On 10th October I had the honour of speaking at Ada Lovelace Day Live! 2017 as a science fiction writer among an amazing group of scientists. Now, I do know that one is supposed to announce these things before they happen in case people want to go, but it’s been extraordinarily hectic as I’ve just started a PhD at the Astrophysics Research Institute in Liverpool and I don’t quite have my sea legs yet. So this is late.
During my talk, ‘Has reality put science fiction out of business?’ I listed several books as examples of the many different kinds of functions that science fiction has. I promised to put these on my website since I was whipping through the slides quickly. Here they are! Only a few days late. Forgive me.
I would like to add that this list is only the tip of the iceberg. It was assembled in haste, and there are many, many other authors and books that could have been included. I’m especially kicking myself about omitting these: Nnedi Okorafor, who is an engine of imagination (her Hugo-winning Binti might be a good place to start), Emma Newman (whose Clarke-shortlisted After Atlas is a gripping mystery set on another world), the short fiction of Aliette de Bodard, which looks at space travel via mindships in Vietnamese/Chinese cultural futures (try On a Red Station, Drifting), and literary novelist Nina Allan (The Rift).
Now, here are the books that I showed on the slides:
Anne Charnock’s Dreams Before the Start of Time extrapolates from current tech to explore the future of reproductive technology.
N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo-winning The Fifth Season uses metaphor to deal with the impact of systems of oppression.
Nisi Shawl’s Everfair follows the road not taken with an alternate history of the Belgian Congo
A great example of using science fiction to push a concept to its extreme is Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka, in which language literally shapes reality…
Classic title Floating Worlds by Cecilia Holland experiments with alternative political structures in a futuristic Solar System.
Science fiction can interrogate social constructs like classism and racism, as in Stephanie Saulter’s Gemsigns and its sequels about a future London in which specialist humans have been genetically engineered to serve humanity.
Novels like The Rapture by Liz Jensen are science fiction as a form of protest–in this case, a stark warning about the environmental future of our planet in the form of a thriller.
The human impact of technology is a theme in much of Pat Cadigan‘s work, including her Clarke-winning Synners where addiction to virtual reality transforms its users. Most of Cadigan’s stuff is damned prescient.
Natural History by Justina Robson goes beyond humanity to post-human existence beyond the Solar System, where human and machine are blended in one personality.
Finally, Karen Lord offers hope for the future in The Best of All Possible Worlds, an optimistic and progressive vision of what is possible in the distant future beyond Earth–surely one of the most important functions that science fiction could have right now!