Ken MacLeod was born on the Isle of Lewis and lives in Gourock, where his window affords a view of seals, sea-birds, and submarines. He is the author of seventeen novels, from The Star Fraction (1995) to The Corporation Wars (2018), and many articles and short stories. He has won three BSFA awards and three Prometheus Awards, and been short-listed for the Clarke and Hugo Awards.

Ken was a Writer in Residence at the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum at Edinburgh University, and Writer in Residence for the MA Creative Writing course at Edinburgh Napier University. He was Guest Selector for the SF strand at the 2017 Edinburgh International Book Festival. Recently he worked on a selection of Iain M. Banks' drawings and notes on the Culture, for Orbit Books. He is currently writing a space opera trilogy, and will have a new collection coming out in 2024 via NewCon Press.

The Human Front by Ken Macleod

Ken MacLeod is one of the brightest and most progressive of Britain's "Hard SF" stars who navigate exciting new futures to the delight of legions of fans around the world. His works combine cutting-edge scientific speculation, socialist and anarchist themes, and a deeply humanistic vision. Described by fans and adversaries alike as a "techno-utopian socialist," MacLeod thrusts his characters into uncanny encounters that have included AI singularities, divergent human evolution, and posthuman cyborg-resurrection.

In his novella The Human Front, a young Scottish guerrilla fighter is drawn into low-intensity sectarian war in a high-intensity dystopian future, and the arrival of an alien intruder (complete with saucer!) calls for new tactics and strange alliances. Its companion piece, "Other Deviations," first published in this edition, reveals the complex origins of MacLeod's alternate history.

Plus: "The Future Will Happen Here, Too," in which a Hebridean writer celebrates the landscapes that shaped his work, measures Scotland's past against humanity's future, and peers into the eyes of an eel.

And Featuring: our irreverent Outspoken Interview, a candid and often cantankerous conversation that showcases our author's deep erudition and mordant wit.



  • "The Human Front has pretty much everything you could ask from a great story: character, insight, plot, that quality of description that transports a feeling, sensation, incident or landscape seemingly direct from world to mind, and revelation. It has substance. It should make your mind reel, and work."

    – Iain M. Banks
  • "The Human Front is a complete knock out—very funny, ingenious, and so densely political it might give you a headache. This novella has more ideas and better characters than most novels. It's elegant, eloquent and laugh-out-loud funny. And that last quality by itself makes it worth the very weird trip."

    – Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column
  • "The Human Front is a feather-weight book, which packs a heavyweight punch. In terms of size, it's a novella, but it includes more entertainment than many books that are four times its length."

    – Nathan Brazil, SF Site
  • "Science fiction's freshest new writer…MacLeod is a fiercely intelligent, prodigiously well-read author who manages to fill his books with big issues without weighing them down."

    – Salon
  • "Ken MacLeod's novels are fast, funny and sophisticated. There can never be enough books like these: he is writing revolutionary SF. A nova has appeared in our sky."

    – Kim Stanley Robinson



Like most people of my generation, I remember exactly where I was on March 17, 1963, the day Stalin died. I was in the waiting-room of my father's surgery, taking advantage of the absence of waiting patients to explore the nicotine- yellowed stacks of Reader's Digests and National Geographics, and to play in a desultory fashion with the gnawed plastic soldiers, broken tin tanks, legless dolls and so forth that formed a disconsolate heap, like an atrocity diorama, in one corner. My father must have been likewise taking advantage of a slack hour towards the end of the day to listen to the wireless. He opened the door so forcefully that I looked up, guiltily, though on this particular occasion I had nothing to be guilty about. His expression alarmed me further, until I realised that the mixed feelings that struggled for control of his features were not directed at me.

Except one. It was with, I now think, a full aware- ness of the historic significance of the moment, as well as a certain sense of loss, that he told me the news. His voice cracked slightly, in a way I had not heard before.

"The Americans," he said, "have just announced that Stalin has been shot."

"Up against a wall?" I asked, eagerly. My father frowned at my levity and lit a cigarette. "No," he said. "Some American soldiers surround-

ed his headquarters in the Caucasus mountains. After the partisans were almost wiped out they surrendered, but then Stalin made a run for it and the American soldiers shot him in the back."

I almost giggled. Things like this happened in his- tory books and adventure stories, not in real life. "Does that mean the war is over?" I asked.

"That's a good question, John." He looked at me with a sort of speculative respect. "The Communists will be disheartened by Stalin's death, but they'll go on fight- ing, I'm afraid."

At that moment there was a knock on the wait- ing-room door, and my father shooed me out while welcoming his patient in. The afternoon was clear and cold. I mucked about at the back of the house and then climbed up the hill behind it, sat on a boulder and watched the sky. A pair of eagles circled their eyrie on the higher hill opposite, but I didn't let that distract me. After a while my patience was rewarded by the thrill- ing sight of a V-formation of American bombers high above, flying east. Their circular shapes glinted silver when the sunlight caught them, and shadowed black against the blue.