Edited By Sam Bellotto Jr.
AMERICA’S BIZARRE EXPERIMENT with a repressive, fascist government has long ended. The Relocation Centers have been abandoned to decay, fires, and graffiti. Those responsible are dead, in jail, or in exile. The country has picked up from where it left off before all those years of madness, like returning to a good novel after it had been set down for far too long. The engines of progress have coughed out the dust of neglect and are humming sweetly once again.
Flying cars are available at your local dealerships. Three-D TV screens, made in China, are popular, as are “learn Mandarin in thirty days” courses. Now that science and intellect are no longer swept under the rug, there are worthwhile programs to watch on the new TVs. In fact, there hasn’t been a single reality show since those two naked survivalists got eaten by tigers.
The unfounded fears over genetically-modified foods are shunned as biology is embraced. Food has become more plentiful, cheaper to produce, with less negative impact on the environment. Genetics are also used to cure some diseases, and modify people. The latter is controversial, but you can grow elfin ears, Wookiee hair, or a tail. Tails are popular.
How do I see all of this affecting me, you might wonder?
I’d suffered with arthritis since my late 50s, inherited more than likely from my mother who also had bad arthritis most of her life. I’d been complaining about the aches and pains for all that time, pining not so much for a cure as the technology to replace my bum leg with a cybernetic prosthetic that would never get tired, wear out, or even slow down.
Shortly before the Dark Years, I got a staph infection in the same leg. That required surgery and months of rehabilitation. My mind was made up. Soon as the technology existed, I would replace flawed flesh with some perfect titanium, or plastic. Also, my eyes were rapidly going down the tubes from decades of myopia, astigmatism, and, more recently, cataracts. For good measure, I’d upgrade them, too. Glasses are bothersome. I’ve never been able to keep them clean and clear. Viewing the world through grime-covered lenses is depressing. Contacts? Ha! I know I would be constantly losing them.
My teeth are made of chalk. Everybody else has teeth of enamel, the hardest substance in the body, mostly calcium phosphate, and other stuff. My teeth are made of calcium carbonate, and other stuff. I lose teeth like I would lose contact lenses. Seriously. I’m at a gathering and a tooth pops out of my head and everybody has to get down on all fours to look for it. In the near future, I can get a sweet set of choppers made of lonsdaleite, in designer colors, perhaps with the “Perihelion” logo imprinted on them. That would be cool.
You’d expect all these wonders of modern medicine to cost more than the eyes and legs and teeth that they replace. But not so. With universal medical care wrenched from the selfish grip of the “best medicine money can buy” crowd, I will be able to get my long-sought-after cybernetic leg, enhanced eye replacements, and superteeth for a modest co-pay.
People are living longer. Centenarians are very common, a fact that greatly pleases most of us Baby Boomers. Before the Troubled Times we looked at 70s as the new 40s. The attitude had always been “at your age, why?” But now we have a whole lifetime in front of us. When I grow up, I want to become a writer.
At “Perihelion,” we thought it would be fun to ask some of our more regular contributors to weigh in on tomorrow—what they think is in store for humanity ten or more years down the pike. Interestingly, the number of votes for a more utopian future far outweigh those for a dystopian one like the kind depressingly popularized in books and movies. Maybe that’s why. But could science fiction writers possibly get it wrong?
Traveling the Highway of Time
J. Richard Jacobs has lectured on NEOs (Near Earth Objects), PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids), Mars, the possibility of life in the Universe, and other observational astronomy topics. He has been contributing to “Perihelion” since our debut Internet edition.
Because of what’s happening in our world, I see a bumpy road. Science is being attacked. Education, too. Societal stress is high. There is uncertainty about our planet. However, I am optimistic. We shall survive. Things will get better.
By 2030, global warming will be taking its toll. It has already begun, but I think we will rise to the challenge and stave off the worst, if we avoid major conflicts. Nonetheless, a billion or more will be displaced and likely millions will die.
Through the wonders of nanotechnology and genetic engineering, we will have cures and preventive capabilities for the majority of human maladies, including cancer. Life expectancies will see a dramatic increase. Population growth begins to decline.
The TOE (Theory of Everything) is discovered, opening new avenues for quantum based technologies. True AI is just around the corner.
I see a permanent base under construction on the moon. Perhaps a super telescope on the far side, using a new technology developed by Lockheed Martin that will allow us to read the atmospheres of exoplanets and let us detect biological signatures.
The major problems of deep space travel are solved. Human missions to Mars stalled by ethical considerations over recently discovered evidence of extant life.
Perhaps twenty percent to thirty percent of jobs are replaced by robotics, but more jobs are created than are lost because of this.
