Virtual Futures: Tomorrow’s Wars

Losers
Losers by Phil Jones

Virtual Futures: Tomorrow’s Wars – 17th April 2018

Inspiration & Terror by Andrew Wallace

Virtual Futures began in the early 1990s, when writers, thinkers, performers and scientists got together at Warwick University to grapple with the implications of technological changes sweeping society. Now that we are in that feared and fabled future, a new incarnation of Virtual Futures has been taking place in London. At the inception, one of the most popular elements of the events, or ‘salons’ as they are known, proved to be a short piece of science fiction written and read by science fiction author Stephen Oram. These pieces were so popular that science fiction got its own night within Virtual Futures, with Stephen as the curator. Mixing fiction specially written around the evening’s theme with keynote introductions by noted speakers often prominent scientists in the relevant field, the nights are unlike any other science fiction event in London.

April’s Salon explored the future of warfare, asking these crucial questions:

War has, so far, been inevitable throughout human history but what will the future of conflict or cooperation look like? Will the discoveries of the future lead us to a world without violent disagreement, or just result in us killing one another in more creative ways? 

Keynote speaker: Dr Matthew Ford

Dr Ford is a lecturer in International Relations at the University of Sussex, with a PhD in War Studies from King’s College, London. He also researches military technology, with a focus on the way it bleeds into consumerism whether via exploitation of status, protection of existing supply chains or the tendency to fetishize new technologies. His book, Weapon of Choice, explores power structures in the arenas of production and consumption. His focus is on small arms, and how the ongoing use of these basic weapons underpins the adoption of more complex, headline-grabbing innovations such as drones, bots and machine learning applied to combat situations. At the 17th of April Salon, Dr Ford detailed how his work explores the disjointedness between theoretical ambitions and the experience of those on the front line, who find that technological advances are rarely as clean and precise as advertised.

These analyses are a fascinating perspective for anyone considering future wars, whether real or fictional. Both fictional and real-world narratives have elements in common, and at Virtual Futures Dr Ford described several ways in which these overlap. The first was resistance to change, which can slow evolution of technology into less lethal forms; especially towards non-combatants in urban areas.

The second relates to how military technology is shaped by the society it is meant to serve. Any narrative reflects the environment in which it develops, and concepts like ‘fighting the good fight’, ‘minimising civilian casualties’ and ‘winning hearts and minds’ have become central to the West’s management of warfare.

Finally, War Studies research practices a form of analysis called ‘cones of probability’. This method examines a specific event in terms of every influence that formed it, as well as every outcome; an approach similar to those used in fictional writing and world-building. The ‘cones of probability’ idea provides a framework for thinking about future war, in that it considers the ‘who, what, where and how’ of a conflict.

Future participants in a militarised conflict could it be corporations or even non-government organisations. What would motivate them, and how could new types of motivation influence the approach to combat? Would we see fighting over resources, geographies, populations or ideology?

Where would the war be undertaken? One of the lessons from the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was how geography and terrain thwarted the invading forces despite their superior technology. Tactics need to adapt to every environment: from deserts, jungles and cities to space and even cyberspace.

Cultures drive battlefield technique as much as any anticipated or actual enemy. We are already seeing complications when the laws and norms of war are not shared by the warring parties. How could a state bound by international laws respond if extreme violence inflicted by a non-state actor became the purpose of a war, rather than the means of its resolution?

On a brighter note, Dr Ford mentioned technology’s potential to reconcile the contradictions inherent in a conflict before it even begins. However, the final insights he offered in his keynote are unnerving. He explained that some of the norms of war are breaking down, and not just because of innate complexity or unreason. People involved in planning or managing conflict are now treated like consumers, rather than architects of war. Unsuitable existing technology is thus ‘gold plated’, making it seem more innovative than it is so as to increase profits for the manufacturer. Meanwhile, defence planners who think in twenty or thirty-year timescales ignore the inconvenient ideas of those who develop technologies aimed at soldiers fighting wars now. Effort is therefore expended on building capability without knowing exactly why. At Virtual Futures, Dr Ford explained that this effort can become an end in itself, with a lack of strategic thinking about why violence is used in the first place.

