Sometimes We Get it Right

Although we science fiction writers like to claim that we predict or foreshadow the future in our work, historically our record isn’t really as great as we’d like to think, for a number of reasons, some of which I’ve discussed in previous blogs.

Arthur C. Clarke predicted communications satellites and the like very early and effectively, something like 60 years ago, but he also predicted we’d have cities on the moon and be able to travel to Jupiter by 2001. That was six years ago, and the way things are going, it may be sixty before any of that occurs — if it does at all. In The Forever War, Joe Haldeman predicted that we’d have interstellar travel by now. Isaac Asimov did all right in anticipating the hand-held computer/calculator [as he said, he even got the colors of the display for the first calculators right], but we’re nowhere close to his pocket-size fusion generators, intelligent humanoid robots, or even affordable automatic irising doors. Most of my incorrect speculations lie in my early short stories, and I’m content to let them remain there in obscurity. I tend not to have made as many incorrect speculations in recent years, not because I’m necessarily brighter than other writers, but because all of my SF novels are set far enough in the future that enough time has not yet passed to reveal where I may have been wrong. Writing the near future is indeed a humbling experience, and I prefer not to be humbled in that fashion.

For one reason or another, many of the past staples of science fiction have never come to be. We don’t have wide-scale use of personal hovercraft or helicopters, and likely never will. Despite quantum mechanics and linked electrons, it’s doubtful that we’ll ever have instant doors or transporters to other locales, even on earth. And for all the speculations about genetic engineering [or natural mutations] that will bring agelessness or immortality to us, research to date seems to suggest that while life spans can be extended and physical health as we age greatly improved, there are several biological stone walls to attaining great age, let alone immortality, one of which is that greater cellular regenerative capacity appears to be linked to greater carcinogenic propensity. As for a cloned copy of you — or me — that’s not going to happen anytime soon, either, if ever, because recent research appears to indicate that even identical twins aren’t, due to prenatal conditions, genetic “expression,” and other factors.

Against this backdrop, I am pleased to announce that astronomers have just discovered a billion light-year long void in the universe, a space absolutely devoid of normal matter, without stars or galaxies. A full report will appear in a future edition of Astrophysical Journal. For those of you who have read The Eternity Artifact, you will understand my pleasure at having one of my speculations proved right. At this point, however, since the locale is more than 6 billion light years away, there is no way to ascertain whether the reason for this void is as I postulated in the book. But… I did put it in print almost three years before the void was discovered.

“Coincidence” or not, sheer undeserved good fortune or not, I’ll take consolation in having at least one of my far-fetched speculative postulates being confirmed.