Earth’s space elevator is in planning—really. The materials problems have been solved.
First mission to Europa has been launched.
The discovery of at least one Earth analog showing signs of life.
I’m cheating here and predicting to 2100, and this is the biggy (not to be confused with “bigly”). We will have shucked our primitive tribal behavior and matured into a species consistent with a Level 1 society. We have shed value based economy and learned the art of cooperative living. All energy needs are met by fusion reactors and fossil fuels are a footnote in history. Gene Roddenberry would approve.
Science Fiction Becomes Fact
Sarina Dorie has sold over one hundred stories to markets like "Fantasy & Science
Fiction," "Daily Science Fiction," "Neo-Opsis," and others. Her novel, “Silent Moon,” won 2nd place in the Duel on the Delta Contest and the Golden Rose Contest.
In the last thirty years we have seen so many technological advancements. We saw replicators, view screens and handheld communicators on Star Trek become 3D printers, Skype and FaceTime, and cell phones that don’t just communicate but also calculate, record, photograph, tell us the weather, are used as a watch and calculator, and so much more. We’ve also seen huge breakthroughs in human rights.
As a science fiction writer, social-political events and happenings in science are my biggest inspirations. My writing is often a caricature of what I see, where I see us going and sometimes where I hope we aren’t going. As a teacher working with high school students, I often see the impact of technology in ways the rest of our culture doesn’t see. Already it is impossible to get students to stop using cell phones in classes, and parents object if teachers take them away, even if students use them inappropriately. My “predictions” for the future are really story ideas. They are the stories I have been writing and will continue writing.
Everyone will own a robot slave. Not just Roombas for vacuuming, but there will be more robotic housecleaning robots with more advanced software. Will this spark artificial intelligence? Will some of the robots not only cook and clean, but also have conversations and be sexbots?
Driving will be automated. Accidents will rarely happen, except when a malfunction occurs in hardware, software, or when the automobile’s computer gets hacked. In the interim, before all cars are automated, people will die when their car follows those faulty GPS directions that drive them the wrong way on one way streets and off of cliffs.
Google will come out with contacts to augment reality. It will be virtually impossible to tell who is wearing them and who isn’t. Students will be watching porn all the time in class. Literacy levels will go down. Americans will be known for their stupidity. Teachers will be blamed. Schools will be penalized and given less funding from the government.
Young people will plug themselves into the Internet. Technology addictions will be the next great thing. Support groups and Internet-free retreats will abound. There will be a subculture of people who live in yurts and get back to nature as a way of rebelling against the evils of technology. We will revert to more mechanical and steam powered technology—though I might be biased on this one because I like to write about steampunk, such as my book “The Memory Thief.”
Parents will implant chips into their children to track their whereabouts like pets. Cell phones will be used to monitor the child’s movements. (Find My Friends and other monitoring apps already exist.) This will aid helicopter parents as well as parents who have valid child endangerment fears. Chips will also be used for parole officers to track former criminals. The government will secretly track citizens.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX will start a colony on Mars. The first group of people who live there will all die when technology goes wrong, but the second wave of immigrants who will already be on the way will fix the problems when they arrive, compost the former colonists and appropriate their belongings.
Stem cell implants will replace many surgical procedures—for those rich enough to afford them and in the countries that permit it. Wrinkles will be erased with stem cells, for example. Genetic defects will be corrected with stem cells. Problems with cryogenics will be solved using stem cells. But only in China.
Global warming, dinosaurs, and a man on the moon will be “proven” as hoaxes by articles circulated on Facebook. Fake news will abound. As if it already doesn’t. People will be even more ignorant of what is happening in politics.
Human rights in America, as well as in other countries, will reach an all-time low. We will constantly be under surveillance. Suicide will be considered a crime. Women will be denied abortions, whether their life is in danger or the fetus suffers from encephalopathy; yet at the same time, now that women are required to register for the draft, pregnant female soldiers drafted in the next World War will be required to have abortions or incarcerated; the military will operate under its own laws.
People will be put in prison without trial for reasons of “national security.” Everything in this future will be a matter of national security: talking about the unjustness of taxes, purchasing Sudafed across a state boarder without a prescription, or cutting off a senator in traffic.
Drug dealers will see the value in selling EpiPens (which currently cost $600 in America, but $70 in Britain) and other prescription drugs on the black market as alternatives to the costly markup by pharmaceutical companies. Due to the increasing premiums set by insurance companies and their unwillingness to pay for procedures, vigilante medical clinics and medical co-ops will abound, paid for by donations on crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe.
Through their advancements in genetic engineering that other countries ban, China will create a super race of soldiers and try to take over the world in WW3. The U.S. government will not want to call it a “war” because they won’t want to pay veterans benefits.