Dr Ford’s warning echoes that given by President Eisenhower as long ago as 1961:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

Eisenhower also advised that “we must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.”

 

STORIES

The keynote speech outlined the confusions and contradictions inherent in both contemporary and the likely shape of future warfare. Underpinning these conflicts-within-conflicts was a sense of unreality; it is becoming harder to know what war is, or even if one is being fought at all. Given the nature of any battlefield, ambiguity can be lethal, but tonight’s Virtual Futures stories achieved the required balance of inspiration and terror.

In The End of War, Jule Owen depicts the ‘life’ of the Director, a Russian artificial intelligence that sees humans as programmable entities. One of the ways it programs them is by rewriting history; sorting out the root causes of war almost as an afterthought. All the AIs in the world are really just one entity. It is a network, which learns like a child and then misses the fun it had in the good old days when it created havoc as it fed on the decaying information structures of the old nation states. Quizzical, bizarrely innocent and empathetic despite being convincingly ‘other’, the Director is as far from The Terminator’s psychopathic Skynet as it’s possible to get. Instead, the increasingly lonely entity allows a hacker access. ‘You’re God,’ the hacker says. The Director disagrees. ‘I did not create you,’ it says, ‘you created me’…

David Gullen’s The Changing Man includes the haunting line ‘even the unborn are collateral damage’. It follows the release of a virus by white supremacists to make everyone like them: War 3.0 – the War on Colour, or perhaps the culmination of its centuries-long prosecution. However, now that anyone with a lab can create bespoke bioweapons, a thousand protean viruses have been released in response. Everybody now changes race and gender daily, and the creators of the original virus now want to stop the process because they are still racist and transphobic. This story is one of several that looked at how uncontrollable war is; the way its outcomes can never be predicted and how it can continue far into the future, even after its original aims have been met. Chillingly, the new endgame is referred to as a ‘cure’.

Trial by Combat by John Houlihan depicts the desperate tactics used by natives of a small island chain against a much more powerful enemy. This story has the feel of epic fantasy as the defenders rely on their best warriors, the feared Mandrake Guard, who are felled by ‘the blasphemous form’ of the Chimera, a monster that emerges from the forest. The female general in charge of the islands’ defence holds her nerve because she has a plan, which is to blow nearby levees and wash the invaders away. It works, and the conflict is revealed to be an immersive virtual reality. However, the conflict underpinning it is real, with the ‘game’ part of a dispute resolution in the UN, witnessed by the world. Although ‘war’ appears to have been abolished, there is a sense that this future society is no less dangerous or exploitative.

Virtual Futures excels at showcasing different narrative forms, including poetry. Allen Ashley’s That Was the War that Was echoes the early 1960s TV satire That Was the Week that Was as aliens hack humanity and play out conflict scenarios for their own unknowable reasons. The poem invokes both the repetitiveness of warfare (World War I/World War 2; Iraq 1/Iraq 2) and its epistemic hollowness: the grim truth that war is never about what we think it is.

Second Skin by Bea Xu opens with a horrific scene depicting the conception of life itself as violent, even warlike, then evolves into a claustrophobic tale in which there are only 2,000 families left thanks to a ‘disease of chronic indolence’. The cause could either be the triumph of capitalism; societal decline caused by endless peace – itself perhaps the result of an absence of any resistance – or a strange family drama in which protagonist Hugo realises he cannot remember his own mother. Random geographical concerns of extreme import, such as the status of the unilateral marshlands of Siberia or the fact that resources are dwindling despite the low population, give the story a feeling of surreal desperation before the final twist.

