Robert Pimm

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Like Science Fiction? Try Biotime

What if a technological innovation came along so all-transforming that it reversed the advance of civilisation?

It has happened before.

In recent centuries we’ve got used to the idea that constant technical innovations – the steam engine, electricity, air travel, antibiotics, contraception, the Internet – mean that, to quote the song, “Things can only get better”.

Tell that to the collapsing dregs of the Roman Empire.  Or the Aztecs. (more…)

Klimt, Beethoven, The Grateful Dead and Bruce – how they fit together

I wrote a while ago about “7 ways to explain the meaning of life“.

I said that the meaning of life would emerge around 80% of the way through my novel Biotime; and that it involved “Come Celebrate with Us” and “The Kiss”.

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Wiener Secession, 2015 – Photo: Robert Pimm

I recently visited Vienna and was delighted to find that the wonderful Secession building built in 1897 by Joseph Maria Olbrich had got a new basement (confession: it actually opened in 1986 when I was living in Vienna, but I never got around to visiting it).  Better still, that basement houses Gustav Klimt’s magnificent Beethoven frieze, (more…)

When waiting for a Red London bus is pure pleasure

I wrote last week how we all have a limited number of years, months, weeks and days to live.

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My blog Read this now – before you waste more of your precious life pointed out that most of us feel short of time; and are not sure how to spend what time we have.

So what would happen in a world where some people were able to live for hundreds of years.  What leisure activities would they seek?  Read on:

Edited excerpt from “Biotime” Chapter 15

KY Sutanto had visited London many times. But this was his first venture to the district called “South of the River”. (more…)

Red London buses and the meaning of life

We all have a limited number of years, months, weeks and days to live.

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So why should we spend that time waiting for a red London bus?

My recent blog Read this now – before you waste more of your precious life pointed out that most of us feel short of time; and are not sure how to spend what time we have.  I also noted that my novel Biotime (hit link to read) explored 5 ways wealth and creativity can’t mix.

The conclusions of Biotime are good news for poor people.

So where do London buses come in?

One of the weaknesses of much speculative sci-fi – for example, the otherwise not-totally-awful movie In Timeis that although the whole basis of civilisation has changed, people still act the same as in the “real” world.  In Time, for example, features rich people who are effectively immortal unless they suffer injuries or violence.  Yet everyone is still running around with 2015-type guns; driving cars; and engaging in all sorts of dangerous activity.

Huh?

Obviously if you had the prospect of living forever, or if you hoped to sell your remaining life expectancy to someone else in exchange for fabulous riches, you would alter your lifestyle to ensure you wouldn’t come to physical harm.

The police wouldn’t have guns.  They’d be equipped with means of harmlessly disabling people (in Biotime, the hideously scary Big Fright) plus plenty of cling-film and bubble-wrap to try and prevent people harming themselves, or other people.

In Biotime, there hasn’t been a murder in New York City for centuries.  So when someone tries to kill 250,000 people, everyone sits up and takes notice.

Plus: when 250,000 lives are threatened, the value of life goes up.  What kind of perverse incentives does that create for the wealthy?

It life really was money, no-one would be flying in aircraft, or driving cars, or doing anything remotely risky – unless, as in Biotime, you belonged to a cult – the One Lifers – who rejected the whole principle of buying or selling life expectancy and lived only your natural life-span, in the belief that a finite lifetime would enhance your creativity.

Conversely, if you were fabulously rich, and had a shot at immortality, you would be looking for ways to flaunt that wealth.

Which is where London buses come in.

Ever waited for a London bus?  Watch out for the excerpt from Biotime I’ll publish next week.

You can discover how Biotime explores the meaning of life and immortality by clicking on the links above, or best of all by reading the complete first part of the novel on this site.  Enjoy!

And please do let me have your comments, or subscribe to this site, to hear more.

Read this now – before you waste more of your precious life

Have you ever wondered: “what shall I do today?”

Or even: “what shall I do now?”

It’s one of life’s great mysteries that:

– we all have a limited number of years, months, weeks and days to live;

– we all want to make the most of that time;

– many of us feel short of time to do the things we want;

– and yet… when we do have some free time, we’re not sure what to do with it.

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It depends how you look at it.  Photo: Robert Pimm

Part of the problem is excess choice.  Twenty years ago, I had a job where I had to fly regularly between London and the Far East in business class.  I had an intensely busy job, and I used to relish the thought of a 15-hour flight with no disturbances and a host of pleasures on-tap.  But when I settled down into my comfy seat on the plane, I sometimes found myself overwhelmed by a kind of existential panic.  Should I read that book I’d been saving for when I had a spare moment?  Watch a movie?  Listen to some music?  Read that fresh new airline copy of the Financial Times or The Economist?  Gaze at the cloudscapes rolling by in the moonlight?  Talk to the interesting fellow-passenger in the next seat?  Ask for a drink, or some food?  Or what?

