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Narrative Futures Writing Prompts

Recently, I presented a series of writing prompts and exercises linked to the eight brilliant interviews of Narrative Futures, a series created by Chelsea Haith of The Oxford University Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH), featuring interviews with leading authors and editors in speculative fiction genres from around the world.


I originally delivered the writing prompts after each episode of the podcast; and here are the full writing prompts for you to share and enjoy. Click on the episode number at the top of each prompt for the full interview audio and transcript.

Choose your prompts

1.Beukes / 2.Mashigo / 3.Shah / 4.Murad / 5.Shurin / 6.Swift / 7.Liu / 8.Thompson

Episode 3.
Sami Shah

People like me: Speculation in Pakistan

1. AI manifesto


In this interview, Sami Shah raises the intriguing possibility of a benign AI taking over the work of global government. Although my own imaginative leaning is towards kneejerk paranoid Luddite-ism when it comes to tech, Shah makes a compelling case that government by AI would be efficient and free of corruption and ego. But we would need to set some rules, surely.


For your first exercise, I’d like you to help save the world by making five rules for an AI government. Think of it as a specific update of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.


This is your chance to shape the world in your image, a last gasp for human ego. What would your priorities be?

Is your focus on specific problems and industries, or is it more global in reach?


2. Far-future imaginings


Shah has gone off near-future science fiction – he says futuristic predictions have failed. Unlike some other writers in this series, he’s enjoying far-flung science fiction. Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination was a very influential example of far-future science fiction – I was so struck by it, I went to a 21st birthday party dressed as Gully Foyle. That novel showed me the extent to which we could imagine humanity changing in thousands of years’ time – we’ll evolve physically and psychologically as well as technologically.


For your second exercise, instead of a broad think piece, I’d like you specifically to imagine waking up in a human settlement in 10,000 years’ time, suddenly shunted forward from here and now. This time, focus on the descriptive specifics of your experience, not the ideas. Write a few paragraphs or pages showing us how it feels, smells, tastes, sounds. Is gravity different? Who’s around you? Where are you? You know nothing about the world you’re in and you can only start to piece it together with these immediate sensory stimuli.


How does your vision match and differ from other visions of the deep future? What do you think this says about your creative imagination?

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