Closing the door on the Noughties

Epitaph for a wrecked and rapid decade

Well, there you have it: 2009 is running on the vapours, and the first year of the second decade of the third millenium is waiting in the wings. Of course, these are all arbitrary numbers, artefacts of happenstance… but one can’t help but get sucked in by the false sense of significance. It’s part of how we’re wired, I think – culturally, biologically. The world turns, and we turn with it, seemingly spinning on the spot but actually moving through space at unimaginable speeds. If we didn’t measure things, we’d go mad. Or maybe madder.

That said, I’m nowhere near as revved up on manufactured significance as I was ten years ago at the turn of the millennium. Despite what I earnestly believed to be a steely cynicism on my own part, the dawn of 2000 was the dampest squib of all… and also for many others, I suspect. This has been the decade when I started to feel like an adult (with all the sense of personal responsibility and existential confusion that implies), and this has been the year when, perhaps, I finally started to act like one. Fake it ’til you make it, as the saying goes. 😉

But why dredge up the past? Forward is a better direction to watch, if only so you avoid bumping into the more visible unexpected obstacles. The changes I’ve made in the last year or two have laid out a route through the future for me… and while no plan ever survives contact with the enemy, it’s good to have a sense of direction, a slice of the compass arc to aim into. I’m looking forward to the coming year, the coming decade – it’s full of dreams to fulfil and promises to keep, and strange new things to learn about.

But looking forward is getting harder, at least in the predictive/speculative sense. It’s almost a cliché to talk about science fiction’s inability to see much further than the end of its own temporal nose, but I think that’s symptom of a more general problem that we have as a species. We’re so much more aware of The Now (and of the failed futures that were imagined in our childhoods, and our parents’ childhoods) than we ever have been. Blinded by the near-infinite array of possibilities before us, we can scarcely guess what’s around the next turn. Obvious guesses will turn out to be naive assumptions; improbable pipedreams and worst case scenarios will become obvious in retrospect. Ken MacLeod hits the nail on the head, saying:

Here in the last day of 2009, I have absolutely no idea what the world will be like in 2019, or what we can expect in the ten years ahead. All I know is that 2019 seems a lot farther in the future than 2009 seemed in 1999.

Yeah, that’s about right. Who knows what the future will hold? But no matter – it’s the sketching/building of the future (one’s own, and that of the whole species) that’s such a curious mix of fun and frustration. But as the late Doctor Thompson used to say, “buy the ticket, take the ride”. I hope you’ll all be along for the journey. 🙂

Books received

And to finish off the year, I’d be remiss not to mention an influx of books to the intray. Two of them were Xmas gifts,and they’re the two non-sf-related titles – namely Richard Wilson’s Can’t Be Arsed: 101 Things Not To Do Before You Die and the latest edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Morocco – but a bunch of other gubbins has tumbled through the letterbox in the last couple of weeks. Let’s see what we have…

Unplugged: The Web's Best Sci-fi and Fantasy 2008

Unplugged: The Web’s Best Sci-fi and Fantasy 2008 by Rich Horton (ed.) [Wyrm Publishing] – the first in what will hopefully be a long-running series, Rich Horton scours the genre webzines and beyond for great stories that were printed in pixels before ink. A very special book for me, as it reprints a story we published at Futurismic (Jason Stoddard’s “Willpower”), but there’s an interesting and well-rounded TOC that I’m looking forward to rattling through some time soon.

Realms 2: the Second Year of Clarkesworld Magazine

Realms 2: the Second Year of Clarkesworld Magazine by Nick Mamatas and Sean Wallace (eds.) [Wyrm Publishing] – does what it says on the tin, a collection of Clarkesworld‘s output from late 2007 to late 2008. Clarkesworld sets a benchmark for quality in web publishing that I dream of matching some day with Futurismic, and it’s great to see a TOC with lots of new names, including plenty of female and/or non-WASP writers included.

The Lights in the Tunnel

The Lights In The Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future by Martin Ford [Acculant Publishing] – a random email query from the publisher offered to send me a copy of this one, rightly assuming that Futurismic‘s editor would be interested to read it. Politics, technology, globalisation, communications, economics, outsoucing, automation… its topics are like a checklist of my geek triggers, and if it’s anywhere near as interesting as it promises to be, it’ll be time well spent.

Do Androids Sleep With Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Sleep With Electric Sheep? Critical Perspectives on Sexuality and Pornography in Science and Social Fiction [RE/search Publications] – offered in the latest titles-for-review list from SF Site, I couldn’t pass up a title like that! A wild collection of essays seemingly rooted in fringe academia, geek and fetish subcultures and the territories of synthetic thinkers, I’m looking forward to seeing what new (or at least new-to-me) ideas this book has to share. To judge by some of the, er, illustrations, it isn’t going to leave many cavities unprobed, so to speak.

The Mindscape of Alan Moore

The Mindscape of Alan Moore [Shadowsnake Films] – yeah, OK, so it’s not a book. I very rarely buy or watch DVDs, but when I passed this documentary looking forlorn on the shelf of HMV during the Xmas shopping period, wearing a knock-down price-tag, I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve heard it praised highly by fans of Moore, and it features Moore himself explaining his worldview… and given that I had a pretty serious jones for the occult as a teenager (not to mention for conspiracy theory, mind control and other leftfield stuff as a twenty-something), this looks like a chance to drink direct from the fire-hydrant of weird. Maybe I’ll sit down and watch it tomorrow… after I’ve finished bagging up the rotting cardboard in the cellar, naturally.*

Coda

So, that’s VCTB done for the decade, and all my other duties discharged (at least until the sun rises on 2010). So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to the fridge in search of a beer… here’s hoping your new year is whatever you want it to be. Take care, girls and boys, and I’ll see you on the other side. 🙂

[ * – There is probably no more damning indictment of my transition from twenty-something hedonist/nihilist to thirty-something cohabiting self-employed writer-nerd than the fact that I’m viewing New Year’s Day as a date whose lack of regular work commitments makes it ideal for bingeing on unpleasant and lengthy household chores. How the mighty have fallen, eh? Happy new year, folks. 🙂 ]