Tag Archives: optimism

BOOK REVIEW: Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction by Jetse de Vries (ed.)

Shine: an Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction by Jetse de Vries (ed.)Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science-Fiction by Jetse de Vries (ed.)

Solaris Books, April 2010; 416pp; £7.99 RRP – ISBN13: 978-1906735661

I’ve been talking about Jetse de Vries’ Shine project for a long time now, for a number of reasons: not only is Jetse a good friend and former colleague, but I’m a sucker for manifestos and movements that attempt to turn against the grain within their chosen field. I supported the call for optimistic science fiction for the same reason I supported the Mundane SF movement, in other words, and in the same manner – not in hope of seeing one hegemony replace another, but in hope of seeing the landscape change a little.

Only time will tell whether Shine will cause more than a momentary blip on the stylistic timeline of science fiction, of course. But a number of the stories contained within it seem to prove Jetse’s thesis, namely that you don’t have to write a dystopian or post-apocalyptic future to create an engaging science fiction story. Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction by Jetse de Vries (ed.)

Shine anthology contributors interviewed

The SF Signal gang have turned over the microphone (er, keyboard) to Charles Tan to publish a set of interviews with the authors whose stories appear in the Shine anthology of optimistic science fiction, mentioned here many times previously. Shine features a decent number of Futurismic fiction alumni, and hence regular readers may be interested to see the interviews with Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Jason Stoddard which have already appeared.

I’ll be reviewing Shine here at Futurismic just as soon as my life circumstances have handed me sufficient time to read it and bash out some words in response (things are still a little fraught, in case you were wonderin’). In the meantime, have any of you lot bought a copy of Shine and, if so, what did you think? And if you’re not interested in buying a copy (for any reason other than not having the money spare), why is that?

Table of contents for the Shine anthology announced

Shine anthology jacket artworkEditor Jetse de Vries has posted up the full table of contents for his forthcoming Shine anthology of optimistic science fiction… and I’m proud to see there are quite a few Futurismic alumni among the names mentioned! Here’s the full run-down:

  • “The Earth of Yunhe” – Eric Gregory
  • “The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up” – Jacques Barcia
  • “Overhead” – Jason Stoddard
  • “Summer Ice” – Holly Phillips
  • “Sustainable Development” – Paula R. Stiles
  • “The Church of Accelerated Redemption” – Gareth L. Powell & Aliette de Bodard
  • “The Solnet Ascendancy” – Lavie Tidhar
  • “Twittering the Stars” – Mari Ness
  • “Seeds” – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • “At Budokan” – Alastair Reynolds
  • “Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic” – Gord Sellar
  • “Scheherazade Caught in Starlight” – Jason Andrew
  • “Russian Roulette 2020” – Eva Maria Chapman
  • “Castoff World” – Kay Kenyon
  • “Paul Kishosha’s Children” – Kenn Edgett
  • “Ishin” – Madeline Ashby

Shine is due for publication by Rebellion/Solaris Books in April this year, and is already available for pre-order on Amazon (UK and US). As far as I can see, there’s a dollars-to-pounds parity on price, meaning that Stateside readers can net themselves a real bargain.

And keep your eyes open for another optimistic science fiction story by one of the authors above, to be published right here on Futurismic later today… 🙂

Pessimistic science fiction is a cop-out

opportunity center signIt’s nearing the submission deadline for the Shine Anthology, and editor Jetse de Vries has heard every excuse under the sun from science fiction writers who cannot or will not write optimistic near-future science fiction stories. Indeed, he’s heard enough of them to taxonomise them into seven distinct categories, to which he has posted a lengthy rebuttal on the anthology blog. [image by streamishmc]

The excuses – and he really does see them as excuses – are as follows:

  1. (Deliberately) misinterpreting the meaning of ‘optimistic SF’.
  2. Optimism is not realistic.
  3. You cannot predict the near future exactly, so you might as well not try.
  4. There is no possibility for conflict in a full-on optimistic future.
  5. I can’t do it because we live in dire times.
  6. My downbeat SF story is meant as a cautionary tale.
  7. I will not confirm to your positivist agenda: nobody tells me what to write.

