Does the Wheel of Time deserve a Hugo award?

The Wheel of Time began turning in 1990. Initially planned as a trilogy, by the time of author Robert Jordan’s death in 2007 the series had grown to a mighty 12 volumes. Working from Jordan’s notes, Brandon Sanderson added a further three volumes of eternal struggle. This sprawling fantasy epic has gone on to sellContinue reading “Does the Wheel of Time deserve a Hugo award?”

The Indie Sci-Fi Revolution

In late 2012 Hugh Howey was an unknown writer of science fiction, even to most dedicated science fiction readers. And yet he had sold over 250,000 books, optioned film rights to the legendary Ridley Scott, and agreed a six figure book deal with major publisher Simon & Schuster. All this before his dystopian sci-fi novelContinue reading “The Indie Sci-Fi Revolution”

Kitchener’s coin will fuel the fantasies of UKIP

Liberal Britain’s complacent attitude to its own colonial history is a gift to the nation’s resurgent far right. First published at New Left Project. Symbolic issues are fiercely fought over by politicians because they matter. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the decision by the Royal Mint to place Lord Kitchener’s head on theContinue reading “Kitchener’s coin will fuel the fantasies of UKIP”

The sci-fi you will be reading in 2014

Science fiction has arguably been the mainstream of pop-culture since the internet displaced TV at the centre of our lives. The younger, geekier internet audience is living in a weird, complicated world, and sci-fi provides the metaphors that let us talk about it en masse. Young audiences aren’t stupid, and The Hunger Games: Catching FireContinue reading “The sci-fi you will be reading in 2014”

The Tao Te Ching: ancient wisdom for modern times

Two thousand four hundred years after it was composed, we need the Tao Te Ching‘s lessons in self-awareness more than ever. Little can be said with absolute certainty about the origins of the Tao Te Ching. Consensus suggests it was written around 400BC by one Laozi. Laozi translates simply as “old master” – a hint thatContinue reading “The Tao Te Ching: ancient wisdom for modern times”

Jonathan Franzen is an easily understood genius

At some point Jonathan Franzen decided to write easily understood works of literary genius. It was likely while writing his 1994 essay Perchance to Dream which tries to find some purpose for the novel in the technological consumer culture of the late 20th / early 21st century (alternate title “Why Bother?”) It’s a decision that hasContinue reading “Jonathan Franzen is an easily understood genius”

Which dystopia are we living in?

It seems a bit rough to accuse modern Britain of being a dystopia when it’s also such an excellent source of tea, roast dinners and well-tailored clothing. But then the really disturbing thing about any dystopia is that for every Winston Smith resisting the machine, there are thousands of content consumers quite happy with BigContinue reading “Which dystopia are we living in?”

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’tContinue reading “The Great Escape”

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 thanContinue reading “Five science fiction novels for people who hate SF”

On being bossed around by Neil Gaiman

I’ve been outlandishly busy in recent weeks. So much so that I haven’t been able to post anything personal here on my blog. One of the costs of having more freelance writing than you can do is that it squeezes out the personal projects that you love. So here’s a round-up on some of whatContinue reading “On being bossed around by Neil Gaiman”

Harlan Ellison : The Interview

Originally published in The Guardian. When Damien Walter tweeted he’d ‘literally kill’ to interview the multiple award-winning author Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman replied ‘What if the person you had to kill was … Harlan Ellison?’ Here Ellison talks about running away from home, the rights and wrongs of paying to read books and how hisContinue reading “Harlan Ellison : The Interview”

Does God have a place in science fiction?

If SF is grounded in hard scientific fact, and science is killing God, then what place does that leave for divine intervention in the pages of SF literature? When I tweeted this question, @MirabilisDave gave Arthur C Clarke’s famous dictum a twist, quipping that “Any sufficiently advanced technocrat will be indistinguishable from God.” Read moreContinue reading “Does God have a place in science fiction?”