The Politics of Gloom

The debate on positivity in science fiction continues. Co-editor of Years Best SF Kathryn Cramer makes a robust response to my Guardian article on the subject. Lou Anders, editorial director of Pyr, finds the middle ground and Jetse de Vries, who started the debate back in January, rebutts Cramer’s response.

There have been too many intelligent and thought provoking comments on both sides of the debate to summarise accurately. Despite being firmly on the Positivist side, I can see the merits of the Gloommonger arguments. In very rough terms, the constructive debate is currently being had on the issue of which direction SF should take to be most successful, both creatively and commercialy. On the one hand the Positivists claim that the balance between optimism / pessimism have gone too far in one direction, and its time to pull it back by exploring positive possibilities in science and our near future. On the other, the Gloommonger’s argue that the genre needs to navigate towards the pessimistic, because that is where the interesting stories and ideas are. Continue reading The Politics of Gloom


Science fiction doesn’t have to be gloomy, does it?

The future can be worrying to consider at the best of times. But with a global economic crisis looming, a war on terrorism and the continuing threat of climate change to ponder, the future looks bleak indeed. It’s at times like these that people seek escape in the pages of popular fiction. But anyone looking for a better future in science fiction is in for a shock.

Read more on the Guardian book blog

Holy Cow…where did all these books come from?

Its been ages since I updated my progress working through the infinite pile of books beside my bed, so here goes a brief round-up of the last three months.

Firstly, I read something like 120 short stories in various states of completition at Clarion. They were the greatest leaning resource for me as a writer I’ve ever had access to. Reading work in prgress, from seventeen writers who all had the potential to make an impact in speculative fiction, was much like being exposed to cutting edge scientific research.

Continue reading Holy Cow…where did all these books come from?

Get Your Electric Velocipede Hot and Fresh!

Electric Velocipede is without doubt the magazine I most look forward to finding in my mail box. Yes, I know, I’m biased because I’ve featured in their pages. But even if I hadn’t, I hope I would have the sense to recognise what a great ‘zine editor John Klima is putting into the world. The roster of published writers reads like a who’s who of the most exciting rising stars in fantastical, weird and speculative fiction. Truly, if you have any interest in the short story, you really should take Mr. Klima up on his kind offer below and subscribe. Continue reading Get Your Electric Velocipede Hot and Fresh!

Happy SF

With the news that Jetse de Vries has left the editorial group who make Interzone magazine, some discusion has arisen at the Asimov’s fourm about whether the tone of not just Interzone, but the whole of contemporary science fiction, has become too pessimistic. Its an interesting discussion and makes me wonder, are we in need of a Happy SF revolution?

Interzone has always championed a dark and pessimistic vision of SF. And it has always championed stories that live in the borderlands between scinece fiction, fantasy and mainstream literature. By their very nature, those stories tend to be darker and more pessimistic, and that has tended to make Interzone a counterweight to mainstream science fiction through the decades that the mainstream was a happier, more optimistic place.

But at some point in the last decade or more, the scales between optimism and pessimism tipped, and mainstream science fiction is now dominated by pesimistic visions of our dystopian future. Its a change tied in some way to the waves of British science fiction writers from Ballard through Banks. Trust the Brits to spread darkness, misery and pessimism wherever we go!

But to keep moving on science fiction needs to keep its wheels revolving. As is often noted, revolution is often a process of rediscovery. Maybe what we need now is not a Mundane SF revolution, but a Happy SF revolution!

What would such a revolution consist of? Not, in my view, stories with ‘an optimistic view of technology’, or a return to the values of golden age SF that some people call for. Revolutions that attempt to roll back the clock like that are always bloody failures. No, what we need are stories that look forward and find genune, credible causes for optimisim about our future.

Those might be technological causes. I don’t think android labour will free us all from the evils of work, or that we will live in glittering metropoli with hover cars. But just maybe, if we can see our way to it, technology will lead us to a post-scarcity society where our children will hear the word money and say ‘What is that?’ Or perhaps they will be political, maybe far from the Orwellian big brother future we all fear, our systems of goverment will evolve into a free flowing anarchy where every human looks after every other when in need. They might even be personal, maybe in the future every geek in the world gets to date a beautiful person of their desired gender. Hurrah for the ranks of SF fandom!

Yes, I know, its all been done. But maybe we need to do it more. Much more. And in new ways that haven’t been done. That IMHO seems like more of a revolutionary act in the context of contemporary SF than yet another brooding, dystopian vision of the future.

Sci-Fi Writing Course

Well people, I’m teaching a one day course in writing short speculative fiction in Leicester in the month of November. I’ll be tossing in lots of what I learnt at Clarion, as well as various other fun and games. Details below, if you or anyone you know should want to take part.


Writing Fantasy and Sci-Fi Short Stories
One-day course on Sat 15th November, 10am – 4pm, £30
Enquiries: (0116) 233 4343 ext 227
Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror together form the field of ‘speculative fiction’, one of the most popular genres in commercial publishing, with millions of readers worldwide and a massive influence over films, television and video games. Within dozens of thriving markets, speculative short stories can be a great way for writers to build a name and reputation within the genre. This course will introduce students to the field and how to get these stories published. Workshop exercises will introduce key elements including originating ideas and world-building. Students will be helped to identify potential markets for their own work.

For further details on this and many more courses see: