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reviews & science news (caveat lector: we will transform the way you think about SF)

Updated: 2018-03-06T05:47:55.336-08:00


Mundanespotting Asimov's January 2012


Okay, so I haven't been reading new short fiction lately. I had some from last year ready to go, but I never got around to posting. So I guess I haven't been all that organized either. But now I'm going to try to work with the 2012 Asimov's, at least. Here's an easy start.

1) "Bruce Springsteen" by Paul McAuley -- aliens in the first sentence
2) "Recyclable Material" by Katherine Marzinsky-- a self-aware AI robot picks up trash in an otherwise recognizable world
3) "Maiden Voyage" by Jack McDevitt -- a space jockey prepares for her first interstellar voyage
4) "The War is Over and Everyone Wins" by Zachary Jernigan -- family drama in near future America, after a plague has wiped out the white people
[3 more to go]

Mudanespotting Welcome to the Greenhouse


This is my first ever mundanespotting of a freebie review copy--WELCOME TO THE GREENHOUSE, edited by Gordon Van Gelder. This is an original anthology of 16 stories about "climate change," featuring several Big Name SF Writers. What a welcome relief from all the wish-fulfillment and thumb-twiddling bullshit that regularly gets published as SF--never mind the straight fantasy that now dominates.During the Golden Age of SF, there was a consensus that atomic power and rocketry were big things in our future. It was just a matter of how the science and society would play out. Well, that has all pretty much played out, and sorry, we do not have a libertarian space age with unlimited resources. Now, as then, we need to make do with scientific reality. That reality now includes "climate change." The stories in this anthology speculate about how things will play out with that.1) "Benkoelen" by Brian W. Aldiss -- Does a rising global tide sink all boats, even the upper middle class ones? This story takes a look-see.2) "Damned When You Do" by Jeff Carlson -- What if a fantastic savior is born to fix things? I would give this one satirical mundane credit if it wasn't so sketchy3) "The Middle of Somewhere" by Judith Moffett -- How to cope with tornadoes in the very near future? Quite thin on sf content, but creepy to read after the recent tornadopacalypse so I'll let it through the mundane filter4) "Not A Problem" by Matthew Hughes -- What an intriguing idea! maybe aliens with ftl can help?5) "Eagle" by Gregory Benford -- Here's a small hint about what geoengineering will be like.6) "Come Again Some Other Day" by Michael Alexander -- What to put between Benford and Sterling? Mercifully short time travel crap.7) "The Master of the Aviary" by Bruce Sterling -- Here's a look at the future of The Philosopher after The Fall; amusing, with good insights, but a bit sketchy towards the end8) "Turtle Love" by Joseph Green -- Here's one about how the bureaucracy might handle the rising tide9) "The California Queen Comes A-Calling" by Pat MacEwen -- Rising tide again, this time things are pretty bleak, but the legal system survives, like the postman in The Postman10) "That Creeping Sensation" by Alan Dean Foster -- a nice short speculation about how nature might respond to the Big Changes11) "The Men of Summer" by David Prill -- fantasy romance irrelevantly set in the future of climate change; I might welcome this in F&SF or Interzone but the space is wasted here12) "The Bridge" by George Guthridge -- a good look at things falling apart in Alaska13) "FarmEarth" by Paul Di Filippo -- maybe there is a video game solution to the problem; I'm a sucker for coming of ages stories, so I liked this14) "Sundown" by Chris Lawson -- the sun stops working so well, and then our current climate problems don't seem at all bad; escapism, but nonetheless interesting speculation15) "Fish Cakes" by Ray Vukcevich -- a very virtual life amidst the big time warming is what somewhat happily awaits us here16) "True North" by M. J. Locke -- longer survivalist story in a very warm and bleak future; does our hero win? you'll have to read to find outSo that's it. Four out of the sixteen did not even get the coveted mundane label. Nonetheless, there's some good speculation here, and a fair amount of variety. This is a good mundane value for a $17 list price. It's too bad there is wasted space because some of the stories needed more room to develop. None of the stories really excited me, but some of the Big Name ones are at least worth a second read. I'm glad this book is available, and now I can get back to my regular mundanespotting rituals.[...]

Mundanespotting F&SF March/April 2011


And here's the latest F&SF, crammed with 11 stories.

1) "Scatter My Ashes" by Albert E. Cowdrey -- fantasy
[that leaves 10 more, but I've abandoned the issue, sorry]

Mundanespotting Asimov's April/May 2011


Here's a double issue of Asimovs, featuring 11 stories.

