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As Research Fellow in Future Thinking, Dr Lisa Gee is working with Professor Max Saunders on developing a network and projects exploring different modes of thinking about the future. She is Programme Director of FUTURES by Tortoise. 

We caught up with her by email this week to find out about recent developments in the FUTURES project.

Lisa Gee sat on a couch with a cat beside her

Hi Billy. I’m at home in Harlesden, north-west London (as it’s lunchtime, I’m squinting myopically at my laptop in my small, sunny back garden). I’m doing all right, thanks – staying healthy, so far, as are my two lodgers, who are also working from the home we share with my three cats. Three cats is too many. Overall I’m feeling extremely lucky, although I’m missing my partner and daughter, both of whom live elsewhere. Wondering if I can swap a cat for one of them… 

[Image right: Lisa and Kooky, courtesy of @luna.jenesaisquoi]

Fully Funded FUTURES! by @tortoise

FUTURES is a new series of short books inspired by Max’s work on ‘To-Day and To-Morrow’ – a series of speculative, non-fiction essays, written by accomplished and emerging authors, philosophers, scientists and others, and published by Kegan Paul between 1923–1931. Each short book focused on one topic (anything from the future of science to the future of swearing), offered a brief survey of its state at the time and the author’s personal vision of its future, projecting up to a century or more ahead.

A series of five book covers

FUTURES reimagines the series for the 21st century. Working with new media organisation Tortoise and crowdfunding publishers Unbound, we aim to change the public conversation about our collective future(s) by presenting a diverse and inclusive range of new individual visions. Where and who do we want to be? How might we accomplish this? And what might lie in store for us if we don’t change course? We want the new series to be of lasting interest, enabling our descendants to look back in amazement at the futures they didn’t get – as well as at our shrewdness in predicting what actually happened. 

In the first set:

Bidisha – The Future of Serious Art 
Frankie Boyle – The Future of British Politics 
Grace Campbell – The Future of Men 
Vinay Gupta – The Future of Stuff 
Sir Richard Lambert – The Future of Antiquity

Five book covers with small author portraits

For future FUTURES, we have a long list of authors we’d like to write for the series and topics we’d like to see written about. And we’re open to suggestions. Whose take on the future do you want to see? Which topics would you like the series to cover?

As I say in the FUTURES video, I don’t do predictions. But, I’m sure it has, both in ways we can imagine and ways we either can’t – or, perhaps, can’t bear to imagine. 

We’re exploring this both in FUTURES, and with colleagues here at Birmingham and beyond in our Future Thinking Network, where we’ve started formulating ideas for interdisciplinary projects. Find out more here and contact us if you’d like to be part of this.

The authors have delivered their essays – all of which are even better than I’d dared to hope – and these are now in production. Anyone who buys via this link (you can get digital editions of all five essays for a bargain £15, and the gorgeous printed books start at £40 a set), will receive copies at the end of June, and the books will be in bookshops from October 2020.

Meanwhile, we’re fundraising and commissioning for set two. If all goes well, we’ll announce our next five authors, titles and launch the next crowdfund at the same time Unbound send the first set out to our supporters. But, obviously, given current circumstances, timings may need to flex.

And then… we’ll see. To-Day and To-Morrow ran to some 110 volumes. We’d love FUTURES to do the same.

Aside from the FUTURES essays and Max Saunders’s book Imagined Futures: Writing, Science, and Modernity in the To-Day and To-Morrow Book Series, 1923-31:

Not a huge TV watcher, but I’ve just started Inside No. 9 which is as good, funny and disturbing as everyone says. And I wish I hadn’t already watched The Good Place.

Tortoise are organising a series of digital think-ins over coming weeks with guests including Tom Watson, David Davis, Hadley Freeman, and Jess Phillips.

Ezra Furman’s Twelve Nudes  – he’s also currently posting a cover a day on Instagram and FaceBook.