While I was at a one day symposium at the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) last week, one speaker suggested a grouping on innovations in technology as follows:
- Acute Impact Technology (immediate impact on society in the near term)
- Chronic Impact Technology (steady impact on society in the medium term)
- Extensual Technology (extend society and probably transform in the long term)
- Fringe Technology (tantalising physics that could harbour surprise future technologies)
- Unlikely Technology (trend subjects that probably have nothing e.g. vacuum energy, magnetic monopoles, black hole generators)
It’s an interesting breakdown as most ‘hard’ science fiction can be placed firmly in one of these categories.
I suspect the least seen in the magazines with high circulation numbers is the first, those technologies that have an immediate impact on society in the near term. The reason is that most science fiction writers steer away from these kinds of stories because of the danger of them becoming out of date so quickly. So it they do appear, it’s likely to be in short stories because the turn-around from idea to published can be so quick. However, it is also known that some big innovator firms ask their employees to write science fiction stories about near term technology, in order to gauge which innovations are likely to sell best in the market place. Obviously, for commercial reasons, we never see these stories.
But a science fiction writer needs these near term technologies to see which way society goes before they can identify what the medium and long term societies will look like. When you stop to think about it, while the methods of how things are done are improved (e.g. by using new materials), the property will always be used in society. The wattle and daub of medieval houses have become the plasterboard of today. The papyrus of ancient Egypt has become the paper of today and will become that saved files on computers of tomorrow. The cobbled roads of the renaissance have become the tarmac roads of today. The new stuff (for want of a better word) is lighter, tougher, longer lasting, improved whatever property.
If you look at Star Trek or similar, it uses technologies based on better properties than we have today, and nothing more. The reason behind this bias is because people can understand these properties and therefore can relate to them on a personal level. Anything new usually throws them out of contest, gets them confused and generally puts them off.
There is one notable possible exception to this. It’s when you put the word alien onto that technology. Then people expect something weird that they might not understand. Which is why I’m pleased to see the next in the Explorations series by Woodbridge Press is about First Contact. It’s been published today.
You can buy the
Regrettably I did not have time to produce a story for this, but from what I’ve seen the stories they’re good.
To celebrate the launch of the second in the Explorations series, the kindle edition of the first in the series, Explorations: Through the Wormhole is being offered at 99p for the next three days (i.e. until 1st February). I do have a short story in this one, but it’s very much based on extrapolated technologies.