Good morning, Flames!
Let’s take a break from reality, or at least talking about it, to discuss the future.
Being a science fiction fan, my brand of escapism comes with much speculation about the future and what we might find there. There are examples throughout the Sci-fi world of how things authors imagined fifty years ago are real objects or machines in use today. Is it a case of chance, inspiration, or foresight?
A few years ago I was listening to an audio version of “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury when I came across a piece of his speculation that completely jived with modern fact. His main protag’s wife spent all of her time engaged with the people in their dining room wall – family, friends, and even took part in a game show. Ray Bradbury described facebook (and wall screen TVs) in 1953! This still blows my mind. He was wrong about Mars (to the best of our knowledge), and he was wrong about books being outlawed (mostly), but he imagined that the television would take over our lives and somehow incorporate real-time interaction with other people hundreds of miles away. To me that’s pretty cool.
PKD did not do so well in his speculation. I find it humorous as I read through his stories that he can imagine a world populated with robots for all of the mundane day-to-day functions. They have attitude and some sense of personality (always bad) – sneering at people as they demand their payments of nickels and dimes. He refers to them as homeostatic machines, but I’m not sure what he was envisioning when he labeled them because the definition of homeostatic doesn’t really fit.
He also imagines people traveling around Earth in ships and rockets and colonizing moons as far out as Saturn, but secretaries still use typewriters and all of the data of mankind is saved on stacks and stacks of tapes. I’m certainly not criticising the imagination of a man who came up with a plot so densely twisted in on itself that a perfect clone, designed to be a weapon, didn’t even know he was the weapon or even not the actual man until it was too late. And even then he wanted to be a good human, sacrificing himself to save humanity. Or a plot wherein a man is so haunted by his nightmares and confusion he goes to a service to have his memory wiped and replaced with something happy, only to discover that his true memories had already been replaced and he wasn’t the man he thought he was. I guess we all have our strengths.
Robert Heinlein imagined the future would see data storage that would allow the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of ream of paper to be stored on a microchip the size of your fingernail, then he filled a character’s hollow prosthetic leg with them. He predicted the Micro SD card you have in your smart phone right now, and he did it in 1985. (Somewhat less ‘dun-dun’ than Ray Bradbury in 1953…I expected that date to be further back because his characters speak like they are from the Forties.)
Honestly, the plot and the characters are the most important pieces of a story. The rest is just backdrop. And if you consider the effort required to layer a truly memorable plot that catches your reader unawares (without cheating), the props and setting are definitely places a writer might save some brainpower. We certainly don’t want to see them sacrifice good characters and dialog to make their spaceship really imaginative and filled with crazy innovations.
Talk to me today about speculative props and circumstances in your favorite novels. Do you have evidence that any of your authors were visionaries? What about predictions of political changes or exploration?
When you write longer fiction, how much emphasis do you put on the backdrop? How important is it to you when you read or write? Not to leave our poets out, have you ever considered poking at the future in your verse? Do you know of any published poets who have?
I hope you are hard at work on writing about What is Reality?, #gowrite.
Stay tuned for a new sprint coming Friday evening. Hopefully you found the weekend sprints useful, check them out here and here. We will have a flamestorming session this weekend (Sunday), possibly on Google Hangouts. Check back with us on Friday evening for more details.
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