If you’re at all interested in short form science fiction, you should read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts from the post:

This is a defence mechanism: most SF writers don’t want to write something that is too difficult, too risk-taking, and – dog forbid – relevant. They just want to write about something they find cool, and will throw up a barrage of excuses just to keep doing that. Those excuses are often dressed up as reasonable arguments, but more often than not what they really imply is: “Hey, I don’t want to this near future, optimistic stuff: I just want to stay in my comfort zone.” And indeed, that’s what most dystopias are: a comfort zone for unambitious writers.


There is a myth in writing circles that writers really like a challenge: tell a group of writers that they can’t do something and by golly, they will show you they can. Well, that myth is only true for simple challenges, like when Gordon Van Gelder said he didn’t like elves: immediately half the writing community brainstormed brilliant elf stories that would leave Gordon breathless.

However, now that I’m throwing out a real challenge – near future, optimistic SF – the utmost majority of the SF writing community is enormously reluctant at best, and downright dismissive at worst. Obviously, this is a challenge that doesn’t count. Well, I’ve got a message to all those writers who think they can ignore this challenge: get real, that is: look around in the real world.


There is a huge imbalance between pessimism and optimism in written SF today: the genre is overwhelmingly bleak. With Shine I’m trying to redress that lopsidedness somewhat. It’s a challenge: try your hand at this for just one short story only. But the general impression I’m getting from the SF ghetto is that ‘you’ll have to pry the pessimism from my cold, dead hands’ (exceptions acknowledged, of course). And indeed, if SF stops trying out new avenues, if it stops renewing itself, if it will not take risks, if it does not try to be relevant, then it will die.

At which point it can keep its bleakness.

The genre’s antipathy to change and new ideas is an observable phenomenon – one only need look to the backlash that Mundane SF produced for the proof – and Jetse’s dismantling of the seven excuses is lucid, logical and provocative. Essentially, all the defences boil down to one: I don’t wanna. And that’s fair enough, I guess – though it does somewhat put the lie to science fiction’s claim to be the foremost literature of the imagination.

There is one other excuse that Jetse misses off his list, though, possibly because it’s more honest than the others. As James “Big Dumb Object” Bloomer puts it:

I’ve been trying and it’s really bloody hard! […] the three months I’ve been trying to write optimistic stories are not enough, I have a feeling that it’s a life time’s work. I’m not going to give up though.

Kudos to him for that – any sort of change takes effort and will, after all.

So, all you writers among Futurismic‘s audience: do you have an excuse that’s not on Jetse’s list?

The dystopians are out of step: humans are naturally optimistic

Democritus_by_Agostino_Carracci At least, that’s according to a new study from the University of Kansas and Gallup presented over the weekend at the annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science in San Francisco (via ScienceDaily):

Data from the Gallup World Poll drove the findings, with adults in more than 140 countries providing a representative sample of 95 percent of the world’s population. The sample included more than 150,000 adults.

Eighty-nine percent of individuals worldwide expect the next five years to be as good or better than their current life, and 95 percent of individuals expected their life in five years to be as good or better than their life was five years ago.

“These results provide compelling evidence that optimism is a universal phenomenon,” said Matthew Gallagher, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas and lead researcher of the study.

At the country level, optimism is highest in Ireland, Brazil, Denmark, and New Zealand and lowest in Zimbabwe, Egypt, Haiti and Bulgaria. The United States ranks number 10 on the list of optimistic countries.

Demographic factors (age and household income) appear to have only modest effects on individual levels of optimism.

Now, has anyone actually conducted a scientific poll of science fiction writers to see how they stack up by comparison?

(Image: Democritus by Agostino Carracci, from Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]public opinion, polling, optimism, dystopia, pessimism,psychology[/tags]