Potential use of Science Fiction?

The south, and particularly the south-west, is receiving a battering of storms… and has been doing so since before Christmas. The Somerset Levels are flooded, train lines into Devon are blocked, either by flooding or landslips, coastal landmarks have disappeared and more are in danger of sinking into the sea. It’s horrendous. I feel sorry for the people who have been and continue to be so badly affected.

I’m lucky in comparison. The storm over Christmas blew down my neighbour’s fence, which thankfully just missed my newly bought car. I had some new fencing put up in my garden during the summer – if I had kept the old fencing, it would certainly have collapsed under the pressure of the wind. The worst that has so far happened to me is being woken up in the middle of the night by the howl of the wind.

But, you know, these storms have been going on since 2007. I remember driving through Upton-upon-Severn after the floods had receded – the stench, coming from the decaying grass, was awful. One house was situated precariously on the edge of a small hill and had to be buttressed, and finding people to get repairs done in the area was a nightmare for some people.

The floods recurred in the same area in 2008, as well as affecting parts of Yorkshire and North Derbyshire. I heard a story of one couple who has lived in the same house for 58 years in Chesterfield being flooded for the first time.

2012 saw rain almost all the summer across the country, with it letting up just in time for the London Olympics. The northeast got a battering – I still remember the picture of the flats that had crumbled into a hidden river beneath.

If it isn’t the rain, it’s the heavy snowfalls – all right – it’s frozen rain. 2009 saw a steam engine taking commuters home when the diesels/electric trains couldn’t run in Kent after a heavy snowfall. December 2010/January 2011  had one of the coldest Decembers/Januaries ever. We shivered and froze.

As an engineer, I welcome the call for the train lines into Devon to be improved to cope with the floods/landslips. If nothing else it will allow materials to transported into the region far more easily to help with repairs. A kind of win-win situation.

I also welcome the call for some kind of barrage on the river Avon to protect Bristol’s city centre. Yes Bristol has had areas flooded this time round (as well as the more famous floods of 1968).

So what would I like to see happen now, apart from obviously giving the necessary help to those affected by the floods and winds?

In the immediate future, I’d like planning permission for new builds etc only to be given once some form of flood precautions were included – like ponds to take run-off water – where the building is in a valley or river plain of some sort.

The other immediate thing I would some sort of strategic plan for England and Wales be put together to counter/protect everyone from being affected by heavy rain, heavy snow, wild winds and summer droughts. Up to now the powers that be have reacted to things going wrong. What we need is pre-emptive actions.

This is where science fiction can help.

No, I’m not joking.

Science fiction can act as a source of ideas of what to do. It can inform the powers that be of what might be possible. It acts as a white-board for the possible.

I have already demonstrated this through my published short story, Ripple Effect. But what you probably don’t know is that my first novel (the novel every writer has to write to get bad habits out of their system) was about the fishing industry in 50 years time. Yes, there are some very interesting ideas in it that might (not saying would) help deal with the horrendous weather we are seeing now.

For instance Loncon3 could, if there was enough interest, have a half-a-day workshop to generate such ideas, followed by an anthology of short stories or articles.

This is an opportunity for science fiction to contribute – and be seen to contribute to society. The obvious knock-on effect will be that science fiction, as a genre, will earn more public respect and more interest will be taken in it.

So how about it? Shall we?

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4 thoughts on “Potential use of Science Fiction?

  1. No, I’m not joking.

    I don’t think anybody could think you were joking considering what we in the South West are going through right now. I’m lucky to live in Swindon, on a hill and with no river running through it but I do visit Bristol regularly.

    I also have friends on the Somerset Levels and down into Devon (where I used to live) and Cornwall. I am supposed to be travelling to Cornwall on the 20th by train but concerned if things get worse that I might not get anywhere near Exeter, let alone beyond.

    This whole thing is a horrid mess and I am angry on behalf of everyone who is suffering in Somerset right now.

    So how about it? Shall we?

    Count me in.

  2. That sounds like a great idea!
    Although I laugh at comments about Yorkshire flooding. I lived in York and now live near Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, all of which have been plastered over the news because of the flooding. All of which have been flooding quite happily for many years. It’s what they do, and they probably have lessons to teach other places as the climate gets worse.

  3. As with all things like this we need to look at the root cause of the problems. The areas with the worst flooding have the rivers and drains administered by the Environment Agency, the head of which has a literary degree and there appears to be no engineers in management.

    With that sort of incompetence how can anyone expect anything to be done.

    The first thing that needs to be done is to remove all the dead wood in management and replace all of the top people with engineers that have experience in river management and civil engineering and set them to work on the problem.

    Weather is weather and always will be. In fact, what we are being told is very bad weather actually isn’t, you only have to look to the 40s and 50s to see that. What we are seeing is the lack of engineering expertise on the ground.

    Engineering has been replaced by sociology to the detriment of all. Yes SF could be used to show that there are many engineering answers to problems. I say could because it appears that SF itself has fallen for sociological stories over engineering ones and is, in many cases, just navel gazing rather than being forward looking, but then writers generally reflect their times and its outlook – it takes the exceptional writer to break out of that and look to the future.

  4. Just a heads up that other people are considering this proposal… they have to talk to others and this takes time. But there are two distinct possibilities being pursued. I’ll let you know more when I hear anything.

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