Kenneth Macrae MacLeod (born 2 August 1954) is a Scottish science fiction writer.
MacLeod was born in Stornoway, Scotland on 2 August 1954. He graduated from Glasgow University with a degree in zoology and has worked as a computer programmer and written a masters thesis on biomechanics. He was a Trotskyist activist in the 1970s and early 1980s and is married and has two children. He lived in South Queensferry near Edinburgh before moving to Gourock, on the Firth of Clyde, in June 2017.
MacLeod is opposed to Scottish independence.
He is part of a group of British science fiction writers who specialise in hard science fiction and space opera. His contemporaries include Stephen Baxter, Iain M. Banks, Paul J. McAuley, Alastair Reynolds, Adam Roberts, Charles Stross, Richard Morgan, and Liz Williams.
His science fiction novels often explore socialist, communist, and anarchist political ideas, especially Trotskyism and anarcho-capitalism (or extreme economic libertarianism). Technical themes encompass singularities, divergent human cultural evolution, and post-human cyborg-resurrection. MacLeod's general outlook can be best described as techno-utopian socialist, though unlike a majority of techno-utopians, he has expressed great scepticism over the possibility and especially over the desirability of strong AI.
He is known for his constant in-joking and punning on the intersection between socialist ideologies and computer programming, as well as other fields. For example, his chapter titles such as "Trusted Third Parties" or "Revolutionary Platform" usually have double (or multiple) meanings. A future programmers union is called "Information Workers of the World Wide Web", or the Webblies, a reference to the Industrial Workers of the World, who are nicknamed the Wobblies. The Webblies idea formed a central part of the novel For the Win by Cory Doctorow and MacLeod is acknowledged as coining the term. Doctorow and Charles Stross also used one of MacLeod's references to the singularity as "the rapture for nerds" as the title for their collaborative novel Rapture of the Nerds. (Although MacLeod denies coining the phrase.) There are also many references to, or puns on, zoology and palaeontology. For example, in The Stone Canal the title of the book, and many places described in it, are named after anatomical features of marine invertebrates such as starfish.
Books about MacLeod
The Science Fiction Foundation have published an analysis of MacLeod's work titled The True Knowledge Of Ken MacLeod (2003; ISBN 0-903007-02-9), edited by Andrew M. Butler and Farah Mendlesohn. As well as critical essays it contains material by MacLeod himself, including his introduction to the German edition of Banks' Consider Phlebas.
Fall Revolution series
The Star Fraction (1995; US paperback ISBN 0-7653-0156-3) – Prometheus Award winner, 1996; Clarke Award nominee, 1996
The Stone Canal (1996; US paperback ISBN 0-8125-6864-8) – Prometheus Award winner, 1998; BSFA nominee, 1996
The Cassini Division (1998; US paperback ISBN 0-312-87044-2) – BSFA nominee, 1998; Clarke, and Nebula Awards nominee, 1999
The Sky Road (1999; US paperback ISBN 0-8125-7759-0) BSFA Award winner, 1999; Hugo Award nominee, 2001 – represents an 'alternate future' to the second two books, as its events diverge sharply due to a choice made differently by one of the protagonists in the middle of The Stone Canal
This series is also available in two volumes:
Fractions: The First Half of the Fall Revolution (2009; US paperback ISBN 0-7653-2068-1)
Divisions: The Second Half of the Fall Revolution (2009; US paperback ISBN 0-7653-2119-X)
Engines of Light Trilogy
Cosmonaut Keep (2000; US paperback ISBN 0-7653-4073-9) – Clarke Award nominee, 2001; Hugo Award nominee, 2002 Begins the series with a first contact story in a speculative mid-21st century where a resurgently socialist USSR (incorporating the European Union) is once again in opposition with the capitalist United States, then diverges into a story told on the other side of the galaxy of Earth-descended colonists trying to establish trade and relations within an interstellar empire of several species who travel from world to world at the speed of light.
Dark Light (2001; US paperback ISBN 0-7653-4496-3) – Campbell Award nominee, 2002
Engine City (2002; US paperback ISBN 0-7653-4421-1)
The Corporation Wars
Newton's Wake: A Space Opera (2004; US paperback edition ISBN 0-7653-4422-X) – BSFA nominee, 2004; Campbell Award nominee, 2005
Learning the World: A Novel of First Contact (2005; UK hardback edition ISBN 1-84149-343-0) Prometheus Award winner 2006; Hugo, Locus SF, Campbell and Clarke Awards nominee, 2006; BSFA nominee, 2005
"The Highway Men" (2006; UK edition ISBN 1-905207-06-9)
The Execution Channel (2007; UK hardback edition ISBN 1-84149-348-1 ISBN 978-1841493480) – BSFA Award nominee, 2007; Campbell, and Clarke Awards nominee, 2008
The Night Sessions (2008; UK hardback edition ISBN 1-84149-651-0 ISBN 978-1841496511) – Winner Best Novel 2008 BSFA
The Restoration Game (2010). According to the author, "In The Restoration Game I revisited the fall of the Soviet Union, with a narrator who is at first a piece in a game played by others, and works her way up to becoming to some extent a player, but – as we see when we pull back at the end – is still part of a larger game."
Intrusion (2012): "an Orwellian surveillance society installs sensors on pregnant women to prevent smoking or drinking; and these women also have to take a eugenic 'fix' to eliminate genetic anomalies.
Descent (2014): "My genre model for Descent was bloke-lit – that's basically first-person, self-serving, rueful confessional by a youngish man looking back on youthful stupidities... ... Descent is about flying saucers, hidden races, and Antonio Gramsci's concept of passive revolution, all set in a tale of Scottish middle class family life in and after the Great Depression of the 21st Century. Almost mainstream fiction, really."
The Web: Cydonia (1998; UK paperback edition ISBN 1-85881-640-8) Part of the young adult fiction series The Web. Collected in Giant Lizards from Another Star.
The Human Front (2002) (Winner of Short-form Sidewise Award for Alternate History 2002) collected in Giant Lizards from Another Star
Who's Afraid of Wolf 359? (The New Space Opera, 2007) – nominated for Hugo Award for Best Short Story
"Ms Found on a Hard Drive" (Glorifying Terrorism, 2007)
The Light Company (1998)
The Highway Men (2006)
"'The Entire Immense Superstructure': An Installation" (Reach for Infinity, 2014)
Poems & Polemics (2001; Rune Press: Minneapolis, MN) Chapbook of non-fiction and poetry.
Giant Lizards From Another Star (2006; US trade hardcover ISBN 1-886778-62-0) Collected fiction and nonfiction.
Ken MacLeod's Weblog
Ken MacLeod's page at Macmillan.com
Ken MacLeod at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
The Human Genre Project, a collection of works on genetic themes, collated and maintained by MacLeod
Interview with Ken Macleod at SFFWorld.com
SF Zone interview with MacLeod
Interview on the SciFiDimensions Podcast
Science Saturday: Galactic Princesses Edition Bloggingheads dialog with Annalee Newitz
The story behind Descent - Online Essay by Ken MacLeod