In my last post I shared how I’m attempting to update a classic novel published in 1908 to have a near future setting. G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday was written in in the “present day” of the early 20th Century. His original readers knew intimately the places, people, and other particulars he used. The situations were real to them, as well as the technology of the day. And enough time has passed that the modern reader misses much of what his first audience took for granted.
As I like to preach, speculative fiction should always be a setting, not the story. Great stories transcend their genres. TMWWT today has aged into a great piece of period fiction, much like Tom Sawyer. Yet in the same way, its setting doesn’t necessarily have to be 1908. Yet with updating its setting, I’ve got to come up with appropriate technology that not only blends well with the plot, but is also believable.
One thing that has stuck with me for many years was hearing director Robert Zemeckis during an interview concerning Back to the Future Part II. He said, (paraphrased) “The thing about doing a story about the future is that you’re always wrong.” Despite his best guesses, he knew he’d be wrong. So instead he just went for entertainment value and hoped for the best. And he was right. “Back to the Future” day (when we caught up to the future time of that movie) has come and gone, and we still don’t see any flying cars.
Heeding Zemeckis’ advice and also simply due to my own belief, I’m keeping things in my update very similar to today. Being employed in the airline industry, I’m fairly certain cars will stay on the ground for the foreseeable future – more for political reasons than technological. I think homes, towns, and cities will be very similar. The real changes I expect are continuations of trends we see today: computing, medical, and energy.
These will advance quickly in very expected and unexpected ways, and will bring about a lot of upheaval in our society. I won’t tackle it in this project but here are a couple difficult questions I believe we will face: How will society cope when scientists discover ways to slow or even stop aging? How will today’s three billion extremely poor (and growing) fare in a world were one’s integration with technology is the top input into creating wealth?
Just like Zemeckis, I know I’ll be wrong about what technology will look like 15 years from now, but here goes… Below is are some snippets from the prologue I’ve written for my TMWWT update:
NO ONE understood what The Convergence would mean until it already happened, and few saw it coming. The change was monumental; it touched every living thing. But contrary to popular belief, it did not transform human nature. It amplified it.
Looking back, historians disagree on when it began. Some said the emergence of cloud computing accessed by mobile devices……Yet no matter where or when it began, all agreed on the moment The Convergence came abruptly upon the world. It came with the introduction of Draw Power, a means whereby technology could pull the energy it needed from any source of electron transference – the sun, wind, heat, motion, or even a human body.
One of the first applications of Draw Power had been contact lens imaging, bringing computer screens directly to the eyes. Suddenly, a person’s view of the world never ceased being touched by The Cloud. Ocular implants quickly supplanted temperamental contact lenses, while cochlear inserts began to provide sound instead of headsets and earbuds. It was only a matter time before mobile devices themselves went into the body, and within a few short years mankind had become Augmented – a mix of the biological and the technological, seamlessly and forever integrated.
Change came forcibly with great difficulty and upheaval. The worldview of the technological savvy became one where the virtual and the physical were one, where time-honored institutions such as education, commerce, and government held little value or power, and the idea that one person – with the right information and skill – could institute enormous change for good or for ill.
So what do you think? Am I on the right path? What else might we see in 15 years?
P.S. Here is one of my favorite comics taking on the subject…