Infectious Futures: Science fiction imagines science fact

12 Aug 2015
Written by
Nina Cromeyer Dieke

Science fiction is the home of imagined realities, where our ideas of what life could be like can exist without restrictions. In a world where news and information are constant and can be overwhelming, narrative fiction can be a powerful medium to engage attention and interest through a story, rather than a series of statistics and numbers. Numbers like the fact that antibiotics add, on average, 20 years to a person’s life, but antibiotic resistance kills around 700,000 people a year currently, and could kill 10 million people a year by 2050 (1). Another scary fact is that no new class of antibacterial has been discovered for twenty six years.

As part of global efforts to solve the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), The Longitude Prize is a £10 million prize fund to whoever can successfully develop a revolutionary diagnostic tool to determine whether an infection needs to be treated with antibiotics. Read more details about the prize if you wish to enter.

To help us raise awareness about AMR, and recognising the power of storytelling, we asked sci-fi writers to pitch us their stories about futures where the drugs don’t work anymore. After reading many great stories, we settled on six tales that imaginatively portray lives of ordinary people after the antibiotic apocalypse.


Madeline Ashby website  @MadelineAshby 
A.S. Fields
Jenni Hill @Jenni_Hill
Tim Maughan website @TimMaughan
Lydia Nicholas @LydNicholas
Michael Rathbone

With a foreword from Roger Highfield, Longitude Committee member and Science Museum Director of External Relations, and introductions from Brigitte Nerlich, Matthew Clarke and David A. Kirby, our sci-fi anthology presents imagined futures that we hope will stay in the realm of science fiction.

Read Infectious Diseases: Stories of the Post-Antibiotic Apocalypse 

Learn more about how we created this sci-fi anthology 

Read an introductory blog by Roger Highfield, Science Museum Director of External Affairs

The Longitude Prize is an initiative of Nesta. Read more about Nesta's work in technology futures.


1. Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations