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What Science Fiction Got Wrong

Science Fiction is limited only by the imagination. Since its conception, authors of science fiction have looked to the future and dreamed about what it might look like. Sometimes, there predictions are spot on. The idea of audio-visual communication sprung from late 19th century ideas and has now become an essential part of reality. Or Star Trek's communication and Tricoder devices, which have shaped the development of cell phones and remote diagnostics. In many ways, science fiction is the philosophy of the future.


Of course, it's fallen short too. There are a number of predictions and ideas which while common, are often not explained in a satisfactory way. In fact, they fly contrary to any practical reasoning.


1) Tyranny, Empires, Mega-corporations

Enforcing any kind of sizable kingdom in a time where space-travel is commonly available becomes increasingly difficult. When FTL is finally achievable, different sects, factions, religions are able to travel to other planets. Any corporation, tyranny or Empire that attempts to establish itself and enforce it's principles will find it extremely difficult to manage an entire world space and prevent people from simply leaving and finding some other planet or station to colonize. Imagine enforcing this over multiple planets and over any sustainable amount of time? Perhaps James Blish, Jr. and Ian M. Banks had this particular aspect right. It seems to me the best way to achieve a multi-system power is through mutual cooperation and support. Although this is again, nothing enforceable simply due to the large distances and number of planets which could be settled should differences arrive.


2) Holographic Interface

This is a particularly annoying thing to watch on television. An officer operating a ship by randomly pulling and pushing back translucent holographic controls. Not only would it be difficult to actually see these things against no background, but insanely confusing. If you pull or push or slide the wrong holographic control the affects on a spaceship or station could be disastrous. There is a reason airplane pilots prefer tactile/mechanical controls in their craft. It's simply easier to look at a straight out console and have switches than it is to run across a touch screen. Holographic devices are infinitely more difficult than touch screens if they're like the ones featured in the recent Star Trek: Picard series. When you're piloting a ship or doing some other delicate or important duty, then it's best to keep even complex things as simple as possible.


3) Flying Cars

Well, yes - these do exist. But on the scale you might see watching Blade Runner or The 5th Element, it's unlikely that such metropolises with nice and orderly lanes of flying cars will ever happen. Automated or not, the sheer volume of cars and the necessity of thinking in four dimensions with an added up and down orientation would make steering hazardous at the best. The number of accidents could only be avoided if cars were automated and only if every car were so. But plugging in individual destinations would make it trickier still.


So when predicting the future- there are some wonders which seem like we might be better off without. As writers, the best thing we can do, where reasonable explanations of how we attain such wonders are not attainable, is to avoid being stuck in the box of what we expect science-fiction to look like. Cars, holographic interfaces, galactic empires have all become common tropes in the genre. Not necessarily a bad thing, except they are common tropes which run counter to practicality and exist only as default, or for budgetary purposes.


I challenge our readers to imagine a future that has not yet been described. To avoid these tropes and to work on something 'new'. Although, as they say, nothing is new under the sun, some ideas are newer than others and sometimes all it really takes is looking at something old from a new perspective.


That's my short rant anyway. Until next time. Remember, you're amazing and talented. Never give up!


-Tristan Evarts

Editor-in-chief, Utopia Science Fiction

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