Ken MacLeod: An Appreciation
"Science fiction's freshest new writer...MacLeod is a fiercely intelligent, prodigiously well-read author who manages to fill his books with big issues without weighing them down." -- Salon.com
"Engaged, ingenious, and wittily partisan, Ken MacLeod is a one-man revolution." -- Asimov's SF
Ken MacLeod graduated with a BSc in Zoology from Glasgow University in 1979. Following research in biomechanics at Brunel University he completed his M.Phil thesis. He previously worked as a computer analyst, but is now a full-time writer. He lives in South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, with his wife and children.
"Deliciously ironic, brilliantly imagined, MacLeod's witty and intelligent yarn packs a tremendous wallop. More, please!" -- Kirkus Reviews on The Cassini Division
"Ken MacLeod brings dramatic life to some of the core issues of technology and humanity." -- Vernor Vinge
His four science fiction novels have created an international stir, both for their inventiveness and storytelling vigor and for their fresh and original political speculations. Formerly active in the British socialist left, MacLeod is also fascinated by and sympathetic to American free-market libertarianism, and in fact his novels concern human futures derived from both socialist and libertarian ideas. Despite the fact that none of his books had yet appeared in America, both his first and his second novels (The Star Fraction and The Stone Canal) won the American "Prometheus Award" for libertarian science fiction. Since then, he has begun to be published in the United States, beginning with his third novel The Cassini Division and, subsequently, The Stone Canal. The Cassini Division is a finalist for this year's Nebula Award and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award; his fourth and most recent novel, The Sky Road, won the BSFA Award at this year's Eastercon.
"His prose is tight and slick, his characters live, and the story pulls you in and kicks you along, and leaves you with all kinds of stuff to chew over when it's done. I've been recommending him to everyone." -- Steven Brust
Wrote Scotland on Sunday: "MacLeod's three books tell the story of a long war between the humans and the 'fast folk', hyperdeveloped artificial intelligences that threaten to wipe us out. That's fairly traditional sci-fi fare, though it does raise some tough questions about what constitutes life and consciousness. But the novels are as much an exploration of politics, in a way that's rare in science fiction. Above all, they seek to stimulate, rather than preach." This quality of unpreachiness is at the heart of what makes MacLeod's variety of political SF come to life. All science fiction is didactic; it's impossible to "build a future" without choosing among assumptions that are inherently political. For this reason, SF that sets out to be more "political" than usual often ends up addressing the reader with the subtlety of a tire-iron. MacLeod avoids this by not reserving all the good lines for characters who agree with Ken MacLeod. The author obviously has passionate beliefs (many of which are set forth in an autobiographical brochure entitled "Libertarianism, the Loony Left, and the Final Secret of the Illuminati"), but what his novels portray is an entire world of complex, contending, and overlapping beliefs, many orthogonal to one another, each of which has enough substance to make us believe that humans could actually be motivated thereby.
"The best British SF published in the last few months is not only highly intelligent, it is also deeply human, even humane, often hilariously, outrageously funny, and stealthily plotted If there is a last great Brit SF novel of the millennium, this is it." -- The Guardian on The Sky Road
The List, a Scottish magazine, asked him to answer their standard set of interview questions. Under "Five words to describe yourself," he wrote "Intense, lazy, curious, skeptical, political." Under "catchphrase" he wrote "Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that." Under "What do you do to wind down?" he wrote "Drink, smoke, have a quiet read." Under "What do you do to get high?" he wrote "Drink, smoke, have a loud conversation." One imagines Ken MacLeod will be an excellent fit for <plokta.con>. I only wish I were at the con myself!
"Ken MacLeod's novels are fast, funny and sophisticated. There can never be enough books like these; he is writing revolutionary science fiction. A nova has appeared in our sky." -- Kim Stanley Robinson
Patrick Nielsen Hayden