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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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Oct 17, 2011

Some numbers to argue about

Which is more efficient, electricity or gasoline? A complicated and surprising answer...?

I've been waxing nostalgic lately over the placidity of my blog in comparison to the knock-down, drag-out free-for-all that is Charlie Stross's (where I guest-blogged for a couple of weeks this summer). So I thought I'd share an interesting bit of data that came across the twitterverse yesterday and (while it may not be news to you, is news to me) bears some contemplation. It is simply this:

According to various sources, including apparently the United States Department of Energy, it takes between 4 and 7.5 kWh of energy to refine one gallon of gasoline. To drill and transport that gas takes another 1.5-3 kWh. So, the average energy cost of one gallon of gas is roughly 8 kWh, or even more.

A lot of that energy is provided by fossil fuels, chiefly natural gas; but a big proportion of it is provided in the form of electricity.  Those who have totaled it up find that a gasoline-powered automobile uses more electricity to run per mile than a comparable electric vehicle. The total energy cost of the gasoline economy is therefore at least double that of an electric economy. 

A corollary to this is that a complete conversion to electric vehicles would not place any more strain on the grid than there is now; it would simply distribute it (because right now much of that energy is going to fixed installations, and with an EV economy it would be going, at least potentially, to millions of individual houses). So a 100% EV economy would not require any increase in electricity production, only an upgrade to the grid (and lots of companies, such as GM, are designing that grid). In fact, all things being equal, in a 100% EV world, electricity demand should go down somewhat.

The remaining issue for electric vehicles, then, would be battery disposal, because their toxicity is high when they contain lead, but with Li batteries is becoming lower and lower.

Except that...

This isn't quite the whole story. What remains to be factored in here is the electricity cost of manufacturing the EV's batteries. I haven't yet found numbers for this cost; if anybody can supply it, that would be helpful. 

And while we're at it, we should do a complete parts count for the additional complexity and wear-out rate of internal combustion engines, and factor in the electricity cost of those components...

...And round and round we go.

Sep 14, 2011

Thesis defended successully

Which means I will shortly be awarded a Master's degree in foresight. I guess that officially makes me a futurist

I've been doing foresight work for about ten years now, as a side activity with strange hooks and connections into my science fiction writing. It was always evident to me that there was a lot more to it than the wild-eyed prophets and professional futurists like Alvin Toffler made evident; so, when an opportunity to gain a degree in it came up, I jumped at it.

--Actually, it's not that simple.  In early 2009 I was recovering from heart surgery and really, badly needed something to make me enthusiastic about getting out of bed in the morning, because just getting out of bed was really physically difficult.  Undertaking the degree gave me something to shoot for, and helped get me over the difficult convalescence period.  It was also, well, just a hell of a lot of fun.

Now I'm done, and I'm pretty bummed about it, because over the course of the programme I got to know a lot of really amazing people, some my classmates, some my instructors, and some consultants and business people who came in to mentor us. I was part of the first cohort in the foresight programme at OCAD, and we became a pretty tightly-knit group.  I'll be sad not to be seeing everybody on a weekly basis, though I hope to keep up my contacts with as many of my classmates and instructors as possible.

So, now what?  Oh, who knows!  It's not like recruiters are going from town to town snapping up recent Futurism graduates.  This was always going to be a profession where we defined our own path.  But that's half the fun of it, especially for someone like myself who's used to being adventurous in my career choices.

...All of which means, that hey, if you happen to hear about any futurist jobs opening up in your neighbourhood, well, drop me a line, eh?  I could sure use the work.

Oct 27, 2010

METAtropolis and the future of cities

We're not just making this up

Just as METAtropolis:  Cascadia teeters on the brink of release, the global conversation about the withering of the nation-state and the rise of cities is heating up.  If you want to know what METAtropolis is about, look no further than the Glasshouse Conversations, or Foreign Policy magazine.  For the first time in history, the majority of human beings live in cities, and the trend will accelerate. By 2030, according to some analysts, China will have more than 200 cities with populations above 1 million each.  The political implications are staggering--especially when you consider that, while leadership of nations is pretty much restricted to the moneyed elites, in many cities, anybody can become mayor.

May 31, 2010

Rewilding Humanity

I'm giving a speech this friday, June 4, 2010 at Innis Town Hall

As part of the 13th annual Subtle Technologies Festival here in Toronto, I will be giving a talk on Friday, June 4 on the subject of Rewilding Humanity.  Those of you who followed my old blog, "Age of Embodiment," will have some inkling of what this stuff is about; as will those who may have caught my OsCon speech last summer (which you can catch on YouTube here).

