Starting with big sci fi news: The mighty Mercedes Lackey has been named SFWA’s 38th Grand Master for her contributions to the literature of science fiction and fantasy. Congratulations Misty! Well-deserved.
And speaking of multicultural experiences in SF... we're honored to publish the newest Out of Time novel (by Patrick Freivald) - a great new yarn for the young and young at heart! The Archimedes Gambit teams up a 2020 high school student with Joan of Arc's page and a 15 year old Kim Dae-Jung (yes that Kim Dae-Jung) for adventures across space & time!
More news briefs on SF below.
== Ecological Perspectives ==
SF-like perspectives are flourishing. For example, Noema Magazine invited former California Governor Jerry Brown and futurist Stewart Brand, both of whom were seminal figures in thematizing ecological consciousness in the 1970s and beyond, to discuss the origins and future prospects of their respective notions of “planetary realism” and “whole Earth” thinking. "The main conundrum they identify is how the legitimacy and affinity associated with the earthy virtue of the places in which we reside locally can be transferred to the planetary level. Though it remains unseemly how little acknowledgement of the role of high end SF such influencers are willing to concede."
Though not everyone ignores this. Here’s a rundown of ecological sci fi, from The Washington Post, highlighting novels such as Herbert's Dune, Kim Stanley Robinson's Forty Signs of Rain, Jeff Vandermeer's glancingly relevant Annihilation, Shari Tepper's Grass, and Matt Bell's Appleseed.
A longer and more substantial list of ecological SF might include:
- John Christopher's classic No Blade of Grass,
- Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl showed how "society" continues after we've messed up the environment and used up resources such as fuels and metals. Also his climate SF ("cli-fi") The Water Knife.
- Kim Stanley Robinson's made a whole career second-act of hectoring us all about the environment. Great stuff! Like his Mars series and the 2140 series and his recent The Ministry for the Future (October 2020).
- Mother of Storms by John Barnes was terrifying - and coming true.
- Neal Stephenson's latest - Termination Shock - looks at a global future overwhelmed by climatic disasters.
- There are many ecological aspects to Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series, which merits respect, above all, for the fact that it dares to posit social improvement through deliberate design of commensal diversity. And the more-recent by Monica Byrne creates a vividly imaginative future world of deliberate genetic modification for nomad humans to survive a tormented ecosystem.
And if we order the list by actual effects on the world? Well, Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room! (the basis for the movie, Soylent Green) recruited more folks to environmentalism than the rest of us, combined!
Still, for accuracy and prediction and science and full exploration of "Gaia" from many angles, including ways she just might literally come alive, I dare suggest that one of the above-suggested books might deserve inclusion or mention.
== Multicultural perspectives ==
Soon to be released: Reclaim the Stars: Seventeen Tales Across Realms & Space, a vivid collection of far-seeing short stories by Latinx writers such as Daniel Jose Older and Vita Ayala, edited by Zoraida Cordova.
One of the fine recent trends in SF in the last decade (albeit sometimes pushed with unnecessary dudgeon) has been correction of the field’s longstanding neglect of extrapolative or fantastic literature from non-western cultural traditions.
Elsewhere I have written of SF renaissances in Latinx regions and India and China… and of course the stunning volcanic effluence out of Africa and African motifs.
(In fact, I was one of a few in the 1980s reaching out and helping raise this awareness. My very first protagonist circa 1978 was half African, half Native American. But I protest and assert such in vain.)
Anyway, this laudable trend continues. I just received a copy of Islam, Science Fiction and Extraterrestrial Life: The Culture of Astrobiology in the Muslim World, by Jorg Matthias Determann, a survey of Arabic, Persian and Turkish books and films. Here’s a call for participants in a conference on the related subject of ‘exotheology’ or how Muslim attitudes are changing re: the notion of Plurality of Worlds and Minds out there.
And now... something else fascinating! I’ve always been a sucker for feminist utopias, especially those that involve deliberate, calm design of whatever new social experiment (as in Glory Season), instead of wrath-driven happenstance or mutation. So this article (by Nilanjana Bhattacharjya) about an almost forgotten classic is a really interesting read.
“Rokeya Hossain (1880-1932), a Bengali woman in British India, is rarely mentioned alongside early twentieth-century speculative fiction authors like H.G. Wells, or utopian writers from the same period like Charlotte Perkins Gilman. But in 1905, Hossain published “Sultana’s Dream,” in which an ordinary woman dreams about visiting an advanced utopian society that employs cutting-edge technologies like solar power and flying cars. Hossain addresses what continue to be significant challenges in the Bengal region, including flooding, droughts, and air pollution, while making more universalist arguments about the need for women’s education and scientific research," writes Bhattacharjya. In the portrayed future, women are empowered by education and their scientific innovations save the nation after the male armies fail and traumatized men choose to be the home-makers, from then on.
== SF Philosophy ==
And way further back… The founder of Russia’s home grown, non-Judaeo-Christian, theology system – cosmism – that thrived before and during communist times, was Nikolai Fyodorov, who remains almost unknown in the West, yet in life he was “celebrated by Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky, and by a devoted group of disciples – one of whom is credited with winning the Space Race for the Soviet Union.” Among many fascinating aspects described in this article is Fyodorov’s notion that we are not only obliged to care for each other and the planet, but to embark on a mission to physically resurrect past generations of the dead.
Now at one level it is absurd… though it hearkens to physicist Frank Tipler’s baroque, brilliant and bizarre book The Physics of Immortality. But, as I point out in my as-yet unpublished treatise – Sixteen Modern Theological Questions – Fyodorov is only doing what Darwin, Marx, Freud and others did, with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, positing that many traits of a heavenly Creator were coming into the hands of technological humankind. And now, as we build new life forms from scratch and broadcast vivid sci fi ruminations like Upload or Kiln People, are we doing it any less?
Fyodorov’s most brilliant protégé, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, might fairly be called the greatest visionary re: possibilities of humanity expanding beyond the Earth, into the cosmos. Anyway, wasn’t the founder of Russia’s home grown, non-Judaeo-Christian, theology system actually Gurjief?
== Sci Fi miscellany ==
After all that, want a dose of optimism? Whether you want it or not, you definitely need it! So here I am reminding you of that wonderful Arconic advert riffing off “The Jetsons”! We need this too.
I had a story in the first volume of Shapers of Worlds. Now comes Shapers of Worlds, Volume 2, with SF&F stories by authors featured on the World Shapers podcast. Speak up if you think any particular author might be a good fit with my Out of Time series!
Alexandro Botelho, Host of "Writings on the Wall", reads the first pages or preface of selected books, each episode. Here, the introduction to Vivid Tomorrows, and an excerpt, The Self-preventing prophecy. An interesting niche!
Thomas J. Lombardo’s epic scale work on the history of science fiction and its underlying ideas is moving forward after Volume 1: Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future with its sequel, Volume 2: The Time Machine to Metropolis and the recently released Volume 3: Superman to Star Maker. Register for a November 14 book launch event.
And finally, on global issues... Available for free download: Overview: Stories in the Stratosphere, a collection of near-future stories collected ASU: Center for Science and Imagination, edited by Ed Finn – with tales by Karl Schroeder, Brenda Cooper, plus one I collaborated on with Tobias Buckell. “Each story presents a snapshot of a possible future where the stratosphere is a key space for solving problems, exploring opportunities or playing out conflicts unfolding on the Earth’s surface.” It was sponsored by one of the new stratoballoon companies - World View - founded by Pluto pioneer Alan Stern.