People will be depressed at the state of the world and not want to read post-apocalyptic science fiction because it will too closely resemble the horror of the world we live in. Instead, happy science fiction and fantasy will provide people with the escapism they need to feel better. I highly recommend getting started with some funny speculative fiction: “Fairies, Robots and Unicorns—Oh My!”
Robin Wyatt Dunn is a writer, novelist, and filmmaker. His short stories have appeared in “Third Flatiron,” “Voluted Tales,” and other publications. He holds an MFA in creative writing. His previous story for “Perihelion” was in 12-MAY-2016.
Babes in Toyland will have many things to look forward to here in Late Capitalism, proceeding from 2017 and on:
We say “late,” but this day is long. And before it dies, it will reach a great and terrible flowering, of which new buds now appear.
Of course, BAMA (Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis) of “Neuromancer” is some distance away, but the corporations, under the direction of our billionare friends, come closer, and closer, pressing their lips against our cheeks.
For those so disposed to be entrepreneurs (this means, statistically, being independently wealthy from birth) you will find this new (read: old) regime much to your liking, with new exciting benefits: a relaxation in the “hippie” rules of environmental protection, labor rights, human rights.
Like the Church of Satan, the will is all here in Late Capitalism, and as it is to some degree in science, the question is never should but when.
When will these things occur?
When will you decide to swear your fealty to these new lords? They know you will; but when, and why?
We have ever more methods of devising an asnwer to personal questions such as “what is it that makes you tick, sir?” and “how may I avail myself of your will to supplement my own?”
“Neuromancer” had Lady 3Jane, and soon we will have, as the Middle Ages did, sworn troops to corporations, formerly honest men and women now bound to new servitudes, having signed secret contracts and NDAs, akin to the supposedly defunct (but only tabled) TPP “treaty,” or more closely resembling the NDAs as used by BP oil in “the cleanup” to put an end to public knowledge.
The public will not know; you will not know. Or, you will know, but you won’t, even as a good freedman in 1437 might have known the priests and nobles were ultimately only running an elaborate scam, but prior to the printing press, disseminating such knowledge was diffficuklt.
Still, the Internet is blooming, too; and we can anticipate, as in 1517, new methods of torture devised for the Edward Snowdens, Julian Assanges, and Martin Luthers of the world, stubbornly intent on revealing the truth.
Perhaps their greatest enemies will be you: science fiction readers.
These beloved facists hailing from America, fascists in the center and the left, who love Asimov (and “Asimov’s”) but rejected humanism somewhere along the way, who no longer fight for Kansas (called Brownbackistan now—it’s true) and whose Beecher Bibles are accelerando, hailing a new religion, with a billion year contract, but no soul ...
Well, it’s only my word against yours; and these are worth only one cent a piece in 2017 dollars, and falling ...
Our Future is Yours
Eric Del Carlo has been published in “Asimov’s,” “Strange Horizons,” “Redstone Science Fiction,” “Shimmer,” and many other venues. His short story, “Ghostmail,” is upcoming in “Analog,” and his latest novel, “The Vampire Years,” is coming from Elder Signs Press this fall.
We’re living in a Vonnegut novel.
That was my assessment throughout 2016. Most people understood my little proverb. Absurdities abounded, and all seemed farce. Surely the candidates were vaudeville. Surely our nation wasn’t that sick. Surely.
But when I said Vonnegut, he was a stand-in. Kurt Vonnegut’s satires of our world have a wink-wink, elbow in the ribs, Twainian cuddliness to them. What I really meant was:
We’re living in a Norman Spinrad story.
Think “Bug Jack Barron” or his novella “World War Last,” both breathtakingly apocalyptic and cynical works which have one edge on anything Vonnegut or Twain or Swift ever concocted: Spinrad’s stories are plausible. More so now, as we face an uneasy future.
Science fiction writers extrapolate. It’s our easiest ingress to the rich possibilities of the field. What if this burgeoning technology were taken to its extreme? What if this social phenomenon became hyper-prevalent?
I tend toward the grim. Whether it’s the result of nurture or nature, I don’t know; but I have seen the dire environmental warnings from my childhood go wholly unheeded. The seas are rising, and the climate is just beginning to go truly haywire. We have overpopulated grotesquely.
Though I write sometimes about human galactic civilizations, I do not in my heart of hearts believe we will ever accomplish that. Dinosaurs had a run of about 175 million years. Can you imagine humans surviving for a mere one million years confined to this planet? I cannot.
But—but—writers don’t have to write their actual beliefs. We can create optimistic futures, plausible ones even. I see a great deal of good in people. I’m not actually a cynic. Maybe your hopeful fictional future will inspire its realization. It could happen. It’s got to be better than what’s probably coming.
