Mundane Science Fiction

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Mundane Science Fiction is the ideology that much of science fiction is too fantasy-driven to be useful to the development of ideas and thought, and that the field itself cripples itself when serious sociological topics are intermixed with stories of aliens, faster than light travel and other repeating tropes. Examples of mundane science fiction include Orwell's 1984, as his work was a way of exploring politics without political repercussion that political commentary would entail. Much of mundane science fiction is a way of exploring systems and futures without actually creating them.


"Mundane-SF is set in the near future (let’s say the next fifty years), and uses believable technology based on current science" [1]. "The Mundane SF manifesto was inspired by the ideas of Julian Todd and Trent Walters and founded by Geoff Ryman and others, during Clarion 2002".[2]

In 2000, sociologist Wayne Brekhus published "A Mundane Manifesto," in which argued that "...the extraordinary draws disproportionate theoretical attention from researchers," and that this "ultimately hinders theory development and distorts our picture of social reality". A Mundane Manifesto paved the way for an explicit social science of the unmarked (mundane). Finally, he suggests, "Although there are many deviance journals to explicitly analyze socially unusual behavior there is no Journal of Mundane Behavior to explicitly analyze conformity" [3].

Science fiction writer Geoff Ryman wrote that he felt that "much of regular science fiction being based on an 'adolescent desire to run away from our world', noting that humans are not truly considered grown-up until they "create a new home of their own," which is what mundane science fiction aims to do"[4]

Mundane Science Fiction Manifesto

"The Mundane Manifesto" was originally posted online,[5] and contains "nine statements, that many of the familiar tropes, techniques, and technologies of science fiction are unrealistic, and therefore, should be avoided. The mundanes hold that faster-than-light travel, hospitable planets, intelligent aliens, interstellar trade, communication with alien species, and alternate universes all remain too far-fetched, too unrealistic to be of interest. Furthermore, the belief in, advocacy of, and employment of these devices lead us to turn away from—to escape from—the importance and immediacy of crises here on planet Earth. As they conclude, "the most likely future is one in which we only have ourselves and this planet".[6] Although "mundane" is often taken to mean "banal" or "ordinary," it also denotes "of the world".[7]. Part 2 of the 'Mundane Science Fiction Manifesto includes a 'list of "Stupidities' that have been created due to the improbabilities committed in part 1. The Stupidities include "alien invasions," "flying saucers," "devices that can translate any language," and slipping into alternate realities that differ from our own by small degrees".[8], and Part 3 "...acknowledges that the Stupidities have entertained and delighted many millions of readers and viewers; however, the mundanes assert that the destruction of those same Stupidities will be equally entertaining. Furthermore, they offer an "imaginative challenge" to science fiction authors to work from the standpoint that "Earth is all we have" (5). They contend that the (re)turn to the here and now will compel writers and readers to (re)awaken to the wonder and diversity of the Earth and to the dangers it currently faces. Lest the writer or reader think that such a move would eliminate the science from "science fiction," they argue that "robotics, virtual realities, enhanced genomes, nanotechnology, quantum mechanics" are all fertile grounds for mundane SF. Finally, part 4 sets out a number of "promises" by the mundanes. In these promises, they vow to create "a collection of mundane science fiction" that does not commit the "Stupidities" of science fiction, but to also have the freedom to write (stupid) science fiction, if they should choose to".[9].

Related Reading

External Links


  1. Flash Fiction Blog: Mundane Science Fiction - Taking all the Razzle Dazzle out of the Future 2 Accessed Oct 2010.
  2. Ibid. Clarion is a prestigious American residential workshop programme for speculative fiction writers.
  3. “Mundane SF 101,” SFRA Review 289 (Summer 2009): 13–16. Accessed Oct 2010.
  4. "Take the Third Star on the Left and on til Morning" by Geoff Ryman, New York Review of Science Fiction, June 2007.
  5. Calvin, Ritch. What Is Mundane Science Fiction? “Mundane SF 101,” SFRA Review 289 (Summer 2009): 13–16.
  6. Chiang, Ted. “Is Air Mundane?” Extrapolation 49.2 (Summer 2009): 211–13.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.