Nothing dates faster than the future

Sci-fi set in space can be a difficult thing to write. Let’s get one thing straight: all sci-fi, no matter how convincing it may seem, has to be made up. That means everything you see from a Star Trek episode to a copy of ‘Rendezvous with Rama’ had to be made up. It is a cunning mind that can create a convincing world that seems totally plausible yet is not real.

Of course, sci-fi has been around since at least the nineteenth century. Possibly something similar existed before this, but that was when it got its official genre title. That means that almost everything now is influenced by something else; it is almost impossible to come up with something that isn’t a reinterpretation or a retelling of at least one aspect of something that has gone before. That’s not to say that sci-fi is plagurism, because it is not. But it is very hard to get a truly original idea when imaginations have been hard at work for nearly 200 years at least.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the future was done with miniskirts, bakofoil and robots with personality disorders the size of a car. Computers were huge and strangely required spinning tape reels on the front, despite this being the future, aparently. Sci-fi is always influenced by the real world of the time it is written. Nothing dates quicker than a vision of the future, which is why sci-fi has quite a limited lifespan, especially hard sci-fi. The real trick in writing sci-fi is in recognising what might be the future and what certainly will not be the future. Also, think big. History shows that if a piece of technology is good it will catch on, spread like bacteria, and get smaller with more functions very quickly.

It is one of the important things I strive to in my writing that the future, that things are believable and not overly influenced by the real world at the precise moment that I am writing. Of course I have failed at times. There are books I wrote over ten years ago that have never been published that when I look over the manuscript I shudder and wonder what the hell I was thinking. Most sci-fi from the 50s, 60s and 70s is now truly unreadable, even some of the ones that were considered classics. Some books are champions of the greatest sci-fi and will live forever. ‘Rendezvous with Rama’ by Arthur C. Clarke is certainly one of these. However even Mr Clarke is not immune to the dated sucky bakofoil version of the future phenomina as ‘A fall of moondust’ shows. Philip K. Dick had some wonderful ideas, but occasionally was thwarted by ideas whose expression dated not so well. I love ‘Flow my tears, the policeman said’ but ‘Time out of joint’ is not one of my favourites.

So I hope my writing might come at least in a small way closer to the good stuff. I shall promise to not have my charectors wear bakofoil, dress like 1960s fashion rejects or fire phasers/lasers/disrupters/flange guns at Aliens from the planet ZZxpter 9 who mysteriously look like other humans in rubber suits.

As a final unrelated thought, did you ever see a bathroom on the Enterprise? Does anyone ever go to the bog on that thing?

4 thoughts on “Nothing dates faster than the future

  • 19 June 2008 at 16:21
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    There are bathrooms on the Enterprise but they are rarely seen. There’s a joke about this in ‘Star Trek: First Contact’ when Zephram Cochrane asks “Don’t you people ever pee?” 😀

  • 20 June 2008 at 10:44
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    Fine, fine, you party pooper. It’s also the explanation of why Khan hates Chekhov despite having not met him in the original TV series. The explanation is that Chekhov was a lowly Ensign at the time and hogged the stall, and wafted out leaving no bogroll for Khan.

  • 24 June 2008 at 01:30
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    But surely the continual references to “Captain’s Log, Stardate 45-73-51” and suchlike indicate that at least “Number Twos” were recorded on Enterprise…..

    Are you allowed to “get coat” on this blog?

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