If I’d only known…

star trekIt you had to pick one thing out of the original Star Trek series to have in your own life, what would it have been? Beam me up, Scotty? The replicators? Warp drive? Well, we didn’t get those, did we. At least not yet. Face it, we got the equivalent of the com badges, those marvelous communication devices that let the whole crew talk to each other all the time no matter where they were.  No, it wouldn’t have been my first choice either.

Yesterday, I finally finished reading Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s 1952 science fiction satire The Space Merchants and its sequel, Pohl’s 1984 The Merchant’s War. I enjoyed the first novel quite a bit and the second only somewhat. The Merchant’s War had so damn much potential that I felt cheated when Pohl left so much unaddressed, unexplained and unsaid.

But back to the first book, because that is what I want to talk about here. I could find no date at which the story takes place. We only know that it’s far enough in the future that a man has been sent to Venus, and laws and government structure are substantially different. Pohl and Kornbluth create a world that is believable enough, if one lives in 1954, and that is the trouble with writing science fiction. Things change, even over the lifetime of a book. Twenty or thirty years after a book is written, we do have a better sense of the trajectory we are on. Yesterday’s future world looks unrealistic and even silly today.

growing bolder 6The Space Merchants biggest failure to predict has to do with electronics, which plays almost no role in the story.  There are no computers, there is no internet. Communication is essentially what it was in 1950, only the characters are talking about rocket ships instead. You have to ask yourself how could they not have known? Then you ask yourself, how could they have?

Think quick. Your new novel takes place sometime around 2090, although you aren’t going to give a date. Let’s say it’s a medical thriller.  Or an alien invasion.  It doesn’t matter. It’s the future. I’m going to read your novel in 2055. I really am. Now, you take a good hard look at society today and tell me what the most significant unexpected change in direction is going to be over the next forty years. No extrapolating current trends. This has to be something that is basically new or in its infancy now. The world will center around it by 2055. Any story of 2090 will seem silly if you leave this out.

Got it? Me neither. There are definitely days when I think writing romance novels would be easier.

(For more about The Space Merchants, see my posts on this amazing book at I Know Sexism When I See ItThe Kinky of the Future, Through the Eyes of Another, and Predicting the Future or Shaping It.)

And that’s the way it was ….. er, is …… er, will be

crystal ballI’ve just finished chapter 3 of my fifth novel, d4, and am already engrossed in this story about the future. I am so caught up in it, in fact, that I’m beginning to neglect this blog, which is centered around a book that focuses on the past. Yet past and future are at their root the same topic, aren’t they?

In that spirit, tonight I am pretending that I live in the year 1013, and can peer a thousand years into the future. Tomorrow, on October 16, what will I see?

In 384 years, a woman named Jadwiga will be crowned King of Poland, although she is a woman. A woman can run a country?
In 793 years, a French queen named Marie Antoinette who is famous for her extravagance, will be guillotined. Sounds a bit drastic.
In 869 years, England will found its first residential college for women. It is going to take over eight hundred years for me to be able to live in a dorm?
In 916 years the first family planning clinic will open in the United States. Wait, one can plan their family?
In 964 years, China, now home to amazing fireworks displays, will detonate its first nuclear weapon. I’m guessing that these nukes aren’t just bigger and better firecrackers.
In 978 years, Wanda Rutkiewicz will be first Pole and the first European woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. What is Mount Everest? And why are women climbing it? October 16 seems to be a very good day for Polish women.

How do you think I’m going to feel about the direction the human race is headed?

and the energy inside you goes round and round ….

swirlAccording to the kids’ song, it’s the wheels on the bus ….  but some days it’s the thoughts in your head, the feelings in your heart, and excitement in your soul that you can hardly contain as it all twirls and spins with the very force that powers the universe itself.

I wrote z2 because the idea of time and the nature of change absolutely fascinate me. I sometimes have this fantasy in which I’ve been given a magic photo album of my entire life and every year (maybe on my birthday?) I a get to open it to one random page somewhere in the future and study the photographs. Will I like the  pictures that I see?  Look, there’s me in front of breath-taking waterfalls. Me and my sister hugging and laughing in front of a festively lit bridge. Who are those kids? Are they mine? And who is this man that keeps showing up in the photos   ….

If I am paying close attention, I will notice that some years, there are clear omissions. Why isn’t my father albumshowing up in any pictures now? My mother, she’s gone as as well. Oh dear, I’ve put on a few pounds but otherwise I’m aging okay. I do look happy and healthy. Is that me on a beach? Where?

I think that this odd fantasy that I’ve head since I was a teenager has subtly shaped my life, urging me to build a future that would make 18-year-old Sherrie smile. Maybe this is what comes of reading too much science fiction as a child. Maybe this is what comes from letting the energy inside you churn round and round.

For more thoughts on the forces of life twirling and spinning, check out my y1 blog here as I share some joy and check out my x0 blog here for thoughts on particle physics and world peace.