1) "The Day the Wires Came Down" by Alexander Jablokov -- counterfactual boredom
[10 more to go, but I've abandoned the issue (though I might have finished it, don't remember), sorry]

Mundanespotting Analog May 2011


The big three are back for another round. Analog is the thinnest so I will start with that. Blanket Spoiler warning: surprising alien twists!

1) "Tower of Worlds" by Rajnar Vajra -- humans and aliens are in some big tower doing stuff for many, many pages
2) "Boumee and the Apes" by Ian McHugh -- an elephant clan confronts the horror of a planet of apes! or something like that; not sure why this is in Analog; maybe this is our forgotten past or our elephant supremicist future, but I'm not going to read it to find out
3) "The Wolf and the Panther were Lovers" by Walter L. Kleine -- cowboy western in which, pinch me! the strange animals turn out to be aliens
4) "The Old Man's Best" by Bud Sparhawk -- jaded space workers out at Jupiter make homebrew to stick it to the Man
5) "Ellipses" by Ron Collins -- suburban neighbors turn out to be, what a shock! aliens
6) "Blind Spot" by Bond Elam -- fourth paragraph: "Effie is strictly software. She doesn't have a body of her own, so she's taken to commandeering the building's maintenance bot whenever she feels the need to assert herself physically."

So that one's a total bust.

Mundanespotting Analog April 2011


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the 958th issue of Astounding/Analog.

1) "Hiding Place" by Adam-Troy Castro -- cyber-brain-merging interstellar something or other with "entire alien civilizations" mentioned on page 25
2) "Ian's Ions and Eons" by Paul Levinson -- time travel
3) "The Flare Weed" by Larry Niven -- space opera
4) "Two Look at Two" by Paula S. Jordan -- aliens
5) "Blessed Are the Bleak" by Edward M. Lerner -- brain dumps
6) "Remembering Rachel" by Dave Creek -- fantastic homicide investigation on the moon
7) "Quack" by Jerry Oltion -- counterfactual medicine
8) "Balm of Hurt Minds" by Thomas R. Dulski -- aliens

And not a very satisfying mundane issue.

Mundanespotting Asimov's March 2011


Here it is, the actual current issue of Asimov's.

1) "Clean" by John Kessel -- good geriatric mundane sf
2) "Where" by Neal Barrett, Jr. -- odd story lacking an infodump, but seems to be about child-like AI robots; maybe it's far future enough to be mundane if you're in the right mood
3) "'I Was Nearly Your Mother'" by Ian Creasey -- parallel universe crossover thumb-twiddling
4) "God in the Sky" by An Owomoyela -- totally big-ass supernatural thing in the sky in an otherwise mundane near future
5) "Movement" by Nancy Fulda -- temporal autism viewpoint chararacter; best story I have read so far this year
6) "The Most Important Thing in the World" by Steve Bein -- A cabdriver starts fooling around with a gadget left behind accidentally by a customer; and what a shocking turn of events, the gadget is a time machine!
7) "Lost in the Memory Palace, I Found You" by Nick Wolven -- this is cyberpunk without the punk or style, and sort of satirical without being clever; maybe it would make some mundane sense to you, but not to me
8) "Purple" by Robert Reed -- aliens

I definitely recommend the two highlighted mundane stories, and the rest is a typical mixed bag. And guess what? I'm up to date on the 2011 Asimov'ses. Stay tuned for the actual month of March to arrive.

Mundanespotting Analog March 2011


Not quite the current issue, but not to be missed because it has humonoid aliens on the cover.

1) "Rule Book" by Paul Carlson -- trucking in the age of AI robots taking over the human jobs
2) "Falls the Firebrand" by Sarah Frost -- aliens
3) "Hiding From Nobel" by Brad Aiken -- memories of a supernatural childhood event turn out to have a silly fantastic explanation
4) "Julie is Three" by Craig DeLancey -- contempory medical story about abnormal psychology; not very convincing, but I'm pretty tolerant about giving this sort of thing the mundane label
5) "Astronomic Distance, Geologic Time" by Bud Sparhawk -- grand universe-spanning whatever
6) "Taboo" by Jerry Oltion -- the near future is bright because thanks to some offscreen technology people are pretty much immortal and enjoying their hopefully eternal middle classness, but there are twists nonetheless; I'll tolerate this one too as mundane
7) "Betty Know and Dictionary Jones in 'The Mystery of the Missing Teenage Anachronisms'" by John G. Hemry -- time travel

Another Analog down, and not a total loss thanks to my softness for bogus biomedicine. The overall quality of the writing seems better, even.

