What is it about science and the future and how the science fiction of the past (pre-1950s) almost never could encapsulate the superior scientific innovation and discovery of its near future?
And, like most science fiction at that time they considered that our threats would come from outer space.
I guess that’s why I like a lot of sci-fi centered around man’s bastardry to man.
It is marvelous and wickedly magnificent to look at some cover art and illustration for the pulp and not-so-pulpy science ficton, images that not only have a certain look and feel, but also a smell, a particular bookstore/basement pulp-paper-not-exposed-in-forty-years smell.
Image: Steampunk Eye–that enormous ship, governed by a long, long pole with a small box with an an eye in it, being raised and lowered on pulleys:
Science fiction pioneer H.G. Wells conjured some futuristic visions that haven’t (yet) come true: a machine that travels back in time, a man who turns invisible, and a Martian invasion that destroys southern England.
But for a man born 150 years ago, many of Wells’s other predictions about the modern world have proven amazingly prescient.
Wells, born in 1866, was trained as a scientist, a rarity among his literary contemporaries, and was perhaps the most important figure in the genre that would become science fiction. Writers in this tradition have a history not just of imagining the future as is might be, but of inspiring others to make it a reality.
In 2012, Smithsonian.com published a top ten list of inventions inspired by sci-fi, ranging from Robert H. Goddard’s liquid-fuelled rocket to the cell phone. “Wells’s was an imagination in a hurry, he wanted to get to the future sooner than it was going to happen. That’s why he’s so predictive in his writing,” explains Simon James, head of the English Studies department at Durham University and the editor of the official journal of the H.G. Wells society .
Wells’s ideas have also endured because he was a standout storyteller, James adds. No less a writer than Joseph Conrad agreed. “I am always powerfully impressed by your work. Impressed is the word, O Realist of the Fantastic!” he wrote Wells after reading The Invisible Man.
Here are some of the incredible H.G. Wells predictions that have come true, as well as some that haven’t—at least not yet. Phones, Email, and Television.
In Men Like Gods (1923), Wells invites readers to a futuristic utopia that’s essentially Earth after thousands of years of progress.
In this alternate reality, people communicate exclusively with wireless systems that employ a kind of co-mingling of voicemail and email-like properties.
“For in Utopia, except by previous arrangement, people do not talk together on the telephone,” he writes. “A message is sent to the station of the district in which the recipient is known to be, and there it waits until he chooses to tap his accumulated messages.
And any that one wishes to repeat can be repeated. Then he talks back to the senders and dispatches any other messages he wishes.
The transmission is wireless.”Wells also imagined forms of future entertainment.
In When the Sleeper Wakes (1899), the protagonist rouses from two centuries of slumber to a dystopian London in which citizens use wondrous forms of technology like the audio book, airplane and television—yet suffer systematic oppression and social injustice.
Read on further via The Many Futuristic Predictions of H.G. Wells That Came True | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
Photograph: George Orwell at work on his trusty old typewriter. (Public Domain).
The effect of Nineteen Eighty-Four on our cultural and linguistic landscape has not been limited to either the film adaptation starring John Hurt and Richard Burton, with its Nazi-esque rallies and chilling soundtrack, nor the earlier one with Michael Redgrave and Edmond O’Brien.
Apart from pop-culture renditions of some of the novel’s themes, aspects of its language have been leapt upon by libertarians to describe the curtailment of freedom in the real world by politicians and officials – alarmingly, nowhere and never more often than in contemporary Britain.
George owes his own adjective to this book alone and his idea that well being is crushed by restrictive, authoritarian and untruthful government.
Big Brother (is watching you)
A term in common usage for a scarily omniscient ruler long before the worldwide smash-hit reality-TV show was even a twinkle in its producers’ eyes. The irony of societal hounding of Big Brother contestants would not have been lost on George Orwell.
Some hotels have refused to call a guest bedroom number 101 – rather like those tower blocks that don’t have a 13th floor – thanks to the ingenious Orwellian concept of a room that contains whatever its occupant finds most impossible to endure. Like Big Brother, this has spawned a modern TV show: in this case, celebrities are invited to name the people or objects they hate most in the world.
An accusation often levelled at the current government by those who like it least is that they are trying to tell us what we can and cannot think is right and wrong. People who believe that there are correct ways to think find themselves named after Orwell’s enforcement brigade.
