Tag Archives: Jason-Stoddard

Writing the mega-corporation realistically

corporate headquartersJason Stoddard has gotten tired of stories and novels featuring shadowy and nefarious mega-corporations seeking to enslave the globe, and with good reason – it’s just not a realistic or logical thing for a corporation to do, and it’s becoming a modern iteration of the moustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash villain cliché. [image by victoriapeckham]

A corporation doesn’t care if you’re living in a 300 square foot studio apartment or a 6000 square foot McMansion. They don’t want to wipe out the McMansion dwellers, or elevate the studio apartment owners. They only care about one thing: that you buy their stuff.

For everything they do, they’ll have justification. There’s no hidden business plan with a top-line mission statement of “Destroying Civilization As We Know It.”

But there will be hundreds or thousands of decisions, all based on maximizing profit. Substituting cheaper ingredients: maximize profit. Use low-income countries for labor: maximizing profit. Driving smaller competitors out of business: ensuring growth, which maximizes profit. Extending credit to anyone: maximizes profit.

If they can make a bigger profit selling you a “green” condo and a Prius rather than a McMansion and an Escalade, that’s exactly what they’ll do. If they think they’ll make an even larger profit renting you an apartment and leasing you a bike, that’s what they’ll do.

While we’re on the subject of capitalist economics, ethics and prosperity, here’s Matt Ridley at Wired UK explaining why robber barons always end up on top – it’s because they find ways to make things cheaper for you, the consumer:

It’s still happening today. Wal-Mart, Aldi and Ryanair won their market shares by ruthlessly charging us viciously lower prices. And here lies a cause for optimism in the midst of this recession. Even though jobs are being lost, houses repossessed and firms bankrupted, the underlying deflation caused by innovation is still going on – indeed, on the web, it’s accelerating. All over the internet, people are dreaming up ways of making things available to you more cheaply, more conveniently, more copiously and more quickly. That is what will cause prosperity to return one day.

That’s a brave op-ed, given the current econo-political climate, but I suspect he’s at least half right. However, I was somewhat amused to note that Ridley’s masthead note says he was a non-executive chairman for Northern Rock for three years; make of that what you will. 😉

The road to post-scarcity

geodesic architectureIt seems that nothing can prevent Futurismic fiction regular Jason Stoddard from looking for the silver lining to every cloud – even beyond his fictional output. [image by dno1967]

Point in case: his recent article for transhumanist/futurist organ H+ Magazine, which glories in the sprawling title “First Steps Towards Post scarcity: or Why the Current Financial Crisis is the End of the World As We Know It (And Why You Should Feel Fine)“.

A lot of the ideas Stoddard raises will be familiar to science fiction readers, and many of his points are made by looking at the current situation from a different angle to the fashionable mode of doom and gloom. For example:

We’re also already starting to see some examples of near post-scarcity. Consider computers and communications. If you’re willing to use a computer that’s a couple of years old, you can probably find a hand-me-down for free, and then happily talk to your friends around the world on Skype using free public wi-fi.

Or consider that in the last Depression, the main worry was simply getting enough food. Today, the marketplace is more worried about maintaining the marketing budgets of 170 different kinds of toothpaste than about ensuring that everyone has toothpaste. There’s a lot of padding in the system. Couple a financial crisis with this overweight, inefficient system, and you have the stage set for the first transition to post-scarcity: a comprehensive rethink of our concept of value.

You could easily accuse the piece of being Panglossian, but I’m inclined to think that’s a deliberate rhetorical gambit on Stoddard’s part – countering an excess of negativity with a big slice of sf-nal optimism. I’m not that confident that we’ll end up in a nanotech-powered utopia devoid of all wants and needs within my lifetime, but then I’m also not convinced that we’re going to slouch our way into a scenario of global misery and decline. As usual, reality will probably end up somewhere in between the two idealised poles of punditry… but I’m not ashamed to admit I hope it ends up closer to Stoddard’s vision than many of the others.

Jason Stoddard’s latest Futurismic story to appear in Rich Horton’s Unplugged anthology!

OK, you’re going to have to excuse me being a bit effusive here, but I’ve just heard that – for the first time – a story originally published on Futurismic is going to appear in a Best of the Year anthology!

Rich Horton has decided to publish the first anthology devoted purely to stories published on the web from multiple publishers. Unplugged: The Best of Online Fiction will be released by Wyrm Publishing (the people behind the excellent Clarkesworld Magazine), and it will feature Jason Stoddard‘s Willpower, published just two weeks ago right here on Futurismic!

