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The Future and the Past

Posted by Charles Gray on October 23, 2014

The Future.

The Future.

This is from Reddit, the view of a child in 1948, and it’s important for science fiction writers– as well as historians.

He’s looking into the future– you can see it. This isn’t normal, this thing in a store window, something he likely can’t afford, that projects live television across the entire world. In less than twenty years, this child, now an adult, will watch as the descendants of this TV help change and mold our entire culture– showing the battlefields of Vietnam and the struggles of the civil right’s era for anyone to watch. Would the March on Birmingham had the same effect in the days before TV? I doubt it.

But equally, he’s looking into our past.   Children born today, at least in the First World, are likely to not even really conceive of an place without interactive media. The idea of waiting for an episode, and not simply viewing it as you please, of not gathering around the TV to listen to Walter Cronkite,  or watch Adam 12 (Or the A-team)…. inconceivable.  The idea of not being able to use the same device you watch TV on to talk to your friends via Skype or any one of a dozen other utilities? Impossible!  There are children today who have friends they have never met, who don’t even live in the same nation– something like that would have been utterly unimaginable to our ancestors.

Why is this important for writers?  It’s important to remember that when writing about far distant times or far away places, we need to remember that you don’t have to go very far back at all to see a world that was unrecognizable to our modern day eyes.  The child watching the TV in the store is seeing his future, but our past, not simply in degree but in kind.  In some respects, it’s an even more alien world than stories with rayguns and vampires walking around.



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