Annalee Newitz: The io9 Manifesto: Science Is Political: "io9 started out in 2007 as the germ of an idea for a site about futurism...
...with a name that was a joke about brain implants. Six and a half years later, we've grown in size--but we've also grown up. Our 2008 manifesto still holds true, but in 2014 we've got some amendments. Here they are.
Last month, for the first time, io9 had over 10 million unique readers in the United States alone; globally, we had 15 million. We had a staff of three when we launched in 2008; now we've got 14. Our mission has grown too.
Speculative Pop Culture: When I first conceived io9 back in 2007, I had one goal: to give readers a vision of the future that was based in scientific reality as well as science fiction. To do it, I needed to build a publication that would bring science journalism together with cultural criticism and futurist ideas. No one strand of thought would be dominant. To understand where we're headed as a civilization, we cannot privilege science over culture, nor can we afford to ignore even the most speculative predictions.
Often, the weirdest notions about the future turn out to be right.
Over time, io9 has expanded beyond its roots in science fiction. We're fascinated by any story, in any medium, that inspires people to look beyond the narrow confines of everyday life and contemplate an alternate world. I think these kinds of stories are crucial thought experiments, whether they are set in our reality or Westeros. They keep us sharp, preparing us for the day when things change so much that we'll need an education in alternate realities just to cope with this one.
Fighting for Science: Our science coverage has also changed. At this point in history, when science is under attack from many political and religious institutions, we can no longer afford to report on the latest research and call it a job well done. To advocate for science is to advocate for a political position, whether we like it or not.
Pro-science politics don't divide easily into conservative and liberal. Imagine, if you will, that people from all positions on the political spectrum came together to advocate for scientific research and education. Conservatives advocating for defense and agricultural innovations would rub shoulders with liberals pursuing sustainable energy and environmental reforms. But all would be united under the banner of rational inquiry. (And probably they would all want to go to space, too.)
Who knows what kinds of civilizational progress might come out of that crucible, where people with many political backgrounds could join forces to assure humanity's continued survival, using science?
A Better Future: Now I want you to stretch your imagination even further, and think about how our group of politically-mixed science advocates could include cultural and ethical issues on their agenda too. What if we finally admitted that the scientific project has always been a wider cultural movement, full of guiding myths and useful fictions and passionate believers?
What if, in short, political change could be as astounding as scientific discovery and as mind-expanding as the best pop culture?
Here at io9, we aim to find out. The point of futurism isn't just to describe what comes next — it's to change it. Come with us, on our quest to build a better tomorrow.
Addicted to the Future: "Earth is full of people who want...
...to sell you cheap ways of seeing the future. They tell you tomorrow will be more of the same, with shinier toys. Or that work as we know it is about to end. io9 is the visionary watchdog who calls those charlatans on their shit. We're going to show you a new world that's shockingly different from what you're used to. And it's not always going to be a shiny happy place.
io9 is addicted to science fiction because it's the storytelling branch of prophecy. We'll be writing obsessively about scifi in every format: books, movies, TV, Web, comics, games, art, music, and fashion.
The problem is that science fiction doesn't always seek out the strange new worlds it purports to be cruising for. That's why we're plagued by franchises like Star Trek and Superman that return, again and again, to the historical times in which they were born. Superman is still basically an old-fashioned, small-town white boy in an age more suited to postcolonial urban hero-mutants; and Star Trek is a prisoner of the Cold War, rehashing old conflicts and stereotypes.
io9 is from an uncharted region in futurist culture. Our idea of science fiction includes things like Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica TV series, the architecture of Frank Gehry, and the writing of Michael Chabon. These creators don't cater to fanboys with trivia obsessions, and neither does io9.
It's not that we don't love a bit of the retro futurism you see in old Trek. Some of our favorite images and ideas about tomorrow come from decades, or even millennia, ago. But when it comes to contemporary ideas, we're looking for ways to leave the old Earth ways behind and get out of the Gernsback continuum. Futurist culture should be speculative, not derivative.
Also, the future isn't always fictional. Tomorrow has its seeds in the decidedly non-fictional realms of science, engineering, design and architecture. Today you can stroll around inside labs where people are casually cooking up new species and atomic structures. At io9, we believe you can't really understand what's next until you know whose ideas are currently changing the shape of our cities, bodies, and molecules.
Good science fiction begins with the present, where the line between what's real and what's speculative grows fainter every day. That's why we champion the novels of Iain M. Banks, Octavia Butler, and William Gibson: These authors deal with the future consequences of present-day science and politics. And it's why we're chuffed about movies like Gattaca and TV series Firefly, which don't rely on tired franchise tropes to build their compelling dystopian worlds.
By now, you're probably wondering what io9 means. Here's what WikiGoog will say about that in a hundred years:
io9s were marketed as cheap time machines in the 2070s. They were actually just low-grade input/output devices for the brain that tuned tachyon waves and gave users vivid images of possible futures. The things were so addictive, and drove so many people insane, that io9s were eventually outlawed. Today the word is just slang. io9ers are the early implanters who obsessively upgrade themselves with beta tech. People who tweak out on buggy brainware are sometimes said to have "gone io9." Science fiction writer Ken MacLeod has another term for io9s. He calls them rapture f---ers.
We're neophiles and we're not going to recover. Lucky for you, one of the symptoms of our neophilia is an obsessive need to share our stash with you, every nanosecond of every day. We'll make you want a better implant this time, one that will give you more of those astounding visions you saw here first.