Science Fiction predictions
“Back to the Future II” made some interesting calculations about the year 2015, and the day October 21st in particular, but (and it is with a heavy heart that I say this) most of what was foretold did not come true.
However, the fact that “Back to the Future II” got many predictions wrong does not take away from the fun that viewers had when watching the movie. It also does not take away from any of the fun at looking back at just how inaccurate some of the predictions were.
October 21st has now passed but in the spirit of the film, we asked our customers to tell us about their favourite novels about the future. These could have been older books that were predicting a time which has now passed, or more contemporary fiction that examines the prospect of years to come.
We have pooled together the answers to create this Top Five countdown:
5. Neuromancer – By William Gibson
The first novel in the bestselling Sprawl Trilogy, this cyberpunk Sci-Fi novel was the first winner of what has lovingly become known as the Sci-Fi “triple crown”- the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.
Case was a data-hacker in the underworld of Chiba City, Japan. That is, up until he was caught stealing from his former employers. In revenge, Case’s nervous system is all but destroyed, making him unable to access The Matrix, a virtual reality in which the world now practically lives. When a cure is offered in exchange for his skills as a hacker, Case jumps at the chance.
Neuromancer was first published in 1984, the same year in which the first Apple Mac was put on sale. Many have acknowledged the fact that aspects of the cyberspace created by Gibson resemble the way in which the internet as we know it has developed since the 1980s. However, some of the most poignant aspects of the novel revolve around the way in which consciousness can exist on different planes of reality, and how memory can so easily be tampered with. Readers have debated at length over the time setting of the novel, but most seem to agree that it is set somewhere in between 2040-2150. While the date in which this epic trilogy is set is drawing near, we are far from developing a virtual reality as advanced as the one portrayed in Neuromancer. However, it seems as if Gibson could have struck a nerve among readers as today’s society becomes more dependent on technology and the internet.
Fun Fact: Neuromancer has influenced so many writers over the years in the way that it portrayed such a logical and realistic view of virtual reality, that Gibson is often credited with influencing the development of the internet as we know it. Contemporary works that take inspiration from Neuromancer include best-selling novels such as Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and The Eye of Minds by James Dashner.
4. Dune – By Frank Herbert
Written in 1965, winner of the Hugo Award in 1966 and the Nebula Award for Best Novel, Dune is often cited as the best-loved novel in Sci-Fi history.
Set roughly 21,000 years in the future, Dune looks at a world where humans have spread out and managed to colonise planets throughout the known universe. The plot explores the extremely complex political and religious structures of the future, along with the way in which humanity has developed physically and psychologically. Planetary dynasties are under the control of a number of noble houses. The novel follows Paul, heir of House Atreides, as his family gain control of the planet Arrakis, the only source of the most valuable substance known to man, a drug known as “melange”. Water is extremely rare and eugenic programming is commonplace. Humanity is overflowing and mankind is pushed to its limit.
An epic series that could be dubbed the Game of Thrones of its time, Dune gives a frightening yet compelling view of what could lie in wait for humanity. Herbert’s portrayal of the political systems in place within Dune has caused much debate over the years, with scholars far and wide arguing over how accurate these predictions could be. Due to the setting of the novel, we may never know how close Herbert was to the truth, but we can have a lot of fun thinking about it.
Fun Fact: Few people know that Dune most likely inspired the Star Wars franchise, so much so that Frank Herbert and a number of his fellow Sci-Fi writers apparently (I have struggled to find hard evidence) formed an informal group named the We’re Too Big to Sue George Lucas Society.
3. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Set in the 26th Century, Brave New World was first published back in 1932. The opening of the novel introduces us to the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre, where a tour group of boys watch as embryos that are nearly genetically identical are conditioned to fit into one of five social castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta or Epsilon. Each caste serves a specific socio-political role in society.
Huxley describes a society that depends on excessive recreational drug use in order to cope with their lot in life, which many have compared to the way in which anti-depressants are commonplace the modern world today.
While most members of society are drugged, dazed and therefore seemingly happy with their superficial, consumerist way of life, Bernard Marx is desperate to break free and seems to be the only one aware of and against the unnatural turn that the world has taken. Huxley has long been praised for not only examining what could go wrong if society became too consumerist, but for critiquing the society that Huxley lived in. He did not jump to bizarre conclusions in Brave New World, but somehow managed to explore developments in society that logically made sense based on contemporary values.
With further developments in modern technology, the world that Huxley predicted is becoming more plausible and therefore terrifying.
2. Red Mars – By Kim Stanley Robinson
The year is 2026. For decades until this point Mars has intrigued the world, but now the first humans are set on a mission to colonise the barren planet. One Hundred colonists are selected for the journey. Some see the mission as an adventure, excited about becoming a part of history. Others see it as an opportunity to take advantage of the new world, hoping to uncover wonders and riches throughout their expedition. Amongst the colonists there are also “the alchemists” that see the mission as a chance for biomedical enhancement, which could change mortality and the way in which we view life forever.
While first published in 1993, Kim Stanley Robinson has struck a chord with readers all across the globe as the first mission to Mars is beginning to become a reality. NASA landed their first exploration rovers on Mars in 2004 and, after years of speculation, they have now begun recruiting volunteers for the first human journey to The Red Planet, set to go ahead in the 2030s.
If NASA’s research goes as planned, then Kim Stanley Robinson may have gotten his timings in his first novel very close indeed.
1. 1984 – George Orwell
While the year 1984 has since passed, this modern classic is still one of the most beloved future-predicting novels ever written. Orwell wrote this famous critique of future society back in 1948 and, while he may have been a bit off with the timings of his predictions, we’re afraid to say that today the world that he envisioned is becoming more and more of a reality.
1984 follows Winston Smith, member of the ruling Party in London. Winston is constantly watched by the Party’s leader, known only as Big Brother. The Party prohibits any expression of individuality, right down to any form of rebellious thought, known as thoughtcrime.
Not only is Orwell’s warning of the dangers of a totalitarian regime frightening, but what is more disturbing is the way in which many accept and learn to love the authority of Big Brother. While we are far from being enslaved in a world of psychological manipulation and physical control, the amount of surveillance that occurs in the modern world has caused many to reassess 1984 and take is seriously as a warning against so readily giving up our personal liberties.
While this is only the Top Five, there were a number of other novels that should get a special mention. Other titles that are not only fantastically engaging reads, but give us an eerie look at the potential future of mankind, include: Ready Player One - Ernest Cline, The World Set Free – H. G. Wells, Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury, Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner, The Machine Stops – E. M. Forster and many, many more. The list goes on which means that, while we may never truly know what the future holds, we can certainly enjoy ourselves as we try to guess. But often, although we sometimes do not even realise it, the truth really is stranger than fiction.