Mundanespotting Interzone #232 (Jan-Feb 2011)


The new Interzone has reached the U.S.

1) "Noam Chomsky and the Time Box" by Douglas Lain -- time travel
2) "Intellectual Property" by Mark Pexton -- corporate espionage; interesting, but relies on memory plug-in jacks that are too fantastic for my tastes of the moment
3) "Plucking Her Petals" by Sarah L. Edwards -- fantasy
4) "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise" by Sue Burke -- POV of an AI app that is apparently helping with some social difficulties
5) "Flock, Shoal, Herd" by James Bloomer -- people downloaded into animals

Oh well, maybe next time.

Mundanespotting Asimov's February 2011


Although the March issue is already out, at least I am ahead of the calendar for the moment.

1) "Out of the Dream Closet" by David Ira Cleary -- technology looks like magic or psi or whatever in the apparently far future
2) "Waster Mercy" by Sara Grange -- post-apocalyptic sociology
3) "Planet of the Sealies" by Jeff Carlson -- clever story about future archaeology
4) "Shipbirth" by Aliette de Bodard -- alternate history
5) "Brother Sleep" by Tim McDaniel -- what if for those who can afford it, the disease of sleepiness has been cured? otherwise a story about Thai kids in college featuring excellent dialog
6) "Eve of Beyond" by Bill Pronzini & Barry N. Malzberg -- future corporate politics; not enough sf content to satisfy my mundanespotting sense of the moment
7) "The Choice" by Paul McAuley -- aliens

A nice harvest, and I'm even tempted to look for other works from these authors.

Mundanespotting F&SF January/February 2011


Here is a big fat F&SF.

1) "Home Sweet Bi'Ome" by Pat MacEwen -- whimsical story about a house that is alive; mundane enough for my tastes
2) "The Bird Cage" by Kate Wilhelm -- cryogenics; mundane only if you can look past the fantastic psi powers
3) "Long Time" by Rick Norwood -- an old guy hangs out with Ishtar in Babylon or something
4) "Canterbury Hollow" by Chris Lawson -- love in the time of humans living on some far away planet
5) "Christmas at Hostage Station" by James Stoddard -- holiday fantasy
6) "The Whirlwind" by Jim Young -- downloaded and/or uploaded people
7) "The Bogle" by Albert E. Cowdrey -- ghost fantasy
8) "Paradise Last" by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg -- zombie fantasy
9) "12:02 P.M." by Richard A. Lupoff -- time travel
10) "Ghost Wind" by Alan Dean Foster -- character fantasy
11) "The Ghiling Blade" by Matthew Corradi -- heroic fantasy

After the slightly promising start, not too much to see here.

Mundanespotting Analog January/February 2011


Here is a big fat Analog, bursting with aliens and a very thin stew of mundane content.

1) "At Cross Purposes" by Juliette Wade -- alien contact from multiple viewpoints
2) "The Unfinished Man" by Dave Creek -- finding oneself on an alien planet
3) "A Snitch in Time" by Donald Moffitt -- time travel crime fighters
4) "Some of Them Closer" by Marissa Lingen -- interstellar terraformer copes with the loneliness of relativity; if one believes that multiple interstellar travels without ftl by someone with a recognizable lifespan is a practical hope in the recognizable future, then this is mundane; on a very generous day, or for a very good story, I could go that far, but not today, for this one
5) "Enigma" by Sean McMullen -- genetically modified human/animal hybrids explore an alien planet
6) "The First Conquest of Earth" by David W. Goldman -- alien invasion
7) "Out There" by Norman Spinrad -- meta short-short about interstellar travel; blatantly and refreshingly mundane (believe it or not)
8) "Stay" by Stephen L. Burns -- aliens put dogs in charge of the U. S. of A.
9) "Non-Native Species" by Janet Freeman -- aliens in the Outback
10) "The Frog Prince" by Michael F. Flynn -- space opera
11) "The First Day of Eternity" by Domingo Santos (translated by Stanley Schmidt) -- multigeneration interstellar space colonization by orthodox Jews in a giant super spaceship run by AIs; more interesting than it sounds, though probably much is lost in translation

That's it for the "SPECIAL DOUBLE ISSUE!" Stay tuned for the March 2011 edition.

