2020 is near-term SF

I was just reading an article about how NASA plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 and thinking that it was forever from now. Only, it’s like twelve years, which, as government agencies go is practically tomorrow.

It’s just that after eight years I’m still not used to living in the twenty-first century. There’s no jetpack, but all the science-fiction dates are just around the corner. I mean, how many stories have you read where something is set in 2024 or 2041. They sound really far away and all furturistic, except they really aren’t.

At last year’s Readercon I wound up on a panel talking about near-term SF and one of the things I said was that I counted stories as near-term right up through 2070 because there’s a fair chance that I will still be alive then. My grandmother is nearly 103 and still lives alone, so I figure 2070 ought not to be a problem for me.

Although we talk about how much has changed in the last hundred years, look at how much hasn’t. Sure there’s tech that a teenager in 1920 would not believe possible, but the structure of society hasn’t shifted out of recognizable forms. Shifted, yes, but most people still live in the same family structure as one hundred years ago. Women worked then, but not as often as their husbands.

It’s making me understand the whole mundane SF movement a little more. It’s not that I have less fascination with deep space colonies, it’s just realizing that it’s much, much farther away than I’d like to think it is.

So, I’m re-examining my SF now, taking trends from the past and trying to project them from today forward instead of just thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if?” I mean, what was the last SF story you saw that had any form of social networking? Darn few of them, aren’t there. They exist, but that part of our present doesn’t show up as often in the future as FTL.

Can you imagine a murder-mystery where the serial killer Twitters?

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4 Responses

  1. Jules

    Can you imagine a murder-mystery where the serial killer Twitters?

    Heh. Reminds me of a story idea I had a few years ago, which featured two killers playing a game of Mornington Crescent. Unfortunately I couldn’t think of a way of making it work…

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      I’ve never heard of Mornington Crescent, but it sounds like the intellectuals Calvin Ball. I’ve immediately installed the facebook application. I just hope that I can remember that the A40 northbound used as a counter-play offers rear access to suburban bidding.

  2. Peterbilt_47

    I think you should start writing that twitter story now, before somebody else does it.

    You know, the viability of the premise is rarely the most interesting thing about Science Fiction to me. To me, it’s more about the ability to give events such a vastly different context that you’re able to get your readers/viewers to examine aspects of their own lives free of a lot of automatic assumptions they will jump to given certain familiar prompts.

    That said, there is something to the visceral experience of a premise as plausible. I always liked Star Wars much better than Star Trek because of a palpable sense that “if people could really travel immense interstellar distances in space ships and stuff like that, it would be like this, not like that.” Star Trek always struck me as impossibly tidy.

  3. David Loftus

    For many years, I sort of hoped to host a “HAL-not-having-been-invented-yet” party on Jan. 12, 1991 or so (can’t remember the exact date, as mentioned in the scene where Dr. Frank Bowman is deactivating all of HAL’s memory banks, but it’s right about there), which for so many years sounded impossibly far off.

    Then, somehow, I missed it, and now it seems so far gone. . . .