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Friday, 10 January 2020

The Age of the Triffids


Writing a sequel to The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham's 1951 science fiction classic, is something most authors couldn't even attempt. It's not enough to pastiche Wyndham's style; that would just leave you with a quaint literary curiosity. The sequel needs to match the inventiveness and blistering shock value of the original but in a modern idiom. Think the retooled Battlestar Galactica or the way J J Abrams created a new take on 1960s-era Star Trek.

Perhaps the only writer who could hope to do justice to such an undertaking is John Whitbourn, one of England's greatest living practitioners of fantasy and science fiction. In The Age of the Triffids, he leaps ahead to twenty-five years after the time of the first novel. Bill Masen's community on the Isle of Wight has grown and on the surface appears to be thriving, but with fields of triffids covering most of the mainland and spores ever drifting on the wind, there are threats from outside and perhaps an even greater danger posed by the concomitant social fault lines between the pre- and post-apocalyptic generations.
"Resist the temptation to hide. Otherwise you’re trapped and you'll never get out. Triffids have all the time in the world. Sooner or later, hunger or thirst drive you into the open. They will be waiting."
For copyright reasons The Age of the Triffids is only on sale in Canada and New Zealand. But if you can't wait two decades for the rest of the world to catch up, why not see if a Canadian friend (or bookshop) will send you a copy?

I'm strenuously opposed to book series that go on and on long after they've run out of steam, but what would be your choice for another classic standalone SF or fantasy novel that's crying out for just one good sequel?


Wednesday, 1 January 2020

A place among the stars

"Here is a vision of where we could be [in fifty years' time]: We will have fusion power and open-sea mariculture. We will be able to travel the globe freely through suborbital space in less than an hour. We will have research laboratories, industries, and hotels in orbit. We will have scientific bases, astronomical interferometers, and helium-3 mines on the Moon. We will have city-states on Mars — vibrant, optimistic centers of invention sporting lively and novel cultures, with many casting off the chains of tradition to strike out new paths to show the way to a better future. We will have mining and settlement outfits finding their way into the main asteroid belt, and exploration missions to the outer solar system. We will have grand observatories floating in free space, mapping the planets of millions of stars, and finding other worlds filled with life and intelligence. And we will be making magnificent discoveries in physics and cosmology, learning the nature of the universe and life’s role in it, and preparing our first interstellar spaceships to journey forth and find our place among the stars."
That's Robert Zubrin, astronautical engineer and advocate for manned space exploration, making the case for a Roddenberry-style vision of humanity's future. If you feel like going into the new year with an upbeat attitude, listen to Dr Zubrin talking here to Michael Shermer on the Science Salon podcast. It'll make you forget every dumb, anti-rational, zero-sum argument you encountered in 2019 -- at least for an hour. You might even decide to join the Mars Society.

A while back, Jamie and I wrote a script for a TV show set in a Mars colony later this century. The idea was to de-genre the idea of space travel. To forget about Buck Rogers adventures and space opera plots and instead just explore the human adventure involved in setting up on a new world. The networks didn't bite -- they might have if we'd included aliens -- but here's the opening sequence from the pilot, just in case it entices you to look towards the final frontier...


Whatever world you make your home, happy New Year!