Saturday, May 17, 2008

From I, Robot to iRobot

As Justina Robson pointed out on a recent panel about near future SF, things like this are all very well but most of them don't clean in the corners properly because they are designed by men. There's a woman on the team behind this, so maybe it does better.

I see from the new issue of Interzone that my big space robot story, 'Little Lost Robot', is now a coming attraction...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The blurb for The Quiet War:

Twenty-third century Earth, ravaged by climate change, looks backwards to the holy ideal of a pre-industrial Eden. Political power has been grabbed by a few powerful families and their green saints. Millions of people are imprisoned in teeming cities; millions more labour on pharaonic projects to rebuild ruined ecosystems.

On the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, the Outers, descendants of refugees from Earth’s repressive regimes, have constructed a wild variety of self-sufficient cities and settlements: scientific utopias crammed with exuberant creations of the genetic arts; the last outposts of every kind of democratic tradition.

The fragile detente between the Outer cities and the dynasties of Earth is threatened by the ambitions of the rising generation of Outers, who want to break free of their cosy, inward-looking pocket paradises, colonise the rest of the Solar System, and drive human evolution in a hundred new directions. On Earth, many demand pre-emptive action against the Outers before it’s too late; others want to exploit the talents of their scientists and gene wizards. Amid campaigns for peace and reconciliation, political machinations, crude displays of military might, and espionage by cunningly wrought agents, the two branches of humanity edge towards war . . .

From the prison cities of Earth to the scrupulously realised landscapes of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, The Quiet War’s exotic, fast-paced space opera turns on a single question: who decides what it means to be human?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

When We Were Cool

There’s long been a close and sometimes fruitful relationship between science fiction and the music of popular beat combos. In a recent article (in the Guardian, but not on-line as far as I know), Jon Savage provides a useful corrective to the motion that SF-influenced is dominated by heavy metal and prog rock bands (with David Bowie as a glam outlier to the latter): Joy Division and a host of 1970s punk and post-punk bands were informed and influenced by SF of the period, available in cheap paperback editions along with all kinds of pulp fiction and experimental and fringe literature. Savage also highlights the importance of independent bookshops as beacons of the offbeat; in the case of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, these included shops run by David Britton and Mike Butterworth, such as House on the Borderland and Orbit: vital beacons of alt. culture.My favourite song of the period remains The Only Ones’ ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’, but it wouldn’t take much thought to work up a top twenty . . .

Currently reading: Titan Unveiled by Ralph Lorenz and Jacqueline Mitton, not only full of insights about Saturn’s largest moon, but also a great account of the science and engineering that underpinned the Cassini mission and transformed Titan ‘from an object of speculation to a planetary world with its own set of processes and observable effects.’ And makes me want to write a bunch of stories set there as soon as possible.
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