The Early Days of a Better Nation

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Backward, on the year 2008

Last New Year, my resolutions were to write faster and to blog more. I seem to have accomplished the latter. Comments have been (mostly) all I could wish for - thanks to all, and special thanks to regular commenters.

As for writing: I had a delayed start on my next novel after The Night Sessions, partly because I made a false start on a sequel (which I may yet write). Then I took a long time over planning out the novel I'm actually writing, The Restoration Game. That was well worth doing, but my blithe assumption that it would make the actual writing a lot faster turned out to be mistaken. One side-effect of that blithe assumption was that commissioned stories and non-fiction pieces I'd blithely agreed to fell due in time I'd expected to be clear when I agreed to them. But the book's coming along fine, and is still on course for publication in 2009.

Next Monday, I'm starting a part-time job as one of two (hi, Pippa) Writers in Residence for the Genomics Forum, based at Edinburgh University. A large part of my work will consist of, ah, writing science fiction, and Darren Nash, my editor at Orbit, is very much on board for a science fiction novel with a genomics angle, so everything should fit together reasonably well (touch wood).

But I'm even more elated and enthusiastic about the prospect of doing other work - getting to know social scientists and biological scientists in their natural habitat, and taking part in outreach activities such as an event on Darwinian evolution and computer games sponsored by listings freesheet The Skinny, scheduled for 7 February.

My first project, I think, might be to circulate a list of SF short stories and novels relevant to (a) sociology and (b) genomics. I have a few in mind, but any suggestions will be gratefully recieved, even if I've thought of them already.

All the best for 2009 to all my readers (except the spammers, obviously).


The Lathe of Heaven, for both.

Thanks for good blogging, and a Happy New Year's Eve to you.

SF short stories [...] relevant to sociology

Have you got "The Snowball Effect", by Katherine MacLean?

Happy New Year to Ken and all you readers.

Cyteen - probably for both.

Distraction, obviously - although it has politics rather than sociology...

Maybe Cyril Kornbluth's "MS. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie" for (a)? Actually, I think that's also a good candidate for the old trick of writing a pseudo-reconstruction of a fictional piece within someone else's, like all those Necronomicons - if it hasn't been done already.

Ken, that's a wonderful appointment. This is one more proof that SF, especially when done by experts, is relevant to present-day issues. You are a politically interested biologist and writer who is contributing to the solution of the four simultaneously life-threatening crises we must now confront head-on: climate change, the failing and unjust global economy, aging, and population growth.
I wish you success. In 1975 a Danish leftist told me that since 1970 we have had the means to feed, clothe, house, and attempt to keep in decent health, every human being then on our planet. I've long been tempted to add, "Yes, but we blew it, and we blew it because of greed." Please do your best to falsify that sentence

My girlfriend has ordered The Night Sessions for me from Forbidden Planet London as a solstitial gift; it's something of an indulgence, but there's no evidence of an American release date in sight as yet. The Internet and the global economy make me happy! Actually getting things shipped from them is a little tricky—both times I've used them I ended up needing to figure out how to telephone from San Diego to London to straighten something out—but I'd certainly deal with them again if I wanted something else that I couldn't get in the USA.

Mind you, I certainly hope there will be an American edition in the near future!

William - thanks, and I hope you enjoy the book. I too hope there will be an American edition in the near future. Hope, not believe :-)

George - thanks.

Everyone else - good suggestions. Keep them coming!

Good luck with the new job, it sounds a lot more fun than banging away at the codeface.

As for books with a genomics angle would "Darwin's Radio" qualify?

I would also recommend anything by Peter Watts for the biological angles.

Hi, Ken,
Congratulations on the Writer in Residence post. It sounds right up your street.

In relation to books with a genomic angle, would Heinlein's "Friday" fit (people cloned with specific skills for specific roles - becoming 2nd class citizens)? Also, how's about "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"? Both a bit old.

I hope 2009 is great for you.

Charles Darwin,
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.Charles Darwin
Brave New World
Woman on the Edge of Time
Walden 2
Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night

Communist Manifesto
The Culture novels and short story of you know who
China Mountain Zhang
Fahrenheit 451
Stand on Zanzibar
Red Mars, Orange County etc
The Dispossessed
World during wartime
Caves of Steel
The Iron Council

Thanks for the books Ken

Happy New Year Ken

The Moral Virologist by Greg Egan

The dystopian works of
Janusz Andrzej Zajdel...

Flying Spaghetti Monster, I'm depressed already.

Writer in residence sounds like a cool job, I'm very curious what the result will be.

Regarding SF with a sociology/biology/genomics angle: I can only second Cyteen/C.J.Cherryh -- a sociological sound study of a clon society.

Also Greg Egan comes to mind, especially his short story collection Axiomatic.

And as a must-read for SF-writers in residence in science projects: Kim Stanley Robinsons Antarctica.

Something by Sheri S Tepper (Grass? One of her green-feminist pieces?).
Some Gwyneth Jones - I'd be tempted by Kairos.
Swastika Night (can't remember the author) might be a good one: 1930s book set 1000 years into the Nazi rule, in which women are suppressed by a homoerotic regime and the English are hated for holding out against divine Adolf.

Not much read these days, but War with the Newts by Karel Capek (he of "robot" fame) might be worth a look - some great parodies of early sociology and the racial theories of the 1930s, among many other things.

And in a similar vein, Vonnegut's Galapagos for genomics.

Happy new year to you, Ken.

I really enjoyed The Night Sessions. My question to you is: can you do bleaker? lol

Best of luck with the new novel.

Thanks, AVPS. Did you think The Night Sessions was bleak? I thought it was quite cheerful, myself. But don't worry: the next novel (The Restoration Game) probably will be bleaker.

Hi Ken,

I do not know if the label "sociological" quite applies but the short story "The Ungoverned" by Vernor Vinge jumped into my head when I read your post.

I have not had a chance to read Night Sessions yet (might order it from, I am in the US) but quite enjoyed Execution Channel.

All the best with the new appointment and look forward to reading the genomics novel.

Not a novel, but "Sisters" by Greg Bear should be on any such list. And a big seconding to Distraction

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