As 2020 recedes from us, we look forward to the world opening up and restarting from lockdown safely. While 2020 was obviously the year of Covid-19, it was also a year of community and solidarity. I hope that readers had those experiences as well.
Friend to Focus and writer, Leigh Kennedy, described the grip of Covid-19 as eerie and familiar, like “being in a science fiction novel we all read long ago.”
On top of the pandemic, 2020 was a year packed with political drama. The year started a month after a significant general election in December 2019 in the UK. By the end of 2020, the US had had one of its most important and defining presidential elections ever (where the election of a Black and Asian American woman as Vice President was one of many significant moments). And that’s without us even commenting on the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, the drone assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, major conflicts in Armenia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia and elsewhere, wildfires across Australia, the attempted violent overthrow in the US on 6 January 2021, and the ongoing fight to vaccinate the planet.
That’s a lot to process and a tough year for writers and artists to make their voices heard and their work noticed. For readers, the challenge was possibly to concentrate long enough to fully enjoy the fiction and art available. A further struggle for writers and artists was to create art in the first place. Despite these challenges there were many successes to celebrate.
In this issue you’ll find several insightful articles: “The Dystopian Narrative: an Analysis of Texts that Portray Nightmarish Futures” by Giovanna Chinellato; “The Needle and the Wedge: Digital Games as a Medium for Science Fiction” by Monica Evans; and “Amazofuturism and Indigenous Futurism in Brazilian Science Fiction” by Gama and Garcia.
Paul Kincaid‘s regular column, “Kincaid in Short,” is devoted in Vector 291 to a short story by Brian Aldiss, “The Girl and the Robot with Flowers”. There are three highlighted book reviews from The BSFA Review by Andy Sawyer, Maureen Kincaid Speller and Kate Onyett, as well as a special review-essay by Nick Hubble about Sideways in Time: Critical Essays on Alternate History Fiction, edited by Glyn Morgan and C. Palmer-Patel. Finally, this issue features a review-essay by Dev Agarwal “Us: A film about ‘Them’?”, a conference report by Jasmine Sharma on “Productive Futures: The Political Economy of Science Fiction,” and several artworks by the artist David Lunt.
New Worlds (re the comments in your interview) was not aiming to take sf into the mainstream or move towards ‘personal’ (subjective technique as opposed to objective) fiction. We were hoping to borrow sf’s interest in the objective world and use that impulse in subtler ways. The U.S. ‘new wave’ was primarily a move towards subjective romanticism a la Pynchon, and I for one found this move depressing. Personal images are one thing. Writing about the self is another. VORTEX didn’t fail through lack of money – it failed through lack of faith and lack of professionalism. I heartily agree with you that new names are worthless in themselves unless they are connected with fresh ideas and talent. Asimov’s is building up a stable of hacks. It’s disappointing.
Science fiction, it seems to me, is like a mirror — a distorting mirror, admittedly, yet one which like all mirrors reflects what is set before it: our hopes and fears, our aspirations and our doubts.
Although, ostensibly, it deals with the future, when I am writing I am always conscious of the fact that I am thinking in the present and by the time my reader sees what I have written it will belong to his past. Already, in the twenty years or so I’ve been writing SF, I have seen many, many of my imaginary futures overtaken by events, so that they belong neither to the future nor to the past, but to a limbo of unrealisable possibilities.