Gissa job


A new person has joined the Linked-in community:


Hope his education field gets filled out more, as his bio at the CEI says:
A native of Baker County, Oregon, Mr. Ebell holds a B.A. from Colorado College and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics. He also did graduate work at the University of California at San Diego and at Peterhouse, Cambridge University.
With one connection so far, he has a lot to catch up to Iain Murray's 368 connections. Iain is also interested in career opportunities, and he actually did get educated at an Oxbridge university before taking his talents in malicious political disinformation overseas to a country that is so uncivilized it is willing to reward people for this crap. Good riddance!

The only career move for any of these guys in the CEI to take is to follow in the steps of Wendell Potter and stand up for the truth about their history of lies.

Sadly there is no evidence that any of them has the slightest conscience. Even the ones with children.

Key House Committee Chairzzzzzz


Possibly the dullest Myron Ebell posting ever this week:
Here is the lineup so far for House committees with jurisdiction over energy, energy-rationing, and global warming policy. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is the new Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), who was the Chairman in the 111th Congress, is now the Ranking Democrat. The Energy and Environment Subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.). The Democrats have not yet picked their ranking member for the subcommittee.
To keep you amused, here is a video about banning harmful stupidity.

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It's funny because it can't happen here. After all in this society we value some of the most petty freedoms above the long term survival of the species.

Mundanespotting Asimov's January 2011


It's hard to complain about the state of mundane sf after the incredible breakout year of Paolo Bacigalupi. But I will try. I "discovered" Bacigalupi during his first big wave of stories that preceeded the various award nominations, and had the unprecidented pleasure of buying his first story collection knowing that I had read all the previously published content. I started blogging way back in 2004.

But Bacigalupi is about the only bright spot, and his reliance on the small press ghetto a massive indictment of sf publishing. In 2009 I made a heroic effort (meaning: with the help of interlibrary loan) to find and read all the nominated short fiction for the Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon awards. Not just mundanespotting, but full-on reading. I came up 3 novellas short (still might finish 'em), but read quite a lot of what was considered the best. There was not much mundane sf at all, and despite some good writing, there was some blatant crap, even among the winners.

Which brings me to today. I have made various attempts to revive the mundanespotting habit, but they all fell short of pressing the "Publish Post" button. This time it's for real. I'm going to attempt to mundanespot the nominal 2011 magazines, all in old school paper format, from front to back. In 2011, that's the big three, Asimov's, F&SF, Analog, plus Interzone, all still functioning.

My new trick is that I will not wait to finish a magazine (and risk losing all momentum) before posting. So here's starting with Asimov's January 2011 [since edited to completion].

1) "Two Thieves" by Chris Beckett -- warp gate
2) "Dolly" by Elizabeth Bear -- android homicide, ripped from headlines
3) "Visitors" by Steve Rasnic Tem -- the blurb says "collateral consequences of cryobiology," and I say mundane
4) "Interloper" by Ian McHugh -- seems to be about mind-controlling aliens in the Outback, though there wasn't much of an infodump
5) "Ashes on the Water" by Gwendolyn Clare -- mundane future India
6) "Killer Advice" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch -- ftl

Two out of six is not so bad for a start, and both of the mundane stories are worth a read.

The singulatarian spectrum


Mundane SF, like atheism, is so completely mainstream in science and futurology that it's rare that anyone bothers to mention it. The IEEE Spectrum magazine has published a Special Issue on the Singularity aka Rapture of the nerds, pointing out often forgotten issues like:


but that doesn't ever seem to dampen speculation by those who would also be counting on a painless replacement for fossil fuels in the next ten years, or anti-gravity cars.

The editors gave a good interview in this week's Scientific American Podcast.

Take home message:

  • God doesn't exist

  • There's no evidence that our pitiful technology is going to somehow invent God in the next ten or a hundred years

  • You will die like all other humans before you.

In actuality in the future we'll be wondering whether our great technology is able to perform basic requirements, like feeding us. The best scientists in the world using the fastest and most high-tech computers have made the predictions to within a practical margin of error.

Now pay attention to it.

John Horgan pwnts the Singularitans


Via Andrew Sullivan, a great quote:

"Let's face it. The singularity is a religious rather than a scientific vision. The science-fiction writer Ken MacLeod has dubbed it “the rapture for nerds,” an allusion to the end-time, when Jesus whisks the faithful to heaven and leaves us sinners behind.

