Mundane science fiction

Mundane science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction, typically 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 regular 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, 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 considered unlikely and are so are avoided in mundane science fiction.


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

See also


  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. 1 2 "How sci-fi moves with the times". BBC News. 18 March 2009.
  4. Cokinos, Christopher. "Instead of Suns, the Earth". Orion Magazine.
  5. 1 2 "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
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