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Downloads

I've made my first novel, Ventus, available as a free download, as well as excerpts from two of the Virga books.  I am looking forward to putting up a number of short stories in the near future.

Complete novel:  Ventus

 

To celebrate the August, 2007 publication of Queen of Candesce, I decided to re-release my first novel as an eBook. You can download it from this page. Ventus was first published by Tor Books in 2000, and and you can still buy it; to everyone who would just like to sample my work, I hope you enjoy this version.

I've released this book under a Creative Commons license, which means you can read it and distribute it freely, but not make derivative works or sell it.

Book Excerpts:  Sun of Suns and Pirate Sun

I've made large tracts of these two Virga books available.  If you want to find out what the Virga universe is all about, you can check it out here:

Major Foresight Project:  Crisis in Zefra

In spring 2005, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada (that is to say, the army) hired me to write a dramatized future military scenario.  The book-length work, Crisis in Zefra, was set in a mythical African city-state, about 20 years in the future, and concerned a group of Canadian peacekeepers who are trying to ready the city for its first democratic vote while fighting an insurgency.  The project ran to 27,000 words and was published by the army as a bound paperback book.

If you'd like to read Crisis in Zefra, you can download it in PDF form.

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The Tech Locks

Technology is Legislation

The framing ideas in Lady of Mazes are well-established in SF: ringworlds, transhumanism, AI etc. But the book also contains genuinely new ideas, ones that you won't find anywhere else. For instance, take the technology I call the tech locks. Understand the rationale behind the tech locks, and you understand why I wrote Lady of Mazes. (This article contains serious spoilers. You've been warned.)

In Lady of Mazes, Qiingi Voicewalker puts it this way:

“What we know is that you can’t have just one technology. Like you can’t have just one silverfish in your house. Technologies come in families, like people, and when you invite one into your home, the whole family will eventually move in and they won’t leave.

“And even if you don’t let the rest of the family into your house, they will camp out on your doorstep and pester you whenever you go by. The one inside your house will constantly remind you about the ones outside. And each family of technologies comes with a particular way of life. To invite that family in is to accept their way of life. To invite just one member in, is to be constantly reminded that you could be living another way. It brings doubt into your house..."

 

Science fiction is based on a set of deeply held, unquestioned core assumptions. We're not even aware of them. Since SF is a distorted mirror of the real world, you can bet that its premises are also those of our civilization.

I wanted to write a book that exposed one of those assumptions. Lady of Mazes opens up the ticking heart of SF to expose something strange: namely the assumption that we have to accept and adapt to new technologies; we have no choice but to let our discoveries and inventions change us.

Accommodation to technology is usually disguised as yielding to the unseen hand of the market; in the movie Singin in the Rain (my favourite examination of the effects of new technology on culture) the characters face unemployment if they don't find a way to adapt to the new industry of talking pictures. But the idea that it's all market-driven ignores the drivers of the market, which are often irrational. New gadgets are often less convenient than old gadgets, yet we adopt them anyway--often because other people are adopting them, so we have to keep up.

Technology has a life of its own, and technology is legislation. And I think people assume (with little evidence) that new technologies are by definition better--they make our lives easier, right?

If that's true, then why is there a plague of stress and sleep deprivation across the Western world? Shouldn't we be calmer and less stressed than our ancestors? It seems we have little choice in the matter; the electric light is here, the the telephone and the internet are here. Theoretically, you can choose not to use them. In reality, the choice is not yours to make.

Technology is legislation. But does it have to be that way?

Let's listen to Qiingi again:

“Knowing this, our ancestors drew the family trees of all the technologies. And then they made a... a meta-technology that was able to suppress any of the others. It is easier for me to call this Ometeotl, for that is the name I was told as a boy. This great spirit knows what way of life--what family--each technology belongs to. Like people’s families, technology’s families shift and overlap. So it is never easy for a person to know what family he is inviting in when he adopts a new tool. But the spirit knows. You tell it the way of life you want to have, and it evicts the families that go against that way."

 

Qiingi is describing the tech locks.

We're hardly the masters of our technology--much less masters of our own fate--if we have no choice but to be swept along by change. In fact the technological singularity and post-humanism are celebrations of this very helplessness. In Charlie Stross's Singularity Sky an entire culture is wiped out by the casual introduction of post-scarcity technologies. What I find interesting is that in stories like that one, people have infinite power as long as they swim with the current; but the current cannot be opposed.

