Monday, May 9, 2016

We come from the future?

Jonas de Ro | CC 3.0 | commons.wikimedia.com
I mentioned last week that I've begun work (at last!) on the final book of the Pipe Woman's Legacy series. One of my misgivings about writing about Naomi and Joseph's kids is that I'm having to think about their world as it will be then -- which is hard, because I kind of stink at writing science fiction.

My final project in grad school -- my novel-in-place-of-a-thesis -- was a sci-fi work called Information Overload. It was set in the near future -- I forget which year -- and the main character was a woman who worked as a journalist out of her home. Her job entailed keeping tabs on about a billion news sources at once, primarily by watching video news feeds on a grid of multiple virtual monitors that took up an entire wall of her home. I was told that wasn't futuristic enough.

Now, twenty years later, I'd argue the point. Home theater has evolved, certainly, with split screens and multiple windows open at once. But we're not yet to the point of having our video screens embedded in plaster, with the ability to show maybe a hundred live feeds at once. Think of the bandwidth that would require!

Maybe I just didn't explain it well enough.

Anyway, that experience kind of soured me on writing sci-fi. Post-apocalyptic fiction, maybe; ships zipping around in outer space, maybe, as long as nobody expects me to give a plausible explanation of how the FTL drive works. But near-future stuff? I'm not sure I'm imaginative enough.

And yet, here I am, writing sci-fi that's trying to pass itself off as urban fantasy. I've pretty much been writing near-futuristic stuff since the first Land, Sea, Sky book. That whole series was set ten years ahead of where we are today. And with Webb's half of the Pipe Woman's Legacy novels, I'm writing about events that are supposedly happening in 2051 -- thirty-five years from now.

That doesn't seem like much of a stretch, does it? Seems like technology then will be about the same as it is now -- that is, until you think about where were were technologically thirty-five years ago, in 1981.  MS-DOS had just been invented and IBM rolled out its first PC. Cellular phones were regular-sized handsets attached to a battery the size of a briefcase. Almost nobody had a fax machine. NASA launched the space shuttle Columbia -- the first reusable space vehicle -- that year. And not only was cable TV the big thing, but MTV was brand-new -- and it showed nothing but music videos.

So for the Legacy books, I've been thinking of what we have now, except a little smaller and a lot faster. Skype calls are holographic; laptop computers have given way to tablets. And cars can fly, although my characters have to pay a toll to use the levitation lane.

Am I missing anything? What do you think day-to-day technology will look like in 2051?

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These moments of futuristic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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