“Hello? Is this the complaints department? I want to register a complaint about last year’s future; it’s completely broken!”
Quite a few of us have probably snarked like that about the anno horribilis 2016 (leaving politics aside entirely let me just say: David Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher*) but there’s a germ of truth in the assertion that global politics on December 31st, 2016 was completely unpredictable from January 1st, 2016. Just contemplate the U.S. presidential election for a moment: while Hilary Clinton’s candidacy was almost locked in by January 1st, the Republican candidate (and his electoral college majority) were not on even on the radar of his own party. Similarly, very few informed pundits anticipated that the usually-compliant voters of the U.K. would bite the patrician hand and by a narrow majority reject continuing membership of the European Union.
2016 was the year in which global politics went nonlinear. On which note, I’d like to stop talking politics and explain what this means for science fiction.
Over-generalizing wildly, science fiction falls into two categories: scifi with a far future setting, and scifi about the present or the near future. Far future settings are fun to write, and they also insulate you from the slings and arrows of contemporary history in the making. If you’re playing in a Star Trek setting circa 2400, the events of 2016 are as remote as the events of 1916, or even 1816. And by “remote” I don’t mean that the denizens of 2400 might not have heard of Donald Trump; I mean they might not have heard of the United States of America—2400 is as far away from us in time as 1632.
Near future settings, however, are another matter entirely.
I’m writing here because my publisher is keen to get the word out about my latest novel, Empire Games, which is set in the alternate-history version of 2020 that evolved from my earlier Merchant Princes books—a series that pulled a bait-and-switch by setting itself up to look like a portal fantasy, then took the premise seriously (and ended up in technothriller territory, with the President assassinated in 2003 by a stolen US backpack nuke, an India/Pakistan nuclear war, and finally B-52s carpet-bombing the eastern seaboard of another time-line’s North America with H-bombs). I finished the last novel in the previous series in 2009, and began work on Empire Games in 2013, to a background of WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden’s veritable bombardment of leaks from the NSA, and my editor telling me to downplay all the stuff about spies and Russia in my book because “spies are dusty and old-fashioned.” ...
Into the Unknown
A Journey Through Science Fiction
3 June 2017 - 1 September 2017
Into the Unknown brings together artists, designers, filmmakers, SFX specialists, musicians and writers all testing the boundaries of reality through some of the most experimental works of all time. Curated by Swiss historian and writer Patrick Gyger, this festival-style exhibition explores the classic narratives of Science Fiction and presents them from a new, global perspective.
Uncover hidden gems from original manuscripts by Jules Verne to props and models from blockbuster films including Star Wars™, Star Trek, Interstellar, District 9, Alien, Jurassic Park and Godzilla. Interact with new work by the Oscar award-winning VFX specialists behind Ex Machina and The Martian, adventure into a gallery of aliens and discover vintage postcards and advertisements promoting Soviet visions of space. Find out about the ways in which contemporary art has used Science Fiction as a framework to address the important and sometimes subversive questions of our time, with work by Larissa Sansour, Soda_Jerk, Dara Birnbaum, Trevor Paglen, Conrad Shawcross and many more. Into the Unknown takes you on an extraordinary journey, from the 19th century cabinet of curiosities to the vast vistas of space, through future cities and into the inner landscapes of human perception.
Am I nervous? Of course I am. There could be indexing failures, field mismatches, table schema conflicts, a Russian hack… I’m kidding. We know how to build these things. We built the biggest one in the world, remember. As the last incumbent would have said—“Nobody builds them like us, believe me.” Still. It’s a momentous moment, or whatever. The day we hand over the keys… or the keys are handed to us. Actually, both.
“He said to go in whenever you’re ready,” his secretary tells me. I nod my thanks and push on the funny curved door that leads into the Oval Office. He’s at the Resolute desk, which he’s had carefully restored to remove the gold leaf. He’s making complex, balletic hand gestures, as if conducting a tiny, invisible orchestra on the surface of the wooden desk. If you didn’t notice the unusual thickness of his glasses, and the small black slab discreetly embedded in the desktop, you’d think he was practicing some kind of finger tai chi, or losing his mind. At first I think he’s flipping through reports or trade figures, but he has that look that I’ve spent years getting to know—the calm, focused, critical expression that means he’s product-testing. It’s not what he’s reading that interests him; it’s how he’s reading it.
“How’s the interface?” I ask, to get his attention.
He looks up and grins, and I notice how the grin etches sharp lines into his face. He’ll be 40 this year, the wunderkind finally reaching middle age, and the job has been hard on him—the basic income riots, the Saudi-Iran war, the Marburg pandemic, and the hurricane season of ’21, his first year in office, when there was still no FEMA and half of Florida was underwater. If he had seemed to enter a new phase of adulthood during the Trump years, now it’s as if he’s done so again. He moves more carefully, deliberately, as if consciously reminding himself that he mustn’t move fast and break things anymore, because now the things he breaks can’t always be put back together. But still, there’s the old Mark grin, wide and optimistic, the grin that says nothing is ever that terrible or that hard to accomplish. ...
Because it's the best part of the island. And Scotland is a sci-fi society, in many ways (it consists of many parallel realities).
Following the rising water-levels, by 2090 it may be the only habitable place left in the British Islands...as outlined in one of the only sci-fi novels to be written entirely in reformed Lallans Scots....
