scientist;

But if we are to have some some influence over how that change unfolds, isn’t it important that our stories, whether they be in the news, on television screens or in the pages of science fiction novels, fully explore the optimistic possibilities that technology represents?

The Guardian;

To round off this very long review I’m happy to report that Shine was a truly fascinating and enjoyable read. I’m not the biggest SF fan in the world, but I’ll happily promote this to others who, like me, feel the same way. Here are authors with stories and characters I could relate to. But then, I suspect hardened SF readers out there will devour this with gusto. Jetse de Vries has done a truly remarkable job putting Shine together and I’d like to be signed up to read any follow-up anthology because this one has genuinely broken down some preconceived ideas I’ve had about the genre.

SF Revu;

 For an anthology with a very tight remit — optimistic near-future science fiction — there is a huge variety in the stories themselves. It occurs to me that this book is the perfect introduction to SF for readers who wouldn’t normally venture into the genre.

 —Catherine Hughes;

SHINE is slated for an April 2010 release. I am working on an official SHINE launch party at Odyssey, the 61st British National Science Fiction Convention. More news as it happens.

In the meantime, DayBreak Magazine will feature—apart from other great, near-future SF stories—excerpts of the stories (two at a time).

For now: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!

Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!

India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

Finally, also an interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology:

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Should SF Die?

(Cross-posted to my personal blog and the DayBreak Magazine site for those who prefer a more Spartan layout.)

There’s been a lot of musing about the fate of science fiction, lately. To be clear, I’ll be discussing *written SF* here (predominantly), not SF in movies, comics, video games or other media. To summarise (and this is far from complete, but I hope it touches upon the main points):

My viewpoint is that SF is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and that lack of relevance can be attributed to developments and trends already mentioned in the points above, and SF’s unwillingness to really engage with the here-and-now. That doesn’t mean that SF needs to die (actually, a slow marginalisation into an increasingly neglected and despised niche-cum-ghetto is probably a fate worse than death), but it does mean that SF needs to change, and that it needs to become much more inclusive of the alien (and I mean alien in ‘humans-can-be-aliens-to-each-other’ sense) and proactive, meaning it should not just shout ‘FIRE! FIRE!’ (and do almost nothing but), but both man the fire trucks *and* think of ways to prevent more fires.

That’s the short version: allow me to expand on it below the cut. Read the rest of this entry »

Kindred Spirits, part 9

In all the kerfuffle I haven’t failed to notice Terry Bison’s interview with Kim Stanley Robinson (regular visitors know I’ve quoted the man several times on this site already). Io9 summarised it as “Dystopian Fiction Is For Slackers“, and while I mostly agree — while acknowledging that there are great dystopias, I think the form itself has become too much of an easy writing mode and a cliché — I think it oversimplifies matters.

As Kim Stanley Robinson said on the New Scientist website earlier this year, science fiction tends to see the pessimism/optimism duality too much as an either/or phenomenon, while in real life things are much more complex: they’re a mix of upbeat and downbeat, with indifference, incomprehensibility and interconnectedness thrown in for good measure, and also strongly subjective; that is dependent on and coloured by one’s personal experience, mindset and perspective.

And indeed, while he calls it ‘utopia’, what he means is not a full-on, happy clappy Pollyanna:

So, the writing of utopia comes down to figuring out ways of talking about just these issues in an interesting way; how tenuous it would be, how fragile, how much a tightrope walk and a work in progress.

This, BTW, describes the majority of the stories in both the Shine anthology and DayBreak Magazine. One clear example that you can already read is David D. Levine’s “horrorhouse“, that perfectly demonstrates ‘how tenuous, fragile’ such a ‘utopia’ (I prefer to call it a ‘better future’, meaning there’s always room for improvement, with ‘utopia’ as the ideal that can never quite be reached) is: both a ‘tightrope walk’ and always a ‘work in progress’.

Finally, I take note that if people thought that I overstated my case with the “Why I Can’t Write a Near-Future, Optimistic SF Story: the Excuses” piece (which keeps consistently getting several dozens of hits each day), well, Kim Stanley Robinson doesn’t exactly pull his punches, either:

The political attacks are interesting to parse. “Utopia would be boring because there would be no conflicts, history would stop, there would be no great art, no drama, no magnificence.” This is always said by white people with a full belly. My feeling is that if they were hungry and sick and living in a cardboard shack they would be more willing to give utopia a try.

Amen to that.

(Or, as I said: “And indeed, that’s what most dystopias are: a comfort zone for unambitious writers”.)

While some do see the opportunities in utopias (and watch this space come March 19, 2010), others immediately feel the need to defend dystopias. As if these, like climate change, need defending.