OK.  I don’t expect sympathy.  These days I dream of business travel.  But the sense of mild panic I felt as I reviewed the options available for my 15 hours was like a microcosm of the sensation we all face trying to figure out how best to use our available life-span – assuming we have time to think about it at all.

What if we watch a movie and it’s crap?  Result: we miss the chance to use that 90 minutes to talk to the interesting-looking neighbour, changing our lives forever.  What if we start talking to our neighbour, he or she won’t stop talking, and we miss the chance to do read our book?  Above all, I always hated (and still hate) to miss the views from the aircraft window – a wonder we should never take for granted.

People have been puzzling over these questions for millennia.

Early Christians argued about whether salvation came about through faith, or by works.

We know there’s no single answer.  As Izaak Walton notes in his famous The Compleat Angler, first published in 1653: I shall tell you, that in ancient times a debate hath risen, and it remains yet unresolved, whether the happiness of man in this world doth consist more in contemplation or action?

Even if we can’t answer a question, we can entertain and educate ourselves by thinking about it.  That’s why my novel Biotime explores these issues.  I’ve blogged about this before – see eg 7 ways my sci-fi novel Biotime explains the meaning of life or Klimt, Beethoven and Biotime.  

Amongst other things, Biotime explores how people would behave differently if (i) they could choose to have shorter lives, by selling some of their life expectancy for cash (“would you rather live long and dull, or short and intense?”); and (ii) they could live forever, by becoming wealthy and buying other people’s lives.

The ancient Greeks explored the issue in the character Tithonus.  When Eos, Titan of the dawn, kidnapped Tithonus from the royal house of Troy to be her lover, she asked Zeus to make him immortal; but forgot to ask for eternal youth.  Tithonus lived for ever but became older and older and lived in misery.

You can discover how Biotime explores the meaning of life and immortality by clicking on the links above, or best of all by reading the complete first part of the novel on this site.

Biotime also uses red London Buses to discuss the meaning of life.  I’ll be writing more about that shortly.

Biotime: that’s all, folks!

WELCOME to the on-line serialisation of my sci-fi novel Biotime.  If you’ve missed the rest, check out the story so far.

I’ve been serialising this story for several months now.  I’m grateful to everyone who has logged on regularly to read the weekly droplets.  I’m particularly grateful to those who have commented on how the novel might be improved.  I’m still 100% open to comments, so please let me know if you like or hate the book.  You can use the comment form at the foot of the page, or the “contact me” tab at the top.

Biotime Cover

 

I had been hoping to serialise as far as the introduction of the exceptionally wonderful Sandy Banks, but Sandy is obstinately refusing to appear in the novel and won’t make an entrance for a while yet.  So the pleasures of Sandy; the Black Hole; Little England Airways; Kim 17 and Cody 22; El Gordo and the case of The Man Without a Past; The Long-Dead Masters of the Disharmonic Wave; more inappropriate cocktails (following up on the Mai Lai), including the Vodkatyn; the cigarette health warning that reads IGNITE THIS (more…)

Biotime 43: “How about snow conditions? In Tibet?”

WELCOME to the next droplet of the on-line serialisation of my sci-fi novel Biotime.  If you’ve missed the rest, check out the story so far.

Biotime enforcement agent Jake Moonrath sets out to take a tour of the Central Authority Buildings in Harlem, New York to view the production facilities and “confidence and security building measures”.  He soon discovers that something is deeply wrong at the birthplace of Biotime; and that his guide, Sylvester, has a disturbing sense of humour.

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Biotime.  The future, today.  Excerpt 43

Chapter 10

 

“Build Your Future on a Rock Biotime Futures PortfolioTM. Warning: Biotime prices can go down as well as up”

Rock Savings Corporation: advertising brochure

 

The moment Jake stepped out of Cleo Czernin’s office he began to plan his new ID. Dr Andrew Brown was compromised. He must leave the Central Authority Buildings as someone else. Nowhere was safe. But the numerous exits of the CAB were designed to offer visitors maximum privacy – coming in or going out. There were also at least two hundred and sixty five thousand identities available downstairs, many of whom would not be leaving the data-shielded structure for years, if ever. The challenge was to reach them before someone else reached him.

(more…)

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