Ken MacLeod's comments.
The title comes from two quotes:
“Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.”—Alasdair Gray.
“If these are the early days of a better nation, there must be hope, and a hope of peace is as good as any, and far better than a hollow hoarding greed or the dry lies of an aweless god.”—Graydon Saunders
Here's a Scottish Book Trust podcast in which I talk with Ryan Van Winkle about Descent. Kirsty Logan and Tim Sinclair are on before me, also talking about their new books.
I have a review of The Science Fiction Handbook, edited by Nick Hubble and Aris Mousoutzanis (Bloomsbury, 2013) in the Morning Star. Basically I outline the history of SF criticism as I understand it and then heartily recommend the book, which I have read and have already started lending to students.
Date: Thursday 6th March
Venue: Blackwell’s Bookshop, 53-62 South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1YS
I'll be reading from the novel and answering questions and generally talking about it. I've describedDescent as being 'about flying saucers, hidden races, and Antonio Gramsci's concept of passive revolution, all set in a tale of Scottish middle class family life in and after the Great Depression of the 21st Century. Almost mainstream fiction, really.'
The event finishes at 8 pm, and no doubt discussion will continue in one or more of the local pubs.
This event is ticketed, but tickets are FREE. Tickets are available from the front desk at Blackwell’s Bookshop or by phoning 0131 622 8218
For more information or if you would like a signed copy please contact Ellie Wixon on 0131 622 8222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On this year’s
MA Creative Writing course at Napier University about half the students come
from the US or Germany, and at commencement last September I felt like telling
them how lucky they were as writers to be spending the next year in a country
whose future was up for grabs in that very year, and how the buzz of argument
and excitement around them would light up their work for years to come. How
often, outside of outright revolutionary situations, do writers have a chance
to overhear or take part in passionate and wide-ranging debate about politics
and society in every café or pub or bus queue?
If I’d said
that, of course, the students from Scotland would have laughed in my face, and
the students from other countries would by now have five months of perplexed
disappointment behind them. This month, though, with a few polls showing a
small shift to Yes followed (not coincidentally) by a drumbeat of solemn
warnings from businessmen, bankers, a united front of past, present and
would-be future Chancellors of the Exchequer, and a past Prime Minister about
the economic consequences of separation has set the land loud at last with the
sound of tables thumped, pints splashed and cups and keyboards rattling.
be taken both in advance and from the floor - You can send in your questions to
the panel to Rory Scothorne (email@example.com) who will be chairing, or
with the hashtag #redindyref on twitter.
former SNP deputy leader and author of "In Place of Fear II: A Socialist
Programme for an Independent Scotland".
Cat Boyd, trade
union activist and member of the 'Radical Independence Campaign', a coalition
of the left and far-left seeking independence as a means to achieving a
greener, more equal society.
labour movement activist and member of the 'Red Paper Collective', a
labour-movement campaign seeking to emphasise class above nation in the
science fiction writer and "techno-utopian socialist".’
Just a quick heads-up for two imminent launch events for Fever Medicine, a graphics-heavy short novel by Shawn Harmon.
I was lightly involved in making suggestions for the first draft, so I'm biased, but I don't think I went too far when I described it as
'without a doubt, the best Edinburgh-set near-future cyberpunk
tartan noir comic-style-illustrated short novel on medical ethics and
public health policy … well, ever. It really is very good. With a vivid,
violent and fast-moving plot, interspersed with well-placed boxes of
factual information and challenging questions, it’s educational as well
as entertaining. The illustrations and graphic design were done by
highly talented students at the Edinburgh College of Art, and are a
credit to the artists and the college.'
‘Human Enhancement and Fever Medicine – Launch of an Illustrated Novel’
Shawn Harmon, the author of Fever Medicine, will introduce the
genesis of this illustrated novel, followed by a brief reading, and will
then invite those present to participate in a dialogue around the
ethics of human enhancement. The discussion will be followed by wine and
nibbles. Numbers for this event are limited.
Copies of Fever Medicine can be purchased
on the evening.
