Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sci-fi writers as fortune tellers

Last week, I was over at a friend's house. During my visit, I talked about the outline of a science fiction story that I am thinking of writing. For the most part, it is still all vapor and no substance.

But during the conversation, I mentioned how hard it must be to get computer tech support while in space. I was thinking of the difficulties that a Mars mission would have. And for a Mars colony, I think that tech support should be sent outright to them. Imagine calling India from Mars.

"Hello, this is Earl. How can we help you today?"

"Yeah, this is Mars Colony One, and our life-support computer is down."

"Have you checked to make sure that it is plugged in?"

The conversation promises to go downhill from there, with the predicted ending of Earl (actually Ishivart from India) telling the Mars Colony that it is going to take eight months for the tech support to arrive, so they better start holding their breath.

Now by itself, this whole idea is just an indication that I spent too much of my youth reading science fiction. But a couple of days later, I got an email from my friend who found it remarkable that the international space station was having computer problems. He failed to note that they are going to have to wait for parts.

This whole conversation reminded me how some people think that science fiction is about predicting the future. It is not. Science fiction is always about the present and its ramifications. Which is how I can imagine a computer problem on Mars just days before such an event happens just above us at the current space station.

I suspect that most of the predictions that sci-fi has made that have came true have occurred the same way. I am not a fortune teller--it was just me asking "If tech support is so lousy here, how bad must it be in space?"

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