Thursday, May 9, 2013
Modern Era Fortune Tellers
When growing up I lost myself in the great works of the Science Fiction masters. Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clark and H.G. Wells were some of my favorites. I would thrust the limits of alertness of my ravenous adolescent mind into the wee hours of every summer morning devouring the futuristic imagery these masters painted upon the canvas of my imagination.
I remember how excited I became when I read in Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, “And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind.” As the words played across the page before my weary and blurry eyes my brain pictured a Walkman, the same make and model of the one that lay beside me, as I read by dim night table lamplight. My tired brain did not make the connection until much later that this man had predicted the invention of my little hand held radio in 1953 over a quarter of a century before the first model was ever assembled. Within the same work Bradbury envisioned the death of newspapers and the ubiquitous presence of television screens everywhere, all of which is taking place in our modern day society.
That was the night my twelve year old mind formed the epiphany; Science Fiction writers are the fortune tellers of our age. I read Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon the summer after and I was captivated at the precise predictions he made about the first Apollo Moon Mission over a century before the first rocket launched from Cape Canaveral. This Science Fiction prophet predicted the United States would launch a ship made of mostly aluminum from the Florida Peninsula carrying three spacemen into orbit. This book was published in 1865. He correctly envisioned the feeling of weightlessness these men would feel after escaping our planets gravity. He then went on to predict their capsule splashed down into the Pacific Ocean where it was recovered by a U.S. Navy vessel. Kinda eerie is it not?
In 1914 H.G. Well's book Set the World on Fire accurately prophesized nuclear weapons. The author knew a little about radioactive decay but had no idea man would figure out how to blow it all up at once. In this novel he actually coined the term "atomic bomb" decades before the first uranium bomb was tested. He also imagined the aftermath of a detonation in this following passage: "In the map of nearly every country of the world three or four or more red circles, a score of miles in diameter, mark the position of the dying atomic bombs and the death areas that men have been forced to abandon around them. Within these areas perished museums, cathedrals, palaces, libraries, galleries of masterpieces and a vast accumulation of human achievement, whose charred remains lie buried, a legacy of curious material that only future generations may hope to examine."
We all know the modern notion of Star Trek predicting the cellular phone. Pretty impressive yes, but, did you know that Mark Twain predicted the internet in 1898? His Adventures of Huck Fin and Tom Sawyer over-shadowed his dabbling in Science Fiction, but, in a short story titled From the London Times of 1904 Twain wrote about a device he called a Telelectrosope, “…the daily doings of the globe made visible to everybody, and audibly discussable too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues." Another passage within the same short story read, “Day by day, and night by night, he called up one corner of the globe after another, and looked upon its life, and studied its strange sights, and spoke with its people…” Sounds a lot like social networking to this modern day ear.
In my own Science Fiction Trilogy (got my own plug in), The Morian Trilogy, I predict in 300 years in the future that human beings will have an INPUT (Individual Personal Uplink Terminal) implanted behind their left eye. It is "tuned in" to their brain wave frequency and gives them access to a Planetary Database called Mother Earth. The device projects an image screen before his or hers eyes only visible to the user. In this future world we use this interface for everything; watching movies, calling a friend, checking the news.
What do y’all think? These are just a few examples from my childhood reading and my own writings. I would love to hear of any predictions you folks have encountered over the years of reading Science Fiction.