December 2021

I’m posting this early, so that I can wind up my updates for the year.

I don’t think I’ll be reading as prolifically in 2022 as I have been in the last couple of years. To be honest, I’m feeling more of an urge to write. One thing’s for sure though, reading and writing are one and the same thing. They are inextricably linked. This was repeatedly pointed out to us during my MA in Creative Writing. And it’s so true.

The writing is coming along, which is good. The first manuscript is done. The outline for the second manuscript is complete. This is happening. It’s not happening as fast as I’d hoped, but it’s happening nonetheless. And, even though it’s work, real work, I’m enjoying it.


Meanwhile... a few more dystopian post-apocalyptic novels have crept into my end-of-year reading.

The Silo trilogy by Hugh Howey, Wool, Dust, and Shift has been getting a lot more attention since Apple TV+ picked it up.

There’s a lot of good stuff in the books but they suffer from being fix-up novels constructed from serialised novellas. The individual novellas are character-based, slow burners. When combined it plays havoc with the overall pace.

The plot, or backstory, is similar to the Wayward Pines trilogy. The trilogy has the confined group dynamics of J G Ballard’s High Rise with the day-to-day detail and pace of Annihilation. They are classic mystery stories, which pose a number of unanswered questions. What happened to the old world? Why were the silos made and who built them?

As is usual with science fiction trilogies, the questions posed in one novel are answered in the next. The problem is that we kind of know the gist of what’s happened from the opening chapter of Wool, so it’s only the specific details that later emerge.

I’ve enjoyed The Expanse TV series although it’s had its ups and downs. Now there’s a trailer for the final season of The Expanse. I hope the series comes good and ends with a satisfying conclusion.

Squid Game is bonkers. It’s been really over-hyped in the media, which made me wary of watching it. What’s it like? It’s addictive viewing. It feels comic-book-like with tones of The Hunger Games, Battle Royale (2000) and The Game (1997). Lee Jung-jae does a great job playing the character Seong Gi-hun. The story is fast-moving and tongue-in-cheek. There is a lot of graphic violence (which might put off some people) but it’s handled in a stylised way.

Mars colony concept, SpaceX

With the rise of billionaire-backed space travel, the sub-orbital joyride is gradually becoming a reality. The next goals are Moon and Mars colonies. And while this is still some way off, it did get me thinking. Extrapolating on these recent events... what would an interplanetary space colony be like socially and culturally?

Who would have thought that billionaire entrepreneurs would be competing with, and potentially overtaking, NASA? While there’s been a fair amount of snickering about these wealthy heads of industry, and their comic resemblance to megalomaniac James Bond villains, the technical achievements of their organisations remains impressive, especially regarding SpaceX.

Space X’s owner, Elon Musk, has spoken about a Mars colony as well as the need to find a ‘backup planet’ in case Earth is ravaged by a meteor strike.

Jeff Bezos believes that humanity should colonise the solar system. He’s talked about planetary mining and the opportunity to move Earth’s heavy industries off-plant to preserve its valuable eco-system.

If we’re out in the solar system, we can have a trillion humans in the solar system, which means we’d have a thousand Mozarts and a thousand Einsteins. This would be an incredible civilisation.
— Jeff Bezos

What kind of world would billionaires in space or the CCP end up building? In the artwork, these colonies often resemble a kind of suburbia in space. Without the tradition of a government or civic organisations, what would the society and law enforcement look like? Would it be a kind of Wild West in space? I’m thinking here of the film Outland and the novel Thin Air. If the CCP ran a colony it might resemble 1984 on Mars. And, if Earth is ravaged by a meteor storm, who gets to choose the lucky few who are handed one-way tickets to a ‘backup planet’?

It’s going to be a while before space travel becomes a reality for the rest of us. It might never even happen. Meanwhile, most of us will be staying right here on Earth. I’m happy to be an ‘Earther’ (to use the lingo of The Expanse). That’s more than fine with me. And, while we’re here, maybe we should be taking more care of this planet?

Vincent Callebaut, Paris Smart City 2050

With environmental fears increasing... what would the city of the future look like? Speculative fiction offers gleaming high-tech futures or dystopian hells. In reality, cities don’t change as much as some science fiction writers might wish. Cities in the West are generally less industrial and less polluted than they once were, but they remain dependent on complex transport networks, and the resulting pollution caused by delivery trucks and commuter traffic.

In artwork and models, the architecture of eco-cities usually looks like International Modernism with trees. What will these spaces be like in twenty years time? How easy will they be to maintain?

More radical visions of the eco-city of the future resemble Hobbit-like dwellings based around a village micro-communities. These settlements can sometimes look like Native American Indian encampments. The small settlement (in balance with the surrounding landscape) is a recurring trope in science fiction and fantasy fiction. But it’s hard to see this kind of thing successfully scaled up to city proportions.

What if everything we needed was 15 minutes walk away? The 15 minute city is an idea that’s been proposed to reduce pollution. It’s a reimagining of the community village concept. Could it reduce pollution by getting rid of commuting and the need to travel? Superficially, it sounds great. But I wonder if people want to live within restricted areas. People enjoy moving around.

The speculative fiction writer in me is intrigued by the idea of an eco-city of the future. At the same time, I’m mindful of how difficult it is to deliver meaningful change.

Adrian Graham