Unsettling Scientific Stories

Blogging the History of the Future

March 14, 2017
Amy C. Chambers

Why science fiction set in the near future is so terrifying

Author: Amy C. Chambers

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Westworld: how far away is this future? ©2016 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved

This article accompanies episode 10 of The Anthill podcast on the future. The Conversation


From Humans to Westworld, from Her to Ex Machina, and from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D to Black Mirror – near future science fiction in recent years has given audiences some seriously unsettling and prophetic visions of the future. According to these alternative or imagined futures, we are facing a post-human reality where humans are either rebelled against or replaced by their own creations. These stories propose a future where our lives will be transformed by science and technology, redefining what it is to be human. (more…)

January 10, 2017
Amy C. Chambers

Westworld: Imagined Futures and Re/imagined Pasts

Author: Amy C. Chambers

Westworld was my favourite series of 2016. It presented a rich science fiction future that managed to be fresh and exciting despite being a remake based upon a 1973 movie by the same title. It had and continues to have lots of opportunities for developing exciting and prescient narrative that can be explored in what I hope will be a long running series. I was mesmerised from the opening credits, which I wrote about hereWestworld played around with time and I will have to rewatch all ten episodes as I attempt to distinguish between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, and past, present and/or future.


**The following post contains spoilers**


October 5, 2016
Amy C. Chambers

Science & Future World Building in Westworld’s Credit Sequence

Author: Amy C. Chambers

Westworld finally got its UK premier last night. It seemed like an eternity between the US release and our chance to explore, and I successfully navigated the minefield of avoiding spoilers and opinions on the first episode that might interfere with my own initial response (and enjoyment). The first episode wasn’t perfect – I wanted more, but it was necessary to give over time and space for worldbuilding (both the Western theme-park and the futuristic workplace) and introducing the basic concept of the show. It’s based on the 1973 SF-Western movie Westworld written and directed by science fiction writer Michael Crichton (Jurassic ParkAndromeda StrainDisclosure), it was Crichton’s first foray in directing, and it famously stars Yul Brynner as a killer-robot called ‘The Gunslinger’. The film and now the HBO TV series is set in a near-future adult amusement park where the super-rich can pay ($40,000/day) for an immersive storyworld ‘holiday’ where they can do use the robots as they please to act out their wildest Wild West fantasies. (more…)

September 21, 2016
Iwan Morus

A Boy’s Own Radium

Author: Iwan Rhys Morus

A few years ago, during one of our occasional forays to Hay on Wye and its second hand bookshops, I came across a boys’ adventure novel called The Radium Casket, published in 1926 (by Oxford University Press – I had no idea they published such things, though a few seconds research showed me how wrong I was: https://global.oup.com/education/children). Obviously, no historian of physics was going to leave something like that in a bookshop, so I bought it. It’s a classic imperialist yarn, set in China in the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion. The British hero rescues a Chinese fugitive from his attackers and the dying man bequeaths him a mysterious casket filled with a strange silvery metal that turns out to have some peculiar properties. (more…)

July 12, 2016
Amy C. Chambers

OSIRIS 2019 | Presenting Past Futures: SF and the History of Science

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We’re very pleased and proud to announce that volume 34 of Osiris will be edited by Amanda Rees (University of York) and Iwan Morus (Aberystwyth University).