Archive for the ‘Genres’ Category

If you have a ship that can keep you alive for the time required to travel between stars, why leave it? We’re not going to colonize the galaxy, we’re going to use it for resources to make cool stuff.

And use the light-years of empty space to get away from the asshats.

SF is full of stories of global, or interplanetary, or even interstellar governments. Government just like today, except vastly larger.

But it’s not going to happen in real life.

Government follows production. When production is centralized, as it was in the industrial era, government can collect much of that centralized wealth in taxes, and use it to expand into a big, centralized government. And it can justify those acts by claiming that big, centralized production needs a big, centralized government to make it efficient.

And the politicians have a point. If you want your country to be wealthy in a world of big, centralized production, you don’t want to be constantly dealing with localized regulations that get in the way.

So you’re about as likely to see a small, libertarian government in an industrial society as you are an ice cube in volcanic lava. All the incentives are pushing against that, and it would take a herculean opposition to prevent it.

At which point, your neighbours with their big-government, big-business economy would probably invade and take you over.

But that’s rapidly coming to an end. 3D printing, cheap CNC and similar technologies mean more and more of the things we use are going to be made locally, many of them at home. The kinds of technologies we have to develop to survive in space are going to make small communities self-sufficient on Earth, too.

And then, why would they want to be told what to do by governments hundreds or thousands of miles away? What would they gain from a big government when pretty much everything they encounter is made or grown within a few miles of where they live?

So the natural incentives in the future are for small, localized government, or no government at all. A single family building a home from an asteroid aren’t going to want anyone telling them what to do, and a small tribe doing the same aren’t going to want anyone outside the tribe telling them what to do.

Now, one obvious counterargument is that those who have access to the most resources are going to use them to build giant robot armies to enslave the rest. But that’s not going to work well in space, where the distances will make any kind of warfare rather difficult. On Earth, perhaps, but if you have a giant robot army, you don’t need to enslave anyone. You wouldn’t be invading their territory to govern them, you’d be invading it to kill them and steal their resources.

And, of course, those who have power will fight this trend tooth-and-nail. We’re already seeing this with the ever-increasing calls to censor the Internet, and the open censorship of their users by many of the big Internet businesses who only exist in their current form because of a cosy co-dependency with those in power.

Some government will ban all innovation and go full North Korea on their citizens, even as North Korea is going the other way. If a government can force people to live in an industrial society even while their neighbours are decentralizing through localized manufacturing, it could continue to exist for some time. But, as soon as that country becomes a problem, their more advanced neighbours will come in and free it from its backward government.

So, my forecast would be:

  1. Big government will become less and less useful and more and more an impediment to technological innovation. Instead of helping the country become wealthy, as it did in the distant past, it will help the country become poor.
  2. Many governments will try to ban new manufacturing technologies that lead to the decentralization of production. But they’ll eventually fail, because nations which do that will become technological backwaters.
  3. Even as we see a resurgence of nationalism around the world, it’s unlikely that it will become the norm before tribalism takes over. If there’s a planetary government on Mars, it will only last until the second colony is built.
  4. Earth will be a death-trap, as those who want its resources for the automated production of weapons will just take them, and not care whose they were before. The kind of person who would care won’t be building a giant robot army to steal your stuff.
  5. As we spread out across the galaxy, centralized government will become even less viable as the distances involved will make such control impossible. Maybe a government on Earth could control Alpha Centauri with an eight-year communication round-trip. But a star fifty light years away? A hundred? A thousand? How can you control a colony when communication of orders from the central government takes longer than the entire lifespan of the Roman Empire?

Of course, yes, I still do have big governments in some of my stories. Just because something seems inevitable in the real world doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for a sci-fi story. But those stories also generally include faster-than-light travel and other technologies that I don’t really believe in either.

As an SF writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about the future and how it may work. And, I have to admit, the more I think about it, the harder it is to see what’s coming.

But, lately, the left have come up with a wonderful new idea: Universal Basic Income.

Aka ‘free money for doing nothing’. So not really that new or that wonderful.

The theory goes like this. AI and automation are about to make most jobs obsolete, which means that most people won’t have an income, which means they won’t be able to buy anything, which means that business owners won’t be able to make any money, which means we must tax the businesses to give money to the unemployed so they can buy stuff from those businesses and keep them in business.

It doesn’t take very long to see why this is nonsense. Sure, many big business owners are all in favour of UBI. But that’s because they see it as a free money handout, and don’t expect to be the ones paying for it.

Let’s look at what happens when they do have to pay for it:

I have $1,000 as a business owner. I give it to the government in tax. They take their cut and hand $900 on to the unemployed. I sell them $900 of products, and make $450 of profit.

So, I had $1,000. Thanks to the wonders of UBI, I now have $450.

So why wouldn’t I have just closed down the business instead, and kept the $1,000 I had?

Economically, it makes no sense. So the left have to resort to their usual standby: violence. Pay them money, they say, or they’ll riot and murder the rich.