What if you didn't have to change your way of life to accommodate your civilization's technological mix? What if you could decide how you wanted to live, and then pick and choose the technologies that would let you live that way? You can't do that in our world--we're not even aware of the problem much less capable of fixing it. But why assume that we never will be able to fix it?

So this is one of the things that Lady of Mazes is about: how to take control of our lives back from technology. It's bone-headed to assume that new technologies will always benefit us; that's a kind of Darwinian blindness, like saying "natural selection would never hurt me!" It's related to the assumption that the invisible hand of the market is ultimately benign. (Remember that the invisible hand of the market has destroyed entire civilizations--for instance the Easter Islanders whose wood-based economy worked perfectly well right up until the day that they chopped down the last tree.) But the knee-jerk reaction of people who are technophiles and market-evangelists is to assume that we can't control technology, only decide whether or not to adopt it. By such logic, what I am saying will sound like "stop progress!" But I am not advocating some back-to-the-land tree-hugging green-powered romanticism. I'm talking about power and control, and the right to exercise them over your own life.

The tech locks permit unbridled technological advancement for those who want that. They permit agrarian Utopianism for those who want to go back to the land--as well as any shade in between. There is no war between technocrats and Luddites in this world

Why should technology determine how we should all live? That's not even remotely democratic. In the free future described in Lady of Mazes, the right to control your own technological milieu is as basic as the right to vote. More basic, in fact, since... yes, I'll say it again: technology is legislation.

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About Me

I'm a member of the Association of Professional Futurists with my own consultancy, and am also currently Chair of the Canadian node of the Millennium Project, a private/public foresight consultancy active in 50 nations. As well, I am an award-winning author with ten published novels translated into as many languages. I write, give talks, and conduct workshops on numerous topics related to the future, including:

  • Future of government
  • Bitcoin and digital currencies
  • The workplace in 2030
  • The Internet of Things
  • Augmented cognition

For a complete bio, go here. To contact me, email karl at kschroeder dot com

Example: The Future of Governance

I use Science Fiction to communicate the results of actual futures studies. Some of my recent research relates to how we'll govern ourselves in the future. I've worked with a few clients on this and published some results.

Here are two examples--and you can read the first for free:

The Canadian army commissioned me to write Crisis in Urlia, a fictionalized study of the future of military command-and-control. You can download a PDF of the book here:


Crisis in Urlia

For the "optimistic Science Fiction" anthology Hieroglyph, I wrote "Degrees of Freedom," set in Haida Gwaii. "Degrees of Freedom" is about an attempt to develop new governing systems by Canadian First Nations people.


I'm continuing to research this exciting area and would be happy to share my findings.

 
Science Fiction that's about something

“Bulging with complex ideas and extrapolations … amazing."
—Kirkus Reviews
“The interrelationship between technology and philosophy that informs [Livia's] choice gives depth and breadth to a book that many will want to reread to get all the nuances.”
—Publishers Weekly
“Schroeder continues to improve his unique blend of hard SF and vivid, dreamlike prose and bids fair to become a major genre voice.”
—Booklist

A Young Adult Scifi Saga

"Lean and hugely engaging ... and highly recommended."

--Open Letters Monthly, an Arts and Literature Review

Sheer Fun: The Virga Series

(Sun of Suns and Queen of Candesce are combined in Cities of the Air)


 “An adventure-filled tale of sword fights and naval battles... the real fun of this coming-of-age tale includes a pirate treasure hunt and grand scale naval invasions set in the cold, far reaches of space. ”
Kirkus Reviews (listed in top 10 SF novels for 2006)

"With Queen of Candesce, [Schroeder] has achieved a clockwork balance of deftly paced adventure and humour, set against an intriguing and unique vision of humanity's far future.
--The Globe and Mail

"[Pirate Sun] is fun in the same league as the best SF ever has had to offer, fully as exciting and full of cool science as work from the golden age of SF, but with characterization and plot layering equal to the scrutiny of critical appraisers."
--SFRevu.com


"...A rollicking good read... fun, bookish, and full of insane air battles"
--io9.com


"A grand flying-pirate-ship-chases-and-escapes-and-meetings-with-monsters adventure, and it ends not with a debate or a seminar but with a gigantic zero-gee battle around Candesce, a climactic unmasking and showdown, just desserts, and other satisfying stuff."
--Locus