Warren Ellis often writes about the weather in his weekly email, Orbital Operations. This week he riffed on a big storm that blew through southern England a few years back and did a lot of damage, segueing from that to a discussion of technology and the future. He was particularly struck by the way the mobile phone caught sci-fi writers by surprise. I won’t ruin the analogy by attempting to paraphrase:
From this perspective, the Great Storm was the mobile phone. It could be seen in the distance, along with a dozen other swirls of stormy weather, but we had no idea it would hit hard enough to change the shape of the world. It hit hard enough to break science fiction, one of our traditional early-warning stations, and it became interpolated into and interrogated by contemporary and popular fiction without science fiction ever getting to lay a finger on it…
The future is a weatherfront, and attempting to predict single lightning strikes is stupid and wasteful. Understand the future as weather, and yourself as standing on the shore looking out to the horizon. Breathe the air and watch the water. There are dozens of different systems acting on the approach of the future. In order to get a handle on what’s coming, you need to be talking to and working with and keeping an eye on many different fields. Not just “technology.” The future is also always social, and economic, and political, and many other things besides, and those things act on the path of the storm. And, if you’re standing on the shore, you know that there are a lot of storms out there, and any one of them could hit like a hurricane.
I didn’t agree with everything he wrote, or even everything I’ve quoted above. But I do like the elegance of the idea. The future as a chaotic weather system. It’s been much on my mind as I immerse myself back into the Axis of Time story world. When I wrote Weapons of Choice I was projecting two decades into the future. Now the opening scenes of the book are just a couple of years away. There are so many things I would change if I could go back and rewrite the series, and I guess there's no reason I can’t do that. Movie franchises get rebooted all the time, and Charlie Stross has already done something right this with his Merchant Princes series, if I recall correctly.
But I won’t do that. I have enough on my hands wrapping up Paris to start a new series I have tentatively called World War 3.1 in my planning documents. And, of course, I’m also returning to the timeframe of the original series to fill in the gaps. What I hope to pull off is the narrative gymnastic trick of writing two books in one series, separated by a decade. We’ll see how that works out.
For now, however, we have Cairo to discuss. The Beta readers are probably more qualified than anybody to dive in at this point, having poured over the manuscript at a molecular level. But I now throw the comment threads open to anybody who wants to join in.
We can make this a general discussion, with spoilers, and open up more specific threads later in the week.