Here’s the complete table of contents:

  • Beth Bernobich, “Air and Angels” (Subterranean, Spring)
  • Mercurio D Rivera, “Snatch Me Another” (Abyss and Apex, First Quarter)
  • Nancy Kress, “First Rites” (Baen’s Universe, October)
  • Tina Connolly, “The Bitrunners” (Helix, Summer)
  • Rebecce Epstein, “When We Were Stardust” (Fantasy, February)
  • Jason Stoddard, “Willpower” (Futurismic, December)
  • Peter S Beagle, “The Tale of Junko and Sayiri” (IGMS, July)
  • David Dumitru, “Little Moon, Too, Goes Round” (Aeon Thirteen)
  • Hal Duncan, “The Behold of the Eye” (Lone Star, August)
  • Will McIntosh, “Linkworlds” (Strange Horizons, March 17-24)
  • Merrie Haskell, “The Girl-Prince” (Coyote Wild, August)
  • Brendan DuBois, “Not Enough Stars in the Night” (Cosmos)
  • Catherynne M Valente, “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica” (Clarkesworld, May)
  • Cory Doctorow, “The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away” (Tor.com)

Congratulations to all the authors, and to the sites that published them! You can’t imagine how proud I am to see Futurismic considered alongside big hitters of online genre fiction like Strange Horizons and Tor.com – I run this site for the love of short form science fiction, but to see Chris’s editorial skills and Jason’s writing vindicated by Horton’s selection is a greater gift than I ever hoped to receive this year.

Indeed, Unplugged is a great moment for webzines in general – we’re not third-class venues any more. So thank you, Rich – and thank you all – for reading and believing in what we do. Here’s hoping for more selections in years to come!

How much science does a science fiction writer need?

Not just scientific knowledge, but technological, economical, social, geopolitical… you need the lot to be able to write believable near-future science fiction. Or so says the latest missive from Jason Stoddard discussing the burden of the modern science fiction writer:

If you want to write believable near-future fiction, you can’t choose a single point of advancement. You need to have a good understanding of advances in many different fields, and you need to be able to imagine how these can come together, for good or for bad. And to be really believable, you’ll need to know more than you ever wanted to know about how the world works, economically and socially, as well as where the trends are heading.

Otherwise, your fiction will soon read like that Golden Age lit, filled with spaceships manned by human calculators and spinning reels of tape.

He may have a point. But then again, he may have missed the point, or focussed on one that matters more to some than others. Jeremy Tolbert responds to Jason’s closing statement above:

If you’re intimidated by the accelerating advance of the future, don’t let that stop you from writing SF. You don’t have to write it that way. Personally, I take great enjoyment in throwing reality out the window when I write my SF. SF has only ever been about believability to a small subset of readers.  Believability in the context of tech, anyway. It, like all literature, does revolve around the believability of human action and emotion, however. Keep that in mind and you’ll write great fiction, and very few people will care about that other stuff.

I’m not an experienced enough writer to know which angle I prefer, but as a reader I’m quite fond of both – and while we keep the focus near-future here at Futurismic, I don’t think we’re anywhere close to the line of science fiction that’s so hard it’s rigid.

Which do you prefer?


I’m willing to bet a pretty big percentage of people reading this have harboured the fantasy of being an astronaut, even though you knew it was a virtually unattainable dream. But sometimes dreams can come true by the least expected route possible… even when those dreams are not necessarily your own.

Jason Stoddard is no stranger to the pages of Futurismic or numerous other science fiction publications, both online and off – and with good reason. In “Willpower” he walks the talk of his own ‘Positive SF’ manifesto, balancing old-school optimism and sensawunda with a plausible (and far from utopian) future setting. Enjoy!


by Jason Stoddard

Michael Delgado needed something to do. Today. His last willfare job had ended last Friday, which meant tomorrow morning was contract breach. The foodcard would stop working, and the ever-efficient borgots of the Balboa Arms would be down to usher him out of his 300-square-foot studio apartment. Not that he’d miss it, with Van Nuys cranking to 105 today and him with only a swamp cooler.

He scanned quickly through the willfare crapwork and sinkers:


Dog walking, Cerritos area, 0.5D willfare credit (4 dogs, large, aggressive). ACCEPT >>

No way. Not for a half-day credit.


Street cleaning, crew of 16, Chinatown and surrounds, multiday contract. ACCEPT >>

(Currently 11 accepted)

Surrounds, as in southeast LA, no way.


Research assistant, UCLA medical campus, great status! Includes transpo and housing. Minimum 45-day contract (90 willfare creds), extensible to 90-days. Standard disclaimers. ACCEPT >>

And take a chance that the cancer they infect you with they might not be able to cure? Oh, no.

Michael Delgado frowned, the chant of the taxpayers echoing in his head. WE pay your salary, so you do what WE want. We want you to cut our grass, you get out here pronto! And Congress agreed. Needed for a smooth transition to a post-scarcity economy, they said. Allows them the dignity of productive work, they said. Gets them off the streets, they said. They who drove comfortably to jobs not-yet-outsourced in SUVs with large leases not-quite-paid.

And then:


Take my place on the Ares. 180 day contract. I’ll vouch for the full 720 willfare days, even if I have to pay ’em. I’m done. ACCEPT >>

Michael felt something like an electric shock as he eyeblinked on ACCEPT. Strange shivers worked up and down his spine. He heard something like a whisper, deep within his mind. He felt suddenly strong, powerful, alive.

Oh, no. Continue reading NEW FICTION: WILLPOWER by Jason Stoddard