Prophecy or Guesswork?

Science fiction has a reputation for being of three sorts.  First, there’s the pure entertainment, with no other agenda than to tell a good story.  Second, there’s the kind that uses the genre to make a comment on contemporary society, sometimes suggesting what consequences might lie ahead.  Third, there’s what has also been called “speculative fiction”, in which the writer looks to how our future might evolve

There’s no doubting the fact that some authors have been phenomenally accurate in their predictions, even though they may not have had contemporary references to work from.  Just about every technology we know today was predicted by a science fiction author at some time.  Jules Verne is just one author who seemed to have a window into the future, and his works certainly didn’t have the benefit of established science to be referenced.  He wasn’t alone, either.

The question is, however, whether the visions of the future we read are the consequence of pure guesswork, speculating on the evolution of science (mainstream or not), or some kind of prophetic utterance inspired by the dreams of the author.  Perhaps both operate, either together in one writer’s works, or separately according to the nature of an author.  Reading science fiction, you can find sophisticated computers at a time when the best technology could offer was a comptometer, or electronic devices that are remarkably similar to the eReaders that have made such an impact in the last few years.

Of course, there is the possibility that science fiction actually helps to drive technology forward.  Are our devices the result of inventors and technologists being intrigued by a science fiction concept?  This is actually a strong possibility!  There are more and more devices appearing which aren’t driven by an existing need.  They come about because they can.  It is easy to imagine some inventive person reading about a device of the future and feeling challenged by the concept.  It would be natural for them to attempt to create that device, or something very similar.

Considering how often I’ve heard book critics sneering at the genre, it is rather amusing to think that it is changing our very society, at a fundamental level.  I wonder how many of those critics routinely make use of the technologies the genre has inspired?  I doubt any shun the devices that have come straight out of the pages of science fiction tales.

Prophecy or guesswork?  Does it really matter?  The fact is that we are all surrounded by the consequences of the genre today.

~ Steve

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About Steve

An author since the age of 13 years, writing again dominates my activities. My "Imagineer-ing" blog is my primary site. Also: Beginner knitter since November 2010. Favourite knitting techniques: cable and lace. Beginner cross stitcher. Beginner jewellery maker. With the promotion of self publication and all the other work that has been going on here, Dad decided around 2am this morning (22/11/2013) that it was time to begin his next adventure. He was seen off earlier the previous evening by myself, my brother, my sister in law, and my sister, as well as his wife (our mum), and an enigmatic being known only as A Lorraine. After this time of story telling, laughing, crying, joking and mickey taking, we saw how tired both mum and dad were, and we decided to leave them under the (sometimes) gentle care of The Lorraine. When Dad found the timetable for his travels, he let Mum know gently, which woke her from her drowsing, then, with the same gentleness he showed in this universe, he boarded his favourite mode of transport, the Interdimensional Steam Train, and set off with a smile and a wave. For those of us closest, that smile was a reminder that his pain has ended, and the wave, an indicator that he will pop in to all those that knew him, from time to time. Usually at the most inconvenient and in opportune moments he can. While we are sad that he is no longer here, we are happy he now has no pain, and is experiencing more extraordinary things that his writers mind will be frantically weaving into a new story. Posted by Son Damien

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