Communion Of Dreams

February 24, 2012, 11:09 am
Filed under: Firefly, Joss Whedon, movies, Press, Promotion, Science Fiction, Writing stuff

The title seemed an appropriate reference for how science fiction can have an impact on culture, if only a minor/temporary linguistic one. Which is the topic of today’s entry in the ongoing series of interview questions:

4. In 2012, we can easily look back at previous science fiction works and poke fun at how we’ve yet to receive our flying car or develop certain technologies we were “promised.” When crafting a world that hasn’t come into being, and may never, how have you viewed the balance between letting your imagination run wild and still trying to create a future that rings true in some form or fashion?

Yeah, that’s one of the big dangers in writing about what the world will be like in just 40 years. I mean, I’m 53 – I *remember* what the world was like in 1972. So I tried to turn that around, and think back to how small changes and unexpected events have shaped the world in the last 40 years, and then tried to use those insights in looking forward. I’ve tried to anchor the world of 2052 firmly in what our world today is really like, but extending trends we have seen operate in the last 40 years. Toss in a few wildcard events, some unexpected discoveries, and then cross your fingers.

And to a certain extent, this is why I don’t really think of Communion of Dreams as a typical ‘science fiction’ book – it is solidly grounded in known science and built from the reality around us. The people in it are all real people, not unlike folks you know or would find in any mainstream novel. In this sense, it is just another work of fiction, though one which is a bit more speculative.

That said, while we can all grumble about not having jet-packs or flying cars, a lot of science fiction did help inspire and influence technological development. Arthur C. Clarke is arguably the first person to have suggested geostationary satellite communications. Our tablet computers and smartphones can be traced back to countless “electronic readers” and “communicators” described in science fiction back as far as the 1930s. And just a year ago the X-Prize Foundation announced a $10 million competition to build a Star Trek ‘tricorder’. I can’t say that there’s anything in Communion of Dreams which will have that kind of impact, but who knows?

Part of my ambivalence there at the end is just due to the unpredictability of these things, and how they can pop up long after you think whatever impact has long-since faded. I mean, look at the appeal of the Air Mags. Who would have predicted that those sneakers from a movie made in the 80s would suddenly be popular again? And with Hollywood seeming to be stuck in an endless cycle of remakes of classic science fiction movies/shows, it is entirely possible that I will live to see Joss Whedon (or someone else) get another crack at the Firefly universe, perhaps reviving interest in some small bit of his future tech/lingo. Stranger things have happened.

Jim Downey

*From here, of course.

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