Anyway, one small blessing has already occurred: new e-zine Bull Spec — whose first short is by Terry Bisson, indeed who did the ‘utopia’ interview: coincidence? — already changed their guidelines to include utopias on the theme:

“utopias are hard, and important, because we need to imagine what it might be like if we did things well enough to say to our kids, we did our best, this is about as good as it was when it was handed to us, take care of it and do better. Some kind of narrative vision of what we’re trying for as a civilization.”

(Which is a straight quote from the Galileo Dreams interview.) So one more market — keep track: such markets are thin on the ground — where to send an optimistic story (when they re-open on February 1 next year).

Apropos David D. Levine’s “horrorhouse“, another interesting ‘coincidence’: a few days ago New Scientist put an article called “How reputation could save the Earth“, where the influence of maintaining a good reputation is wielded to extract good (eco-friendly) behaviour:

If information about each of our environmental footprints was made public, concern for maintaining a good reputation could impact behaviour. Would you want your neighbours, friends, or colleagues to think of you as a free rider, harming the environment while benefiting from the restraint of others?

Compare this to the EcoBadge in David’s story, which was published 17 days before the New Scientist article, demonstrating that near-future SF can both be trend-setting and not age immediately.

DayBreak Magazine Reading at WFC

Borderlands Books Ripley

Hot off the press: Alan Beatts — Borderlands Books owner and this World Fantasy’s man in charge of the program — just confirmed that there is a slot available at the World Fantasy Convention for the DayBreak Magazine reading!

Friday night, October 31, in the Crystal Room, at 9 PM: DayBreak Magazine Reading!

Fairmont Hotel San Jose

Apart from your editor (who won’t be reading…;-), the following DayBreak authors will be there:

In the meantime, I will check if the fickle gods of Schiphol tax free have something interesting on offer to bring along…

Announcing DayBreak Magazine

sunrise_pines_9

With the Shine anthology—next year’s must-have collection of near-future, optimistic SF—now slated for an April 2010 release, and with exuberant SF as thin on the ground as bankers without bonuses, DayBreak Magazine will alleviate the waiting and fill the gap. Simultaneously quenching your thirst for upbeat stories while also whetting your appetite for the main uplifitng dish, DayBreak Magazine ( http://daybreakmagazine.wordpress.com/ ; http://daybreakmagazine2.wordpress.com/ : you get 2 for the price of one, which is free) will feature a positive, forward-looking story every second Friday until the print Shine anthology is released, or possibly even a bit beyond that date.

The launch is on Friday October 16, on the eve of Diwali, with “The Very Difficult Diwali of Sub-Inspector Gurushankar Rajaram” by Jeff Soesbe. The second story will be released on Friday October 30, one the eve of Halloween: “Horrorhouse” by David D. Levine. More to be announced. A new story every two weeks: stories set all over the world, all depicting a future in which you would actually love to live. All for free, and all for your delectation.

Sunrise over Atlas Mountains

Please note that these online stories are different from the ones in the print Shine anthology: It’s just that I liked them so much I’ve decided—after negotiations with the authors—to put them online as a free showcase for upbeat science fiction.

Friday October 16: “The Very Difficult Diwali of Sub-Inspector Gurushankar Rajaram”:

Monkey_1

It is Diwali in Bangalore, but not everyone is partying as Sub-Inspector Gurushankar Rajaram and his colleagues are working overtime to keep certain things from escalating:

  • There will be helicopters, wobbling!
  • There will be children, rebelling!
  • There will be elephants, marauding!
  • There will be monkeys, harassing!
  • There will be the third eye of Shiva, watching from the sky!
  • There will be song!
  • There will be dance!
  • There will be party!
  • There will be the ghost of Dev Kapoor Khan, the Indian Elvis!

Will Sub-Inspector Gurushankar Rajaram overcome the increasing madness around him, or will he become mad, himself? Confused? You won’t be, after reading “The Very Difficult Diwali of Sub-Inspector Gurushankar Rajaram”, an exuberant tale of a near-future India that puts most Bollywood pictures to shame!

Friday October 30: “Horrorhouse”:

barn-2

Contrary to popular belief, things will get better in the future, as a change of lifestyle has developed. Not everything is completely rosy, though, as word spreads, like an electronic flash, about a horrorhouse that holds the next generation completely in thrall. Adults not allowed, and the young people who have visited the horrorhouse refuse to talk about it. Ethan Cole—the famed forerunner of the Twitter Revolution—is sent in to investigate…

UPDATE: I’ve added a poll!

UPDATE 2: DayBreak Magazine is getting some love, from SF Scope, Futurismic, Tor.com, 42 Blips and SF Signal, amongst others. And some more love from Big Dumb Object and Charles A. Tan. Keep it coming!

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