?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Science fictional aspects of the real world - Input Junkie
March 3rd, 2010
09:07 am

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Science fictional aspects of the real world
There are things about the timeline I seem to be stuck in which would either work as science fiction or would be too implausible for science fiction.....

google
people went to the moon and then stopped going for decades
9/11 and, more generally, Islamic extremists having a worldwide political effect
demographic transition (a spontaneous drop in the birth rate)
China's one child policy
a black president
global warming
home computers
getting more and more information from less and less data (species' histories from DNA, extra solar planets deduced from tiny variations in starlight-- unfortunately, I haven't seen any sf about this trend)
homosexual marriage gradually becoming legal, and likely to be fully legal in much of the world within a generation
the US becoming a security state (I recently saw something about how prescient Heinlein's Between Planets was-- younger readers may not realize he meant it to be a shockingly bad situation)
AIDS (both that it happened and that it's under partial control-- in normal sf, it would either be generally devastating or completely stopped)
too much science fiction for any one person to keep track of (I think, there may still be a very few people who can do it-- sf used to be a field of a much more manageable size)

(29 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:dcseain
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)
(Link)
homosexual marriage gradually becoming legal, and likely to be fully legal in much of the world within a generation

We are ignored in literature of most stripes in general, so the concept of this being addressed at all seems well nigh impossible to me.

google
Something similar exists in LeGuin's Always Coming Home.

China's one child policy
I seem to have recall seeing population controls in a few novels through the years, usually specific to a planet rather than a sub-planetary unit. None of old enough provenance immediately pop to mind, though.

home computers
As they exist and are used today, yes, missing. Various computer-like things in the home, yes. Hm, Foundation had home computers that were used at least for remote working, yes?

people went to the moon and then stopped going for decades
This still boggles me a bit. Moreso that it has not inspired broad research into more efficient ways to get into space in general.
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Global acceptance of homosexuality was definitely in The Forever War - it ends up being the norm.
[User Picture]
From:dcseain
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Sounds a bit bizarro and i've not read it - may have to check it out.
From:nancylebov
Date:March 3rd, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
(Link)
In Always Coming Home, a huge amount of information is there, but the low tech level is only possible because there's no good way of searching it, and there are only a handful of hobbyists indexing sub-subjects by hand.

Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky has a high cost imposed on families with excess children if they're living on earth-- that's why the viewpoint family is starting a new life on Ganymede.

I don't remember home computers in Foundation, but that doesn't mean they weren't there.
[User Picture]
From:sodyera
Date:March 3rd, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Between here and Foundation comes the time period of Forbidden Planet (2200's, technically just pre-Star Trek). Don't think that all the Krell technology had been destroyed; somebody always takes home a souvenir that causes the next technological revolution. Dr. McCoy lost his tricorder on Sigma Iotia just when they were going through their mobster era, and in one comic Piccard came back and found a planet full of people in Kirk-era Star Fleet uniforms.
[User Picture]
From:redbird
Date:March 4th, 2010 12:27 am (UTC)
(Link)
I think the low tech level there is partly a matter of search algorithms--"Where in all the data is the information?"--and partly that tech doesn't just require knowledge, it requires resources, and a lot has been either used up or poisoned in the book's past. We're told explicitly that the AI network will provide any information asked for, whether a recipe for yogurt or instructions for building very destructive weapons: but the instructions for assembling an H-bomb aren't much use if you don't have the fissionables and the metallurgical tech and so on. (And part of the narative is driven by resource problems, which the Condor people haven't thought about when they start trying to building a war machine.)
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:March 4th, 2010 01:22 am (UTC)
(Link)
Fair points, though I think that if the information were as searchable as google makes the web, it would be a lot easier to find out which questions you need to ask. IIRC, you didn't have people who knew enough elementary physics, chemistry, and mechanics to make invention easier.

I just might post something on how sf authors simplify their invented worlds enough to make them manageable.
From:twistedchick
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
(Link)
If you want a real brainburner, try thinking of your grandparents' (or great-grandparents') way of life in about 1900, and then go from there to now. Whenever I do it, it feels increasingly weird. We have lost so much from common knowledge that was centuries old, and I'm not sure what we have gained will endure. One EM pulse to knock out electricity and we're back before 1900 in terms of technology.
[User Picture]
From:dcseain
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:49 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I've thought about that a lot. There is a tool at my great-aunts house that belonged to her great-grandfather (my great-great-great grandfather) that removes kernels of corn from the cob. Short of reverse engineering, i wonder if such a manual mechanical device could be easily created again. I'm sure myriad tools like and unlike that one are largely lost to time, too.
[User Picture]
From:snakeling
Date:March 3rd, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Here via rm.

I was discussing this with my mother recently. She was born in 1950, and when she was a child, she would go to her grandparents' farm. There was no electricity, the kitchen had a beaten-earth floor, and the toilets were in the garden. When she married my father in the late 70s, it took three years to have a phoneline installed.
From:twistedchick
Date:March 3rd, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
How many of the things that your grandparents could do (without current automation) as routine parts of daily life can you do now? I'm thinking of cooking, laundry, other daily life skills. If you had to live like your grandparents because of a longterm electrical collapse, could you do it?
[User Picture]
From:snakeling
Date:March 3rd, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Haha, not much :D

Cooking would be okay, I think, once I got used to a coal or gas stove. I've never done laundry by hand, apart from small pieces. Going to work would be horrendous, because even if there were still trains, they wouldn't be so speedy, and my commute would be longer.

