SF after the COVID-19 Pandemic?

One thing for certain is that things will not be quite the same once this pandemic is over. What the full extent of those changes will be is difficult to forecast. But there are some things that we can easily see now.

One such is that the acceleration in climate change will slow down because we are already seeing less air pollution from vehicles. Reports are already coming in of noticeable drops in nitrogen dioxide and particulates in city centres, and there are satellite maps showing global decreases. The full extent of that drop in pollution remains to be seen.

Home working for those that can will become more prevalent after the pandemic is over. It had been allowed by some companies beforehand, but nowhere near the levels we are seeing now. And more companies will see the advantages of this mode of working and therefore continue it. This will mean less vehicles on the roads than we have seen before the pandemic etc.

With so many people being under lock down and away from their work, they will have more time for their hobbies. I’ve been keeping an eye on my favourite handicraft website for a particular cross-stitch kit and watching the number of available cross-stitch kits fall and be replenished more rapidly than I have seen for the previous months. I’ve heard a report from one of my neighbours (at a safe distance I may say) about there being a surge for glass for making stained glass items. There has also been a noticeable increase in the number of novel submissions to agents and publishers. There will definitely be a flourish of creative activity.

However, in the case of novels I cannot see the publishers taking on more novels than they have done to date, because by the time they get these submitted novels published the pandemic will all but be over and people will be concentrating on getting back on their feet in various different ways. It won’t be as bad as the post World War II rebuilding that went on for many years, but it will have an impact.

One thing that has been noticeable is the way current industries are being diverted to making other things, in this case ventilators and protective kit of the doctors, nurses and carers. The turn round has been far more rapid than we’ve seen in the past. I think this is an acceleration of the trend to multi-purpose goods manufacturing from a more versatile set of production machines. This will lead to a reduction in the boom and bust of the manufacturing centres, which will have an impact on the way world economics is run. As to how much of an impact, your guess is as good as mine.

However, the major impact I’m seeing is the more obvious community spirit – people looking out for each other in the face of the that of illness. This is an attitudinal change that will last down the decades. We will become a closer knit society as a result of this.

There will be other changes as yet not apparent. But we’ve already seen enough more than enough to say things will not be the same again.

Has any of this been predicted by science fiction?

Well – it is too much in the detail and subtleties for science fiction publishers to take much of an interest.

These societal changes we are seeing now will change the extrapolated arc of the future, slowly at first, but accelerating later on. It means that a whole new panorama of the future should be developed by what I call the futuristic science fiction writers.

And many of them will. But it will take time for this different extrapolated future to filter through the various dampeners the publishers (both production and conservative story-arc-wise) will put on these brave SF writers. They will not give up that easily, thank goodness.

What it does mean is that the publishers who break ranks to bring the new extrapolated futures into print, will have an edge on the others, because this is what a significant number of readers will have an interest in.

 

 

 

 

Newsy Bits and Bobs

It’s too nice to be indoors, and will be going out this afternoon, only into the garden I hasten to add – the lawns need mowing if nothing else.

I woke up to a lovely e-mail saying my short story Slivers of Hope has been accepted by the Space Force – Building the Legacy anthology to be published by scifiscribe link here. Particularly pleased this story will be published – yes there is a story behind the story, but I’ll save that for a rainy day to post.

You remember that infamous anthology I helped to edit? That’s right, we’re talking about Distaff. Be warned – the ‘chronners’ are plotting behind the scenes for a kind of Distaff-2. Discussion is ongoing in the forum, but you have to be a member to join in that discussion.

Distaff Laurels

And for those who publish e-books in the UK – just a note to say that from 1st December 2020 VAT will no longer be payable on your published e-books. See here for details.

Sadly EasterCon 2020 at Birmingham has fallen to join the swathe of closures as a result of Covid-19. Whilst expected and understandable under the circumstances, it still is disappointing. BristolCon in October is still planning to go ahead for now on the assumption that Covid-19 restrictions will no longer be required then. I’m sure that if Covid-19 is still an issue then, the committee will make the right decision.

Let’s Speed Up Countering Future Epidemics

This lovely complicated diagram about the Covid-19 has recently appeared in an article in Nature. (Link here). Not being a medical or biology or chemistry expert I don’t even pretend to begin to understand what this is saying, except it is showing up where the mutations are in relevant place in the virus’ chemistry.

