Mundane Science Fiction

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The ideology that much of science fiction is too "out there" to be useful to the development of ideas and thought, and that the field itself cripples itself when the same science fiction stories about aliens, faster than light travel and other repeating tropes occur again and again. Instead, stories of mundane life in alternate systems are more valuable for exploring different ideas, and are often more successful and interesting as narratives. Harry Potter could be considered to be in the category of mundane science fiction.

"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 (Clarion is a prestigious American residential workshop programme for speculative fiction writers)" [2]

"In 2000, sociologist Wayne Brekhus published "A Mundane Manifesto," in which he "calls for analytically interesting studies of the socially uninteresting." Brekhus continues, "I argue that the extraordinary draws disproportionate theoretical attention from researchers. This ultimately hinders theory development and distorts our picture of social reality. This manifesto paves the way for an explicit social science of the unmarked (mundane). It is hoped that a similar manifesto can be written for the humanities." 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].

Mundane Science Fiction Manifesto

"The Mundane Manifesto" was originally posted online, though it, contrary to all common wisdom about information made available on the Web, seems to have completely disappeared from cyberspace; only fragments of it remain" [4].

"The Mundane Manifesto was reprinted in the June 2007 issue of the New York Review of Science Fiction (#226) " [5].

Part 1

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" (4). Although "mundane" is often taken to mean "banal" or "ordinary," it also denotes "of the world" (Ryman, "Geoff"; Kelly)" " [6].

Part 2

"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" " [7].

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" " [8].

External Links

Related Reading


  1. Flash Fiction Blog: Mundane Science Fiction - Taking all the Razzle Dazzle out of the Future 2
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Mundane SF 101,” SFRA Review 289 (Summer 2009): 13–16.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.