Unnatural acts

17 Aug

Sumit Paul-Choudhury says:

Humanity’s not what it used to be. Today, millions of us work and play under conditions that make a mockery of our evolutionary heritage. We communicate through screens. We travel in glamourised tin cans. Some of us live in the Antarctic. And some in space.

Things will only get more unnatural tomorrow. That is why, in the last issue of Arc, we set out to explore a whole gamut of Post Human Conditions. We asked our authors to write about the ways in which the boundaries of humanity are being stretched by the times we live in – and the times we will live in.

I didn’t get much of a chance to contribute my twopennyworth at the time of the launch. So, in the spirit of someone who thinks up a really great rejoinder the moment he leaves the party, here’s how I see Arc 1.2.

Nick Harkaway kicks things off with Attenuation, a crime caper set among everyday technological miracles. The subject of Paul McAuley’s The Man is clearly less than human in some ways – but might be more in others. Language itself is barely up to the task when it comes to Jeff VanderMeer’s dizzying Komodo, in which an ordinary protagonist struggles to describe her very extraordinary afterlife. And T.D. Edge, winner of the first Tomorrow Project short story competition, spins the charming tale of a post-apocalyptic Pinocchio.

This issue’s columnists explore the changing face of humanity at play. P.D. Smith, author of the acclaimed City: A guidebook for the urban age, explains that while there are many serious reasons for humanity’s transformation into an urban species, the frivolous ones matter just as much. Games designer Holly Gramazio celebrates the fact that adults have remembered that it’s OK to play in public; the righting, she says, of a historic wrong. And bioethicist Kyle Munkittrick welcomes the arrival of video games that enrich our humanity – even if they do it by scaring us half to death.

Our #longreads this issue include Frederik Pohl, last man standing from science fiction’s Golden Age, who provides a personal history of the future, beginning with his Brooklyn boyhood during the Great Depression. At the opposite end of the continuum, science fiction author Gord Sellar reports from South Korea, one of the fastest-evolving societies on Earth but one of the most reluctant to talk about the future.

Also in this issue: filmmaker Sonja Vesterholt and Arc editor Simon Ings describe how the utopian dreams of a forgotten Soviet filmmaker inspired some of the most frightening science fiction Hollywood’s ever made; Regina Peldszus takes on the challenges of surviving the mental desert of deep space; and Anne Galloway and I ask what will happen to us when we really do start talking to the animals.

Arc 1.2: Post Human Conditions is available on iPads, Kindles, Nooks, Android devices, Windows and Apple computers or as a collectible print edition. Get your copy today at arcfinity.org.

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