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One thing that is clear to me is that Covid-19 (CoV-2 on the diagram) has come about as a result of changes in certain places and the import of an additional few bits on one place in particular. This is all part of natural evolutionary processes.

Which is why this is not the first pandemic, not regrettably do I suspect will it be the last.

As western societies are adjusting their lifestyles to avoid as many deaths as practicable, research into finding ways of alleviating the symptoms is being done in parallel to developing a vaccine. Like everyone who is facing the prospect of having to deal with nasty little bug, I wish the research and vaccine development was further on than it is. Unfortunately these things cannot be rushed.

But lessons can be learned of what is happening here so that we are better prepared if another such nasty virus comes along. This should include prioritising developing methods to help get a better rapid response out there.

When I see diagrams like that above I immediately think this a complex long molecule.  It will take what I call a designer molecule to counteract it and its effects. Computer algorithms do exist to do this for simple molecules, but have not yet been developed for the size of molecules like these.

There is an added complication. The way counteracting molecules can be designed required long arduous programming on computers – years if not decades of computing time. But research is ongoing into a new type of programming on a new type of computer – quantum computers. There has already been some success in designing small specific molecules to undertake specialist functions. What is needed are bigger evaluation capacity quantum computers and programmes capable of designing bigger molecules on these quantum computers.

Once the immediate pandemic is nearly over I would like to see more continuous investment in the research of better quantum computers and improved programming techniques for designer molecules. Then next time round, we as a species might be able to speed up the research for a vaccine or cure to an epidemic.

One way to encourage such research is to write and publish a science fiction story about the benefit such speeded up research would give – maybe comparing the effects in parallel worlds.

But I’m no expert in matters medical – so if a science fiction writer is out there, please use this idea for a story and get it published.

It will not solve the problems of this pandemic, but it might be a step along the way making the next epidemic less dangerous.

Sciency New Science Fiction Novel Pick for April

The choicest choice of choices for April is:

Critical Point

by S L Huang

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The Blurb:

S. L. Huang’s Critical Point is a breakout SF thriller for fans of John Scalzi and Greg Rucka.

Math-genius mercenary Cas Russell has stopped a shadow organization from brainwashing the world and discovered her past was deliberately erased and her superhuman abilities deliberately created.

And that’s just the start: when a demolitions expert targets Cas and her friends, and the hidden conspiracy behind Cas’s past starts to reappear, the past, present, and future collide in a race to save one of her dearest friends.

The Reason:

A female mathematician as protagonist. Explosions. A Mystery. A Thriller. Heck, what is there not to like?

Amazon UK link here.

Bits and Bobs

The postman came yesterday and this is what he brought…

Photo on 12-03-2020 at 18.38

That’s right a certificate for an Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest for the quarter that ended 30th September last year. It’s my ninth such certificate and I’m especially pleased with this one as it’s the first award for a non-C.A.T. novelette! (Psst… don’t tell C.A.T. or he’ll go into one of his sulks to make my life unbearable!) (I actually find this competition helpful in that it helps keep me to a schedule!)

As you can see the title is The Waterman – and while he is one of the main protagonists, he is not your normal type of waterman! And that is all I’m going to say about the story. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination!

Today I had my critique for coming second in the Near and Far November competition run by the Kate Nash Literary agency. This was a competition where you submitted the first 3,000 words of a novel and a synopsis. They had some lovely words to say about it including ‘I was left wanting to read on and find out more about this future.‘ And that’s from an agent! Wow! They did give me some pointers as to how to improve my synopsis, which were very helpful.

Our Bristol SF writing circle had its first meet-up this week! It was an interesting experience and all I’m going to say is that I found it more helpful than an on-line writing orbiter because you could bat comments to and fro to generate a darned good discussion. So The others found ti helpful as well. We’ve arrange our next meeting for mid_may. looking forward to it.

 

 

The Beautiful Mountain and Avalon

Huh! What has Avalon got to do with science fiction? And what the blazes is the beautiful mountain? It sounds as if I have lost it with science fiction doesn’t it? Patience. Read on and you will be rewarded!

