Science Fiction Double Feature


I’ve been very happily reading a stream of wonderful science fiction lately. Hannu Rajaniemi’s Casual Angel, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, and now William Gibson’s The Peripheral. I’m just at the beginning of The Peripheral and what strikes me most is how Gibson throws you in. You really have no idea, except in the broadest way, what is going on. Not entirely lost, but not exactly sure either. I like that in a novel. There have been some wonderful interviews with Gibson just lately. Io9’s interview talks about cognitive dissonance and the need for a science fiction reader to develop a way of reading that allows them to go with the flow. And yet Gibson is so full of details. Especially of modern materials: polymers, resins, plastics, tech.

And, of course, I’ve seen Interstellar. No confusion there. (I asked my family, who haven’t and won’t see it, to predict in which order the four characters who travel into space die/meet their fate. They got it right.) It’s both magnificent and flawed. So relentlessly American. (Surely some other nations will be up there in space come the apocalypse or even, foolishly optimistic thought, an international team) But wonderful, nonetheless.

All this talk of science fiction and space makes me miss Iain Banks. There’s a 2010 interview he did with Jude Roberts up at Strange Horizons. Sigh.



With apologies to the wonderous Neil Gaiman, I offer these less sage – but perhaps still necessary –  directives for life in the science fictional universe.

Trust the pilot with the old and rusted machine, nothing new and shiny is likely to work.

Wormholes and alternative timelines may look like an easy way out of trouble, but rarely prove to be so.

The advisability of bumping into your alternative/earlier/later self is not clear. Try not to.

At some point there will be a war involving robots and matter-altering devices. It will change the universe(s). Stay out of it if you can.

Artificial life forms are usually benevolent provided they have some degree of autonomy.

Body altering surgery is de rigueur.

However, you can always tell how old someone is by looking into their eyes.

You head is being messed with.

It is wise to back up your consciousness wherever/whenever possible.

The nature of humankind is almost always selfish and cruel. Nevertheless, in years to come and despite all evidence to the contrary, we’ll still be obsessed with religion.

Aliens can take you by surprise.

Immortality is not all it’s cracked up to be.