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African Speculative Fiction Society

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Check out the expanded and updated website of the African Speculative Fiction Society here.

“The ASFS will provide a place where writers, readers, and scholars can come together to find information, connect with each other, and act as watchdogs for their collective interests.” 
Chinelo Onwualu, chief spokesperson, ASFS.
The African Speculative Fiction Society is an organization of African
  • Writers
  • Editors
  • Comic and graphic artists
  • Filmmakers
in the fields of speculative fiction such as fantasy, science fiction, stories that draw on traditions, horror and philosophical fiction.
Members nominate any published work for one of the four Nommo Awards.  They are given free access to many of the nominated works.  And they vote for the winners of the Nommo awards.
There is no membership fee.

BSFA 2017 Awards

The Awards will be presented at Follycon, the 69th Eastercon, which this year is taking place at The Majestic Hotel, Harrogate, from 30th March – 2nd April 2018.

Our ballot is now live! BSFA members who wish to send advance votes, can do so here. We will also have a printable ballot form available from this web page in a few days, in case you would prefer to vote by post.

The shortlisted works are:

Best Novel

  • Nina Allen – The Rift (Titan Books)
  • Anne Charnock – Dreams Before the Start of Time (47North)
  • Mohsin Hamid – Exit West (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Ann Leckie – Provenance (Orbit)

Best Shorter Fiction

  • Anne Charnock – The Enclave (NewCon Press)
  • Elaine Cuyegkeng – These Constellations Will Be Yours (Strange Horizons)
  • Greg Egan – Uncanny Valley (Tor.com)
  • Geoff Nelder – Angular Size (in ‘SFerics 2017’ edited by Roz Clarke and Rosie Oliver, Createspace Independent Publishing Platform)
  • Tade Thompson – The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Tor.com)

Best Non-Fiction

  • Paul Kincaid – Iain M. Banks (University of Illinois Press)
  • Juliet E McKenna – The Myth of Meritocracy and the Reality of the Leaky Pipe and Other Obstacles in Science Fiction & Fantasy (in ‘Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction’ edited by Francesca T Barbini, Luna Press)
  • Adam Roberts – Wells at the World’s End 2017 blog posts (Wells at the World’s End blog)
  • Shadow Clarke Award jurors – The 2017 Shadow Clarke Award blog (The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy). The 2017 Shadow Clarke jurors are: Nina Allen, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Victoria Hoyle, Vajra Chandrasekera, Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Jonathan McCalmont, Megan AM.
  • Vandana Singh – The Unthinkability of Climate Change: Thoughts on Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement (Strange Horizons)

Best Artwork

  • Geneva Benton – Sundown Towns (cover for Fiyah Magazine #3)
  • Jim Burns – Cover for ‘The Ion Raider’ by Ian Whates (NewCon Press)
  • Galen Dara – Illustration for ‘These Constellations Will Be Yours’ by Elaine Cuyegkeng (Strange Horizons)
  • Chris Moore – Cover for ‘The Memoirist’ by Neil Williamson (NewCon Press)
  • Victo Ngai – Illustration for ‘Waiting on a Bright Moon’ by JY Yang (Tor.com)
  • Marcin Wolski – Cover for ‘2084’ edited by George Sandison (Unsung Stories)

 

How to Vote: 

Mark your choices in each category in order of preference: ‘1’ for first place, ‘2’ for second place, etc. You are not required to rank all the nominees in any category. Advance votes must be received by Monday 26th March 2017, either electronic or postal. If you intend to send votes by post instead of via the e-ballot form,  please remember to include your BSFA membership number (you will find this on the envelope of your latest mailing) and your name and address. Return your postal votes to: BSFA Awards, 9 Montgomery Road, Cambridge CB4 2EQ.

Continue reading “BSFA 2017 Awards”

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?

ping 1
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”

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?

 

 

Robotics, science fiction and the search for the perfect artificial woman

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Ociacia/Shutterstock.com

Irena Hayter, University of Leeds

Three photographs have been shortlisted for 2017’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, hosted by the National Portrait Gallery in London. But there is something out of the ordinary about one of this year’s contenders for the prize. One of the portraits – by the Finnish artist Maija Tammi – is not of a human, but a female android.

The android in the photograph is Erica, described by her creator, Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, as “the most beautiful and intelligent” robot in the world. The hardware beneath her silicone skin helps her achieve facial and mouth movements, but these can be rather unnatural, out of sync with her synthesised voice. She is cognitively sophisticated, though still unable to work out answers to complex questions from first principles, and she cannot move her arms and legs.

If this seems like something out of science fiction, you’re not far off. One of Ishiguro’s first female robots was named Repliee Q1 and he himself has said that the name derives from the French for “replicate” and from the “replicants” in Blade Runner: science fiction and robotics have always been entwined. Indeed, in a documentary made by the Guardian about Erica, Ishiguro reveals that he wanted to be an oil painter and insists on the similarities between his work and artistic creation.