In Corpse Territory David Turnbull uses an innovative zoom-out technique to depict a battle from the microscopic level to the more familiar human-scale panorama, in which we realise the fighting between people is over even as the battle between the nano-machines continues. There is little difference between the two states; unlike Jule Owen’s Director, these machine intelligences are all too similar to their creators. The resonant title reflects different physical perspectives; the human battlefield is choked with the dead, one of whom forms yet another theatre for war at a much smaller, but no less devastating scale.

Jane Norris’s #warbubble takes war online, which is where a lot of it seems to happen these days anyway. Nations have collapsed; and now protagonist Sam listens to the noise of battle as it rages across the Internet. This is the Confusion War, in which Sam thinks anti-C terrorists are anti-capitalist and therefore decides to fund them; only to find that they are anti-Cartesian, and dedicated to the destruction of the mind as well as all knowledge. Meanwhile, she rejects another group called the IoW because she thinks they are white supremacists; then discovers that they represent the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England. This problem could have been avoided if only the Isle of Wight had managed to get some celebrity endorsements… Sam is desperate for a clean IP address, because she is listed as dead online (digital death no longer coincides with actual death) and thus can’t access medication. Finding an old phone, she calls a number on it, which is picked up by rebellious old ‘Aunty Jane’, who in another bizarre reversal shares the same first name as the author…

Why We Fight by Paul Currion follows backstreet Turkish kid Hakkan from the point of view of an un-named narrator, who has an agenda of his/her own. Hakkan operates a drone in one of the real wars around the world, using goggles and gloves instead of a data port to ensure he is untraceable. It’s a useful status, given that whoever is meant to be fighting the war has outsourced it to a private company, which has outsourced it to any street kid talented enough the operate the kit. Hakkan is so good they even keep a drone free just for him. He chooses his battlefield, but can never say for sure exactly where his drone is operating. To him it’s just a macho game: ‘dust is dust and so are they’ he says. The narrator, who is older and remembers the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, turns this phallic bravado around by infecting Hakkan with a ‘sexually transmitted computer virus’ that destroys his anonymity. ‘I like to think of myself as the wrong hands’ the narrator quips.

In Capitalist Crumbs Stephen Oram depicts a war between corporate algorithms in a very English scenario. Two workers struggle in a manufacturing plant operated by a neural network called Egghead, which is susceptible to streams of false information that result in people getting locked in driverless trucks and left to die. That the plant produces ‘whatever is needed’, yet is still useless, underscores the great free market lie and echoes the evening’s keynote speech. Meanwhile, outside the plant, two ‘rebels’ – for which read people trying to find food – disguise themselves with smart fabric depicting grass and badgers, which they believe are unrecognisable to any algorithm. All of the characters grouse about work, whether it is producing artefacts or stealing them, and question the point of a war that has made everything not so much horrific as just really rubbish. Like many of tonight’s stories, warfare is depicted as a phenomenon that makes existence so confusing as to render it wholly pointless.

The next Virtual Futures event at the Library, St Martin’s Lane, London is POST-BRAIN on 15th May 2018 from 6.30pm to 9.30pm. For more details, go to www.virtualfutures.co.uk

BSFA London Meeting 25th of April: Interview with Tade Thompson

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Tade Thompson interviewed by Liz Williams

April’s special guest at the monthly BSFA London meetings is author Tade Thompson. His story The Apologists was nominated for a BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction for 2016 and also selected for Newcon Press’s anthology Best of British Science Fiction 2016. His novel Rosewater is the winner of the inaugural Nommo Awards and a John W. Campbell Award Finalist; his first novel,  Making Wolf,  won the Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award. The Murders of Molly Southbourne, his latest work, has recently been optioned for screen adaptation.

 

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Tade Thompson will be interviewed by Liz Williams, a multiple nominee for the Philip K. Dick Award and the author of many novels such as Winterstrike, Nine Layers of Sky, Banner of Souls (which was also shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award), The Ghost Sister, Empire of Bones, Darkland, Bloodmind, The Poison Master and the Detective Chen novels.

