Challenging Destiny Challenging Destiny
New Fantasy & Science Fiction

What's Wrong With the World Today?

editorial by David M. Switzer

2010 Note: For some good news today, check out David Suzuki and Holly Dressel's book More Good News, a revised and updated version of Good News For a Change. It contains examples of individuals, groups, and businesses who are doing good things for the environment.

Welcome. You hold in your hands the culmination of almost two years of off-and-on work by the people listed on the other side of this page. We hope that you will be as excited as we are about the stories in this issue, and the possibilities for the future.

For those of you who are authors: what kind of story are we interested in publishing? The main criterion is that it's a good story, not one-dimensional with interchangeable characters. Our definition of the genre is very broad; anything that you consider SF or fantasy we're not likely to reject because it's outside some boundary. We're interested in publishing stories that some other magazines might not publish -- such as those with philosophical, political, or religious themes.

Most of the stories we received so far are science fiction rather than fantasy, so that's what you'll find in this issue. However, we do want to publish both science fiction and fantasy, and things in between.

If there is such a thing as destiny, it would seem that challenging it would be impractical if not impossible. Does the human race as a whole have a destiny? Some have speculated that we will eventually evolve into gods. Others believe that we'll destroy ourselves in an environmental disaster. And although the likelihood may have diminished, there's still the possibility of a good old nuclear holocaust. Since no one has perfected psychohistory yet, even if we do have a destiny we don't know what it is. And I think it's better that way.

Sometimes it certainly seems as if individuals have a destiny. Some people blindly follow their destiny, others fall into it unknowingly, and some challenge it. The characters in these stories challenge their destiny in various ways, some successfully and some not. But what's important is that they take up the challenge.

Many stories we received were very dark. They seem pessimistic, at least on the surface. Does that mean that the writers are pessimistic about the future? Not necessarily. Certainly they perceive certain problems with the world today. One could make a rather long list: unemployment, poverty, crime, structural violence, famine, war, apathy, consumerism, environmental degradation...

It seems as if all we hear about in the media are problems -- it gets depressing very quickly. And it presents a distorted view of what our world is really like. That's why I like to check in with The Positive Press (on the web at where there's "good news every day." It reminds you that those people in the world you don't know are not all axe murderers and drug lords -- there are lots of good people who do good things.

The problems in the world sometimes seem so big that's it's difficult to see how you could possibly solve them. But if you don't think you can do anything about it, what do you think you're doing here? Just because you can't all be Mother Theresa doesn't mean that you can't make a difference. Some people seem to have the idea that you have to go out and do something big and amazing to effect change. But the small actions that you take every day may be even more important -- because change takes time. At least, change that is going to last takes time. The things that you do each day gradually change you and the people around you.

Let's exercise our imagination for a minute. Imagine a town. Imagine an area in the middle of town where no cars can go -- it's just for pedestrians. Imagine not having to lock your doors at night. Imagine walking into your neighbour's house and chatting about the meaning of life. Imagine working at a job you enjoy, but with a four-day work week so you can do other things too. Imagine living, working, shopping, and sending your kids to school here. A utopia? Possibly. But does that mean we shouldn't try?

Surprise, surprise. We can clone a sheep. (Yes, I'm on the bandwagon. I even thought about using the title "Do Editors Dream of Cloned Sheep?") Can the cloning of humans be far behind? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Certainly we have recently had great increases in technology and our reliance on it, but our values have not changed that much. The message of Jurassic Park is -- or should have been -- that just because we can do something doesn't mean we should do it. We need to make some decisions now about technologies which will affect our lives tremendously in the future.

Science fiction has anticipated many of the technological advances we're facing, and has described possible outcomes of various decisions. In some SF, technology provides the solution to the main problem in a story. Certainly in our world there's a prevalent view that what's good for Bill Gates is good for us. And certainly technology makes some people's lives easier and gives some people more free time. But I don't think the rest of the people particularly care about advances in technology: they care about feeding and sheltering their families.

We can't just blindly assume that any new technology is going to have a positive effect on our lives and the lives of our descendants. There will undoubtedly be advantages and disadvantages to using it, and we need to make informed decisions about what to do -- and what not to do.

I'll bet there will be a slew of movies about cloning coming out in the next few years. Don't go to them, at least not the Hollywood movies, to inform yourself about the consequences of various actions. Read the real stuff -- read the articles and editorials. And read the science fiction.

David M. Switzer recently completed degrees in Mathematics and English at the University of Waterloo. Currently he teaches Computer Science courses at UW, both on campus and for their Distance Education program. He has created a plethora of web pages in the past few months, for both the Computer Science Department and for his own personal edification. He also writes, edits, and publishes science fiction and fantasy. In his spare time he enjoys reading, playing cards, surfing the web, watching Star Trek and Babylon 5, playing tennis, singing, playing piano & organ, travelling the world, and listening.

Last modified: July 2, 2010

Copyright © 1997 by David M. Switzer

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