I got home late Monday – only to have my modem crash and Telstra take a week to replace it. Apologies- I have just got back on line.
Now being wrong and admitting it is something I am something of an expert at. What can I say: I’ve stayed married for more than thirty years. It’s a useful skill (both staying married, AND being wrong – even when you’re right, sometimes. The latter is called a value judgement, and it’s another useful little life skill I ought to be better at.). So call me a veteran at that, and give me a long service medal, and try not to turn off completely when I tells yer ‘ow ‘ard bein’ wrong was when I were a lad.
We often read about the successes of sf in predicting futures. A lot of back-patting about how clever we all are…
Stopped clocks are also right sometimes… and I don’t think our track record is quite that good, to be honest. There are some cases, certainly, of devices and ideas in sf becoming reality – the Waldo or my case how mapping the brain would work (See RBV). But let’s be real from Space Odyssey 2001 to On the Beach… sf writers have just been as perhaps Irene Gallo would put it ‘painting with too broad a brush’ – Or as I would put it: ‘dead wrong’.
Fortunately, that’s one the things about fiction… it is fiction (I believe the name to be a subtle clue to this). Fiction is allowed to be dead wrong, so long as it is entertaining, and not pretending to be the truth revealed. People will still read it, as long as they enjoy it. The future is complex and, especially the further off we look small things can change, having large effects.
I remember quite clearly the conclusion that quite a few sf writers had, that English was about to change enormously. That the youth were all using SMS shortenings (l8ter and U) for example. They were cheaper to send and faster to type.
It made logical sense.
Pity no one thought of predictive text and the rapid reduction in cost of sending text.
It seemed plausible though.
And that is pretty vitally important. Not that it was true. That seemed plausible that it would be true. It is part of the suspension of disbelief that writers’ use like a fry –cook uses an egg-lift or a spatula. You can – and many authors do, carry the reader along with your story by sheer character plausibility, or just by being so entertaining they want to give up on reality and live within your whimsical world for a while. Plausible doesn’t hurt, however, which is why I focus on detail being plausible (which means a bit of research, or prior knowledge).
Still, there have been some wonderful bits of wrong over the years – Mack Reynolds’ triumph of communism (honestly can’t remember the name of the book), Harry Harrison’s Make Room, Make Room (overpopulation and soylent green) – Malthus seems to have been a little off, not to mention the various ‘flying cars’.
Your turn. How many can you think of?