Weird Things

I’ve been dying to talk about this for weeks but have had to wait until the right time…which is now! Weird Things is my new column for The Guardian which I will be writing fortnightly. It’s all about the weird ideas in SF and Fantasy novels or any book with a weird idea at its heart. The first column is published today and tackles our fear of Robopocalypse, and the more nuanced ideas in Ted Chiang’s The Lifecycle of Software Objects.

Should we fear the Robopocalypse?

The robots are revolting. But will they kill us…or cuddle us?

Daniel H Wilson’s debut work of fiction Robopocalypse comes pre-packaged with two Unique Selling Points. That the author holds a Phd in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, and is hence more than just another oddball Sci-Fi writer with an overactive imagination. And that, having been bought by Steven Spielberg for production ‘even before it was finished’, the novel is already a success, and nothing breeds success like success.

Read more on The Guardian website.

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How will writers make a living in the future?

Printing press from 1811, photographed in Muni...
Image via Wikipedia

It’s worth considering the idea that we won’t.

We are living through miraculous times. Knowledge, once a scarce resource, is being made freely and universally available to all. To understand how miraculous this is, consider the Dark Ages. For somewhere in the region of a thousand years, Europe was held in the iron grip of the church by a complete embargo on knowledge. An educated priestly elite dictated that the only true knowledge was the bible, which was written in latin which, low and behold, only they could read. that scarcity of information aloud the complete suppression of the entire European population for millennia. It’s no coincidence that as knowledge began to flow again, and then blossomed with the waves of information technology that took us from the printing press to the  internet, society became progressively more free.

It’s very likely, in fact I would argue almost certain, that the freedoms unleashed by the internet will bring almost unimaginable benefits to every person alive today and every person that comes after us. The society that emerges from today’s information revolution will be as far advanced from our society today, as our society is from the Dark Ages.

In that future society, it won’t be possible to make a living from writing. Even the idea of making a living from writing will seem strange. In much the same way we might think making a living from talking a little odd…although it seemed perfectly natural to the priest who read from the bible only he could translate to his Dark Ages congregation. But then, if we make it down the rocky road of change that leads there, the idea of making a living itself will seem a little odd…