The Beautiful Mountain is the translation from Swedish of Våckelberget. Such a place does really exist in Sweden as you can see from the picture and is officially a nature reserve.

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What’s so special about it? It’s surrounded by the indigenous pine forest – as you would expect for that part of the country. At the bottom of the south facing side mountain is a marsh, which over the centuries helped keep that side of the mountain warmer than anywhere nearby. When the pine forests advanced southwards with the coming of the ice age, there was an area on the side of the mountain that kept its deciduous trees that became separated from their brethren. The extra warmth let them survive through the generations and like all good survivalists they adapted to their local environment. They diverged from their brethren further south to form their own little community on the southern face of the mountain.

Here we have an real example of how a local climate that produced its own varieties of flora.

What has this got to with Avalon of the Arthurian legend?

Let’s review some of what is known about Avalon. According the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1095 – c. 1155) Avalon:

  • is where the sword excalibur is forged and King Arthur was taken after he was wounded by Mordred at the battle of Camlann
  • can only be reached by a sea voyage i.e. it is an island
  • is called the island of fruit or apple trees

At the end of the 12th century, Gerald of Wales wrote:

What is now known as Glastonbury was, in ancient times, called the Isle of Avalon. It is virtually an island, for it is completely surrounded by marshlands. In Welsh it is called Ynys Afallach, which means the Island of Apples and this fruit once grew in great abundance. After the Battle of Camlann, a noblewoman called Morgan, later the ruler and patroness of these parts as well as being a close blood-relation of King Arthur, carried him off to the island, now known as Glastonbury, so that his wounds could be cared for. Years ago the district had also been called Ynys Gutrin in Welsh, that is the Island of Glass, and from these words the invading Saxons later coined the place-name “Glastingebury”.

So here we have an identified connection of Glastonbury to Avalon.

Glastonbury sits on the Somerset levels, which have over the centuries been gradually drained of water, since before the Doomsday Book of William the Conquerer fame. So in the 5th or 6th centuries when Arthur is supposed to be have been around, Glastonbury Tor will have been surrounded by water from the sea – just as Avalon has been described as.

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Let’s turn to the business of the fruit or apple trees (depending on which translation you believe the more). Glastonbury was surrounded by marsh or wetlands. Interestingly wetlands in the temperate climates are hotter in the summers and colder in the winters.

Colder winters mean the killing off of bugs in the flora to allow them to thrive much better. Hotter summers mean flora normally associated with the more southern parts of Europe could grow here – the same as what has happened with the deciduous trees on Våckelberget. Could this microclimate be the reason why there has been a special mentioned of the fruit / apple trees?

It does all fit together rather well doesn’t it?

What does all this have to do with science fiction? (Well apart from Våckelberget appearing as the bird mountain in my short story Thank You for the Music published Escape Velocity, The Anthology (see here)?)

Micro-climates exist or have existed on Earth. They would exist on any terraformed planet because to the topography alone. But they would talking points among the indigenous intelligent societies – the stuff legends are made of. It’s the kind of thing that can inspire a darned good story or zillion.

 

 

 

Bits and Bobs

March 11th marks C.A.T.’s birthday – because that was the day his first story was published in 2011! What amazes me is the story is still selling on Amazon after nine years. Which goes to show the rascal is more popular than I thought he would ever be!

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C.A.T. is my first standalone-as-an-author publication, so is rather special and it is rather nice he is still going strong (but don’t let him know this or he’ll become insufferably smug!)

The 6-monthly accounts for Distaff are being finalised. We knew last year  we could pay back the loans people generously gave us to fund the launch party at Euro-Con and some publicity – a big thank you to our lenders. It looks like (and subject to confirming the final details) there is a reasonable profit to be shared out in the anthology’s co-operative. This an great achievement given what I have seen around the patch when it comes to selling self-published anthologies. Thank you to all who bought Distaff whether in e-book form or paperback.

The recording of Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy event I went to 25th February is up on the web and can be found here. My impression of the event was reported earlier on this blog and can be found here.

C.A.T. here – what’s my crazy author being say about me now? Oh! Oh that’s a change from her usual grumbles and idiocies. Me like. Purr. But of course I’m special being so purr-rect! Purrrrrrr…..