I reproduce below the full text of “The Mundane Manifesto,” signed by Geoff Ryman and others from the 2004 Clarion West workshop (the complete list of workshop participants at the end of this post). The Manifesto argued for a science fiction that was squarely centered on humans and the future of planet Earth, including its science and technology, rather than spaceships and aliens. Read an article by Ritch Calvin on the manifesto and the related controversy here (SFRA review no. 289, Summer 2009): https://sfra.wildapricot.org/resources/sfra-review/289.pdf
The Mundane Manifesto
The undersigned, being pissed off and needing a tight girdle of discipline to restrain our sf imaginative silhouettes, are temporarily united in the following actions:
The Mundanes recognize
That interstellar travel remains unlikely. Warp drives, wormholes and other forms of faster-than-light magic are wish fulfillment fantasies rather than serious speculation about a possible future.
That magic interstellar travel can lead to an illusion of a universe abundant with worlds as hospitable to life as this Earth. This is also unlikely.
That this dream of abundance can encourage a wasteful attitude to the abundance that is here on Earth.
That there is no evidence whatsoever of intelligences elsewhere in the universe. That absence of evidence is not evidence of absence – however it is unlikely that alien intelligences will overcome the physical constraints on interstellar travel any better than we can.
That interstellar trade (and colonization, war, federations, etc.) is therefore highly unlikely.
That communication with alien intelligences over such vast distances will be vexed by: the enormous time lag in exchange of messages and the likelihood of enormous and probably currently unimaginable differences between us and aliens.
That there is no evidence whatsoever that quantum uncertainty has any effect at the macro level and that therefore it is highly unlikely that there are whole alternative universes to be visited.
That therefore our most likely future is on this planet within this solar system. It is highly unlikely that intelligent life survives elsewhere in this solar system. Any contact with aliens is likely to be tenuous and unprofitable.
That the most likely future is one in which we only have ourselves and this planet.
The Mundanes rejoice in
The bonfire of unexamined and unjustified sf tropes that these recognitions piles up and sets alight.
This bonfire of the stupidities includes, but not exclusively:
- Aliens: especially those aliens who act like feudal Japanese/American Indians/Tibetan Buddhists/Nazis or who look or behave like human beings except for latex.
- Alien invasions
- Alien Jesus/enlightened beings
- Flying Saucers
- Area 51
- Any alien who is a vehicle for a human failing or humor
- Aliens who speak English
- Devices that can translate any language
- Radio communication between star systems
- Traveling between galaxies without relativity effects on a consistent scale
- Slipping sideways into worlds other than this one where just one thing or all of history is different, only the clothes look a bit better, the hero is more powerful, the drinks are more delicious, and Hitler…
- Continue at will
We also recognize
The harmless fun that these and all the other Stupidities have brought to millions of people.
The harmless fun that burning the Stupidities will bring to millions of people.
The imaginative challenge that awaits any sf author who accepts that this is it: Earth is all we have. What will we do with it?
The chastening but hopefully enlivening effect on imagining a world without fantasy bolt holes: no portals to medieval kingdoms, no spaceships to arrive to save us or whisk us off to Metaluna.
A new focus on human beings: their science, technology, culture, politics, religions, individual characters, needs, dreams, hopes and failings.
The awakening bedazzlement and wonder that awaits us as we contemplate the beauties of this Earth and its people and what will happen to them in time.
The relief of focusing on what science tells us is likely rather than what is almost impossible such as warp drives. The relief will come from a sense of being honest.
An awakening sense of the awesome power of human beings: to protect or even increase their local patrimony… or destroy it.
The number of themes and flavors open to Mundane fiction include robotics, virtual realities, enhanced genomes, nanotechnology, quantum mechanics… Please continue.
The number of great writers or movies which independently work within these guidelines, indicating that the Mundane Manifesto produces better science fiction. These works include:
- The greater part of the works of Philip K. Dick.
- Blade Runner
The Mundanes promise
To produce a collection of mundane science fiction consisting of stories that follow these rules:
- No interstellar travel – travel is limited to within the solar system and is difficult, time consuming, and expensive
- No aliens unless the connection is distant, difficult, tenuous, and expensive – and they have no interstellar travel either
- No Martians, Venusians, etc.
- No alternative universes or parallel worlds
- No magic or supernatural elements
- No time travel or teleportation
Not to let Mundanity cramp their style if they want to write like Edgar Rice Burroughs as well.
To burn this manifesto as soon as it gets boring.
– Geoff Ryman; The Clarion West 2004 Class; & whomever will join us in Mundanity
Update 23 July 2015
[The full list of Clarion 2004 participants]
Clarion West 2004 (June 20 – July 30; Seattle, Washington)
- Bob Angell
- Jesse Buerk
- Alec Deason
- C. A. Gardner
- Ajit A. George
- Vylar Kaftan
- Alice Kim
- April Lott
- Darja Malcolm-Clarke
- Meghan McCarron
- Anil Menon
- Ernie Reimer
- D. Lynn Smith
- Jeff Spock
- Deb Taber
- Greer Woodward
- Neile Graham
- Leslie Howle
The above information was sourced from a page that no longer exists online. All the links have been checked and updated. As there has been a revival of interest in the manifesto and the blog has been getting a lot of hits after Martine Syms in her “Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto” (2013) wrote a brilliant critique of it (and linked to this entry on the blog), I put it here for research purposes for those interested in further looking into mundanity and its origins. As far as I know, this is the only full transcribed copy of the manifesto online. Thanks for dropping by!