“The great interest of the FCC project for me was the combination of vital topics and fictional scenarios. I really enjoyed it - I've never done anything like it." Stephen Palmer, Fictions author
STOP PRESS: It’s not too late to sign up! Stephen Palmer and our other three Fictions authors will be speaking at FCC’s online FICTIONS event HEALTH AND CARE RE-IMAGINED tomorrow June 30th from 4-5pm. See end of article for details
Stephen Palmer’s short story Goodbye about Virtual Reality in end-of-life care was the first published a year ago when FCC launched its ‘thought experiment’ Fictions – an exploration of future issues in health and social care by four authors writing three stories each.
“The great interest of the FCC project for me was the combination of vital topics and fictional scenarios. I really enjoyed it – I’ve never done anything like it,” said Palmer.
From his home in Shropshire, he told us a little about the inspirations for his works, how and when he writes, and paid tribute to commissioning editor and fellow writer Keith Brooke.
“I write very quickly and intensively once I’ve decided on my theme and story structure. All three stories were done in one or two days, to then be honed and edited before sending them off to Keith.
“ As for Covid, like most authors I have mixed feelings about it. My creativity remained undimmed by isolation, but lockdown was not a nice experience. I was lucky to have so many green walks nearby!”
The theme of Goodbye (Palmer’s personal favourite of his three stories) is a living funeral – set in the era of the Beatles and Californian hippies.
An advocate “for the humane and dignified treatment of human beings as they die”, and in favour of assisted suicide, Palmer confides: “I’m soon to turn 60, so the hippy ideals of peace & love mean a huge amount to me. I think we can still learn a lot from that era, for all that, in its first iteration, it was naive, flawed and raw.
The theme for his second story, Genomancer, about genetics, research and gene tech, was “one of fake information and news, with a particular nod to the online world.”
It was a way of presenting the untrue story (that genes exclusively determine our nature) and a true one.
His third story, George – is about an AI patient.
“George was a look at how data is being used in the medical and social care world, and how extraordinary “unseen” biasses are placed into the system because the overwhelming majority of AI and specialist digital system programmers are male, white and Western.
“My story was based on real experiences, moulded into a story of a woman let down – as so many women have been – by the male-dominated, patriarchally-organised medical world.”
At the moment Palmer, a successful Sci Fi writer, isn’t writing much Sci Fi.
“My focus is on other genres, for instance steampunk and associated sub-genres. AI however is still a topic of interest to me, since I think it will dominate the social milieu for the entire century, and beyond.”
He’s just finished a book about Tangerine Dream in the 1970s, to be published at the end of the year or next year, and has another short story “on the way”.
The FCC FICTIONS event, on June 30 from 4-5pm, will be a chance to reflect on the power of stories, and on the real-world issues and concerns addressed in the series. Find out more and register here