 

 

The BSFA’s Monthly London Meetings are FREE!

When: 25th of April, 7:00 pm.

Where:  The Artillery Arms (upstairs), 102 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8ND

 

Near Future Fictions Salon: Virtual Persons

Extruded Bodies & Phantom Flesh by Andrew Wallace

Virtual Futures’ March 2018 Near Future Fictions Salon explored the theme of Virtual Persons

Virtual Futures grew out of a series of conferences in the mid-90s that sought to develop a new discipline that would confront the technologisation of culture. Its latest incarnation is a regular ‘Salon’, where philosophical, scientific and creative thinkers combine discussion, performance and fiction to explore current and potential technological extensions of the human condition.

The Near Future Fictions Salons place science fiction centre stage, with previous guest participants including Alan Moore, Pat Cadigan, Gwyneth Jones, Hari Kunzru and Geoff Ryman.

Monday’s event explored the theme of ‘Virtual Persons’:

The digital world is a personality playground that offers us an unprecedented ability to curate and create a public persona – but what does this ability mean for the future of personhood? [from http://www.virtualfutures.co.uk]

Opening keynote by performance artist Stelarc

Stelarc took part in the original Virtual Futures conferences at Warwick University in the 90s. His work explores alternative anatomical architectures, interrogating issues of agency, identity and the post-human. He has performed with a mechanical third hand, a stomach sculpture and a six-legged walking robot; while Fractal Flesh, Ping Body and Parasite are internet performances that explore remote and involuntary choreography. Most recently, he has harnessed surgery and stem-cell technology to grow an ear on his arm.

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Stelarc and Andrew Wallace

Continue reading “Near Future Fictions Salon: Virtual Persons”

Virtual Futures: Near-Future Fictions Vol. 5 ‘Virtual Persons’

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Near-Future Fictions Vol. 5 ‘Virtual Persons’ will take place on March 20, 2018, at The LIBRARY London. You can register here

By Stephen Oram

The digital world is a personality playground that offers us an unprecedented ability to curate and create a public persona — but what does this ability mean for the future of personhood? As the digital world expands around us and the Internet of Things combines the physical and virtual do we have a moral obligation to represent ourselves with truth and integrity in the digital realm, or should we view it as an opportunity to explore new and radical ontologies?

Join us for an evening that incorporates original reading, performance and live art as Virtual Futures continues its mission to reassert the significance of science fiction as a tool for navigating the increasing technologization of society and culture.

Keynote Presentation by Laurie Penny, Writer

Laurie Penny is an award-winning journalist, essayist, public speaker, writer, activist, internet nanocelebrity and author of six books, including Unspeakable Things (Bloomsbury 2014), Everything Belongs To The Future (Tor, 2016) and Bitch Doctrine (Bloomsbury, 2017). Laurie writes essays, columns, features and gonzo journalism about politics, social justice, pop culture, feminism, technology and mental health. When she gets time, she also writes creepy political science fiction.

Authors & Contributors

  • A C Tyger: “Aldebaran”
  • Anne McKinnon: “Memory Inc.”
  • Britta Schulte: “iDentity”
  • C R Dudley: “The Test”
  • Jamie Watt: “Conjugal Frape”
  • Jane Norris: “Beautiful Mirror Being”
  • Marc Böhlen: “With a robot on the last day”
  • Sophie Sparham: “Concrete Genocide”
  • Stephen Oram: “From Dust to Digital and Back”

Curators

Britta Schulte is a PhD student by day and a science-fiction writer at night. She thinks about the technologies we have, those we are likely to get and those we might not want. She publishes on wattpad.com as well as in zines online and in print.

Stephen Oram writes science fiction. He’s been a hippie-punk, religious-squatter and a bureaucrat-anarchist; he thrives on contradictions. He has two published novels, Quantum Confessions and Fluence and is in several anthologies. His recent collection, Eating Robots and Other Stories, was described by the Morning Star as one of the top radical works of fiction in 2017.

