Yesterday I went to London to record for the BBC’s “Off the Page” show on Radio 4. The format of the show features panellists, who are invited in to discuss a topic and read a piece of non-fiction associated with said topic. This time the subject concerned future predictions and Science Fiction / Fantasy, which is the first time they’d really touched on fiction. The other panellists included broadcaster and writer, Bidisha, and Mark Mason, a writer of fiction and non-fiction – both fantastic speakers.
I was asked to write a future vision of London in a short story of 600 words, so inevitably I was able to flex a few environmental and political muscles – and that was a lot of fun. (So much so, that one day I think I’m going to have a stab at a massive, sprawling environmental SF novel, since it hasn’t really been done properly since John Brunner.) Anyway, it was also incredibly tough to drop hints about the future in so few words, keeping something of a story and having it not be an info-dump. 600 words is not much…
Overall, I thought the discussion went well. This was, however, the first time I’d ever done something for radio. It’s safe to say I was rather nervous beforehand – more about the panel discussion than actually reading the story. I’d prepared loads, even though I didn’t really know what I’d be asked. I didn’t get the chance to talk about most of those things; and what I did say, didn’t quite come out as well as I’d have liked. I was going to name-check loads of authors, but weirdly the opportunity didn’t come up (well, I was asked about bad SF, but I didn’t want to name names). It was also tough trying to keep my comments tailored for a mainstream audience.
The good news is that the discussion was unashamedly pro-SF, so hopefully a few more readers might stray into the SFF section of a bookstore as a result. For those of you interested, the programme goes out on June 26th at 15:30, and is repeated on July 2nd at 23:00 on Radio 4. Hopefully I’ll be able to post my 600 words here after it’s been on the air and online for a week or so. I might also share a few of my notes, given I didn’t really mention much of my thinking behind the science.