How soon is now?

Saturday, October 1, 2016 - 10:25

‘I saw huge buildings rise up faint and fair, and pass like dreams…’ 

In 1895, the writer HG Wells imagined a time traveller’s journey through the fourth dimension, thousands of years into the future of London. He returns to tell a tale of fantastic landscapes, androgynous people and a society both horrifying, and mysteriously familiar.  

Through visions of society and technology, the future of gender and the changing natural world, yesterday’s science fiction provides strange hints of today’s realities. This year, our London Literature Festival investigates groundbreaking literature and asks writers and thinkers to imagine the future from the perspective of our rapidly changing times. 

Find out more about London Literature Festival

Margaret Atwood

Which idea about the future proposed in your fiction would you posit as the most likely to come true? 

Many are equally horrible, but it seems as if the use of the blood of young people to rejuvenate rich older people – as posited in The Heart Goes Last – is already in process.

Richard Dawkins

What are your fears and hopes for the future?

My hope is that we will increasingly govern humanity’s affairs by reason, based on objectively and publicly verifiable evidence. My fear is that this will not happen and that superstition, religion and prejudice will continue to plague the world.

Etgar Keret


I think that the greatest challenge was and will always be to serve as an interface between a child and a world that often makes very little sense. Technology may advance but human behavior will stay unpredictable and often difficult to explain.
Etgar Keret on the challenges parents face
Author and journalist Gaia Vince

Gaia Vince

What are your fears and hopes for the future? 

My fear is that we miss the opportunity to act as a cohesive global society to address the environmental challenges we face and end up in a situation in which a small population thrives but many struggle in poverty. My hope is that instead we face up to the crises ... and negotiate a way to share the world’s resources.

Author and designer Thomas Thwaites

Thomas Thwaites

How do you think human relationships with other species will change in the years to come?

I think that the non-human animal rights project will succeed in its mission to see some animals granted some of the rights of humans… I’m interested in the idea of victimless meat: growing meat in vats rather than rearing a whole sentient being just so we can eventually eat its muscles.

Nikesh Shukla

What will immigration look like 50 years from now?

It could go two ways. One way: Britain embraces the whole ‘no man is an island but Great Britain is so piss off foreigners’ ethos. And that’s it... what does Britain have to offer then? Or it could go that Britain realises what good work is being done in the cities, in London, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham, that it has an outward-facing attitude to the world ... and it’ll thrive because people love our big dumb accents. I don’t know. Can you tell I don’t feel hopeful? 

Lauren Beukes


I hope more men will figure out a meaningful way of being in the world, stepping away from the ridiculous and destructive ideals society holds them to, that we are complicit in, that masculinity is tough and savage, that they must be the providers and protectors ... and that anything less is a humiliation. Because that sense of powerlessness, that humiliation, fear and ego, drives domestic violence and homophobia, and kills compassion.
Lauren Beukes

the future is now