[Left, Gart Paese, frequent cover artist for “Perihelion,” foresees a first encounter with an alien species within the next ten years. He says this may be due to our potential impact on the galaxy, or we humans are simply too delicious, lightly sautéed.]
A Longer View
Olga Godim is a writer from Vancouver. Her novel, “Eagle En Garde,” won an Epic’s eBook Award for 2015. Her stories have run in “Aoife’s Kiss,” “Bewildering Stories,” and elsewhere. Her previous story for “Perihelion” was in the 12-MAR-2013 issue.
As a speculative fiction writer, I can’t reliably predict the future but I can make a wish based on what is possible, however remotely. By 2027, one possibility is glaring: a breakthrough in life extension research. We all age because our cells stop reproducing correctly. As our bodies accumulate years and toxins, the cells undergo miniscule deviations during division. Even though each corruption is tiny, when they accrue over time, diseases and general deterioration of old age occur.
I think there is a way to stop or even reverse the process with some kind of “positive irradiation.” The only thing that is needed is the right equipment, capable of tissue rejuvenation technology. I envision it looking like a cryogenic chamber. One hour-long treatment or a series of regular treatments inside such a chamber could repair our cells for the next few years. The rejuvenation therapy should start around thirty, and should be repeated every five years or so. As a result, our cells would stop making mistakes during division, or at least slow down the rate of those mistakes, allowing us to live longer and healthier.
The only impediments to such treatments are the Big Pharma corporations. The rejuvenation technology could cut drastically into their cash flow, so they undoubtedly resist the revolutionary innovation. It will be a job for a team of heroes to divert their attention, allowing the scientists to develop and distribute the rejuvenation machines around the world.
Of course, the rejuvenation treatments should be affordable to everyone and subsidized by the governments. Utopia? Maybe. Or maybe not.
Utopian or Dystopian?
C.E. Gee is retired and maintains a blog entitled “Gardyloo.” His science fiction stories have appeared in “Bewildering Stories” and “Plasma Frequency.” He last appeared in the 12-FEB-2015 issue of “Perihelion.”
“May you live in interesting times” is reputed to be an ancient Chinese curse. It was actually coined in Britain during the 1930s; it was based upon a slightly different Chinese curse.
We will spend the near future in “interesting times.” Those times will be both dystopian and utopian.
Because of technological advances the near future will be utopian. Rapid advances in medical science and adoption of healthier lifestyles will lengthen our lives and make them more comfortable.
Unfortunately, the anti-vaccine crowd will edge the future closer to a dystopia. And despite improved lifestyles resulting from more exercise and better diets, significant portions of the population will still eat too much meat, sugar, salt and veg out in front of their televisions, computer screens, and cell phones.
Alternative facts may be divulged concerning our Air Force’s presence on the moon, orbiting lasers to shoot down ICBMs, low Earth orbit spacecraft that use electromagnetic repulsion to attain orbit, and much more.
We may finally get the truth regarding past conspiracies involving the assassinations of U.S. presidents; a V2 rocket causing the Roswell incident with dead Cub Scouts on a campout being the “aliens;” the reason for the slaughter of American Indians by fascists; Chuck Yeager being the first astronaut; and on and on and on. Most of us will be amazed and shocked.
Advances in robotics, transportation, communications including neurological interfacing, etc., will bring forth a utopia that is beyond belief, save for writers and fans of science fiction.
We will find ourselves in a “utopian plantation economy.” Robots do most the work while the rest of us sit on our verandas, sipping mint juleps—those of us lucky enough to survive the current dystopian war-mongering by the Iranians, the Russians, the Chinese, the Islamic terrorists, Israelis and Palestinians, the North Koreans, and yes, even the U.S. of A.
I’m not going to say much about the “Tribulation,” except to state that it’s going to be both dystopian and utopian.
I am amused.
Mark Anthony Ayling is a 38-year-old full time Community Psychiatric Nurse living in the North of England. His stories have appeared in “Perihelion,” “Cracked Eye,” and the “Twisted Tails IX” anthology. Lillicat publishers released “Northern Futures,” his collection of science fiction stories, in November 2016.
As an optimistic-pessimist, it’s my humble and likely inaccurate opinion that ten years from now we will all live underground. This will not be as the result of a nuclear apocalypse, but rather through personal choice because mankind will have become so bored with arguing perpetually about religion and science and politics and oil and who has the bigger wall/missile collection, he will have decided by way of unanimous international decision to dig a hole in the ground to crawl into.
