Thursday, September 4, 2014

Aging Science Fiction

Good science fiction makes up crazy technology and implements it in the story somehow. Great science fiction predicts the future.

...No, I'm serious. Okay, remember when the iPad was released? And it took everyone about a nanosecond to realize, "Hey, Star Trek had these! I'm like Jean-Luc Picard! Awesome!" The reason that happened is because the writers for Star Trek were good at their jobs. They did research into what actual science was working on at the time and reached logical conclusions and wrote them into the show. It's like if someone wrote something now set in a world where all cancer is cured, and someday, when all cancer is cured, somebody reads that and realizes how ahead-of-the-curve that writer was.

That said, nobody's perfect. One of my favorite types of cartoons when I was little was the "house of the future" stuff. They were just as old as Tom & Jerry and Bugs Bunny, but usually those guys are pretty timeless. When you have 1950s and 1960s traditional ideas mixed in with the futuristic technology, it can be really entertaining in a way they didn't expect it to be when they created those cartoons.

This happens with other science fiction, too. Each short story in this week's review book, The Martian Chronicles, for example, has a date on it. We passed all those dates recently. We're both ahead of and behind Bradbury's expectations for us. Our rockets are more advanced than his descriptions, and - despite recent news out of Missouri - as a society, we're more friendly to minorities, and we haven't created a sanitizing society that destroys anything creative or unhappy in the world. But we also haven't put men on Mars (and we certainly haven't terraformed it) and we don't have automated houses.

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