Prophetic Novels

on April 22, 2013 in Misc

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 themillions.com 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.

15 Responses to “Prophetic Novels”

  1. I was around but don’t remember the book.
    A lot of what we saw in Star Trek is happening, like computer tablets.

  2. Hart Johnson says:

    It IS pretty freaky when sci fi stuff gets stuff right. Ender’s Game is one of those that Orson Scott Card got stuff about communicating with laptop tablets through the net–written in 1980, I think. I think a lot of sci fi writers are tech geeks, so they sort of know what’s coming up the pike, even if mainstream folks don’t.

  3. Helena says:

    Hart — You’re right about the geek part. Not only that, but a lot of young geeks grow up on sci fi like the Star Trek series and then invent the stuff shown in them. But politically and economically this author was also eerily right.

  4. Helena says:

    Alex – There’s some documentary on Discovery or History channels that’s about how Star Trek inspired a lot of young people to grow up and invent Star Trek techie stuff and how accurate Star Trek was in terms of physics. But like one guy in it said, “No one in the future will wear those clothes.”

  5. I’ve never read this book, but William Gibson was startingly accurate regarding the internet. As a matter of fact, he’s called the “grandfather of the internet” because he described it in detail in 1985 in the book “Neuromancer.”

    Reading Hart’s comment, I have to say I’m not a fan of the extreme bigot OSC. I’m glad he got his superman contract canceled for his terrible views on human rights. He’s a real tool.

    I think good science fiction needs to extend what we know of science and take it to the next level. The one shining example that still holds me in awe is Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park.” Good lord…Crichton saw the enormous potential in genetic engineering and just blew my mind with where that could potentially go. I wish to this day I had thought of it.

  6. Helena says:

    Michael – I don’t know sci fi but even I’ve heard of “Neuromancer”; now I at least know what it’s about.

    I’ve never heard of Orson S Card, so I looked him up and found an article on Salon (http://www.salon.com/2013/03/07/end_game_for_orson_scott_card_partner/) about Ender’s Game, how good it is, but how Card has since had a “gradual descent into a poisonous brand of politics.” Sad and ugly. There’s the playwright David Mamet who has gone so far to the right even the Economist mag ripped him as a zealot. Then there was the famous poet Ezra Pound who turned into a nasty fascist. I still read his poetry, but the man himself was a loony tune.

    Perhaps Michael Crichton was a natural at writing “Jurassic Park” because he went to medical school, though he was never a practicing doctor. But yeah, there are always stories and books that we wish we’d come up with.

  7. Helena says:

    Michael – I don’t know sci fi but even I’ve heard of “Neuromancer”; now I at least know what it’s about.

    I’ve never heard of Orson S Card, so I looked him up and found an article on Salon (http://www.salon.com/2013/03/07/end_game_for_orson_scott_card_partner/) about Ender’s Game, how good it is, but how Card has since had a “gradual descent into a poisonous brand of politics.” Sad and ugly. There’s the playwright David Mamet who has gone so far to the right even the Economist mag ripped him as a zealot. Then there was the famous poet Ezra Pound who turned into a nasty fascist. I still read his poetry, but the man himself was a loony tune.

    Perhaps Michael Crichton was a natural at writing “Jurassic Park” because he went to medical school, though he was never a practicing doctor. But yeah, there are always stories and books that we wish we’d come up with.

  8. I think in the old comic strip Dick Tracy, that Tracy had a phone he wore on his wrist like a watch. This was way back before cell phones. Or even cordless phones. Great topic!

  9. Helena says:

    Carol – And those wristwatch phones had a screen on them. That was futuristic but realistic!

  10. Nas says:

    I was a toddler so yes, it wasn’t on my rader too! But yes, it does sound like it.

    Nas

  11. Helena says:

    Nas – You’re so young!

  12. Helena,

    If you want to know about some real loony toon sci-fi authors, check out this bit on L.Ron Hubbard: http://io9.com/5978746/the-strangely-true-connection-between-scientology-the-jet-propulsion-lab-and-pagan-sorcery

  13. Helena says:

    Michael — O. M. G. What a wild story that is! The jet propulsion scientist, Aleister Crowley of pagan ritual fame, and L. Ron Hubbard. I mean, of course Hubbard was (besides a sci-fi writer) one hell of a con man, but the pagan ritual background influencing Scientology?

    It reminds me of how, years ago, my Dad (a geologist) watched something on TV about Scientologists and their beliefs, and he laughed so hard he almost bust a gut. So in a way I’m grateful to Hubbard for making my Dad have a great laugh.

  14. Old Kitty says:

    1969 is the BEST year!! Well for me!! Cos I was born! Yay!!!! I’ve not heard of this book either but am most super intrigued!! What brilliant predictions!! WOW!! I must read it!!!!!

    I thnk Star Trek stuff is now coming to fruition? I think? I hope! LOL!! Take care
    x

  15. Helena says:

    Old Kitty — 1969 was indeed the best year. I know that a lot of original Star Trek fans grew up to be scientists and engineers who were inspired by the show to invent a lot of the stuff they saw on it, or at least early versions of the stuff, like cell phones. So cool.