Happy New Year…. and yes it’s that time of the year when people try to look forward to what the future holds for us and what they want to achieve.
So what does the future hold for science fiction, especially in the UK?
Well, let’s take a small step back into last year. I asked a friend why there weren’t more women science fiction writers? Two stories came out of the ensuing conversation…
- There was a male writer who wanted to write and publish science fiction. He kept being rejected. So in the end, he wrote a thriller, which did get published. It was only after his success with thrillers that he was able to get his science fiction published.
- Everyone knows that the women science fiction writers could get published more easily in that middle of the last century if they adopted a male pseudonym or just used their initials. Those that did become successful under their own names tended to concentrate on the female-interest topics e.g. Anne McCaffrey on romance and Ursula Le Guin on social issues.
Turning these two frustrating aspects – the difficulty of getting published in science fiction by anyone and the difficulty of a female science fiction writer get published under own name – will continue. Both cases are like turning a huge tanker round in a gale force storm.
But I’m reminded of another campaign that reached a semi-successful conclusion a hundred years ago next month. The passing of the parliament bill to extend voting rights to women over 30. It was a decade later that it was brought down to the same age as men. The momentum for it had been building up over decades, but it took the first world war to show everyone that women did their part for the defence of this country. There would have been howls of derision had parliament not allowed the votes for women.
And so it is with the two topics – getting into science fiction writing in the first place, and writing under your full name as a lady science fiction writer. It’ll take a similar drastic (though hopefully not as disastrous) event to get either accepted. But still, like the tanker slowly turning, progress will be made on both these topics during 2018, because neither topic will go away.
On the science front, there will be a spate of interesting spacecraft launches in 2018. Expect more announcements on exoplanets – the search for new ones is going full pelt. As for particle physics, the LHC is still experimenting. Quantum computers will develop at a considerable pace, but remember, they’re not processing-wise like the computers we know and love. This will feed interest into near term science fiction, but as to when the impact of this is seen in publications, well that could be several years away.
In the UK we will also have to contend with Brexit. It’s taking up a lot of people’s time and energy, either organising it or opposing it. That means less time for reading novels, including science fiction. Yes, there will be some who will use the entertainment as escapism from all the nastiness being slung around, but that’s what it will be, escapism. Which should mean an even greater bias to the fantasy end of science fiction.
But after the shouting, wrangling etc has toned down (it’ll never be done, because whichever way things go, it will be unfinished business), the attitude will veer to getting things done. So somewhere about the Autumn I expect to see an inflection point where the interest starts to turn to the more sciency science fiction. Because it’s coming from such a low ratio (about 6 fantasy to 1 science fiction) it will not appear to make much of a dent to start with. It’s only if this trend continues for a few years will things change. I suspect it will, on the grounds that people, once they see the benefits of sorting things out for themselves, will want to continue to do so. I have also seen signs that the publishing industry realise instinctively that this is the trend of tomorrow. (I’m not sure they’ve worked out the socio-economics behind that instinct.)
So what will 2018 bring on a personal front for me?
Although I will never stop ‘twiddling with it’ (read that as polish-editing), I now have a novel I can tout it round the bazaars if I want to. I know what’s in that novel – I’ve read some incredible science fiction that left me with jaw-dropping impressions and my novel has that feel (despite me being my usual over-critical self of my own work) – so I’m going be fussy as to where it gets published.
It does mean I get chance to start a completely new novel this year. It’s going to stretch my capabilities, but that’s a good thing.
Short story-wise, The Colditz Run in the The Last City anthology will be published in the next month or so. I’m drafting a couple of short stories which should be ready later in the year. I suspect as the year progresses there will be more short stories that will demand my attention to get them written.
Happy New Year everyone, may it be better than 2017 for all of us!