November 2014 – January 2015

Science Fiction has long provided writers and readers with the means to conduct thought experiments and to model scenarios different from the ones we currently experience. As a generation raised on Science Fiction moves into positions of power and influence in the world, the lines between fiction and fact become increasingly blurred. Science Fiction also offers means with which to critique and reimagine the present.

In this series of readings and workshops, we discuss future polities and social structures as imagined by Science Fiction writers, hear from cultural theorists and those currently engaged in living experiments.

Three of the five sessions will be reading groups, for which participants will be asked to have read the text under discussion prior to the session. Two sessions will be group discussions with guest speakers. The series is open to everyone. It’s a modular series, so you pick and choose which to come to; you’re also very welcome to come to all. If you come to a reading group session, please do read the book beforehand. All books for the reading groups are widely available in libraries and bookshops.

Living In The Future is a new journal of Science Fiction and future-oriented art and writing. Issue 3, forthcoming, is themed on “New Lands”.

5th January 2015
Oryx And Crake projects our world of unchecked corporate power and huge economic divisions into the near future, and catalogues the cataclysmic fallout that occurs through the eyes of a small group of characters – some privileged, some not. Atwood updates the Frankenstein narrative to include a panoply of plausible genetic horrors, in a dismaying vision of the world to come.
15th December 2014
The ways in which we imagine the technologies of the future can speak volumes about the concerns of the present. What changes and what stays the same in the representation of prospective technoscientific advances gives us some insight into the perceived horizons of political possibility at a given historical moment. In this presentation, I will consider how we might intervene within this discourse in order to shift the debates around gender and sexuality and articulate visions of a more emancipatory future.
8th December 2014
The Dispossessed begins on Annares, a barren but mineral-rich moon to which the planet Urrastes’ anarcho-syndicalist rebels have accepted their banishment. In the 200 years since, doctrines of freedom have begun to harden into orthodoxies. Thus, although not forbidden, a physicist’s journey to work in cooperation with his peers and colleagues on the verdant, highly unequal planet-of-origin is treated with hostility. He arrives just as a revolution is brewing;  we see, from his perspective, the imperfections of his own ‘ambiguous utopia’; explore comparative freedoms; gender roles, approaches to the needs of the one and the many. Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, The Dispossessed  is Le Guin’s fictional working-through of how an anarchist society might work for real.
if you can’t get hold of a copy, the whole book has, rather fittingly, been transcribed and uploaded here:
1st December 2014
Ben Vickers (Serpentine, Lima Zulu) leads a discussion about his involvement with  unMonastery, an experimental neo-monastic community based in Italy and Greece. Their engagement with the monastic tradition, and other, similar projects will be also discussed.
Suggested reading:
24th November 2014
A Canticle For Liebowitz presents a post-apocalyptic dark age in which religious orders assiduously attempt to piece together lost knowledge. First published in 1960 and never out of print, like much Science Fiction of its period, this Hugo Award-winning novel draws on cold war fears to depict a compellingly possible future, here modelled in part on a past-Earth era. Dealing with cycles of history, the co-existence of Church and state, and tribes of nomads, Canticle has been a major influence on many subsequent novels, including Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, which makes for excellent companion reading, and may be referred to in discussion here.
See also: Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (the book or the film)