In individually allocated, economically appropriate bunkers he will acquiesce to the smart technology he has become ever more reliant on and upload himself permanently, via artificially implanted neurological links, into the self-replicating, infinite reality of the Internet and social media.
Meanwhile, he will leave a world populated by clones and artificially intelligent “alternative” right-wing technologies who will run the show in his stead, seeing to it that whilst he’s plugged in, in a state of suspended animation, enjoying a permanent vacation in utopian cyberspace, the world continues to function as before.
(Initially this will have been conceived as a practical joke for the benefit of potential ET’s stupid enough to visit the planet in search of intelligence. On a more practical level it is to make sure humanity has its needs catered for whilst hibernating underground.)
Each individual shall be cloned. Each clone will be allocated responsibility for its original. Each clone will be responsible for feeding and exercising its original whilst engaging in the banalities of day-to-day living. Whilst the original is plugged in, participating in an online utopian VR life simulation, the clone will drudge and argue its way through a parallel lifetime consumed by petty fears and the vagaries of modern existence. If the clone dies whilst living in the original’s stead, the original will be discontinued. Such is the way of things.
Essentially, technology and humanity will swap places. To what end ultimately, I am unsure. In fact, I have not decided yet whether there will be a continuation program to ensure humanity’s survival. If our surrogate-clone population proves better at being us than us, there might not be any point.
Still, we have ten years to iron out the potential wrinkles in my projected hypothesis and if recent years have proved anything, it’s that a lot can happen in the space of a decade.
Carol Kean is the Book Critic for “Perihelion Science Fiction.” She has a degree in English and was a tech writer for Chamberlain Manufacturing Corporation and Rockwell Collins. She has written two novels and published a few short stories.
Ten year from now may not be enough time for revolutionary changes to culture, technology, science, medicine, or politics. Fashion? Maybe. A novel I reviewed for “Perihelion” last year comes to mind:
Jackets include Tasers, tiny enough to hide in the small of your back. How does a jacket keep a Taser fully charged? “The jacket produced power from air. The manual said something about absorbing local electromagnetic charges and storing them in built-in batteries,” the character Kris explains in “The Courier: A San Angeles Novel” by Gerald Brandt. “I didn’t care how the thing worked, as long as it kept my comm unit charged and gave the bike a bit of extra juice when it needed it.”
This reminds me of a beloved Carl Sagan quote: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” It also reminds me how boring driverless cars would be. Kris drives the hell out of that bike in Brandt’s book, as does another courier in Terry Irving’s novel “Courier,” set in the 1970s, when driving big-ass engines, fast cars, and motorcycles was a novelty and a thrill—and, as long as real men and wild women exist, it’s a thrill that will never go out of style. Maybe gas guzzling rides will be taxed beyond our reach, but the silence of electric cars, the surrender of control to a driverless car, sounds better suited to a colony on Mars or an isolated city, but not the wide open territory I grew up on.
Is Kris’s electro-magnificent jacket just a pipe dream of a science fiction author? No. Fiber-based nano-generators build up electrical energy in clothing from physical movement, ultrasonic waves, and maybe even our own blood flow.
Clothes will come with a built-in (er, woven-in) power source that may allow people to generate their own electrical current while walking, running, shopping, vacuuming, or whatever else we don’t hand off to robots and drones to do for us.
Those of us still mobile will want to ditch the purses and wallets in favor of “smart” clothing.
More good news: all those high-tech fibers in double or triple layers in clothing will not turn us into a stiff like Ralphie’s young brother, wrapped head-to-toe in winter wear in the movie “A Christmas Story.” New fabrics will be flexible, foldable, and wearable, like a second skin, like yoga pants and other exercise gear that looks like it came off the set of “Star Trek.”
Nudists may prefer to get microchip implants: everything that’s now in our computers and phones can be contained in a microchip the size of a grain of rice. Wear it as a ring, or implant it in your hand.
We want fast and easy access to everything, but who wants to be chipped and bar-coded from birth and registered in The System? “Privacy” may become an archaic concept. It’ll get harder and harder to hide when we’re all wired, especially if it’s with implants instead of clothing. Hackers will continue to find their way around all the invisible firewalls, but will the rest of us be doomed by our lack of tech-savvy to lives of obedience and compliance?
Eh. That’s all more than ten years away. Meanwhile, I look forward to intelligent textiles: eFabric, Smart wear, extremely hydrophobic (water-resistant) nanofilaments in waterproof clothing, along with temperature sensors, electrical sensors, Internet access, medical information, and more, all woven together, probably from the one substance that’ll change our world more than anything: graphene.
