Ever since I can remember myself, I have loved science fiction. I loved reading it as a child, even if I could not explain the thrill I felt when reading Jules Verne’s or HG Wells’ works. Recently, I felt vindicated in my love of the genre, when I read the following comment by Neil Gaiman on The Guardian:
“I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him, why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.”
Raymond Chandler’s Accidental Predictions
However, I’m also aware of science fiction’s humble, pulpy origins. Ridiculous contraptions, tongue-twisting names, and weird physics plagued earlier works, as attested by Raymond Chandler in a 1953 letter to his agent, H. N. Swanson:
Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction? It’s a scream. It is written like this:
“I checked out with K19 on Adabaran III, and stepped out through the crummaliote hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Bryllis ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations.
The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was ice-cold against the rust-colored mountains. The Bryllis shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn’t enough.
The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn’t enough. He was right.
(source: the Verge)
What really sells this, is the wrist computer and the casual name-drop of Google, some 45 years before Larry and Sergey registered the domain: even as a joke, science fiction can still predict the future!
Science Fiction Books That Forecast The Future
If you don’t believe that, consider the long history of books that forecast the future. This great infographic by Ria Misra of io9.com explains it best: