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Jocelyn Paine

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Nature's "Futures"

February 21, 2010

In 1999 and 2000, and again in 2005 and 2006, and again now, the science journal Nature published and is publishing short SF stories under the name Futures. They're linked from its Futures page; but to see them, you must pay or be at a subscribing organisation. Last night, however, I chanced upon a selection of free Futures stories from The Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation.

The copies result from an agreement between Nature and Concatenation. To quote Concatenation's SF Futures - An Introduction:

However what is clear is that, as far as the average SF reader is concerned, if you do not have access to an academic library, or if you do not subscribe to Nature, you cannot read these stories in the journal or on-line at the Nature website. For those of us on the Science Fact & Fiction Concatenation team (many of whom hold science degrees and/or work in areas related to the application of science and technology) that many of the SF community are missing out is a huge shame. This series deserves a greater profile. So what to do?

The good news is that Nature and Concatenation have come to an arrangement whereby each season an example of what we (some of the core Concatenation team) consider are among the best will be posted for free access on this site with the respective author's permission. Therefore each year as long as the series runs, we will post three stories, one in between each of our big news and reviews uploads in the spring, summer and autumn.

Which seems an entirely admirable thing to do. I've only read two of the stories so far, but I enjoyed both. Maxo Signals by Charles Stross is a dismayingly familiar interpretation of extraterrestrial messages. And Ted Chiang's What's Expected Of Us describes … but I mustn't spoil the story. It did make me wonder why computer programmers, who surely are imbued with the notion of deterministic cognitive systems, don't suffer in the same way.

By the way, I found Concatenation's page via a link in Ansible 256, one issue of critic and author David Langford's SF news and gossip column Ansible. From the same issue, I note:

Paul Krugman, winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Economics [November 2008], is an unashamed sf fan who earlier in the year said of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series: 'It's somewhat embarrassing, but that's how I got into economics: I wanted to be a psychohistorian when I grew up, and economics was as close as I could get.' (New York Times, 8 May)


Jocelyn Paine

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