REVIEW: “Rethinking Risk” by Andrew D. Maynard

Review of Andrew D. Maynard, “Rethinking Risk”, in Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures, edited by Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich, (Center for Science and Imagination, Arizona State University, 2017): 193-201 — Download here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

In this nonfiction companion piece to “The Use of Things” (read the review) and “Death on Mars” (read the review), Maynard advocates a new approach to conceptualising risk that focuses not on behavior that can be characterised by so-called “risk-aversion” but rather on “the things that people find too important to risk losing” (p. 193). The goal is to

open up a deeper conversation around risk that explores the trade-offs that are often necessary to create the future we desire (p. 193).

I found this an interesting piece to read not only for what it has to say concerning the risks we do and must take in near-earth space travel but also how this can be applied to other facets of “the future we desire”. In the context of SFF fiction (as opposed to fact), one facet of that future that we desire is the increasing representation of marginalized voices, taking their stories seriously both in reading and responding to them, and for less marginalized voices to ensure that their characters and worlds are suitably representative (we don’t really need any more cis-het-white-male “#ownvoices” stories…) What are the risks we take in moving towards that future? And what are the things that are too important for us to risk losing?

The only way these questions can be answered is individually; the answers that I came to are not the answers anyone else will come to. As Maynard points out, “what we consider to be important…is not always obvious” (p. 196). So I recommend reading this piece not because of the answers I got out of contemplating these questions, but because of the value others can find in answering the questions themselves.