Introduction by John Joseph Adams

Ursula K. Le Guin once wrote “Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive”—which is to say that it uses the future as a lens to examine the here and now. Sometimes the paradigms of the present must be challenged, and one of the ways to do that is through science fiction.

I asked the contributors to this anthology to write about paradigm shifts— technological, scientific, political, or cultural—and how individuals and societies deal with such changes. The idea is to challenge our current paradigms and speculate on how they might evolve in the future, either for better or for worse.

Several of the stories approach the theme directly with current, topical issues—Ted Kosmatka tackles racism; Tobias S. Buckell explores the importance of voting; K. D. Wentworth takes a humorous look at a possible recycling revolution; Jay Lake ponders a world-changing technological advance and the market forces conspiring against it; Nnedi Okorafor takes us to the Niger Delta, where oil is a top commodity and people a secondary consideration.

After selecting the table of contents, I asked the contributors to describe how they interpreted the theme. Responses were thoughtful and diverse, but perhaps Blake Charlton captured the essence of the anthology best: “Fiction can be a mode of social change,” he said. “The most important revolutions begin quietly; the perception of injustice and suffering must precede any action against them.”

It is my hope that reading these stories inspires some to plant their own seeds of change—that when we see something wrong, we’ll do something about it, whether that means writing to your representative in congress or researching a cure for a disease or simply speaking out against inequality and prejudice. We’re all in this together—and the first step toward change can begin with any one of us.