Work itself would be a nightmare. I'm a bookseller, and I couldn't do without our database or the Internet to find which book my customer is vaguely alluding to. Mind, those were the work conditions of less than 15 years ago, but I haven't known them. (On the other hand, the production would likely diminish, which would be a boon all around.)
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:March 3rd, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
(Link)
When I hear complaints about recently lost skills, I remember that practically no one knows how to use flint and steel (cue chorus of re-enactors saying "Me! Me! Me!") or quill pens, and it's a loss of sorts, but not a huge loss.
From:twistedchick
Date:March 4th, 2010 03:51 am (UTC)
(Link)
A few skills my grandparents had that I don't see used much now:
-- cooking over a coal stove or wood stove. This includes baking.
-- cooking either on a spit or in a dutch oven or a kettle over a fire in a fireplace -- and baking.
-- brewing small beer.
-- making your own clothes, from purchased fabric, by hand sewing.
-- making your own well-fitting shoes from leather
-- building wagons, including wagon wheels
-- forging, making or machining tools for use in doing other things
-- cooking without the use of freezers; cooking and preserving food without refrigeration.
-- growing and preserving, in some way other than freezing, enough vegetables to get you and your household through the winter and spring until the next harvest
-- identifying and cooking wild plants and vegetables, which includes knowing which parts of which plants to eat in which seasons
-- create a temporary shelter if you don't have one, in any weather.

Yes, I can make a quill pen from a quill; if necessary I can boil oak galls for ink.

And -- by the way -- if you are somewhere without a fire in this weather, not knowing how to use flint and steel can be a matter of survival. Any loss of survival skills is a huge loss.
[User Picture]
From:sodyera
Date:March 3rd, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Or a big earthquake. See Haiti; Chile
[User Picture]
From:laughingacademy
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC)
(Link)
"China's one child policy"

In Ender's Game, the fact that protagonist Ender Wiggins and his sister, Valentine, were exceptions to a one-child policy is a plot point.

Similarly, in Larry Niven's Known Space stories we have the Fertility Board: "Agency of the U.N. which grants or denies parenthood licenses to individuals based on one's genetic tendencies or talents" (c. Wikipedia).
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:March 3rd, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Rite of Passage - Alexei Panshin, 1968, 10 years before the the actual policy came into force.
[User Picture]
From:supergee
Date:March 3rd, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC)
(Link)
About 15 years ago, I wrote about an alternate universe where The Last Dangerous Visions was published on schedule and everyone said it was heavy-handed cautionary tales: an actor in the White House, the Cold War ends and the "Defense" budget keeps going up, cocaine turns out to be really nasty and can be made even worse, a disease specializes in blacks, gays, and drug users…
[User Picture]
From:trifles
Date:March 3rd, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
(Link)
delurking (after being linked to by rm) to say:

That is an awesome-sounding story.
[User Picture]
From:supergee
Date:March 4th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
(Link)
Thank you. Not exactly a story, just a self-contained bit.
[User Picture]
From:madfilkentist
Date:March 3rd, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
(Link)
The peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union.
[User Picture]
From:agrumer
Date:March 3rd, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
And in 1991, as well.

Lots of science fiction role-playing games published in the '80s included timelines of their invented futures, and some of them included a collapsed USSR, but none of them had it happening as early as it did.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:March 3rd, 2010 09:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
An angle on that-- I was just at a Shostakovich concert, and the notes mentioned him saying (in regards to the Russian revolution) that Russians believe and believe until they suddenly stop believing.

Still, the collapse of the USSR was a lot more peaceful than their revolution.
[User Picture]
From:beamjockey
Date:March 3rd, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
(Link)
people went to the moon and then stopped going for decades

People built lots of nuclear power plants, then stopped building them for decades.
[User Picture]
From:6_bleen_7
Date:March 3rd, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
(Link)
True, but the power plants have been operating in the meantime.

Is that Barry Heterodyne in your icon?
[User Picture]
From:beamjockey
Date:March 3rd, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Is that Barry Heterodyne in your icon?

It's Bill. He's based on me. Long story.
[User Picture]
From:6_bleen_7
Date:March 3rd, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
A pleasure to meet you! I'm a huge fan of Girl Genius, but I knew about the Heterodyne Boys before then, from Stanley and His Monster and the very comic you linked to.
[User Picture]
From:6_bleen_7
Date:March 3rd, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Larry Niven wrote a series of short stories about an alternate Earth in which humans had killed off all other forms of life except a strain of yeast, which was the sole food source, and dogs (everybody hated the latter because they weren't used to non-human animals) by massively polluting the environment. The CO2 level was four percent (40,000 ppm, vs. 385 in our present atmosphere). Interestingly, he said nothing about global climate change resulting from all the CO2 and other crap in the air.

Edited at 2010-03-03 10:00 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:sodyera
Date:March 3rd, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
(Link)
You forgot the proliferation of wall screens (Fahrenheit 451), plus the soon-to-come invasion of the iPad (DS 9), which will soon make paper books and notebooks obsolete--and hazardous fire traps. Expect a re-tasking of local fire departments to the setting of pre-emptive fires at home libraries to prevent dangerous paper fires when home smoke detectors fail. These pre-emptive fires will begin in lower-income neighbourhoods that already have a greater tendency for emergency service calls and expand to the musty catacombs of oscure religious institutions, known fire traps with all their religious literature. The Scientologists will see this wave coming and declare a national state of clear for all its members, who will immediately switch to the next iteration of Windows® software and complete their corporate takeover of Google®. Guard your book collections and don't say I didn't warn you.
nancybuttons.com Powered by LiveJournal.com