Future Telling Fiction: How Science Fiction Shaped Our Reality

Fiction is a genre stemming from reality. In some way, fiction derives from truth and changes in the eyes of the writer. Whether it be an experience from the writer or a memory from someone else, fiction comes from something we know and changes to become something different.

Science fiction, however, is a type of fiction where we claim to know how current technology and science will transform in a different reality or future. It can be a parallel universe or 1500 years in the future. Yet, the alterations made in science fiction stories are not just musing of an author’s wild imagination. Many of the devices, inventions, and discoveries in the most famous fictional stories have been predictions for real world events.

Today, I will take on a journey through the minds of the best future tellers known to mankind…science fiction writers. We will discuss how questions of the universe and space were answered in stories, years before we actually discovered them.

Jules Verne's From Earth to the Moon

We begin our tour of science fiction predictions with Jules Verne. He was a French writer living in the 1800s and made drastic predictions of space exploration that eventually came true 100 years later. In his book, From Earth to the Moon, Verne described down to mind-boggling detail the trip to the moon.  The launch site and water landing of the capsule are eerily close to what happened in reality. Even the material the capsule was made of (aluminum) and the number of men on the voyage (3) are similar to what we experienced in 1969.  Verne’s book was published in 1865 and he was so precise in his details that the fictional capsule was named Columbiad. Drop the d and you have almost an exact prediction of how man got to the moon.

H.G. Well's The First Men in the Moon

Forty years later, another legendary sci fi writer, H.G. Wells, wrote a similar account of moon landing in the 1901 novel, The First Men in the Moon. While H.G. Wells’ predictions were located more on Earth, we’re hoping his prediction of time travel will soon be upon us.

Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey

The next precognitive writer is Arthur C. Clarke who commented not only in his fiction, but in scientifice journals made predictions about technology. In 1945, he had an idea of communication through satellites that synchronized their orbit with the Earth’s equator (geostationary satellites). The idea was coined first in 1928, but was made popular by Clarke and 20 years later it was made a reality. They are affectionately known as Clarke orbits for his faith in the technology.

Through his book, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke was able to give a realistic experience of what happens to a human body in space (while other science fiction movies over dramatize the event) and even mentions the existence of a black hole on one of Saturn’s moons. Although it is not recognized as such, Clarke comes back to the black hole idea in his story the Black Sun in 1956. Over 10 years before the coining of the term black hole, Clarke manages to use it in his stories as a normal aspect of space life.  He even goes on to predict in 2024, that we will use infrared signals to find an advanced civilization at the center of our galaxy. What is most unsettling about this prediction is that infrared telescopes are being used as we speak to locate stars and planetary bodies, which could someday return with intelligent life.

Now these three men are part of an elite group of science fiction writers who have been able to accurately describe events and inventions that will eventually be created. It is insane to think that black holes and satellites were once figments of a man’s imagination and now they are truths we accept in reality.

To aspiring speculative and science fictions writers, it takes a lot of knowledge to become as legendary as these men. However, it is not impossible to fill their shoes. It is important to focus on what we know now and project what could potentially happen in the future.

I am shocked and proud to know that fiction writers (in essence liars) have been absolved of their mockery because their predictions have come to pass. It is comforting to know that writing  entertains, incites emotions, and helps shape the future of our species.

What do you predict will come to pass in the next year? The next 25? The next 100 years for humanity and our technology?

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Future Telling Fiction: How Science Fiction Shaped Our Reality

  1. Awesome post, I love it! And it’s true, it’s a perfect example of life imitating art, and not the other way around, which is something worth throwing in the faces of those people who dismiss the arts as unimportant!
    I think the next 100 years will be interesting. I think we have a lot of big challenges to face now, and no matter how we deal with those changes, it will make the world a very, very different place. I think actually we’ll see a lot of that happen in the next 25 years, even.
    Mind…I think there’s a LOT of people still patiently waiting on the invention of flying skateboards! :P

  2. I definitely am waiting for a hoverboard because I’m lazy and want to fly everywhere. I thought it was so cool that the idea of black holes actually became well known before scientists even decided to call them black holes. Science fiction has been such an enormous gateway towards the future that we don’t give enough appreciation.

    • Yeah, that is pretty cool about the black holes, I didn’t know that one. I once saw a book that was all about scientific theories that have stemmed from science fiction, as well as other forms of art. But stupid me didn’t buy the book, then that whole store chain shut down (Borders), and I forget completely what it was called. I need to try and find it I think…

      • It will come to you. If not, Google it. I was looking for a book I read several years ago in my school library. Didn’t remember the title or the author. I only remembered the subject, which was a love story between a Roman soldier and a Druid woman about to become a priestess. Typed in a few keywords into Google and BAM right there in front of me :)

  3. Very interesting post… I would add that Jules Verne also wrote 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and H G Wells wrote about future warfare, both of which turned out accurate predictions.
    As to the future… I think a lot of current hard science ficiton is written around extrapolation of current trends. What we are missing are the cross-connects that engineeering will eventually deliver. Also, there are a lot of new phenomena being discovered in the labs, in nature and in astronomy. Their implications have yet to fully fathomed out. I reckon the world we live in 25 years time will be totally different from what we anticipate now. But here is one prediction… hard science fiction is going to emerge as an even more popular genre to read: partly because a lot of students are now taking up engineering in preference to other subjects; and partly because I think there is a shock wave of new stuff going to come out of the science fiction coming in the next few years.

    • I agree with your prediction and I wish I had a B.S. to write science fiction better than I do already. For the article, though, I just focused on predictions about space because there were so many predictions that came true I would have been writing for days to get them all down. So, I had to narrow it down by a subject. It’s just amazing to know that what someone came up with his imagination actually came to pass in his lifetime. Like Arthur C. Clarke having the satellites’ orbits named after him. Must have been an amazing accomplishment.

  4. Fascinating read!
    On the flip side, it is rather funny when you read an old book or see an old sci-fi movie and realize that we have already lived through the futuristic time they were portraying, and it was nothing at all like the forecast. Bladerunner springs to mind – I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but I am pretty sure that things aren’t going to be that bad by then. 1984 is another one.

    • It’s true, sometimes the things we expect to happen do the exact opposite. I’m still waiting for my hoverboard although they have a few more years to create it. Although the comments I will make about 1984, he describes ear buds, the earphones that fit inside your ears. He describes them as little seashells, but predicted them nonetheless. In addition, there was some discussion of video chatting and other things we have today. On the whole, I am glad that we don’t live in a world with 1984 because I don’t want my books burned yet.

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