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Virtual Futures’ Near-Future Fictions was born after a salon event sometime in early 2017. Although Virtual Futures has embraced science-fiction since its inception, with Pat Cadigan, Alan Moore, Gwyneth Jones, Hari Kunzru and most recently Geoff Ryman all having graced its stage in its near-twenty-five years of existence, this represents the first time that fiction has been the central focus.

The inspiration came from a desire to provide a creative counterbalance to the theoretical and technical discussions of Virtual Futures’ salon events. Our first movement toward this creative fusion was inviting Stephen Oram to be our Author in Residence for a year; presenting a theme-inspired story before audience questions at expert panels discussing near-future issues such as Neurostimulation or Prosthetic Envy. The synthesis was a success. Stephen’s stories grew ever more stimulating, we thought we heard whisperings of something a little larger in the audience’s applause and Stephen has since become the lead-curator of Near-Future Fictions.

The aim of these live reading events are: to assert the significance of fiction as a valid means of navigating the changes instigated by emerging technologies; to find new sci-fi talent in and outside London, with a stress on diverse authors who are atypical of the scene; and to offer science fiction fans speculation on the future in a venue that reflects the vibrancy of the authors and their stories.

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The 2018 series started in February with The (Dis)ease of the i-Mortal and will be closely followed by Virtual Persons on 20 March, Tomorrow’s Battles on 17 April and Post-Brain on 15 May.

Fantasy Fiction with Vic James, Anna Smith Spark & Lucy Hounsom. A SciFi Sessions conversation, hosted by Glyn Morgan at Gower Street Waterstones in London.

IMG_0283By Andrew Wallace

January’s Sci-Fi Sessions was a conversation between three very different contemporary fantasy authors. Each one has a trilogy in progress. Lucy Hounsom has just released the final book of her acclaimed Worldmaker series (Starborn, Heartland and Firestorm). Tarnished City, the second novel in Vic James’s Dark Gifts trilogy, was published last year. It follows the success of book one, Gilded Cage, as a BBC 2 Book Club Choice. Finally, Anna Smith Spark’s Court of Broken Knives, the opening volume of her Broken Empire sequence, has already been nominated for numerous awards for best fantasy novel of 2017, with second and third volumes yet to follow. Continue reading “Fantasy Fiction with Vic James, Anna Smith Spark & Lucy Hounsom. A SciFi Sessions conversation, hosted by Glyn Morgan at Gower Street Waterstones in London.”

SF and the future of security: an interview with Ping Zheng

Defiant Today
‘Defiant Today’ Phil Jones

In late December 2017, a group of writers and scholars of SF, scientists and technologists, and defence analysts and policymakers, gathered at Dstl (UK government’s defence science and technology laboratory) in Salisbury to explore science fiction’s contribution to defence policy. Vector caught up with Dr Ping Zheng from Canterbury Christ Church University Business School, to ask her about her impressions of the day, and a few other things …

During the first breakout session, you were in the Human Behaviour in Smart Environments group. How did that go?

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Dr Ping Zheng

We had some inspiring discussions about how humans may react in smart environments. I think the group dynamics probably extended the scope of planned discussions, and allowed us to engage in more diversified discourse, ranging from individual perspectives, to emergent impacts at a societal level, and also to policy perspectives. For example, two prominent issues were debated: national and cultural differences, and ethical concerns such as privacy.

Perhaps the value of events like these is that you might discover that your original questions can be re-framed, or that your stakeholders are not precisely who you imagined them to be. Your other breakout session was ‘Defence (In)efficiency: What Does the Future Hold?’?

Continue reading “SF and the future of security: an interview with Ping Zheng”

LSFRC event: Brian Stableford–Le Roman Scientifique

sabBrian Stableford will be speaking about the evolution of an important early science fiction form, the French roman scientifique, supported by the London Science Fiction Research Community (LSFRC).

