My two author’s copies of The Last City anthology arrived yesterday, and they’re absolutely gorgeous. James Glover, who did the cover, certainly has an eye for getting a cover that suits both print and e-publishing. Just look at the clarity of the theme combined with the amount of detail e.g. at the light patterns across the helmet’s front reflecting the lights from the city above.
UK Amazon link here.
The contents are amazing too and the first Amazon review reflects this. Yay!
The anthology is all about society in the distant future on a small asteroid called the Island and a few minor settlements around the star system.
But what about the near future?
We know society is changing. The repetitive jobs are being taken over by the machines. Examples include after tractors taking over from farm workers after World War 2, computers taking over from bank clerks in 1990s and machines replacing factory floor workers, which has been gradually going on for the last three decades. Soon we’ll have automated vehicles taking over taxi drivers and delivery vehicles (first it’ll be inter-depot vans, but later the house to house deliveries will also be taken over).
So what kinds of jobs will be available in tomorrow’s society? My guesstimate?
- the creative design industries as machines cannot instigate new designs
- caring industries because people need human contact (this includes caring for the very young and the sick)
- teaching because learners are more likely to try harder if they have someone they want to impress
- governmental decision makers whether at the local or the governmental level
- ‘the small job’ maintenance and service industries where each job is unique (this includes hairdressers, beauty parlours, boiler maintenance and repairs – yes these jobs will change, but they will still need that personal touch)
- competitive sports to entertain people (and prevent the tendency to go to war)
- research and development of new gadgets, materials, welfare enhancements etc.
- the big project societal morale boosters which need human oversight because of their uniqueness
In the much longer term, even these jobs in theory can be taken over by the machines. And the only jobs left would be:
- societal rebel / philosopher / researcher – doing things not expected by society such as designing and making ‘art’ objects that are unexpected by the predictive algorithms
- human interaction facilitator – or party organiser or games masters/mistresses if you must use a more old-fashioned terms
Yet, a lot of science fiction relies on the story lines of today set in a futuristic context. It makes the reader feel more at home with what they are reading. They can relate to it more easily. Also the writer can be lazier, because this is one part of their writing they can minimise their need for homework on. It makes for an efficient public satisfying industry.
From a personal point of view, I have found this following the pattern stories easier to write, quicker to type and more likely to get published. But that’s not really me. Even my C.A.T. novel, which is doing the agent rounds as you read this, started out as ‘a story line of today set in a futuristic context’. Only that is not really me. As I wrote more of C.A.T., the rebel in me took over, edged the novel to the unexpected contexts, so much so that at times I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. It’s as if I have started in the science fiction worlds of today and moved gradually step by step towards new worlds hoping the reader would come with me.
I would call my C.A.T. novel, my bridging novel from the science fictional world of today to as yet unexplored science fiction themes of what tomorrow could be like. The writing of it has opened new vistas of our universe that a couple of years ago I would never have written about, let alone dreamt about. Now I find myself wanting to write on ideas and themes that are very rarely seen or even totally non-existent in science fiction.
Now what are the chances that publishers would want to publish such stories? Realistically speaking, almost zero.
Despite the success of SFerics 2017 (Geoff Nelder’s Angular Size is on the BSFA’s shortlist for shorter fiction), I’m not really a self-publisher. So that is not a route I want to take.
But here’s the really weird thing. When I was on my MA Creative Writing course at Bath Spa University, I intuitively wrote a scene from the point of view of someone learning about their world i.e. their understanding could be considered naive. In the scenery, a glimpse of this something new crept onto the page. To my astonishment my fellow classmates and tutor liked it. I had kind of blundered into something that at the time I had not realised what it was. In one sense this gives me hope that if I get something of the ‘new science fiction’ published, it might be well received.
Whichever way I look at this, I have crossed the ‘Bridge of No Return’. Having had these worlds open up for me, I have difficulty writing the more acceptable science fiction. The rebel always wants to come out and play!
Which brings me back to The Last City. As you can guess by the title of my story in there, ‘The Colditz Run’, it’s about an escape. An as escape from what, I’ll leave for you to find out. For me, it was pointing the way for my writing, an escape from ‘the science fiction story lines of today set in a futuristic context’. However, one of the reasons I find the contents awesome is that they could be a launch pad for some of this new science fiction world stuff. I suspect that if enough copies of the anthology are sold, the publishers are likely to produce a follow-on anthology. And maybe, just maybe, I can slip a touch of this new science fiction stuff in there.