It is difficult not to see here a masculine Pygmalionesque desire to create the perfect artificial woman. “Ishiguro-sensei is my father and he understands me entirely,” Erica pronounces in the documentary. Her vaunted autonomy seems more like a projection on the part on the roboticists who programme her thoughts, but also occasionally anthropomorphise her: the scientist who introduces himself as Erica’s “architect” also thinks that she is “really excited to interact with people”.

One of Them Is a Human #1 by Maija Tammi (Erica: Erato Ishiguro Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction Project).
© Maija Tammi

Continue reading “Robotics, science fiction and the search for the perfect artificial woman”

How sci fi-inspired innovation treads a fine line between dystopia and utopia

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Pie in the sky?
Chase Elliot Clarke, CC BY

Paul Levy, University of Brighton

The race is on to bring a jetpack to market. New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft has a jetpack which is due to go on sale this year and US-based JetPack Aviation is working on a more streamlined offering. So aviation junkies with the cash to spare will soon be able to get their hands on what has long been the preserve of science fiction.

Jetpacks follow a long line of sci-fi inspired innovation. E M Forster’s novel The Machine Stops is often credited as a source of inspiration for, or at least a predictor of, the internet. The idea of 3D printing was foreshadowed in numerous books and, most famously, in Star Trek in the guise of “replicators”. Then you have more frivolous ideas such as the self-lacing shoes worn by Mart McFly in Back to the Future, which shoemaker Nike plan to bring out this year.

Visionary and imaginative writing has always been an important source of inspiration for inventors and innovators. But success has been mixed. Continue reading “How sci fi-inspired innovation treads a fine line between dystopia and utopia”

Welcome to dulltopia and my two favourite angels

Read Mark Bould in ‘Global Dystopias’ by Boston Review

Mark Bould

angelus novusMy essay ‘Dulltopia’ from the ‘Global Dystopias’ issue of Boston Review is now available online – it questions the claims made by Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Zizek about how boring contemporary dystopias are, then imagines these luminaries are right about how boring contemporary dystopias are, and then turns to slow cinema and the examples of Peter B. Hutton’s At Sea (2007) and Mauro Herce’s Dead Slow Ahead (2015), the latter of which I adore.

The essay ends with an allusion to Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, every Marxist’s favourite angel thanks to Walter Benjamin, but in this context dismisses it in favour of an angel every bit as cool from Albrecht Durer’s Melencolia 1 – she is soooooooo bored and really pissed off and her dog is kinda funny looking.
Melencolia_I_(Durero)

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Friday essay: science fiction’s women problem

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We need women to participate equally in science fiction’s conversations about humanity’s future.
MsSaraKelly, CC BY-SA

Bronwyn Lovell, Flinders University

Since 1953, the Hugo Awards have been one of science fiction’s most prestigious honours – past winners include Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clark and Ursula Le Guin. The 2016 results were recently announced, and women and diversity were the clear winners.

However, if you saw the list of titles in contention for the awards, you’d have noticed some oddities, such as Chuck Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion and My Little Pony’s The Cutie Map. That’s because the awards – nominated and voted on by science fiction writers and readers – have been targeted by two major voting blocs: the Sad Puppies, who started their campaign in 2013, and the Rabid Puppies, who appeared the year after and have been growing stronger ever since.

The Sad Puppies wanted more traditional, mainstream popular science fiction on the ballot. The more extreme Rabid Puppies, who have ties with the Gamergate movement, were about creating chaos. So their bloc included ridiculous-sounding works: both to mock the awards and stack the ballot to prevent more diverse books being nominated.

Both groups’ gripe is with contemporary trends in science fiction toward more literary works with progressive themes. Vox Day, leader of the Rabid Puppies, complains that “publishers have been trying to pass off romance in space and left-wing diversity lectures as science fiction”. Last year’s leader of the Sad Puppies, Brad R. Torgersen, likewise complains about “soft science majors (lit and humanities degrees) using SF/F as a tool to critically examine and vivisect 21st century Western society”. The Hugos, he says, are being used as an “affirmative action award”.

A significant number of those “soft science majors” writing “left-wing diversity lectures” are, of course, women. Female authors have dominated science fiction awards of late.

This year, women (and people of colour) did very well at the awards. Ironically, the Puppies’ activities have now galvanised more progressive members of the World Science Fiction Society to use their voting rights. The best novel was The Fifth Season, a tale of a planet experiencing apocalyptic climate change, written by NK Jemisin – a black, female writer. Best novella was Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. The best short story, Cat Pictures Please, was written by Naomi Kritzer and both best editor gongs went to women.

But the ongoing saga of the Puppies and their attempts to derail the Hugos exemplifies broader conflicts within the realm of science fiction – an enormously popular, lucrative and controversial genre that has major issues with women.

Hugo award winner Nnedi Okorafor at a reading of her work.
byronv2, CC BY-NC

A male dominated genre

Continue reading “Friday essay: science fiction’s women problem”