As writers of science fiction romance it’s our job to envision the future and the technology that will make that future possible. How will we get around? What gadgets will make our lives easier—or more complex? What aspects of technology will threaten our privacy or freedom or humanity or survival?
Those kinds of questions about the nature and limits of technology are a huge part of the fun of writing SFR. They are also a huge part of the challenge. Because in this age of tremendous technological growth and change, we no sooner construct an elaborate world full of shiny tech toys than some garage genius has actually made it happen. Staying ahead of the tech game means running full out all the time.
Just take a look at Greta’s post on interstellar travel. A few years back, actually traveling to the stars via warp drive or hyperdrive or jumping into a wormhole or whatever seemed impossibly out of reach. Now, researchers are closing in on the theoretical foundations for these crazy star-hopping ideas.
As few as ten or fifteen years ago, you could find plenty of reputable scientists to say that Earth could be the only planet capable of sustaining life in the galaxy. Then more powerful telescopes and better analytics allowed us to find the first planet in that “Goldilocks” zone just far enough and not too far from its parent star to allow the possibility of liquid water (thus life as we know it). Then we found more planets. And more. Now everyone agrees: there must be millions of Earth-like planets out there. New technology has allowed us to recognize a new truth.
I’m not that old, but in my lifetime, I’ve seen computers go from the size of a room, storing data on reels of metal tape, to the size of an iPod or watch, storing data in a chip the size of a baby’s fingernail. We’ve sent manned teams to the moon and back and established a permanent presence in orbit around the Earth. We’ve sent probes to Mars and out into the solar system and down into the depths of the oceans. We’ve made Captain Kirk’s communicator and Dr. McCoy’s medical scanner everyday realities. And don’t even get me started on movies and television!
Some of these things were predicted by SF writers, many were not. Strangely, it seems the less bound by the “rules” of prevailing science the writers were, the more accurate they were in their predictions. The STAR TREK Original Series writers, creating without much concern for how stuff really worked, were a gold mine of future technology simply because they inspired young tech nerds to invent what they saw on screen. (The inventor of the cell phone and the researchers working on warp drive have all admitted that TREK was their inspiration.) Writers of the Golden Age of science fiction took us to outer space without a thought as to how we got there. Their readers took us to the moon with the U.S. space program.
Like Greta, I don’t worry too much about whether the system I choose for interstellar travel (and communication and a dozen other things) works given current scientific knowledge. I take pains to make sure it is internally consistent and logical, given the science I have posited for the world I have created. Who knows? One day that world may exist. And wouldn’t that be fun?
HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY, HUBBLE!
Speaking of technologies that changed our view of the universe—25 years ago, a new kind of telescope was assembled in orbit, beyond the interference of our atmosphere. The Hubble Space Telescope has treated us to some spectacular images over the years, as well as quite a few startling discoveries. Enjoy these images from the Hubble, courtesy of NASA!