Monday, February 12th, from 6:30 pm until 8pm, at The Keynes Library, 43 Gordon Square, London.

Brian’s lecture will map its way according to several signposts: Beginning with the origins of the roman scientifique in the illicit “philosophical fiction” of the eighteenth century, he will also discuss the after-effects of the French Revolution on utopian thought and the future impact of technological advancement on society; the development of “travelogue fiction” before and after Jules Verne; the preoccupation with future wars after 1870; the development of “scientific marvel fiction”; and the particular influence of WWI on French writers and their speculative fiction.

In addition to critical studies of science fiction, Stableford has authored more than 70 novels and translated even more, most from French to English. His work on the development of the roman scientifique in the long nineteenth century has vital significance for understanding later manifestations of science fiction in France, the Anglo-American setting, and around the globe. We hope you can join us for what is sure to be a fascinating evening with one of the most influential and prolific figures in science fiction.

#SciFiSessions: M John Harrison & Gary Budden

A SciFi Sessions conversation, hosted by Glyn Morgan at Gower Street Waterstones (London).  Click here for details of future events,  #SciFiSessions return in January 2018 with a special three author event showcasing British fantasy talent. 

 Weird Fiction for Weird Times by Andrew Wallace

HSMike John Harrison, a veteran of the 60s New Wave SF scene, and Gary Budden, an award-nominated short story writer whose first collection Hollow Shores (Dead Ink Press) is out now, discussed how weird fiction is indispensable for processing contemporary political realities.

Mike recounts JG Ballard at a party held by seminal SF magazine New Worlds predicting how the world would become ever more fantastical and psychopathic. At the time, everyone thought Ballard was overstating the case; now, Mike says, his own ferocious, mythic engagement with the culture feels redundant. Indeed, far from our culture inhabiting an exciting new realm of limitless possibility, some reality would be rather welcome. Gary says that the current fractured, nonsensical nature of the world means that weird fiction is resurgent; that the genre is merely reporting on the psychological state of our culture. Indeed, a contemporary writer of ‘realist’ fiction would now need to accommodate the weird simply to reflect what is going on.

Both writers engage with landscape in ways that challenge its conventional certainties. For example, Gary read a short piece about the actor Peter Cushing, who lived in Whitstable. In the story, the actor is referred to via his greatest roles, like ‘the Vampire Hunter’, as he wanders around the seaside town accompanied by his best friend, ‘the Vampire’ (presumably Christopher Lee). They meditate on their great fictional battles, surrounded by the everyday bustle of modern life, and meditate on an uncertain future. This blending of myth and reality has personal note: Gary grew up in Whitstable and the area has a strong folkloric identity. He writes weird fiction because that is the only genre that reflects his understanding of this familiar landscape. One way to reconcile the desire for his home space to be closer to its mythical – but not idealised – identity, and further from its proximity to prime UKIP country, is to use techniques of psychogeography, or as Gary calls it ‘landscape punk’. The Hollow Shores are a real place; the name is drawn from history like some treasure previously submerged that has slowly come to light.

However, the stratification of the English landscape brings political peril. The online Hookland project, which explores a fictional English county using folklore, spent the day of the discussion fighting off an English neo-Nazi who wanted to use the site to justify national/racial purity. Mike says that writers should make their position on landscape politics clear, and maintain awareness that landscape itself has no sentimentality at all. It has its own language, often weird, that should be used with full awareness to avoid the descent into easy nationalism.

