In my opinion, we’re living in a period that future generations will refer to as a “digital golden age” or a “digital renaissance”. The speed at which we are advancing technologically is astounding when you sit back and think about it – when I was a kid in the 80s things such as the internet, smart phones and digital music were non-existent (instead we had encyclopedias, phone booths and tapes), and while they all may have been conceived of at that time, they were not even heard of by regular people.
Yet here we are, a few decades down the track and these things are not just a reality, they’re so embedded in our everyday lives that we barely give them a second thought – indeed, we take them for granted. I’m still fairly young (36 is still young, right?), and the advancements in my lifetime have been immense. Think about it, if a contemporary novel set in 2016 was sent back in time to say, the 1950s, it’d be considered science fiction. Indeed, much of the technology dreamed up by 1950s and 60s science fiction writers have already come to fruition – think about Star Trek’s tricorders and PADDs – dreamed up as a technology of a world centuries down the track, we already have these devices in the form of tablets and smart phones. Not only that, but these real world devices are smaller, more powerful and more capable than their fictional counterparts.
The same could be said for literally hundreds of fictional technologies dreamed up within science fiction, regardless of the medium be it literary or TV/Film.
The 2013 film Gravity was marketed and categorised as “science fiction” (still is, in fact). At first glance, I suppose you could be mistaken for thinking that too. After all, it’s a film set in space, on a space station involving a protagonist’s battle for survival – sounds like SF, right? But here’s the thing; the technology and settings that Gravity portrayed were not speculative in any way – we’re talking about the space shuttle (indeed, an already retired piece of technology), the International Space Station, the Chinese Tiangong Station and Soyuz space craft – all real things and real places. The accepted definition of “science fiction” is “speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not full accepted by mainstream science”. So by that definition, Gravity is in no way “science fiction”.
I mentioned in my first blog post that one of my literary influences was Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, a series that in its day was referred to as “future history”. There’s so many story elements of this incredible trilogy of books that I can see the beginnings of in the current day. From the rise of the mega-corporation, the environmental situation on Earth, the political situation on Earth and the speed at which we’re working at getting humans to Mars. Indeed, people like Elon Musk and his ambitious SpaceX plans are vaguely reminiscent of the Green Mars character William Fort and his company Praxis. Now there is obviously a lot of the Mars Trilogy that is firmly rooted in science fiction, but it’s these little bits and pieces of similarity to the real world that in my opinion justify that tag “future history”.
It’ll be interesting as time goes on to see just how many science fiction tropes become reality, and also how long this “digital golden age” will continue. It’s exciting to say the least, but let’s just hope that the future turns out more like Star Trek than The Terminator, hey?