Set in the year 2090, the book depicts a future world where global warming has caused sea level to rise considerably. The Highlands of Scotland are the only unsubmerged part of Britain - the Highlands now being known as the Drylands. Damage to the ozone layer has resulted in much higher levels of UV light and so sunburn and skin cancer are serious issues - most people do not venture outside unless entirely necessary, and carry high factor suncream and anti-cancer kits. Most of the world's population were wiped out in "God's flood"; the survivors live in collections of floating oil-platform-like city structures, known as parishes. The story takes place around the seas and drylands that were once Scotland - initially Port, a collection of parishes (named after towns around Scotland) attached to what was once Greenock by underwater cables.
The Population of Port are watched constantly by a totalitarian government; there are class divides in the parishes (there is an underclass of Danish refugees living in many of the lower levels); the climate of Earth is now inhospitable. In addition to these problems, Senga, a new strain of HIV infects much of the population. There is no cure, and the entire population is infected with the Mowdy virus (similar to HIV) and are dependent on government issued medication to suppress Senga. Senga also becomes active if individuals engage in sex - reproduction is performed using laboratory techniques, and only virtual sex is possible.
Anyone who develops Senga is put into isolation for the virus to run its course - these people are kistit - entombed in capsules in huge hospitals. Victim's thoughts are visualised by thochtscreens on each kist
But n Ben A-Go-Go is a science fiction work by Scots writer Matthew Fitt, notable for being entirely in the Scots language. The novel was first published in 2000.
According to the author, as many of the different varieties of Scots as possible were used, including many neologisms - imagining how Scots might develop by 2090. The lack of a glossary might be seen as a barrier, but the most of the words should be accessible to most Scottish readers. The reviewer Stephen Naysmith describes the dialect used in the book as "a hybrid of Lallans, peppered with words from Dundee, Aberdeen and elsewhere". However, even for some persons born in Scotland and familiar with Scots, the book is difficult to read and borrows liberally from the grammar of German and Dutch for many of the words.
Paolo Bacigalupi January 31 at 10:51am ·
I wrote THE WATER KNIFE because I was concerned about America's willingness to pretend that climate change wasn't real, and wasn't a pressing problem for us. I wrote it as a thought experiment: What happens when we try to pretend that facts don't exist and science data isn't real? Where does it lead? In that story, the result is that those who have been clear-eyed and planned for the future are struggling, but still hanging on, and those who pretended it wasn't coming have lost everything. There are drought refugees, border controls between states, and an increasingly dysfunctional and fragmented United States. I added in Merry Perrys, a group of religious fundamentalists who pray for rain, because Rick Perry did just that during the Texas drought of 2011. Now he's the Energy Secretary. And now, a climate denier is our President, and our government agencies are being asked to remove data about climate change, to not to speak about climate change, and to not acknowledge climate change. The House of Representatives is looking to cut funding to the IPCC, and Trump is looking to pull out of the Paris climate agreement--all while the planet hits record heat levels. ...
In the early nineteen-nineties, a few occurrences sparked something in Ted Chiang’s mind. He attended a one-man show in Seattle, where he lives, about a woman’s death from cancer. A little later, a friend had a baby and told Chiang about recognizing her son from his movements in the womb. Chiang thought back to certain physical principles he had learned about in high school, in Port Jefferson, New York, having to do with the nature of time. The idea for a story emerged, about accepting the arrival of the inevitable. A linguist, Chiang thought, might learn such acceptance by deciphering the language of an alien race with a different conception of time. For five years, when he wasn’t working as a technical writer in the software industry, Chiang read books about linguistics. In 1998, he published “Story of Your Life,” in a science-fiction anthology series called Starlight. It was around sixty pages long and won three major science-fiction prizes: the Nebula, the Theodore Sturgeon, and the Seiun, which is bestowed by the Federation of Science Fiction Fan Groups of Japan. Last year, Arrival” was released, an adaptation of “Story of Your Life,” in which Amy Adams plays a linguist who learns, decades in advance, that her daughter will die, as a young woman, of a terminal illness, but goes ahead with the pregnancy anyway.
Chiang is now forty-nine, with streaks of gray in his ponytail. He started writing science fiction in high school. Since then, he has published fourteen short stories and a novella. By this means, he has become one of the most influential science-fiction writers of his generation. He has won twenty-seven major sci-fi awards; he might have won a twenty-eighth if, a few years ago, he hadn’t declined a nomination because he felt that the nominated story, “Liking What You See: A Documentary,” was unfinished. (It imagines using neuroscience to eliminate “lookism,” or the preference for beautiful faces.) Many of Chiang’s stories take place in the past, not the future. His first published story, “Tower of Babylon,” which appeared in 1990 and won a Nebula Award, follows Hillalum, a Babylonian stonecutter tasked with climbing to the top of the world and carving a doorway into its granite ceiling. It has the structure of a parable and an uncanny and uncompromising material concreteness. At the top of the tower, Hillalum finds that the roof of the world is cold and smooth to the touch. The stonecutters are eager to find out what lies on the other side of the sky, but they are also afraid, and, in a prayer service, Chiang writes, “they gave thanks that they were permitted to see so much, and begged forgiveness for their desire to see more.” Chiang goes to great lengths to show how ancient stonecutting techniques might actually be used to breach the floor of Heaven. He writes the science fiction that would have existed in an earlier era, had science existed then. ...
It's not especially crap. It's just less rooted in reality than many of his other books, so not immediately easy to read.
Then you've got the weird names - e.g. Horselover Fat, which is a pseudonym for Philip K. Dick himself...
Read Valis ages ago, it gets heavily into alien philosophy as PKD saw it at the time, i.e. the effects of being off his tits on drugs, only for him it was really deep, man. It reads about as profound as hearing someone spend an inordinate amount of time describing a great LSD trip they had, great for them personally, alienating (hey!) for the reader.