The Great Escape

Digital technology allows us to lose ourselves in ever more immersive fantasy worlds. But what are we fleeing from?

The only people who hate escapism are jailers, said the essayist and Narnia author C S Lewis. A generation later, the fantasy writer Michael Moorcock revised the quip: jailers love escapism — it’s escape they can’t stand. Today, in the early years of the 21st century, escapism — the act of withdrawing from the pressures of the real world into fantasy worlds — has taken on a scale and scope quite beyond anything Lewis might have envisioned.

I am a writer and critic of fantasy, and for most of my life I have been an escapist. Born in 1977, the year in which Star Wars brought cinematic escapism to new heights, I have seen TV screens grow from blurry analogue boxes to high-definition wide-screens the size of walls. I played my first video game on a rubber-keyed Sinclair ZX Spectrum and have followed the upgrade path through Mega Drive, PlayStation, Xbox and high-powered gaming PCs that lodged supercomputers inside households across the developed world. I have watched the symbolic language of fantasy — of dragons, androids, magic rings, warp drives, haunted houses, robot uprisings, zombie armageddons and the rest — shift from the guilty pleasure of geeks and outcasts to become the diet of mainstream culture.

Read more @ Aeon Magazine

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Going Nomad

Sometime in the last year or so I realised that my entire professional life fitted inside my laptop.

I am a writer. The only tools I really need for my trade are a laptop and my big brain. (Arguably fingers etc as well but let’s not go there) In the digital age, that means I can take my career with me wherever I go. And I can go anywhere in the world.

So today I sent what remains of my worldly possessions to a good home in my brother’s loft. I’ve been reducing  what I own for the last few months. And now I’m down to just a shoulder bag and…an adventure bag.

TT Carry-On 40
TT Carry-On 40

That is a TT Carry-On 40 by Lowe Alpine, the biggest bag you can carry on to most airlines. Intense research revealed that this is the bag to end all bags for people travelling light. And almost my entire life now fits inside it. I’ll write about what exactly goes in my bag in a future post.

As I’ve talked to people about my plans to combine travel and writing, I’ve realised this is something lots of people would like to do. So I’m going to blog about the experience – both the ups and the downs – and share what I learn with you. A few of the themes I think this might touch on:

  • Digital Nomad – there’s a growing cadre of people – like the lovely folks at Never Ending Voyage – who have realised that they can take their working life with them as they travel. So how can writers go about taking up the digital nomad lifestyle? What are the best destinations for writers living on a shoestring? How do you balance creativity with travelling? I’m going to be learning some answers the hard way!
  • Mindfulness & Creativity – I wouldn’t have been able to de-clutter and minimise my physical possessions without learning some useful meditation skills in recent years. Going travelling, like any kind of major change in life, can be quite scary! I’m going to be trying to think about ways to overcome the fear that comes when we do new and creative things, and ways to live a more creative life.
  • Writing – I’m lucky to have made a living from many different kinds of writing over the years, and I want to try and share some of my experience with anyone else who wants to write and travel. Digital technology is having a big impact on both the craft and business of the working writer; blogging has transformed journalism, ebooks are transforming publishing. And it’s all opening up lots of opportunities for the nomad writer ;)

And where am I travelling to? That will be the focus of my next update!

Five science fiction novels for people who hate SF

The genre’s denser stories can seem rebarbative to ‘general readers’, but these books tell immediately relevant, compelling tales.

Science fiction is all around us, from clandestine electronic surveillance to robots taking our jobs, from death-dealing drones in the skies of Pakistan right through to the second industrial revolution unleashed by 3D printing. It’s more than a century since writers began charting the technological dream of human civilisation we now live in, but some readers are still put off by a writer who reaches into the future, a novel with a spaceship on the cover.

Read more @ Guardian books