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I’ve struggled for 3 years to come up with a term that properly describes what I’m trying to do with the News from trilogy.

Although I was originally inspired by re-reading the utopian novel ‘News from Nowhere’ by William Morris, that was only a starting point.

I originally set out to describe a possible world 200 years in the future that was simply better than the one we live in now. A world where people had stopped burning things to make or do other things, a world where the human race lived with the planet, not from it.

Writing the books has made me appreciate long term thinking, how the technology we are wedded to is utterly outdated and short term and how our current actions are increasingly likely to affect the future.

So I never wanted to us the term ‘Utopian’ to describe the worlds I was creating, they were not intended to be ‘perfect worlds where all was in harmony’ (that last phrase to be read in the ‘High Kryten’ style as depicted in Red Dwarf V episode ‘Demons and Angels')

I simply used the description, ‘not dystopian’ to describe what I was attempting to do.

When explaining the books to an audience I would get a few cheap laughs by saying ‘there are no zombies, no earth shattering meteors, no post apocalyptic nightmare where one man, played in the movie by Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis or Denzel Washington has to walk across a burning world shooting people to save his daughter.’

But I didn’t have a word to describe what the stories were.

Until today.

I just heard an interview with a man called Kevin Kelly who, despite a beard that may say otherwise is not a member of the Amish community although he is an admirer of some of their attitudes.

Kevin Kelly was a founding editor of Wired Magazine, he worked on The Whole Earth Catalog and has recently published a book called Cool Tools.

In the interview I heard he used the term ‘Protopian.’

Thank you Mister Kelly, that’s the term I’ve been looking for.

A protopian novel is set in a future that is not set in aspic, it is better than today but still developing and changing. Protopia is Progress Utopia; as Mister Kelly states, ‘today is a little better than yesterday, not much, but it is a little better, and tomorrow will be a little better than today.’

History has shown us unequivically that this is the case, of course we are surrounded by examples of cruelty, brutal inequality and violence, horrific for the people directly affected, but overall, for most pople, things ahve got a tiny bit better over the last 200 years.

Over the next 200 years, if we drive an optimistic culture to the fore, if we avoid the ugly violence of longing for dystopian collapse and chaos so popular with right wing white men (yes, I had to get on my hobby horse for a moment) then tomorrow might just be a tiny bit better than today, and so on.

So, that’s it.

The News from Trilogy is Protopian science fiction.


News from Gardenia

News from the Squares

News from the Clouds


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Reader Comments (3)

Not sure I'd overstate the power of "right wing white men". If they've been to the fore for the last 200 years, I still think that the world is a better place than it was a couple of hundred years ago. So, no reason to think that their influence is likely to unduly affect the next two hundred years.

Also, the most murderous regime in history, just happened to be left wing? I don't think either extreme has a monopoly of "cruelty, brutal inequality and violence." Perhaps that's the point. Avoid either extreme.

March 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

So dystopian collapses are particularly popular with "right wing white men" are they. Where does it leave Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale) ? Or Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games)? Or P.D. James (The Children of Men)? Or Nancy Farmer, or Veronica Roth, or Lauren Oliver?

Of course, there are white male writers of dystopian novels. How about George Orwell (not normally known as a right winger). Then there's Aldous Huxley (also not known as a right winger). I might add a favourite of mine to that - J. G. Ballard.

No, what these people have in common is that they are imaginative thinkers. Characterisations of literary sub-genres you don't happen to like as the domain of groups of people you despise is simply self-serving and intellectually lazy,

March 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

I like the word "Protopian", it incites a sense of hope in me :)

Also Rob I thought you might like to look at this http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/bill-gates/10792629/Bill-Gates-turns-attention-to-latest-project-fake-chicken.html

... basically Bill Gates (among other influential people) has helped fund a project to produce an alternative to meat that tastes like chicken. I can imagine that like in 'News from the squares' it will be used with food printers... I'd certainly eat it. Heck, I'm willing to try eating Crickets or grubs if it does that little extra to help the environment.

May 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJon

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