Graphene, a one-atom-thick carbon allotrope arranged in a hexagon lattice, is the strongest material in the world. It’s completely flexible and more conductive than copper. Goodbye, polyester and nylon; hello, greater elasticity, lightness, and comfort. Will we look like robots or “Battlestar Galactica” actors? I can only hope!
Epigenetics combined with Graphene (which can be incorporated into human tissue!)—give me a hide, add a tail while you’re at it, let’s ditch pants and underwear, and how about some packable wings. They’d unfold from our back when we need to sail away, or if we need a warm cape to wrap up in during a blizzard or tsunami. Like Kris the courier, I’ll never understand how it works, but I’ll love wearing it.
Ten Years Hence
Chet Gottfried is an active member of SFWA. ReAnimus Press has recently published three of his novels. His stories have appeared in “Space and Time Magazine,” “Jim Baen’s Universe,” and elsewhere. He is a frequent contributor to “Perihelion.”
Ten years down the road, the world suffered. Sea levels hadn’t reached their maximum, but each new inch brought disasters multiplied by hurricanes and typhoons. Islands throughout the Pacific were lost in their entirety. Countries, such as Bangladesh, lost their costal regions, causing tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of migrants.
In the U.S., attention turned from terrorism to battling the oceanic tide. The sea level off the East Coast continued to rise inexorably in tune with melting ice from Antarctica and Greenland. Permanent flooding occurred throughout eastern Florida and the New York City areas. The new U.S. infrastructure took two directions. The first was a direct effect from the flooding: massive dikes for both Miami and New York City. New York City chose the Louisiana method of dikes (amidst accusals of political corruption), whereas Miami chose the Netherlands method (amidst complaints about overall cost).
The second front involved city planners and real estate moguls. Their mantra was “500 feet above sea level,” the idea being that no matter how high the oceans rose, anyone living 500 feet over sea level had to be safe.
Cities such as Pittsburgh and Altoona, Pennsylvania, and Rochester and Buffalo, New York, grew to newfound prominence. Extensive suburbs and new office space were developed at a record rate. The federal government aided the population dispersal: anyone who had lost a home due to flooding was deemed a “first-time buyer” and had access to special mortgage rates.
Along with new housing developments on the high lands, roads were improved or major ones were constructed (eminent domain became a favorite government tool for clearing the way for new roads).
Whereas many worried about the global disasters, the U.S. promised a bright—and dry—future for its citizens.
And then the tornadoes came.
Newton’s Third law to the Rescue
Tim McDaniel teaches English as a Second Language at Green River College. He has published stories in a large number of science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazines, including “F&SF” and “Asimov’s.” He is an active member of SFWA.
From a distance, historical trends manifest smoothness. Here was the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution. The graph lines go up and down. The world adapted and changed and moved on. But look closer: things are more granular. Not all of those involved in a change moved at the same pace, or even in the same direction. There were pushbacks, hesitations, fumblings, missteps, and holdouts.
So it is today. History has brought us a unique set of conditions: the decline of the middle class, brought about by automation, oligarchical policies, and international trade; a heightened sense of fear, brought about by greater access to information, misinformation, and manipulation; an increase in nationalism, ethnocentrism, and racism, stimulated by demagogues and shifting demographics; and an unprecedented confrontation with climate change. So many challenges, and we who are riding the line on the graph don’t see where it is heading. It’s anything but smooth.
There’s a lot to be concerned about. I’m worried. But despite the temptation to despair, I remain hopeful in the midst of this pain.
Why? Well, despite the truism that science fiction writers are prone to grandiose predictions about the near future (and fall pitiably short when it comes to predicting the farther reaches of time), I don’t see moonbases or Mars expeditions in the next ten years. I hope I’m wrong. But neither do I see any substantial rollbacks in the amazing progress we’ve made—in gay rights, in a newly-urgent concern for the environment, in clean energy.
If the past is any guide, developments that we may now have no inkling of will change our realities in unpredictable ways. It may be further progress in AI, or in some carbon-sequestering tech, or that “revolutionary” space-drive that keeps showing up in my Facebook feeds. So, no matter if you feel that the world is getting along pretty well right now, if you believe that we’re heading off a cliff, be aware that things will surely change. There’s no going back. Even standing still is not an option.
OK, so things are going to get a little weird. But bear with me—in the end, things will work out. In general. For most of us.
2017: Not a whole lot of unexpected stuff will happen this year, except that in November the Loch Ness monster will emerge from the cold depths of her lake to confirm that she has been a hoax all along.
2018: In March, Facebook will release a new emoji. The power of this image is such that it will lead to major developments in non-Euclidian math, cosmology, and interpretive dance.
2019: Not much will happen this year, either, except that a famous celebrity you’ve never heard of will die. Don’t worry, though. He won’t stay dead for long.
