Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer
“The History Within Us”
Future Science Fiction Digest - Issue 0
More
“Love Engine Optimization”
The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 3
More
“The Marsh of Camarina”
Shades Within Us
More
“Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?”
Nightmare Magazine 63
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Smokopolitan nr 10
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
Bifrost
More
“In Memory of a Summer’s Day”
Mad Hatters and March Hares
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
Tor.com
More
“Love Engine Optimization”
Lightspeed Magazine 85
More
“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies”
XB-1
More
“The Singularity is in Your Hair”
Cyber World
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
科幻世界 (Science Fiction World)
More
“The Problem of Meat”
Grendelsong
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2016
More
“Demon in Aisle 6”
Nightmare Magazine 38
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
World Chinese SF Association
More
“The Thing in the Refrigerator That Could Stop Time”
Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest
More
“Marie and the Mathematicians”
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #26
More
“The Writing’s on the Wall”
Farrago's Wainscot #5
More
“The Sembla”
A Field Guide to Surreal Botany
More
“The Girl in the Basement”
Hatter Bones
More
“Saving Diego”
Interzone #221
More
“The Spaces Between Things”
Electric Velocipede 17/18
More
“The Girl in the Basement”
Apex Magazine, Vol 3, Issue 3
More
“The Suffering Gallery”
Beneath Ceaseless Skies - Issue 57
More
“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Magazine #42
More
“The History Within Us”
The People of the Book
More
“The Hands That Feed”
Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories
More
“The Bricks of Gelecek”
Naked City
More
“The Hands That Feed”
The Mammoth Book of Steampunk
More
“The Suffering Gallery”
The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Year Three
More
“The Great Game at the End of the World”
After
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Lightspeed Magazine and io9.com
More
“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Year Four
More
“The Last Probe”
Launch Pad
More
“Pheth’s Aviary”
Beneath Ceaseless Skies - Issue 133
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Clarkesworld Magazine #92
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
XB-1 Issue 8/2014
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Космопорт (Kosmoport)
More
“The History Within Us”
XB-1 Issue 11/2014
More
“Cameron Rhyder’s Legs”
Clarkesworld Magazine #98
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2015
More
“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies”
Clarkesworld Magazine
More
My Readercon Schedule

I’ll be attending Readercon July 12-15 in Quincy, MA. I’ll be on one panel, and I’ll be doing a reading. Most likely I’ll be reading from the novel-in-progress. Here’s my schedule:

Futures That Feel like Home
Location: Blue Hills
Fri 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM 
Description Our panelists will discuss the fictional futures they find most appealing and would be happy to live in (maybe with some caveats). Does the work that depicts these futures provide a path or hints as to how humans might get there? What makes these futures worth rooting for and aspiring to?

Reading: Matthew Kressel
Location: Salon A
Sat 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM 

Hope to see you there!


Visions of the Future

Ask most people what they think the future will bring in the next 10, 20, 50 years, and you’re likely to encounter pessimism. Drought, famine, war, disease, scarce resources. The planet is warming up, we’re killing of species by the hundred-fold, destroying this one and only planet we’ve been given. Right now we have Ebola, Global Warming, ISIS, and a newly elected American Congress that has promised to roll back much-needed health reforms. The future does indeed look bleak.

Few people you will meet will expound the optimistic views of the 70s and 80s. Colonies in space. Environmentally friendly cities. Famine, disease, war rendered obsolete simply by the fact that we have moved from a society of scarcity to one of plenty.

Our optimistic visions of this:

Orbital Space Station

Have been replaced with this:

951023 - Elysium

Our defining vision for the 21st century is dystopia, at least so far. Part of this is fueled by the media we consume. Film, video games, television. But they are not to blame. Art echoes stark realities, casts a mirror on our inner psyche. While some live in utter luxury, others on this planet must scour garbage of others to survive. While we send probes to the planets and beyond, loft massive ships into Earth orbit, a ten year old boy dies of Ebola, alone, suffering, without adequate care, to be forgotten.

It’s easy to be bleak, pessimistic. Our politicians like clockwork fail to live up to their promises, or fall into scandal and shame. Instead of propping up the forward-thinking, most intelligent, philosophical and artistic among us, we praise those who have the prettiest face, or are the most obnoxious, or who, by nature of their birth, simply have more money than we do.

Some called Gene Roddenberry a utopianist, but I think he had it right: humanity needs a vision of the future that is grand instead of bleak, optimistic instead of dire. And he was wise enough to know that a post-scarcity world does not mean that all suffering will be eradicated. It simply means that, barring exceptional circumstances, all individuals will have the opportunity to pursue whatever they can imagine.

But this is not the world we live in. If you are lucky enough to be born into a class or society where you have access to healthcare, food, education, you are already ahead of the game. But even so, most in the Western world struggle with crushing debt, an economy that favors the top as it exploits the lowest among us.

We do have plenty, as William Gibson said, it’s just not evenly distributed.

I think our problem — and I want to say up front that it’s a solvable one — is that we — we as in humanity as a whole — have no singular vision for the 21st century. And so, because we choose not to strive for an ideal humanity, or because all the billions of shouting voices just devolve into noise, we revert to the stock image of the future that we’ve been fed via media for the past several decades: dystopia.

Stop for a second. Name one film, book, video game, or other media you’ve encountered in the past five years that presented a view of the future that wasn’t bleak. Can you name ten? Five? One?

Now, how many of the dystopian variety can you think of? Fifty? A hundred? More?