Such yearning for transcendence, whether spiritual or technological, is all too understandable. Both as individuals and as a species, we face deadly serious problems, including terrorism, nuclear proliferation, overpopulation, poverty, famine, environmental degradation, climate change, resource depletion, and AIDS. Engineers and scientists should be helping us face the world's problems and find solutions to them, rather than indulging in escapist, pseudoscientific fantasies like the singularity."




So after all the hype, the flames, the bitching and counter-bitching, Interzone 216 finally hits the stands today. The Fix (disclaimer: also owned by TTA Press) is the first out the gate with a run down.

In case you missed it, here's the cover again:


and the TOC...

Introduction by Geoff Ryman

How To Make Paper Airplanes by Lavie Tidhar
Endra — From Memory by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
The Hour Is Getting Late by Billie Aul
Remote Control by R.R. Angell
The Invisibles by Élisabeth Vonarburg
Into The Night by Anil Menon
Talk Is Cheap by Geoff Ryman


Greg Egan: Beyond The Veil Of Reality
interview by Jetse De Vries

Alastair Reynolds: House Of Suns
interview by David Mathew

Plenty of book reviews

Mutant Popcorn by Nick Lowe

Laser Fodder by Tony Lee

Ansible Link by David Langford

2007 Readers’ Poll: The Results

Geoff Ryman on the radio - now edited


As we all know, editing is very important. Geoff's interview on the Radio 4 arts program mentioned in this post has been snipped out, converted into an mp3, and couldn't be uploaded onto blogger because it isn't a video! It's just sound.

So I've parked it in some random directory reserved for pdf documents in my work web page on a server I own, because the internet doesn't have enough leeched-in connections of this.

So here it is, Geoff's 5 minute interview about Mundane-SF on the radio. I hope that link still works in 2108.

5 days and counting...



And the buzz is starting. Besides Geoff's radio interview (see below),
Damien G Walter over at the Guardian blog has a write-up:

OK, I admit it, sci-fi is boring. After endless Star Trek re-runs, innumerable badly scripted Hollywood movies and a thousand video games with pixel-deep narrative, the once wondrous ideas of sci-fi have become yawn-inducing. Fortunately for me, beyond the world of tedious mass media sci-fi, lies the exciting world of literary science fiction or "SF" constantly producing new ideas to satisfy my hunger for wonder. Now a radical sect of SF writers and critics claim that SF needs to abandon all those wondrous ideas, and concentrate instead on the everyday and the mundane. All hail the Mundane Revolution!

Make sure to check out the comments section too. Best line of the week:

You obviously didn't go to Science Fiction finishing school.

To the BBC


On the BBC on Friday

The Mundane Movement in Science Fiction

Should sci-fi writers create plots which feature futuristic space ships flying faster than the speed of light, or should they focus instead on today’s real scientific discoveries and the changing nature of the planet we live on? That's the debate that been sparked off by a new manifesto for Mundane Sci-Fi. Geoff Ryman, one of the founders of the movement, explains his aims to Kirsty Lang.

The May edition of InterZone Magazine is dedicated to Mundane Sci-Fi. It is published on 8 May.

Click here to listen to it quick. You only have another 6 days until it goes off-air.

"Cheap food, like cheap oil, may be a thing of the past..."



Democracy Now:

"In Bangladesh at least 15,000 garment factory workers went on strike earlier today to call for higher wages to cover the soaring price of food. In South Africa, the country’s main union has kicked off a series of protests over increasing food prices. In recent weeks food riots have also erupted in Haiti, Niger, Senegal, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. Protests have flared in Morocco, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mexico and Yemen....Here in the United States, food inflation has reached the highest level in seventeen years, and analysts expect it to get worse.

The Telegraph:

"A new Cold War is taking shape, around energy and food. The world intelligentsia has been asleep at the wheel. While we rage over global warming, global hunger has swept in under the radar screen.”

The Independent:

"The global food crisis became official yesterday."


"[I]t’s not clear how much can be done. Cheap food, like cheap oil, may be a thing of the past."

[image courtesy of]

The Mundanista News Wrap-Up 03/21/08


-Happy Iraq War Anniversary! To celebrate, Oil Change International has released a report on its 5 year climate and energy impact. Money quotes:
"Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends."
"If the war was ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do annually. Falling between New Zealand and Cuba, the war each year emits more than 60% of all countries."

-The Case for Cars! OMG you guys, Robert Zubrin has joined the ranks of DailyKos! *gasp* His mission? Destroy OPEC. (For great justice.) Because only by destroying OPEC and switching to methanol can we beat the arabs to something. Best part: Methanol's only considered environmentally hazardous if you want to keep your optic nerves!