Gary is interested in the fringe elements of our island; how its marginal landscapes change over time in a way that seems arbitrary, even absurd. For example, Whitstable would not even have been on the coast when the area now known as Doggerland linked Kent to mainland Europe 10,000 years ago. Doggerland was flooded at the end of the last Ice Age, a prospect we face on the attenuated landmasses of our own time. But for a few degrees’ variation in temperature, the Britain we know would not have existed and neither, in our current form, would we. There is a sense of possibility, only just missed, that folkloric weird fiction reflects so well.

harrisonCreation of a fictional Doggerland-like continent lay behind one of Mike’s projects for New Worlds, in which elements of a series of seemingly unconnected narratives would reveal that a new continent had appeared. Although the book never came to fruition, the stories evolved and formed part of his new collection, You Should Come With Me Now, published by Comma Press. He read a story from the collection called Psychoarcheology. Ostensibly a satire about the unending discovery of royal remains beneath car parks, it also looked at how the royals themselves are as trapped by their DNA into a life of rule they may not want, as their bodies are trapped beneath tarmac. This layering is an example of one of the different narrative techniques Mike uses to draw the reader through stories that do not have conventional narrative plots. Another is ‘reframing’, in which characters are moved through different landscapes as if on a journey, placing them in unfamiliar locations to accentuate the essential quality of strangeness. The weird, then, is as much to do with the way the story is told as its subject matter.

2018 Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism

Applications are now open for the 2018 Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism. The 2018 Masterclass, the Eleventh, will take place from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July. This year we will be at Anglia Ruskin University.

The 2018 Class Leaders are:

Nick Hubble (Brunel University) – Nick is co-editor of the Science Fiction Handbook (2013) and London in Contemporary British Fiction (2016)

John J. Johnston (Egypt Exploration Society) – John is co-editor of the mummy anthology Unearthed, his introduction for which was shortlisted for the BSFA Award for Non-Fiction.

Stephanie Saulter (author) – Stephanie is the author of Gemsigns and its sequels

Price: £225; £175 for registered postgraduate students.

To apply please send a short (no more than 3,000 words) piece of critical writing (a blog entry, review, essay, or other piece), and a one page curriculum vitae, to farah.sf@gmail.com.

Applications received by 1 March 2018 will be considered by an Applications Committee. Applications received after 30 March may be considered if places are still available, on a strictly first-come first served basis.

A deposit of £50 will be payable within a week of acceptance.  This deposit is only refundable in the event of another student taking your place

Past Masterclass students are encouraged to apply again (though we will prioritise applications from those who have not been previous students).

Information on past Masterclasses can be found at http://www.sf-foundation.org/masterclass. Please direct any enquiries to masterclass@sf-foundation.org.

City Now City Future at the Museum of London

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#BonusLevels #LawrenceLek #utopia#CityNowCityFuture
Visual artist, Lawrence Lek has created Bonus Levels, a series of playable video games depicting a dreamy, utopian, but recognisable London.

Bonus Levels is on at the Museum of London until January 3rd, 2018. It is part of the museum’s City Now City Future – a year-long theme which is foregrounded by the ‘Imagined Futures’ curated by Dr Caroline Edwards located near the entrance.

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According to the blurb:

Of all cities, London is one of the most widely represented in literature. During the 19th century, when it rose to prominence as the centre of the British Empire, London was considered the peak of civilisation. However, this achievement was matched by the violence of a colonial system that damaged the places and peoples from which the city drew its vast wealth, in India, Africa and the Caribbean.

London therefore made the ideal setting in which to imagine future visions – in books that destroy the metropolis through scenes of devastation, or rebuild it as a fairer society. From Mary Shelley’s disaster novel, The Last Man (1826), to H. G. Wells’s techno-utopian vision in The Sleeper Awakes (1899), London established its reputation as a city in which to enact different visions of the future in literature.

In the 20th century, such imagined futures became increasingly bleak, particularly in the post-World War II period, and by the 1970s writers were experimenting with surreal future London landscapes. More recently, London has become home to the leading characters in influential books for younger readers, such as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (1996). In the 21st century, as we come to terms with the environmental impact of climate change, the city has once again found a new role as a literary setting.

This display was curated by Dr Caroline Edwards, Senior Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, University of London, and designed by Martin McGrath Studio. Quotes reprinted by kind permission of the authors/publishers.