Science Fiction Books From ... Microsoft?

When you think of Microsoft, you tend to think about computers or Excel spread sheets or maybe the bygone annoyance that was Clippy — not books. But now Microsoft is commissioning a fiction anthology with stories based around its research. And the company has lined up some top names in science fiction to write them. So will a tech company sponsored book still be quality fiction? Or is art commissioned by corporations always kind a of murky proposition? Well, I'll let readers judge for themselves.

The anthology, which is titled Future Visions, is being billed as “original fiction inspired by Microsoft” and featuring “new works that predict the near future of technology and examine its complex relationship to our core humanity." It will feature works by authors such as Elizabeth Bear, David Brin, and Robert J Sawyer. And it's available for free in ebook.

"[Microsoft] research is a blueprint for the future of technology," Microsoft said in a press release. "So it’s only natural that their work can inspire others — especially those who write about other worlds."

According to Steve Clayton, who is described as the "chief storyteller" at Microsoft:

The idea was to bring authors in to expose them to what some people might think is science fiction. In a way, you could say the world of Microsoft Research turns science fiction into science fact. We didn’t show them a piece of technology and ask them to please write about that. We showed them technology and introduced them to a group of people, and then asked them, what did it spark in your mind as ideas, where did it inspire you to think the technology may go?

In that sense, it is an interesting proposition. After all, science fiction isn't just about dreaming up fancy future gadgets or strange, technologically advanced world, but about important truths, truths about problems in our own time or some enduring quality of human nature. And science fiction stories can sometimes be incredibly on the nose about what the future might look like — just take Brave New World, for instance. So how much more insightful could science fiction authors be if they didn't have to dream up what the next technological advances might be, but instead got a preview into what research really is cooking up for humanity's tomorrow?

On the other hand, of course, there's a reason why multi-billion dollar corporations tend to produce advertisements instead of novels to promote their products.

So is Microsoft's science fiction of the same quality as its science? You'll have to read to find out.

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