KATIE WRITES: from my Skype buddy Sarah Sanborn, author of imaginative inter-dimensional steampunk train fiction, comes a blog post with a title that’s blatantly stolen from the PBS series currently on Netflix. Obviously if you enjoy this post you should check out the series, although the two are no in any way affiliated.
Science fiction is our speculations, our dreams, and our fears of what the future will bring. Many of these ideas are seemingly far fetched and wild, things that would only be accepted in fiction, but those ideas open the door of possibility. Once they’ve been voiced, once they’ve been read, it ignites the imagination and causes others to being to ask “What if?” And things that were once merely fiction begin to seem less impossible. In this way Science fiction helps pave the way for the future.
The early writers of science fiction have often been called prophets of the future, but are they so much prophets as creators of the future? Many scientists and engineers have come to their careers by an early love of science fiction, because they were inspired. They read a seemingly far fetched idea and saw it as a challenge, asking themselves if it’s possible to make this a reality?
Looking at early science fiction writers such as H.G. Wells, he wrote about space travel in his 1898 book ‘War of the Worlds’ over 60 years before the first man travelled to space in 1961. Indeed he wrote about space travel, before automobiles were in production, before we had the ability for sustainable flight. But his book made the idea of being able to travel from Mars to Earth possible. And as a result he inspired Robert H. Goddard, at the age of 16, to look at the stars and planets as more than impossibly far points of light, but as possible destinations for someone with the tenacity to aim that high. Goddard invented the first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926 and is called “The man who ushered in the Space Age.”
Jules Verne wrote ’20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ in 1870, a time when engineers were just figuring out how to go from human powered underwater vessels to mechanically power vessels. And his book inspired Simon Lake, which led to him participating in the U.S. Navy’s submarine design competition in 1893. From there Lake worked to make the modern submarine a reality along with rival John Holland. Would the modern submarine be a reality without Jules Verne? Probably, but there’s no denying his book inspired and likely spurred interest on the subject.
Igor Sikorsky designed and flew the first modern helicopter. His son Sergei Sikorsky is quoted to have said his father’s inspiration for designing helicopters came from a Jules Verne book…”It was called ‘Clipper of the Clouds,’ and in it Jules Verne had invented a helicopter-like vehicle. My father referred to it often. He said it was ‘imprinted in my memory.’ And he often quoted something else from Jules Verne. ‘Anything that one man can imagine, another man can make real.’ ”
The original ‘Star Trek’ series has been credited with inspiring the cell phone. Martin Cooper, of Motorola said, in regards to the ‘Star Trek’ communicator, “That was not fantasy to us, that was an objective.”
Of course there’s still plenty of technology science fiction writers have written about that hasn’t come to pass and likely never will. But time travel, faster than light speed, flying cars, artificial gravity, lightsabers, artificial intelligence, and many more ideas have been ingrained in the minds millions and whether it’s possible or not scientists will continue to play with theories until they figure out a way to make it a reality or its proved unequivocally to be impossible. Until then these ideas will remain challenges to be taken up by brilliant minds, in hopes of making a childhood fantasy a reality.
Good science fiction is more than idle speculation, more than predicting what’s to come, it helps create it. It inspires and challenges us and it also warns us of the dangers of progress. This makes science fiction one of the most exciting fiction genre’s because of its potential to shape the future.
I encourage all Science Fiction writers to dream big, reach for the stars, push the boundaries, warn us of the dangers, but remain optimistic, because what you write might help inspire our future.
By day Sarah Sanborn works in a rental store with excavators, chain saws, chairs, dishes, and any number of other exciting objects, but by night—and her days off—she tries to piece together the wild ideas that run through her head into coherent stories. Her favorite place to write is in coffee shops, where she can spy on people for inspiration when she gets stuck. She’s currently working on polishing a Sci-fi/Fantasy novel she wrote last November during the National Novel Writing Month, if all goes according to plan she hopes to publish it in the next year or two. You can follow her blog or follow her on Twitter @LadyOfThePen