Horror – just not scary any more

Whereas Victorian writers could rely on repressed sexuality to generate unease, today’s horror and fantasy novels put sex on the front cover. But the best new examples of the genre still bring up the things we don’t like to talk about. When Bram Stoker penned Dracula in 1897, Eastern Europe was still remote for mostContinue reading “Horror – just not scary any more”

The troll reviewers targeting women writers

Online abuse reminds us that while technology is upgraded, human qualities of jealousy and bitterness are not. It may contain some passages judged by one Amazon customer to be “brilliantly written”, but that isn’t enough to spare Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road a two-star kicking. The reason? Byrne has committed a political sinContinue reading “The troll reviewers targeting women writers”

How Fighting Fantasy beat traditional stories

In the three decades since Fighting Fantasy began, games have changed our concept of story forever. When I was 10 I wanted, for a brief period, to be a professional Fighting Fantasy player. I was so fascinated with the now-iconic green-jacketed gamebooks, emblazoned with the legend “Thrilling fantasy adventures in which YOU are the hero!”, that I hatchedContinue reading “How Fighting Fantasy beat traditional stories”

A digital renaissance for the science fiction short story

A man wakes up from a car crash to find that he is an “electric ant”: an android programmed to believe it is human. At home he uses micro-tools to open up his own chest and discovers a tiny spool of tape inside. Punching new holes in the tape makes new objects appear in hisContinue reading “A digital renaissance for the science fiction short story”

Are we already living in the technological singularity?

news has been turning into science fiction for a while now. TVs that watch the watcher, growing tiny kidneys, 3D printing, the car of tomorrow, Amazon’s fleet of delivery drones – so many news stories now “sound like science fiction” that the term returns 1,290,000 search results on Google. The pace of technological innovation isContinue reading “Are we already living in the technological singularity?”

Self-publishing: is it killing the mainstream?

Brenna Aubrey self-published her debut romance novel At Any Price on the Amazon Kindle on 9 December 2013. One month later At Any Price had netted a total profit of £16,588. Aubrey’s success is far from unique – 2013 was a breakout year for “indie authors” led by the phenomenal success of Hugh Howey. ButContinue reading “Self-publishing: is it killing the mainstream?”

Forget Iron Man-child – let’s fight the white maleness of geek culture

Fantasy has become a sandbox for immature masculinity. What kinds of stories could we tell if our writers tackled the hard truths of male identity and privilege? The coming year threatens to be another period of white, male heroism in geek culture. Another summer of superpowered men in the cinema. Another year with only 4%Continue reading “Forget Iron Man-child – let’s fight the white maleness of geek culture”

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 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”

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?”

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”