Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Future Begins Here

The future begins here. Certain year dates, originally encountered only in the texts of science fiction works, have migrated to their publishing histories. I was born in 1949. The opening story of Robert Heinlein's Future History is set in 1951. Thus, it was "past" before I read it. I remember reflecting that 1984 was a mere twenty years in the future. Twenty first century dates, e.g.:

2001 (Clarke);
2018 (Blish);
2049-50 (Blish);
2100 (Heinlein) -

- always meant the future.

Poul Anderson describes many future events but presents few future dates although, of course, Sandra Miesel had to create some for her chronologies of his first two future histories. The Technic History began in an interstellar future arbitrarily identified as 2150 in the Chronology although Anderson later wrote an earlier interplanetary story that begins by quoting a fictional text dated 2057, a rare appearance of a specific year date in an Andersonian text.

These observations are prompted by the following textual data. In Go Tell The Spartans by Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling:

Chapter One begins by quoting from a talk delivered in 2087;
Chapter Two begins by quoting from an undated text that refers to a conflict in 2009;
Chapter Three begins by quoting from an undated text that refers to events in the late 21st century;
Chapter Four begins by quoting from a talk delivered in 2080;
however, the second talk mainly comprises a passage quoted from a text published in 1991.

Checking its publishing history, we find that Go Tell The Spartans is copyright 1991 so is the quoted text "past" or "future"? Googling this text The Transformation of War by Martin van Creveld, we find that it is real. As I said, the future begins here.


S.M. Stirling said...

Writing SF set in the near future means you have a short sell-by date... 8-).

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

I'm reminded of how I took pains to reread George Orwell's 1984 in that year BEFORE it became the past! (Smiles)