The Early Days of a Better Nation

Saturday, January 01, 2011

2011 - Year of Hope

It's all true, you know: Scottish writers do sometimes meet in a pub, where over a few pints we share our plans for world domination. We don't call ourselves the mafia for nothing, you know.

So I'm explaining the novel I'm writing and Ian Rankin says:

'Tell me Ken, is anyone writing a hopeful novel about the future?'

'That's my next,' I tell him.

It seems to be a trend. Charlie has a hopeful novel in the works, Alastair Reynolds has a whole series outlined, and I've heard the same question from some actual scientists.

One of the side-effects of writing a dystopian novel is that you start to look for the bright side, like that phone app that shows you what stars you're looking at and when you turn it towards the ground you see the sun on the other side of the Earth.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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So I was not the only one to ask you Ken?

No - the others were Colin McInnes and Malcolm Macdonald at the Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory (though they put the question a bit differently).

2011 - the Fist Year of a Better Nation? Happy New Year Ken!!

Happy New Year James!

Alas, I've got roughly one-and-two-thirds other books to write before I get round to "The Lambda Functionary", that optimistic near-future one. Hopefully I'll live long enough ...

From a future issue of The Scottish Journal of Improbable Psychology: A correlation between optimism in modern Scottish science fiction and regional snowfall.

Snow is pretty cheering, at least if you don't have to shovel it. I miss it. (I don't miss the humid cold of Ottawa, but I miss real snow.)

Possibly because absolutely nothing confirms in one's mind the utility of technology like spending a couple hours out in the snow and then returning to a heated space.

I might suppose that gloomy futures are easier; you can take an unfortunate trend and extend it. (I did just that a minute ago looking at the Hudson's Bay ice coverage info for this year -- "there go the polar bears" went through my head as a sort of autonomous gloom.)

Positive futures take presenting a believable different organization of the world, and that's much tougher.

Though I am still going to laugh and laugh if the 2012 Rekindling of the Magic Sun turns out to be the US Navy's little fusion side project working.

And what's Mr Rankin writing next? I had no complaints about The Complaints.

And here I am working on a particulary nasty dystopia. Always out of step, so to speak.

Darren - no idea. Probably about a detective, that's my educated guess.

Neal - I'm sure you'll do a fine job of it.

Graydon - I think snow is cheering because it changes the landscape overnight. Good points on gloomy and positive futures. Mind you, I remember Lizard, who thought 'Blade Runner' and Neuromancer were good worlds.

A happy new year to you, too. I have a theory that alternate history has become popular because modern visions of the future tend to be depressing or intimidating. The prospect of some cheerfulness breaking out (at least here and there) is encouraging.

Speaking of alternate history, I'm here because I read your recent story 'Sidewinders', and liked it so much that I then read it again. Not because it's particularly optimistic; it just hit the spot, somehow, and I liked the style and pace.

Ah, thanks. You know, what inspired that story was meeting Storm Constantine at a con and telling her that John Clute had written (years ago) that he always reads her name as 'Storm Constantinople!'

Well, that and a few alternate histories that have occurred to me over the years, like Bonnie Prince Charlie taking London, or Harold Wilson being a martyr of the British Revolution.

I also liked the little touches of humour in an otherwise serious story.

But I'm a fast reader by habit, so I sometimes miss things. I noticed "The best-laid plans of Miocene men" on third reading...

Talking of Scottish writers I was just thinking of Grant Morrison the other day. I was hoping nobody drags him up in the debate about the encouragement, alleged or otherwise, of assassinations.

Hope about the future? Well, that's one thing we've got to look forward to!

Ken, I'm browsing thru your weblog and found this. Looking back on it 6 yrs later, I can guess Reynolds' optimistic SF and Stross was going to write Lambda Functionary. :(
Which of your books was the optimistic one? Intrusion or Descent? Or are you referring to Restoration Game?

Thanks and best wishes for you and yours for the holidays!

Rereading your post here, you weren't writing an optimistic novel, so probably Intrusion.

Nevermind. :}

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