See “Thought Police” above. The act or fact of transgressing enforced wisdom.
For Orwell, freedom of expression was not just about freedom of thought but also linguistic freedom. This term, denoting the narrow and diminishing official vocabulary, has been used ever since to denote jargon currently in vogue with those in power.
Hypocrisy, but with a twist. Rather than choosing to disregard a contradiction in your opinion, if you are double thinking, you are deliberately forgetting that the contradiction is there.
This subtlety is mostly overlooked by people using the accusation of “doublethink” when trying to accuse an adversary of being hypocritical – but it is a very popular word with people who like a good debate along with their pints in the pub.
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
Seventy years after the publication of Orwell’s masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, that crystal first line sounds as natural and compelling as ever.
But when you see the original manuscript, you find something else: not so much the ringing clarity, more the obsessive rewriting, in different inks, that betrays the extraordinary turmoil behind its composition.
Probably the definitive novel of the 20th century, a story that remains eternally fresh and contemporary, and whose terms such as “Big Brother”,“doublethink” and “newspeak” have become part of everyday currency, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been translated into more than 65 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide, giving George Orwell a unique place in world literature.
“Orwellian” is now a universal shorthand for anything repressive or totalitarian, and the story of Winston Smith, an everyman for his times, continues to resonate for readers whose fears for the future are very different from those of an English writer in the mid-1940s.
The circumstances surrounding the writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four make a haunting narrative that helps to explain the bleakness of Orwell’s dystopia.
Here was an English writer, desperately sick, grappling alone with the demons of his imagination in a bleak Scottish outpost in the desolate aftermath of the second world war.
The idea for Nineteen Eighty-Four, alternatively, “The Last Man in Europe”, had been incubating in Orwell’s mind since the Spanish civil war.
His novel, which owes something to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian fiction We, probably began to acquire a definitive shape during 1943-44, around the time he and his wife, Eileen adopted their only son, Richard.
Orwell himself claimed that he was partly inspired by the meeting of the Allied leaders at the Tehran Conference of 1944.
Isaac Deutscher, an Observer colleague, reported that Orwell was “convinced that Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt consciously plotted to divide the world” at Tehran.
A daguerrotype of Poe made several months before his death in 1849.
Posted By Eliza Strickland.
During the waning months of 1847, Edgar Allan Poe sat at his desk with a tortoiseshell cat draped around his shoulders and dreamed the universe into being.
Poe believed the book he wrote in that feline-festooned state to be his best work, and he expected its impact to resonate through the ages. It did not.
The book, Eureka: A Prose Poem, was largely ignored at the time, and has been dismissed by most Poe scholars as the ramblings of an armchair cosmologist.
Yet in that book, Poe presented a spooky intuitive description of the Big Bang theory more than 70 years before astrophysicists came up with the idea.
At the time, Poe lived in the rural village of Fordham (now part of the Bronx) in a small cottage suffused with a miasma of melancholy.
His beloved wife, Virginia, whom he had taken as a child bride when she was just 13, had died in that cottage earlier in the year, leaving Poe in despair.
With life and death heavy on his mind, he turned his thoughts to the origin of the universe—and to its ultimate fate.
He began by contemplating gravity, which he defined as “the fact that every atom attracts every other atom,” and he then wondered about the source of that attraction. His startling conclusion was that matter’s natural state is “oneness,” and that the universe began in that state.
But the “primordial particle” was blown apart, seeding space with atoms that long to be reunited. Here’s the key passage in which Poe describes his version of the Big Bang:
Let us now endeavor to conceive what Matter must be, when, or if, in its absolute extreme of Simplicity. Here the Reason flies at once to Imparticularity — to a particle — to one particle — a particle of one kind — of one character — of one nature — of one size — of one form — a particle, therefore, “without form and void” — a particle positively a particle at all points — a particle absolutely unique, individual, undivided, and not indivisible only because He who created it, by dint of his Will, can by an infinitely less energetic exercise of the same Will, as a matter of course, divide it….
The willing into being the primordial particle, has completed the act, or more properly the conception, of Creation. We now proceed to the ultimate purpose for which we are to suppose the Particle created — that is to say, the ultimate purpose so far as our considerations yet enable us to see it — the constitution of the Universe from it, the Particle.