Ken MacLeod

I recently came across the science fiction writer Ken MacLeod. He has been writing for some time now, but for some reason I never read any of his work until a few months ago. He has a political slant which is, these days, unusual among science fiction writers: very left wing, taking communist ideas quite seriously while not being at all doctrinaire. His characters tend to be very politically aware, not merely in the sense of practicing politics but in the sense of understanding how their societies truly function. It makes for an interesting read, jarring assumptions in the way that the best science fiction can.

A sample quote, said by Gail Frethorne in Engine City: “Drawing lots is fair, even if it sometimes throws up a freak result. With elections you’re actually building the minority problem right in at every level, and lots more with it–parties, money, fame, graft, just for starters. What chance would that leave ordinary people, what chance would we have of being heard or of making a difference? Elections are completely undemocratic, they’re downright antidemocratic. Everybody knows that!”

The obvious comparisons I see are to Iain M. Banks and Kim Stanley Robinson. MacLeod differs from Banks in using near future settings (of course Banks also writes contemporary novels, but they are not science fiction and have different concerns). MacLeod differs from Robinson in focusing on the practice of politics rather than on science.

Of the MacLeod novels I’ve read, the most polished one is the most recent, Newton’s Wake, which is actually also the least political one.

You must be logged in to post a comment.