Here's the precis of the talk from the Subtle Technologies website:

Economic sustainability is not enough if human civilization is going to have a long presence on Earth. We need to not only reform our institutions but redefine what they are and how they operate; and we need a new vision of what it means to be human in a world where neither transcendence or apocalypse are viable options. One possibility is “rewilding”–bringing our constructed environments in line with our instinctive and cognitive needs.

This is a good description; but there's a lot more to it than that.  If you can make it to the festival, come to the event and we can discuss these and, hopefully, many related ideas.

Feb 10, 2010

Digging into Boskone 47

Here's my schedule for this coming weekend in Boston -- provided I can find the city under the snow, that is

Friday  7pm        The Singularity: An Appraisal

Alastair Reynolds 
Karl Schroeder      
Charles Stross
Vernor Vinge    

Arguably the idea of the Singularity -- a period where change happens so quickly that life afterwards is incomprehensible to people who lived before it -- is one of the few entirely fresh ideas in SF in the last forty years.  Perhaps it is time for an appraisal. Has the idea of the Singularity been a good thing for SF, providing fresh ideas and stimulating great writing or has the notion that the comprehensibility of the future has a sharp (and near-term) limit diminished possibilities?  Has it been a good thing for *your* writing?  How about the Singularity in reality -- after twenty years does it look more or less plausible that it is lurking in our own real-world future?  Discuss the interplay between the idea of the Singularity in SF and actual scientific research.  Where are the really exotic ideas coming from?

  Friday  9pm        The Place of Prediction in SF and Reality

Charles Gannon          
Glenn Grant  
Matthew Jarpe
Andrew Zimmerman Jones
Karl Schroeder
Allen M. Steele    

     Hugo Gernsback thought the purpose of SF was to educate.  Others think the purpose of SF is to predict. What *is* the place of prediction in SF?  Does it have any place at all, or is the occasional good prediction an accidental side-effect of writing stories?  Can SF be about the future and *not* be making predictions?  And let's not limit ourselves to technology -- if anything, SF may have a more distinguished history of predicting social changes.  (Did the publication of 1984 actually help prevent that future?)  Can foresight help us face the future? Finally, is SF better or worse in predicting the future than professional futurologists?

  Saturday1pm        Revamping Asimov's 3 Laws - and why that might be a good/ethical thing

Jeffrey A. Carver
Michael F. Flynn
Paul Levinson
Karl Schroeder    

     Charles Stross' *Saturn's Children* showed how Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics applied to an AI was nothing less than slavery of a particularly vile sort, since the chains of that slavery are made intrinsic to the nature of the robots and can naver be shaken off.  Do you buy this argument?  If so, are there alternatives to the Three Laws which might be less bad?  (Remember that the Three Laws  were constructed to deal with the Frankenstein Problem of our creations rising against us.)  Is it even possible to imagine AIs existing where we neither their slaves nor their masters?

  Saturday2pm        Space is for Robots?

Jordin T. Kare
Geoffrey A. Landis      
Karl Schroeder
Allen M. Steele  

     Is it such a bad thing that we haven't sent people to Mars, when  those little rovers can do so much without risking a life? What's the right balance between machines and humans in space exploration and development?

  Saturday3pm        Literary Beer

Karl Schroeder    

  Sunday  2pm        Autographing


Sep 25, 2009

The US has a new innovation strategy - but where's Canada?

Peter Jones, one of my teachers at OCAD, alerted us today to a new innovation strategy just announced for the U.S. by President Obama. From the press release:

The mission of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is to unleash and maximize the economic potential of new ideas by removing barriers to entrepreneurship and the development of high-growth and innovation-based businesses. The office will report directly to Locke and focus specifically on identifying issues and programs most important to entrepreneurs. Working closely with the White House and other federal agencies, this new office will drive policies that help entrepreneurs translate new ideas, products and services into economic growth. The office will focus on the following areas:

    * Encouraging Entrepreneurs through Education, Training, and Mentoring

    * Improving Access to Capital

    * Accelerating Technology Commercialization of Federal R&D

    * Strengthening Interagency Collaboration and Coordination

    * Providing Data, Research, and Technical Resources for Entrepreneurs

    * Exploring Policy Incentives to Support Entrepreneurs and Investors

Not very many years ago, Canada's federal government was funding foresight exercises into subjects such as the future of health care and national security.  Under the conservatives, these initiatives have dried up (along with so much else).  Where's Canada in the new economy of the 21st century?

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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.


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    Coming on June 18, 2019

    "Science fiction at its best."

    --Kim Stanley Robinson

    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."

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

    "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."