If there’s one thing in science fiction I have trouble stomaching it is weak and lazy foresight. In a genre that is strongly influenced by imagination, there are just too many authors with a lack thereof. Forgive me in advance, I may step on some toes. I don’t claim to be a genius or a legend of any sort but that certainly doesn’t mean I can’t see the forest for the trees.
Let’s start with positive examples of brilliant science fiction vision in pop culture. The Jetsons. Aside from the fact that they totally missed it they had some crazy awesome foresight.
The Jetsons takes place in the year 2000 and needless to say, little to none of the things found on the Hanna Barbara cartoon exist and we are 16 years past their prophetic timeline.
It’s a reminder of the famous line from Back to the Future regarding the year 2015: “where we are going, we don’t need roads.”
Although these examples missed the mark, I would take that over the alternative. The only true mistake they made was setting a date in the first place.
Let’s take one of my co-writer’s favorite books as a negative example. I’m reading Starship Troopers for the first time ever— I know, for shame. In my defense, the movie was so terrible I didn’t see the point in reading it until I found out the great Aaron Hall was a huge fan.
So, I’m 30 pages into the book, written in 1959, and I am holding a copy printed in 1968. Heinlein begins a compelling story about a young man enlisting in the military. They talk a lot about vacations to Mars and survival tactics on Titan. All this in the first 30 pages, yet the recruiter warns the kids that joining the army might result in their parents receiving a regret-filled telegram. Telegram?? We are careening through space and vacationing on other planets and the best he could envision was a telegram??
Now, before you jump to his defense, I have a little bit of grace. I know 1959 was many moons ago and they didn’t exactly understand what was coming in just a few short decades.
But, let’s look at Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game—written in 1985. He practically invented the iPad. I don’t know how he hasn’t received royalties. His whole story revolves around this handheld desk that runs computer applications. He had tremendous foresight and vision for what was to come. The best defense for Robert A. Heinlein is simply that Card had base knowledge of computers and their limited abilities and was able to hypothesize their future capabilities. But, I’d still say that anyone can come up with something better than telegrams for a future where we are space traveling and fighting aliens. After all, just seven years later Ursula K. Le Guin created the Ansible; a technology that allowed interaction between persons and races interstellarly.
In the end, it’s all about vision. Do you have the necessary foresight to write compelling science fiction? Don’t be a lazy writer. Take some time to sit down and invent something. You don’t have to know exactly how it works. It just has to conceivably work. It has to be believable, but you don’t need to have the blueprints.
Have anything to add? I’d love to hear your comments below!