Any graph of my reading habits over the past 10 years would reveal vertiginous spikes in April and May. These are the months of my self-imposed, manic preparations for Hay Festival. This 10-day literature event (23 May to 2 June) is a high point in my calendar despite the obligation to camp on a sloping, […]
I can’t express this any better than Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell: Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.
I’ve really enjoyed fine-tuning the paperback version of A Calculated Life and it’s now available on Amazon. Read more
As many of you know, I’m a fan of the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin and I decided on the title of my novel A Calculated Life when I read this sentence from his science fiction dystopia, We:
But a thought swarmed in me; what if he, this yellow-eyed being – in his ridiculous, dirty bundle of trees, in his uncalculated life – is happier than us?
The ‘yellow-eyed being’ was a human, one of many, excluded from the perfect world of ‘One State’.An article in io9 this week, Did the very first science fiction magazine appear in Russia in 1894?, gives fascinating insights into Zamyatin and the emergence of Scientific Fantasy, Nauchnaia Fantastika, in the years before the Russian Revolution. It includes exclusive extracts from We Modern People: Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity by Cornell University Professor Anindita Banerjee (Kindle edition more expensive than the paperback!) She delves into the history of early Russian science fiction and explains the Russian obsession with all-things-modern.
I came across this quite by chance. My brother is visiting for Christmas and he showed me the wowhaus website for ‘interesting’ and retro properties. As I scrolled through the properties I was stunned to see Montag, hero of Fahrenheit 451. He’s shown walking out of his home – a midcentury Renway bungalow, recently for sale in Edgcumbe Park, Berkshire, UK.
This Renway bungalow must have been the last word in modernity when Francois Truffaut made his 1966 movie adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. Montag lived in a Type 60 property!
This was a surprise: A Calculated Life reached the Kindle Bestseller List for Science Fiction on Amazon’s UK store, on launch day.
So was it Flukey-Tuesday, or what? I’ve been mulling this over and . . . I suspect I’ll never know the reason. Read more
Baby at Manchester University
So why did I chose Manchester and the North West of England as the main setting for A Calculated Life? It’s not simply because I know this city and region (I could have chosen London, which I know well enough).
The fact is that Manchester shouted out as being totally appropriate. I couldn’t resist. You see, A Calculated Life is set later in the 21st Century. It’s Science Fiction or, as others might classify the novel, Speculative Fiction. It presents a dystopian view of the future – one in which humans have adopted many advances in neural implant technology and genetic engineering. As Ray Kurzweil argues in The Age of Spiritual Machines, once we discovered computation we reset our future evolutionary path.
So where better to locate this futuristic novel, than the city where the first commercial computer was developed. Read more
It all began . . . at the turn of the millennium when, after I’d recovered from the celebrations, I read a long review in The Guardian‘s New Year edition of Ray Kurzweil’s book The Age of Spiritual Machines. His predictions were a wake-up call. He imagined a future when humans start to merge with technology, that is, when wealthier humans boost their brainpower by way of neural implants (welI, I can see the upside, who wouldn’t? Imagine being fluent in seven languages…).
Kurzweil argues that it’s absolutely inevitable that the next step in our evolution will involve cognitive implants. By the year 2099, he says humans with neural implants will be unable to hold a meaningful conversation with humans who do not have them; the divide will be too great.
This was seriously scary stuff, or I thought so at least. I was already looking at the dividing line between humans and machines in my art practice, but Kurzweil’s predictions really unnerved me. Read more
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