-Enough to make yourself sick. Almost ten percent of the U.S. population now suffer from an autoimmune disorder, with that number increasing each year. It now outnumbers both cancer and heart disease in causes of death nationwide.

-Water is for the weak! So because some crybaby hippies insist on bringing attention to the fact that people need water to live, and the fact that most people are in favor of people living, World Water Day is tomorrow. Enjoy it while it lasts. Oh, and by some strange coincidence, they're remaking Dune.

-25 reasons to read New Scientist. NS has a panel discussion of the 25 biggest future threats to biodiversity. Congratulations to the winners!

-My God, it's full of flaws! 2001: A Space Odyssey named one of the ten most historically inaccurate fims evar by Yahoo movies. (Clever, eh?)

Consensus Future


Here's some great denial-breaking mundane sf thought from a Gary Westfahl essay just published on Locus Online:

It need not be said that science fiction today, more so than ever before, perceives itself to be in desperate straits; concerned reports of plummeting sales, shrinking income, and cancelled contracts are all too common. While many explanations can be advanced for these sad developments, I see the central problem as the genre's ongoing overreliance upon an exhausted, and clearly invalidated, "consensus future."

This consensus future was probably best articulated in Donald A. Wollheim's The Universe Makers: Science Fiction Today (1971), and has been most vigorously promoted by various incarnations of Star Trek — so much so that one might describe it today as the "Star Trek future." It's what I've been talking about all along — the idea that humanity will, in relatively little time and with relatively little effort, expand first throughout the solar system and then throughout the cosmos to inhabit thousands of worlds, bond with generally humanoid alien species, build a Galactic Empire or a Federation of Planets, and keep advancing toward an ultimate encounter with God Himself. Now, as I can confess from personal experience, it is very easy to grow tired of stories set within this overly familiar sort of future, and the events of the last fifty years, as I have discussed, certainly provide more than enough reasons for questioning its accuracy as a prediction of humanity's future.

In sum, as I mentioned in my essay on The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, this "consensus future" of science fiction is actually nothing more than a fantasy. And, if readers are going to be spending their time with fantasy, why shouldn't they go for the real thing, instead of ersatz fantasy masquerading as a prediction of humanity's future? Might this be the reason why fantasy is booming, and science fiction is floundering?

Nothing more than a fantasy.

It's the end of the world and he feels fine


James Lovelock, popularizer of the Gaia Hypothesis, which has had several outings in Science Fiction, has given a recent interview:
In 1965 executives at Shell wanted to know what the world would look like in the year 2000. They consulted a range of experts, who speculated about fusion-powered hovercrafts and "all sorts of fanciful technological stuff". When the oil company asked the scientist James Lovelock, he predicted that the main problem in 2000 would be the environment. "It will be worsening then to such an extent that it will seriously affect their business," he said.

"And of course," Lovelock says, with a smile 43 years later, "that's almost exactly what's happened."
On the subject of what the future holds now.
Most of the things we have been told to do [to prevent climate change] might make us feel better, but they won't make any difference. Global warming has passed the tipping point, and catastrophe is unstoppable.

"It's just too late for it," he says. "Perhaps if we'd gone along routes like that in 1967, it might have helped. But we don't have time... Britain is going to become a lifeboat for refugees from mainland Europe, so instead of wasting our time on wind turbines we need to start planning how to survive. To Lovelock, the logic is clear... our only chance of survival will come not from less technology, but more.


Humanity is in a period exactly like 1938-9, he explains, when "we all knew something terrible was going to happen, but didn't know what to do about it". But once the second world war was under way, "everyone got excited, they loved the things they could do, it was one long holiday ... so when I think of the impending crisis now, I think in those terms. A sense of purpose - that's what people want."


What would Lovelock do now, I ask, if he were me? He smiles and says: "Enjoy life while you can. Because if you're lucky it's going to be 20 years before it hits the fan."
So, here's the question to all right-thinking SF fans out there.

Is it more enjoyable to write SF about space travel and aliens and how the act of shopping is going to drive the technological revolution, or do you want to write Mundane-SF that looks a bit funny now, but stands a chance of becoming increasingly relevant as time progresses?

Anyone can write a cyberpunk crime story today, but the people who look good are the ones who wrote it before the mainstreaming of the Internet. The technology was all there to see back in the 1980s; but precious few people recognized how important it was at the time.