Over on the Facebook group ‘conversation’ run by John Kellden, the topic the past days was to ‘tell a science fiction story, in six words only.’ It’s always fun to try and these type of things. And well over 200 comments followed.

These are the ones I contributed:

The Blue Planet was easily taken.

Mutated gut microbes chose world domination.

First contact went to voice mail.

Earth counteracted spin. Tonight western sunrise.

So I’m watching the live stream of the Indie Web Summit, and all of a sudden after some tech talk they invite William Hertling to the stage to talk about his book Kill Process. The book is about decentralised platforms and indieweb applications, in response to silos that become abusive to their users. I just started reading that book this week (having read his other works). Serendipity. Also another example of how near future SF, such as e.g. Walkaway, and current tech dev are mutually influencing each other.

TFW I eagerly go through a list of recent ‘SF titles you should read’ to find I’ve read all of them but one, that I threw aside. TFW years ago I realised all new SF I was reading (except the space operas) was based on extrapolating tech I was actively tinkering with myself, that I had caught up with SF’s starting points. The realisation a bit later that it meant I could contribute to shaping it, and make SF happen in reality sort of.

In a case of synchronicity I’ve read Cory Doctorow’s novel Walkaway when I was ill recently, just as Bryan Alexander scheduled it for his near future science fiction reading group. I loved reading the book, and in contrast to some other works of Doctorow the storyline kept working for me until the end.

Bryan amazingly has managed to get Doctorow to participate in a webcast as part of the Future Trends in learning series Bryan hosts. The session is planned for May 16th, and I marked my calendar for it.

In the comments Vanessa Vaile shares two worthwile links. One is an interesting recording from May last year at the New York public library in which Doctorow and Edward Snowden discuss some of the elements and underlying topics and dynamics of the Walkaway novel.

The other is a review in TOR.com, that resonates a lot with me. The reviewer writes how, in contrast with lots of other science fiction that takes one large idea or large change and extrapolates on that, Doctorow takes a number of smaller ideas and smaller changes, and then works out how those might interplay and weave new complexities, where the impact on “manufacturing, politics, the economy, wealth disparity, diversity, privilege, partying, music, sex, beer, drugs, information security, tech bubbles, law, and law enforcement” is all presented in one go.

It seems futuristic, until you realize that all of these things exist today.
….. most of it could start right now, if it’s the world we choose to create.

By not having any one idea jump too far from reality, Walkaway demonstrates how close we are, right now, to enormous promise and imminent peril.

That is precisely the effect reading Walkaway had on me, leading me to think how I could contribute to bringing some of the described effects about. And how some of those things I was/am already trying to create as part of my own work flow and information processes.

I appreciate the work of science fiction author Charles Stross a lot (his blog is here). At the 34th Chaos Communication Conference (which took place in December in Leipzig, Germany) he gave an interesting presentation. He isn’t much of a presenter, reading from his notes, so go read the transcript that he posted (the video is online as well). With some deserved criticism of the singularity, and corporations as 19th century slow AI, as context blind single purpose algorithms.

And on how exploring the (near) future as SF is becoming more and more difficult:

My recipe for fiction set ten years in the future used to be 90% already-here, 9% not-here-yet but predictable, and 1% who-ordered-that. But unfortunately the ratios have changed. I think we’re now down to maybe 80% already-here—climate change takes a huge toll on infrastructure—then 15% not-here-yet but predictable, and a whopping 5% of utterly unpredictable deep craziness.