Where: Playfair Library, Old College, University of Edinburgh
When: Monday, 27 January 2014, 18:00-20:00
The University of Edinburgh’s J Kenyon Mason Institute for
Medicine, Life Sciences and Law is pleased to announce the following
Title: ‘The Art and Science of Science Communication Through Arts: The Case of Fever Medicine, an Illustrated Novel’
A panel of experts chaired by Professor Jonathan Gibbs of the
Edinburgh College of Art will discuss fiction and the arts in science
and law communication. Shawn Harmon, law lecturer and author of Fever
Medicine, will speak about the creative process which resulted in Fever
Medicine, an illustrated novel that explores a range of legal and
bioethical issues in a near-future setting. Award winning Scottish
author, Ken MacLeod, will talk about the fiction writing process and the
science fiction ‘toolkit’. Catherine Southworth, teacher and
Communications and Outreach Manager for two EU-funded stem cell research
consortia, will discuss science communication and her experience in the
development of ‘Hope Beyond Hype’, a comic book format stem cell
science teaching tool.
The panel presentation will be followed by an open discussion and
thereafter by a wine reception. Numbers for this event are limited.
I wrote up two book proposals for my agent to send to my editor: one for a long book, the other for three loosely linked shorter books. With that out of the way, I turned to a project which Iain Banks left me to complete. It involves poetry, and you will hear more about it in due course. While carrying it out I came across a few lines from one of my own longer efforts:
I saw you strong and free, like the future.
what Althusser saw: the structures
replicate across time like molecules in a cheap graphic.
The 'you' addressed here is long gone from my life, and flourishing in her own, but the lines reminded me that I'd never actually read Althusser. So I went and read my old black Penguin University Book paperback of Althusser's For Marx, which turned out to make sense if you take it slowly. This in turn made me take a lot more seriously the critical literary theory that is an essential part of the Napier MA Creative Writing course. (I already knew that learning the theory worked wonders in terms of making students much better and more confident writers, but I'd idly assumed it was a sort of side-effect of lots of hard thinking.) An early consequence of this was a story I wrote this month for Jonathan Strahan's forthcoming anthology Reach for Infinity. I'm delighted to say that '"The Entire Immense Superstructure": An Installation' has been accepted, so yay!
My editor got back to say my publishers were interested in -- in fact, really excited about -- the least developed of my book ideas, so yay! again but of course that means I have to develop it into something solid by the time the Christmas trees go in the brown bins, so no rest for the wicked.
That fine online magazine Aeon has today published my article on Colin Wilson, who died earlier this month and for whom I retained a sort of sceptical admiration long after my teenage enthusiasm waned. Reactions to his death suggest that that early enthusiasm and continuing admiration was more widely shared than I'd thought.
If you'd like to comment on the piece, please do so there.
I have something of a rush of public events in the next few weeks, after which I intend to keep my diary clear (more or less) and focus on writing the next book.
On Wednesday evening I'll be at Edinburgh City Chambers, speaking at a free public seminar organised by the Edinburgh Active Citizenship Group, on the topic of 'A Year to Go to the Big Vote'. Needless to say, I'll be arguing for a No vote. My sparring partner will be pro-independence blogger Kate Higgins. The event runs from 7 - 9 pm, doors (and Word Power bookstall) open 6.30, admission free.
At the end of next week (Sun 29 September), I'll be at Shoreditch Town Hall, taking part in FutureFest, a festival of ideas and discussion about the future, organised by education/innovation charity Nesta; specifically, I'll be speaking in the Sci-Fi Writers' Parliament, in which SF writers including Pat Cadigan, Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross will propose radical legislation for future polities.
The following weekend, on Saturday 5 October, I have a session at the Wigtown Book Festival, talking with Stuart Kelly about my own work and that of Iain Banks.
At 8.30 pm on Wednesday 9 October I'm in a formal debate as part of the Durham Book Festival, on the challenging question 'Is great science great science fiction? Do we create scientific facts or do scientists simply discover what’s already there?' with Professor Tom McLeish (molecular physicist), Professor Patricia Waugh (English studies), and Dr Andrew Crumey (novelist and former physicist).