2020: As has been widely predicted, the presidential election this year will be marked by civility and respect. The candidates will all agree to limit their campaigns to two months, and during that time the weekly debates will go far to ensure that voters have a clear understanding of the candidates’ personalities and their stands on the important issues of the day. So, no surprises there.
2021: New York City will be wiped out by Hurricane Blossom. The devastation will be unfathomable, the death toll horrifying, but man—what amazing videos!
2022–2025: These years will be lost, due to unforeseen and inexplicable developments in a Time War that began/will begin in the late 32nd century. But afterwards, the only thing you will have to figure out is how to get rid of that weird tattoo on your you-know-what.
2026: The International Moonbase is completed, and it will be cool, the highlight being a nice low-gravity swimming pool. The mining of the moon’s Helium-3 is complicated, however, by the difficulty in clearing out all those monoliths that someone left lying around.
2027: A vast shadow approaches from the direction of the constellation of Orion. Maybe we should have been more careful with those monoliths.
What May Come, or Moreover What May Not
Mord McGhee is the author of the 2014 Poynter’s Science Fiction Award winning novel, “Ghosts of San Francisco.” He is a former columnist for “The Horror Within” magazine, a student of digital forensics, and the screenwriter of the upcoming film, “Deadline,” by Drake Productions.
Futures are like opinions. Numerous, beyond measure. Variations range from the utter bleak to hope eternal. Science fiction has done a thorough job through the years representing utopia to dystopia. Armageddon was hot once, then post-apocalyptic nuclear war. It makes sense to look at the days in which the writers existed to see why the future had been predicted as such in their literary works.
The future, however, is rooted in the past.
It’s cyclic, as predictable as the reaction of adding chemical compounds together, with the visions of the author basing fiction upon the present world around them. Dark, brooding futures line up to the fears of the day. Bombs, anarchy, war. Pestilence, crime, untamed leaders with rattling sabers, an unquenchable thirst for wealth and power, and an ever-depleting amount of global resource.
Any of this sound familiar?
At the turn of the Nineteenth Century, the end of days was assuredly coming. There were loud, brash world leaders appealing to patriotism, nationalism, and racism. Their policies cut wide swaths through the world, leaving human wreckage and building the stage for greater conflict.
Concentration of anything, be it wealth, power, or traffic, tends to create risk.
Humankind has used very little in the way of its own advancements for good.
Our motivations time and time again have been for personal gain and ... why wouldn’t they? It takes dystopia to create a microcosm of utopia for one person. Whereas some must suffer, therefore others can be happy. One concept cannot exist without the other.
My prediction for the next ten years aboard this hurtling sphere of rock and water is based purely upon my surroundings. I hear repetitive signals, far too likely to ignore. Call them Fortean, dystopian, or realist. Peace cannot exist if its opposite is the most enriching option to take what one human has because another human simply desires to possess it.
It’s not dystopia to think history repeats itself.
I’ve said it before.
All this aside, I believe in happy endings.
I hope in the next ten years, we as a race find a way to solve the multitude of crises abound. Hell, I’d be happy to live through one single war-less decade in my lifetime. Sadly, sabers are in the air and the bombs are already whistling towards us. Decision: no such thing as utopia because it hasn’t ever existed ... and the future is rooted in the past.
What Can We Expect in 2017?
Jez Patterson is a British teacher and writer. His work has appeared in “Daily Science Fiction,” “Stupefying Stories.” “Mythaxis,” and elsewhere. His previous story for us, “Tells of the Block Widowers,” appeared in the 12-JAN-2017 issue.
An oft-quoted piece of advice says that the easiest way to know what the weather’s going to be is to simply stick your head out of the window. 2017 has already set the stage, ushered on its players, and run trailers of what we can expect. Stormy weather ... and a sense that everything is somehow familiar, but a bit nuts. Welcome aboard Oz Airlines.
2017 is going to stress-test the role of our courts, parliaments, watchdogs, pressure groups, individual citizens, international organisations and alliances, promises and pacts. Fortunately, I think we’ll uncover as many resilient Hobbits as empty Emperors’ Clothes.
The audience’s challenge will be identifying what is real. Social media has allowed opinion to outweigh fact, letting upvotes and downvotes create a Reality by Referendum. Comments have devolved into knee-jerk responses in which insults, threats, and wild allegations are seen not only as the norm but as the only way to show you are, apparently, “serious.” With news providers packaging and flavouring their content to suit the tastes of their consumers, our search for what is actually happening is going to be harder. No red pill/blue pill dilemma then: in 2017, everyone gets to decide what’s real.
