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?  Continue reading “Virtual Futures: Tomorrow’s Wars”

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

VF NFF 5

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.

vf-about

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.

Vector’s pick of science news in 2017

Transdimensional
‘Transdimensional’ by Phil Jones

In the spirit of Vector’s traditional “Best of” print edition, which is nearly ready, here is our pick of science news for 2017.

First of all, water. Two new inventions for increasing the supply of drinking water caught our eye:

In other exciting fluid-related news, scientists have made a fluid with negative mass. In the face of our growing global water crisis, maybe this development doesn’t feel quite so relevant as the other two … but then, the usefulness of inventions can be hard to judge at first. Story prompt, writers?

The New York Times is not a place where one expects to find encounters between the Navy and UFOs. Then again, the NYT in 2017 has felt like a distinctly genre venue, as the reality around us grows far-fetched and more than a little dystopian. So it has been worth the extra effort to look for technoscience news which seemed less likely to transform our world in drastic and unpredictable ways (as AI or CRISPR), and more likely to offer tangible and specific benefits, like eyesight for the blind.

Although some writers could surely imagine a downside to artificial eye retinas, many have already questioned science’s quest to prolong life or enable reproduction without women, or bodies for that matter. Wait, so we’ve had nearly 50 years to figure out the ethics — Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution was advocating cyberwombs in 1970 — and we still don’t know?

In 2017, the world got more of its energy from renewables and technology continues to improve. Fast enough? The outlook for climate change in 2017 was not especially comforting. What humanity learned to speed up in 2017 is evolution. Gene drives could increase the rate at which genes spread in ways that could be beneficial. Worth the risks?

If we get it all wrong, it may come as a consolation that at least Earth is not the only habitable planet. In 2017, NASA identified hundreds of planets similar to Earth. Does this make Earth less precious? Not if we love it. Most scientists do. Many strive to help here and now, such as buying time for corals so they can adjust to climate change rather than die off, taking down entire ecosystems with them.

Other scientists conduct research on different dimensional scales. 2017 saw an end to the Cassini mission, which plunged to Saturn in order to avoid contaminating its moons (that Cassini revealed so much about). And the year’s most abstractly beautiful piece of new knowledge has been the discovery of gravitational waves – ripples through spacetime – predicted by Einstein’s theory. What caused these ripples on the spacetime surface that we learned to observe? A kilonova — a collision of two neutron stars… But could we process this new knowledge if our imaginations had not been prepared for it by, say, Samuel Delany?