Part of our problem is a lack of foresight. Unless we plan for a different future, unless we actively strive for a future that we all can embrace, we will instead receive that which our subconscious automatically creates, and that will be fueled by our default vision of the future. Instead of this default vision, can we imagine a future in which:

  • Everyone on the planet has affordable or free access to food, water, clothing, shelter, and healthcare
  • Everyone on the planet has access to affordable or free education up to any level their minds desire
  • A massive reduction in fossil fuel use to be replaced with sustainable resources
  • A slowing of population growth to sustainable levels
  • Reduction and eventual elimination of war and the reasons for it, which are typically: land, religion, resources
  • A massive ramping up of the search for life in the Cosmos
  • A massive slowdown of resource depletion concomitant with renewed efforts to preserve and protect all living species
  • A commercial, private space program with an intent to expand humanity’s presence beyond Earth

I’m sure we can think of more, but these would be a good start. And the most important thing is that all of them are very much possible, especially if each of us, individually, work towards one or more of those goals each day. Even if only a small percentage of humanity’s billions took up these goals, think of the change that might be possible. The mode we are living in now: scarcity, debt, war, poverty, a surveillance state…this inevitable slide into dystopia is but one mode of many. And all we have to do is shift our consciousness a bit to realize that another mode is possible. And that can just as easily be inevitable too, so long as we make it happen, so long as we consciously act to bring it into the world.


On SF Creating the Future
Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot

Jason Sanford has a short but excellent post on Medium.com about the notion that science fiction does not predict the future, but in fact creates the future. In the article he cites Cory Doctorow’s Locus essay, “A Vocabulary for Speaking About the Future.” I was particularly struck by the assertion that when science fiction writers believe they are predicting the future they may in fact be inspiring. Who/what are they inspiring? Young readers who may grow up to be scientists, engineers, filmmakers, novelists, visionaries. People, in other words, who shape the future.

I sometimes read the blog The Last Psychiatrist. While the author, Alone, can sometimes come off as acerbic, if you wade through her rhetorical arguments, you will find genius buried within. While she tends to focus on the pervasive problem of narcissism in our society (and by “ours” she typically means America, or any culture that mimics or shares our value system), one of her arguments is that advertising in our culture is aspirational and not inspirational.

Note that I mention “inspiration” again. I’ll come back to that.

But first, I want to explore the difference between aspiration and inspiration. Aspiration, of course, is the “ardent wish or desire for something, chiefly that which is elevated or spiritual.” (source: Wiktionary) Whereas inspiration is “the act of an elevating or stimulating influence upon the intellect, emotions or creativity.” In other words, aspiration is the desire for something you don’t have. Inspiration pushes you to act with what you already have.

My point is that, based on my read of The Last Psychiatrist, and my take on Cory Doctorow’s and Jason Sanford’s essays, that most of Western culture (and by that I mean pop/materialist/consumerist culture) is stuck in an aspirational loop. We are desiring things we do not have, only to desire yet more things when we acquire these material items. We are left perpetually unsatisfied because a core need is not being met. I think this need is a sense of purpose. For many, religion has failed to provide that connection to a greater force. And while some gape in awe at the grandeur of the universe without need for a divine being, most cannot muster the will to appreciate that which is so unfathomable (that is, the immensity and complexity of the cosmos). For most it is easier to retire back into a sort of mindless trance, where we indulge in television and video games and ever more reclusive forms of self-numbing, because all seems utterly meaningless outside of our comfortable zone.

Well, I say, fuck that. If we cannot find meaning out there, then let’s make our own meaning right here. Let’s use the tools at our disposal, in other words, let’s inspire people toward greater things. And we can use science fiction as a backdrop to explore those grand ideas.  This is probably echoing a lot of what Jetse de Vries tried to do with his Shine: Optimistic SF anthology. And I say, let’s dream bigger. Why can’t we write stories, novels, films, video games that show the following:

o) a world without poverty, pollution,  hunger, disease that is not a frightful dystopia

o) the human race expanding into the solar system and beyond, not to conquer, but to explore and learn. Spaceships, in other words, without weapons and explosions. Yes, I’m thinking Star Trek, sans battles, but why is this view of the future considered quaint by many? It’s because we’ve been conditioned to be cynics, to believe that dystopia is the only possible future. We’ve been taught to be pessimistic. Note that I don’t mean there is a conspiracy, per se, but that our collective unconscious fears have been affecting us for a long time. It’s time we create our future worlds more consciously, the way we want them to appear, not how we fear they might.

o) a common dream for humanity, echoing what Carl Sagan says is his famous Cosmos tv series, a long-term goal for all, and with very real immediate milestones to be met. In other words, short-term inspiration towards long-term aspiration.

I believe science fiction has the tools to do all of this at its disposal now. SF can inspire us to greater things. And in fact I would argue that it is the only medium/genre/voice which has such power to shape and mold the future. Let’s not let our unconscious fears and behaviors rule us as if we are automatons, dreaming up default grotesque dystopias of corporate control and diminished individual power, of worlds smog-choked and polluted and dying, of wars and more death. Let’s consciously choose to create a different, better future, and let’s use science fiction as the tool to inspire it.*

* One last note. I do not suggest here that all stories of dystopia are bad. In fact, dystopias can often teach us how things can go wrong, and how we might avoid such a dark fate. But I think the balance of pessimistic vs. optimistic stories are skewed heavily toward the former, and a drastic shift is in order.