Cyber security will encourage the insular attitude already showing itself in countries’ behaviour: shoring up their own defences and well-being before peering over the parapet. There’ll be new criteria for international disputes and alliances, so expect a new roster of supervillains and surprising team-ups.
Whilst we’re all questioning the nature of human wisdom, timely advances in AI are due in 2017. Never mind “I, Robot”—if we can’t get past pure emotional knee-jerk, we’ll start handing things over to cold statistical objectiveness and usher in the age of “Aye, Robot!”
A Bumpy Night
K.C. Ball lives in Seattle, Her short fiction has appeared in “Analog,” “Lightspeed,” “Flash Fiction Online,” “Beneath Ceaseless Skies,” and other publications. Her novel, “Lifting Up Veronica,” was recently published by Every Day Novels.
John Larroquette is one of my favorite actors.
He’s had several successful roles in popular television series; most folks recall his turn on “Night Court,” as the pompous prosecutor, Dan Fielding. The character I like best is John Hemingway, the recovering-alcohol night-shift manager at a St. Louis bus station, on “The John Larroquette Show.”
It ran four years; coincidentally the same length as a presidential term. The first season of the show had a melancholy, somber tone, with laughs coming from the complicated lives of the emotionally-broken people who worked late shift at the station. I got hooked on the first show, and for me, nothing reflected that tone better than the sign hanging in Hemingway’s office. It read: This Is a Dark Ride.
That’s what I see ahead for America. A Dark Ride. It’s not a cheerful notion, but it is a rich source for science fiction stories. I already have ideas for stories that play off that Dark Ride theme.
“Geezers Benevolent” is a post-apocalyptic tale of senior citizens who form a collective in a downtown high rise in a ruined Seattle. “Froggy Went a’ Courting” involves a violent game of cat and mouse between a poacher and a marshal over enforcement of new laws meant to protect a wilderness nearly destroyed by climate change and relaxation of environmental laws. And “On Vashon” looks at an administration’s establishment of internment camps for “undesirables.”
There is a certain bleakness to all three stories, as there is in other ideas I am working on, but I don’t see very much in the way of good coming in the next few years. And even if the dark ride only lasts four years, I believe it will take more time than that to fix all that winds up being broken.
Fasten your seatbelts, friends and neighbors. It’s going to be a bumpy night.
For Better or Worse
Eamonn Murphy is a writer from Bristol, England. He has been a reviewer for “SFcrowsnest” and has published over twenty science fiction stories in small magazines like “Perihelion,” “The Fifth Dimension,” and “Empyreome.”
Robert Heinlein said prediction was a bad idea but even he had a stab at it in 1966 and updated his thoughts in 1980 in “Expanded Universe.” Heinlein addressed the fundamentals. As science fiction readers we tend to get excited about technology but all the smart phones, apps and clever gadgets in the world are no good to you if you don’t have the bare necessities of life, namely food and shelter. This applies globally. The main challenge to everyone having enough is the ever burgeoning population of the third rock from the sun. The other challenge is inequitable distribution, but we’ll eschew politics here.
The U.N. estimates there will be about 8.5 billion of us by 2026 even though the rate of population growth is decreasing. There was an optimistic program on the BBC a few months back which revealed that the Third World is getting richer, slowly, and starvation rates are declining. Even so, the bigger numbers do present a challenge, especially in Africa. Global warming, which isn’t fictional, is already causing more extreme weather conditions. Certain vegetables are currently rationed in U.K. supermarkets because the harvest failed in southern Spain. Our lack of courgettes is terrible, of course, but others may have far worse in the years ahead. We may have to get less finicky about genetically modified food.
The way we build houses is crazy, transporting each individual part to the final location and putting them together to form a better stone cave. The U.K. is catastrophically short of homes. Now a Chinese company is going to build six factories here to construct prefab housing, or modular homes as they are called nowadays. They are expected to deliver 25,000 over the next five years. This is good news for us; hopefully cheaper, more sanely produced houses will also be a benefit to the millions around the world living in straw huts and tin shacks.
Damn clever those Chinese, we used to say when I was kid. Well, they are, and as they become the world’s number one economy we can only hope they’re clever enough to help us all. The Indians, too. The world needs clean, green energy, a good food supply and cheap housing. The simple bare necessities of life. Failing that, Malthusian catastrophes are waiting in the wings. The future is going to be OK or terrible depending on the choices we make. Back in 1957, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was right when he said we never had it so good. It’s got better since then, but it could get a whole lot worse.
Sam Bellotto Jr. is the Editor of “Perihelion Science Fiction.” He also writes fiction, having been published in “Bewildering Stories,” “Twisted Tails” anthologies, “Third Flatiron” anthologies, and elsewhere. And he has published lots of non-fiction.