Mundane science fiction

The British science fiction magazine Interzone (which accepted one of my stories the other day) is taking submissions for their upcoming mundane science fiction issue. As Wikipedia states, mundane sf focuses on "on stories set on or near the Earth, with a believable useof technology and science as it exists at the time the story is written." This means no faster than light travel, psi power, nanobot technology, extraterrestrial life, computer consciousness, materially profitable space travel, human immortality, brain downloading, teleportation, or time travel. The submission form for the issue even has a checklist to make sure authors avoid those non-scientific items.

Novelist Geoff Ryman, one of the three guest editors of this special issue, published an essay about the mundane sf movement in the June 2007 New York Review of Science Fiction. Titled "Take the Third Star on the Left and on til Morning," the essay gives Ryman's view that too much of science fiction is based on an adolescent desire to run away from our world. While Ryman sees nothing wrong with this desire in and of itself (especially since the desire is rooted in the need of human children to eventually leave their parents' home), he notes that humans are not truly considered grown-up until they create a new home of their own. He says science fiction is big enough to take in both dreams--the dream of leaving home and the dream of making a home and becoming an adult. To Ryman, mundane science fiction focuses on this last aspect.

I'm working on a story to submit for the issue, which has created a good deal of angst in sf quarters. As one commentator stated on the Interzone forum, "I'm amazed people are having trouble with the very simple request by Interzone for no fake science." The sf community's nervousness with the whole mundane concept is probably a sign that there's something exciting going on in the mundane, everyday world of science fiction.