Of course, that doesn’t work either, because the rich will be living in their bunkers in New Zealand, and will be unaffected by the violence. The rioters will burn down their cities and then… well, die, presumably.

A hundred years ago, that prospect would have terrified the rich, because they needed those people to work in their factories to produce products to sell. But if all the factories are automated, the rich have no reason to care. In fact, they’d probably prefer to see the now economically worthless poor kill each other, so there’ll be more resources available to the rich.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Automation may progress slower than expected, and the welfare state may become UBI at some point. Or the rich may decide it’s better to keep the masses occupied with bread and circuses until they’re ready to release a killer virus or robot army to wipe them out.

But I can’t see any way it’s going to be more than a short-term situation. In a world where the rich can have robots and automated factories to dig up resources and turn them into useful stuff, they’re not likely to want to waste those resources on people who give them nothing in return.

And, if it does happen, it will rapidly become a means of social control. Complain about the government? No UBI for you.

I have incorporated it to a limited extent in the new rewrite of Rebellion, but that’s precisely what it is: a way to control the chavs of England, so long as they still exist.

Most people have no idea how much spying is going on, and are absolutely shocked when they find out how much information about them is available, not just to companies they gave it to, but to organizations they may actively dislike.

They haven’t even realized yet that, when they talk to that handy little Alex or Siri device, everything they say is sent over the Internet. Or that, when they use an app to control their stove or door locks, that app and those devices are talking to an Amazon server.

Most people do not like being spied on. Especially when you point them to a page which shows them exactly how much information the spies have collected.

Frankly, I’m quite shocked that any company lets employees carry around cellphones with apps that are constantly listening to the microphone. Just think of what those phones could be collecting and sending to competitors.

I have a story coming out in a new anthology tomorrow:
http://www.alasdairshaw.co.uk/thenewcomer/guardian.php

I thought about it for Condemned. But, if I did, I’d never have space for the actual book description.

IT companies are building an ever-more-complex web of systems that have absolutely no redundancy and all fail at the same time.. Just so managers can get a bonus for reducing short-term costs.

If there ever is a war with Russia or China, they’ll just have to bomb Amazon,and the Western economies will grind to a halt.

I mean, seriously, who in the world ever imagined that Amazon having IT problems would stop their ‘smart’ oven turning off?

On other forums, people were complaining about not being able to accept credit cards in stores, and that their ‘Internet of Things’ devices were no longer working.

This whole thing is insane. One day, ‘The Cloud’ is going to go down for a week, and people will die as a result.

Pick up some free horror books for Halloween, including Monster Maelstrom, a Halloween anthology which includes one of my flash fiction stories:

http://www.melaniekarsak.com/p/promotion.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcQacCfi_pw

Best movie I’ve seen so far this year. It’s based on a famous Heinlein short story, but adds some interesting ideas of its own. And the script is very clever, I’ve watched it three times and only just noticed some of the hidden meanings in the story. Like Fight Club, it’s also much funnier the second time through.

(So, anyone want to explain why WordPress randomly embeds Youtube videos, and randomly doesn’t?)

One of the things that really bugs me in SF are stories where trained astronauts do really stupid things, or act like wet blankets when something bad happens. I’ve you’ve read anything about astronaut training, or any of their biographies, you know that’s just not going to happen. They’re always expecting the worst to happen, and have a procedure for dealing with it… if not, they’ll try things until they fix it or die, they won’t just stand there screaming.

Another of my short stories is in a new anthology:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UZN00G6

I have another flash short in an anthology with Hugh Howey and ninety-nine other writers. It’s free on Amazon, so grab it when you can:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R1GECO6/

Warlock and beer

Warlock’s Brew cover

New story is almost done, it’s another Uncle Jim time travel tall tale, a prequel to The One That Got Away. Just need to do a bit of cleaning up before it’s ready to upload next week.

I’m also giving Drive Thru Fiction a try. I should be uploading most of my books that aren’t currently Amazon-exclusive over the next few weeks.

Don’t expect to see any books there for a few days, as I’m waiting for them to do their quality check first. I’ll also have to figure out how to create .mobi files as well as .epub.

Looks like I’ll be spending Christmas reformatting and uploading all over the web.

A couple of my flash shorts are in this charity anthology:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Q7HOU2E

Houdini on the pumpkin

Happy Halloween from Houdini Hamster…

Another interview is up at Judy Goodwin’s blog.

Smiling zombie

Cover

My new Victorian fungus zombie short story should be up on Amazon shortly. I wrote the original version a couple of years ago for a print anthology, as an attempt to create a hard SF zombie story. It ended up less hard SF than zombie, so it didn’t get into the anthology, but I’ve since rewritten it to be about three times as long and cleared up the problems readers reported.

It’s discounted to $0.99 for Halloween, so, if you want a copy, get it while it’s cheap.

Should be at Amazon shortly.