Archive for April 22nd, 2013

Prediction.  Premonition.  Forewarning.  Foreshadowing.

People have always wanted to look into the future.  All this last week I kept wishing that someone standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon had been able to time travel a mere half minute into the future.  And then go back in time by that same half minute.  That’s all it would have taken to get so many people out of the way of the bombs.  Same thing with the Aurora theater shootings.  Or Newton.  9/11.

This is such a natural, desperate wish for us, isn’t?  If only we were able to catch fleeting glimpses into the future and prevent so many tragedies.  There are probably a million stories or shows or movies written around just this premise.

I think one of the best is the movie The Minority Report.  It was based on a 1956 science fiction short story about how the state prevents murders by using psychic mutants who can see the crimes before they happen.

So far that hasn’t happened in reality (and the movie certainly shows the dark side of this phenomenon).  But we all come across books or stories that really do seem prophetic.

A few weeks ago I read an article in about the “Weird 1969… Sci Fi Novel” that was weirdly accurate about the future we’re now living in.  The book is Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner.

Maybe you science fiction writers (hello, Michael Offut and Alex J. Cavanaugh) know this book, but I’d never heard of it.  Anyway, the article lists a lot of Brunner’s predictions for the year 2010 that came true.  To list just a few:

  • Gay and Bisexuals have gone mainstream
  • Cars run more and more on electric fuel cells
  • Detroit is almost a ghost town because of all the closed factories
  • People use avatars for themselves on video screens
  • Terrorists have been attacking buildings in the U.S.
  • Inflation means prices have gone up sixfold (reality: sevenfold)
  • The Soviet Union doesn’t much matter anymore, but China is an economic power
  • Computer documents are printed with laser technology

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of you don’t remember 1969 or weren’t even around.  But I was a teenager and I can tell you that NONE of this stuff was on our radar back then.  I mean, Detroit falling apart and shrinking?  Mao’s backward China becoming a capitalist power?

Maybe one of these days I’ll read Zanzibar.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about books or shows or short stories that you think really did seem to look into the future.