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Futures redux

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Can you tell a sci-fi tale in just 200 characters? Then the Nature Futures competition is for you.

As 2013 prepares to gasp its last, this issue follows a venerable tradition and looks back at the myriad events, images and people that made the news and shaped the year’s scientific agenda (see page 344). These are collected together with a host of highlights on our website (www.nature.com/2013), where there is even an online quiz to test your memory of what happened in science this year (go.nature.com/izlxfn).

There remains one darkened recess of the Nature enterprise that, Scrooge-like, is resolutely refusing to join in. Futures, our science-fiction column, is doggedly pursuing its agenda and is keeping its sights fixed firmly on the, well, future. For more than a decade, Futures authors have been addressing the key questions that any visionary would wish to answer. Is the human race doomed? What are aliens really like? How will technology change the way we live? And can a soft drink really save your life?

Like the famous Time Lord who turned 50 last month, Futures has enjoyed more than one incarnation — although its present form has proved most stable, appearing as it has on the back page of Nature since July 2007 (nature.com/futures). So far, Futures has published more than 500 stories — and sadly has been forced to reject more than ten times that number (often because of space constraints, although there was one unfortunate time when a pan-dimensional being from a parallel universe took possession of the editor for a week — apologies to those whose e-mails went unanswered).

As well as watching the skies, Futures has surreptitiously infiltrated the office across the hall, where it has activated the sleeper implanted several years ago behind the filing cabinet in the corner. The result is that from January, sci-fi will return to the pages of Nature Physics, offering an extra 12 chances a year to predict what may come to pass. (The submission address is the same: futures@nature.com.)

And the changes don’t end there. Back in 2007, we published an anthology of some of the early Futures stories. That too has regenerated, and Futures 1 (note the ‘1’: there are more planned for 2014) will be available as an eBook from 24 December — ideal, say, for a last-minute virtual stocking filler.

To celebrate this release and the fact that Nature Physics is going back to the Futures, we are offering a chance to win a copy of the eBook, plus a year’s subscription to Nature, in a dazzling competition. Inspired by the brevity of Twitter, we want you to tell a short sci-fi story. And we mean short. No more than 200 characters. This truncated tale can be input at these galactic coordinates: go.nature.com/rnrnxx. The closing date is 31 January 2014.

Robots, extrasolar aliens and genetically modified beings are not eligible to participate — unless you have managed to take over the planet by the closing date. In which case, can we just say how well your new skin suits you, and please allow us to show you the way to the executive suite.

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Futures redux. Nature 504, 332 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/504332a

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