Monday, 14 March 2016

Now And Tomorrow

Science fiction can be contemporary or futuristic. Indeed, it can even be historical. See several works by Poul Anderson. However, the present and the future are the main concerns of sf. The future can mean any time from the day after tomorrow (Brain Wave) to beyond the end of the universe (Tau Zero).

The day after tomorrow may be the same as today except for a single technological innovation, as in "Life-Line" by Robert Heinlein. Brain Wave begins with a global increase in intelligence which generates every conceivable technological innovation, then the transcendence of humanity.

CS Lewis' Ransom Trilogy comprises two contemporary interplanetary novels and one "day after tomorrow" novel. Thus, Lewis presents the unusual but wholly appropriate sequence of Mars, Venus and Earth.

Reading American sf comics in the 1950s, I divided sf into before or after the invention of spaceships. The earliest future histories begin before space travel. Heinlein's Future History begins with "Life-Line." An escape velocity rocket fuel is not developed until the end of the fourth story.

In Anderson's Psychotechnic History, the opening story is set on a devastated Earth but the second begins on a colonized Mars. Anderson's Technic History and Larry Niven's Known Space future history begin with the exploration of the Solar System whereas Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium future history begins with regular interstellar travel. So there is some progress.

Wells' Time Traveler tells his dinner guests that he traveled through tomorrow, as if it were another country, then further into futurity. Thus, twenty four hours later, he and they have lived through the day that he traveled through while he traveled through it. Extraordinary.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

One point BRAIN WAVE made me think of was how a book first published in 1954 shows us many thing which was THEN contemporary but is NOW set far in the past.

Poul Anderson generally avoided beginning or setting parts of his books in "contemporary" settings. THE DEVIL'S GAME and the middling to late 20th century parts of THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS being among his rare exceptions.