Mundane science fiction

Mundane science fiction is a subgenre of hard science fiction which is characterized by its setting on Earth or within the Solar System, and a lack of interstellar travel, intergalactic travel or human contact with extraterrestrials.[1]


The Mundane science fiction movement, inspired by an idea of Julian Todd, was founded in 2004 during the Clarion workshop by novelist Geoff Ryman among others.[2][3] The beliefs of the movement were later codified as the Mundane Manifesto.[4]

Ryman has contrasted mundane science fiction with most science fiction through the desire of teenagers to leave their parents' homes.[5] Ryman sees too much of regular science fiction being based on an "adolescent desire to run away from our world". However, Ryman notes 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.[5]


Mundane science fiction focuses on stories set on or near the Earth, with a believable use of technology and science as it exists at the time the story is written.[3] It rarely involves interstellar travel or communication with alien civilization. The genre's writers believe that warp drives, the use of worm holes, and other forms of faster-than-light travel are scientific fantasies rather than serious speculation about a possible future. According to them, unfounded speculation about interstellar travel can lead to an illusion of a universe abundant with planets as hospitable to life as Earth, which encourages wasteful attitude to the abundance on Earth.[6]

Scientists have not uncovered any evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Although absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence, Mundane science fiction writers believe it's unlikely that alien intelligence will overcome the physical constraints on interstellar travel any better than we can. As such, Mundane science fiction writers imagine a future on Earth and within the solar system and believe it's highly unlikely that intelligent life survives elsewhere in this solar system.

Alternative universes, parallel worlds, magic and the supernatural, time travel and teleportation are similarly avoided in mundane science fiction.


In 2007 the magazine Interzone devoted an issue to the subgenre.[7]

The 2009 short story collection When It Changed: Science Into Fiction, edited by Ryman, is a collection of mundane science fiction stories, each written by a science fiction author with advice from a scientist, and with an endnote by that scientist explaining the plausibility of the story.[8]

A review of the 1992 novel China Mountain Zhang noted that the story's world, while different, felt ordinary and believable.[9]


  1. ^ Walter, Damien (2 May 2008). "The really exciting science fiction is boring". The Guardian.
  2. ^ "Geoff Ryman: The Mundane Fantastic: Interview excerpts". Locus. January 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
  3. ^ a b "How sci-fi moves with the times". BBC News. 18 March 2009.
  4. ^ Cokinos, Christopher. "Instead of Suns, the Earth". Orion Magazine.
  5. ^ a b "Take the Third Star on the Left and on til Morning" by Geoff Ryman, New York Review of Science Fiction, June 2007.
  6. ^ Charlie Jane, Anders (14 December 2007). "Controversial SciFi Realist Tells io9 Why Warp Drives Suck". io9.
  7. ^ "Interzone 216 published on 8th May". TTA Press. 3 May 2008. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  8. ^ Material World, BBC Radio 4, 28 Oct 2009
  9. ^ Jonas, Gerald (March 15, 1992). "Science Fiction". The New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2018.

External links

Geoff Ryman

Geoffrey Charles Ryman (born 1951) is a Canadian writer of science fiction, fantasy, slipstream and historical fiction.

Hard science fiction

Hard science fiction is a category of science fiction characterized by concern for scientific accuracy and logic. The term was first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell's Islands of Space in the November issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The complementary term soft science fiction, formed by analogy to hard science fiction, first appeared in the late 1970s. The term is formed by analogy to the popular distinction between the "hard" (natural) and "soft" (social) sciences. Science fiction critic Gary Westfahl argues that neither term is part of a rigorous taxonomy; instead they are approximate ways of characterizing stories that reviewers and commentators have found useful.Stories revolving around scientific and technical consistency were written as early as the 1870s with the publication of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870, among other stories. The attention to detail in Verne's work became an inspiration for many future scientists and explorers, although Verne himself denied writing as a scientist or seriously predicting machines and technology of the future.

Julian Todd

Julian Todd is a British computer programmer and activist for freedom of information who works in Liverpool.He was inventor and co-founder of Public Whip with Francis Irving, and also the affiliated TheyWorkForYou website, a project that parses raw Hansard data to track how members vote in the UK Parliament. Initially risking prosecution for reusing the raw data under Crown copyright, they were later successful in getting permission to use it. He has since extended this concept of parsing political transcripts to the General Assembly and Security Council of the United Nations to establish in 2007.[1]

Todd is a Director of ScraperWiki.Todd also writes science fiction short stories, and is cited as a major inspiration for the Mundane science fiction movement.

Lab lit

Lab lit (also "lablit") is a loosely defined genre of fiction, distinct from science fiction, that centers on realist portrayals of scientists and on science as a profession.

List of awards and nominations received by Geoff Ryman

Geoff Ryman (born 1951) is a writer of science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, he was also one of the founding members of the Mundane science fiction movement. In 2008 a Mundane SF issue of Interzone magazine was published, guest edited by Geoff Ryman, Julian Todd and Trent Walters.

Ryman says he knew he was a writer "before [he] could talk", with his first work published in his Mother's newspaper column at six years of age.

He is most well known for his science fiction writing, however his first novel was the fantasy The Warror Who Carried Life, and his revisionist fantasy Was has been called "his most accomplished work".Much of his work is based on travels to Cambodia. The first of these The Unconquered Country (1986) was winner of the World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Association Award. His novel The King's Last Song (2006) was set both in the Angkor Wat era and the time after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.He was guest of honour at Novacon in 1989 and has twice been a guest speaker at Microcon, in 1994 and in 2004. He was also the guest of honour at Gaylaxicon 2008.Ryman has written and published seven novels, including an early example of a hypertext novel, 253, or Tube Theatre. He is currently at work on a new historical novel set in the United States before the Civil War. His novels and novelas have won multiple awards, including the World Fantasy Award, and his novel Was was inducted into the Gaylactic Spectrum Hall of Fame. His novel 'Air was nominated for eight awards, winning four. In total, Ryman's works have been nominated for 59 speculative fiction awards.


In subcultural and fictional uses, a mundane is a person (ie. Lorena) who does not belong to a particular group, according to the members of that group; the implication is that such persons, lacking imagination, are concerned solely with the mundane: the quotidian and ordinary. The term first came into use in science fiction fandom to refer, sometimes deprecatingly, to non-fans; this use of the term antedates 1955.

Mundane (disambiguation)

Mundane is a science fiction subculture term.

Mundane may also refer to:

Carri Mundane, an English fashion designer

Journal of Mundane Behavior, a sociological journal devoted to everyday experience.

Mundane astrology, the application of astrology to world affairs and world events

Mundane Egg, a creation myth in various ancient cultures

Mundane reason, a philosophical concept

Mundane science fiction, a subgenre of science fiction

Outline of science fiction

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to science fiction:

Science fiction – a genre of fiction dealing with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology, often in a futuristic setting. or depicting space exploration. Exploring the consequences of such innovations is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas".

Science fiction

Science fiction (sometimes called Sci-Fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction that has been called the "literature of ideas". It typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, time travel, parallel universes, fictional worlds, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life. It often explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations.Science fiction, whose roots go back to ancient times, is related to fantasy, horror, and superhero fiction, and includes many subgenres. However its exact definition has long been disputed among authors, critics, and scholars.

Science fiction literature, film, television, and other media have become popular and influential over much of the world. Besides providing entertainment, it can also criticize present-day society, and is often said to generate a "sense of wonder".

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