Science Fiction Plus Time Equals Reality

Monday, January 02, 2017
Today is National Science Fiction Day, and the 96th anniversary of the birth of science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. I admit I haven't read much science fiction. What I have read are nonfiction articles stating that some inventions we take for granted today were first dreamed up (in some form) by science fiction writers. That's pretty cool. Does that mean writers are the inventors or creators of the future? Or, do our words simply create a path toward it? Regardless, words have power.

In an earlier post, I wrote about accessing emotions through fictional characters. Science fiction, however, allows us to ask questions and explore the future. Albert Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge. Our imaginations may be shaping the future in ways we never thought possible.

I've read that some day all homes will have a Virtual Reality (VR) Room like the Star Ship Enterprise had a holodeck for entertainment and training purposes. The holodeck came from the imagination of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek (1966-69), and Star Trek TNG (1987-1994). The future is now, my friends, because in a ranch house along a winding two-lane road, I stepped into a VR room and "lived" a scene from Star Wars.

I put on a VR headset connected to a computer by a single wire, and held two controllers in my hands. The world was black. Suddenly, I was standing on an empty planet when the Millennium Falcon appeared in the distance, flew toward me at astonishing speed, and landed. I literally leaned back because it was too close. Within seconds, R2-D2 rolled down a ramp lowered from the ship.

A fuel problem meant I had to work quickly to get the ship airborne again. I lowered a "dock" with the controllers, pushed the buttons in the sequence I was told, but didn't work fast enough. Storm troopers were appearing in the distance, and I needed a lightsaber to fight them. I used my controller to access one from R2-D2, and as the lasers came at me, I fought back.

The battle felt like the dodge ball games I played as a kid because the lasers were relentless, and I combined flinching with offensive moves in a battle that must have looked ridiculous to anyone watching. But because of the masterful use of my light saber, I defeated them. But I couldn't shake the fact that the battle seemed real, and I truly felt the need to defend myself.

From the imagination of Gene Roddenberry to a VR room in the suburbs, I would have to conclude that science fiction plus time equals reality. And in honor of writers and dreamers who helped shape our reality, what have you done lately that used to be considered science fiction?

Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--It sounds like your experience was a thrilling one. We got our granddaughter an inexpensive VR headset (it fits onto a cell phone) and I was amazed. What I saw and experienced (a roller coaster) paled to what you experienced.

I think that having Skype sessions is in the sci-fi realm. I seem to remember George Jetson communicating with his boss via a screen where they could see each other. Or perhaps my memory is foggy.

Thanks for reminding us of the importance of our imagination. Apparently what we dream today becomes a reality tomorrow...

Margo Dill said...

I think you are right about Skype--I never really thought of that. Or how about a robot housekeeper? There are those vacuums that run by themselves!

Mary: What about cell phones? Or even the Internet--getting information at the touch of a button was probably done in some science fiction story.

Mary Horner said...

I agree with both of you, Margo and Sioux! I was originally thinking of the instant food available to the Jetsons, which reminds me of a certain appliance that I cannot live without - the microwave! And now the artificial intelligence that I believe will bring even more change to our lives regarding medicine and the workplace.

KAlan said...

I was thinking about a short story I just drafted. While the purpose of it was more of an "innerspace" experience, the premise was mired in Science Fiction, and required the description of a futuristic world. That was, by far, the hardest part, and the area where my revisions will focus; everything I attempted that seemed futuristic to me in my youth, I realized, upon re-reading, was close to commonplace today.

I think that SciFi needs a readership who can accept this; a story involving the post-apocalypse or space travel will, by necessity, include descriptions of technology that seems "hokey" ten years after it is written... all part of a more advanced suspension of disbelief.

Mary Horner said...

Thank you for such a thoughtful response. I guess we will never know which technology will be adopted or end up sounding hokey, but that's part of the fun! Good luck with your story!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Yes! The Roomba! Of course.

And Mary, the microwave is SO like the Jetson's "instant meal" technology. (I'm still waiting for those flying cars, however.)

Mary Horner said...

Me, too! Aren't they the next step after self-driving cars?

Unknown said...

I recently listened to an interview with the gentleman in charge of keeping track of the Star Wars galaxy and ensuring that new creative endeavors fit within the fictional elements that already exist. He was describing some of the challenges of creating the world of Rogue One, which had to fit within the 1970's atmosphere of the first Star Wars and appeal to the modern audience, while featuring believably advanced computer technology that in reality was shown up by the computers the actors each had in their pockets. I love science fiction. It's not what I read most, but I always enjoy it when I do because it makes me think about consequences in ways other genres rarely do.

Pat Wahler said...

Thought-provoking post, Mary. Perhaps writers have helped influence the direction of technology.

I'm fascinated by your VR experience, and would love to try it. However, I'd like to go in the opposite direction and be transported to scenes from the past. What a wowzer to be "in" a Civil War battle or flee the sinking Titanic. Amazing possibilities.


Mary Horner said...

Sarah I don't read much of it either, but to be honest, I may add some to my reading list this year. It's been fun thinking about this and which future inventions will come from what we read this year! Also, Pat, I think it really is going to be more common and there will be opportunities to "experience" all kinds of events.

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