Is science fiction always “fiction?”

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October is a month filled with mystery, but there is nothing spookier than looking back and realizing some people actually managed to predict the future. Although they did not realize it at the time, many science fiction writers wrote about certain things that have actually come true today, hundreds of years later. These novels made very good predictions, somehow proving things to come true in the future before they could even be a real concept. This article is meant to provide some thought-provoking ideas about the place the world is in today, and how some science fiction authors managed to write about the future without even realizing it.  

What happens when science fiction is no longer fiction? Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is one such book that has eerily predicted the future. Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash.

Let’s start with some of the medical mysteries of the past, including Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” In 1818, Shelley wrote about dead tissues becoming alive with the power of electricity. This novel depicts one of Halloween’s most famous monsters who was created by the scientist Victor Frankenstein. In creating this monster from scratch, the author managed to predict the idea of transplants being used for medical surgeries. Years later, the kidney was the first human organ transplant, and today, being an organ donor can save people’s lives. Martin Caidin wrote “Cyborg” in 1972, about a pilot who lost almost all of his limbs and vision in one eye after a crash. The scientists then give him two new legs, an eye with a camera and a bionic arm. This book is so titled because the main character becomes a mixture of a man and a machine, which predicted the first bionic leg transplant as a real medical solution 40 years later.  

Now let’s move onto some technological predictions. Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has been progressing very fast, with new inventions and faster modes of life. In 1888, Edward Bellamy wrote the novel “Looking Backward” and predicted the use of credit cards. Imagine the time period of the show “Little House On The Prairie,” because that world did not include any methods of paying other than cash. Today, credit cards are the easiest way of paying, with many people carrying them for their convenience. In the novel, the main character falls asleep and wakes up in the year 2000. After waking up, the people in the year 2000 use “credit” cards to purchase products. Although the book did not fully predict the full concept of credit cards (for they are more like debit cards), credit cards are used everywhere to buy products. Ray Bradbury wrote the novel “Fahrenheit 451” in 1953. Many will remember this novel’s plot, where books are illegal and burned. The characters in this story listen to “seashells” and “thimble radios” in their ears, predicting the existence of earbuds used for listening to audio in their ears today. Another popular device used today is the iPad, which was predicted in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 novel “2001: A Space Odyssey.” It explores the possibilities and dangers of increasing new technology, one of which he describes as a “newspad”, an electronic paper that people read. “Neuromancer,” by William Gibson was written in 1984 and is about a group of criminals who work for an artificial intelligence that tries to break free. This novel resembles the growing impact of cyberspace today, and the idea of computer hackers, something that increases as more of our lives move towards being fully online.  

Since science fiction mostly revolves around space, one would expect some of the predictions to be about the future of space. My father would give anything to travel into space with NASA, so I’m sure a lot of people find space travel exciting because it is something only known to a few well-trained astronauts. In 1726, the novel “Gulliver’s Travels” was written by Jonathon Swift and predicted the fact that Mars has two moons. Let’s not forget that space knowledge is limited to the few people who have actually been able to travel there. Swift never traveled to space, since the first person to do so wasn’t until the 1900s, but he wrote about a traveler who finds different worlds with different people. On one of the worlds, it was found that Mars has two moons. It wasn’t until years later that astronomers found out that Mars has two moons, naming them Phobos and Deimos.  

What happens when science fiction is no longer fiction? “1984” by George Orwell was able to predict the surveillance state. Photo by Sérgio André on Unsplash.

Arguably one of the greatest novels of all time, “1984” by George Orwell predicted the idea that “Big Brother is watching you”. In 1949, it predicted mass censorship, propaganda and an oppressive government that controls everything. The year 1984 has come and gone. As scary as the ideas are, with the increasing technology of today, the novel correctly predicted a world in which the government is always watching, whether you know it or not.  

I want to leave you with one more novel that seemed to predict the future … in the novel “The Wreck Of The Titan” by Morgan Robertson, written in 1898, a British ship sinks in the Atlantic after hitting an iceberg. Sound familiar? It should, because this novel very closely resembles the sinking of the Titanic, even though it was written years before. It correctly describes the largest ship in the world hitting an iceberg and killing most of its passengers due to a lack of lifeboats. The craziest part is that the ship in the novel is named the Titan.  

Science fiction is a genre in which people see something they like and expand on it through writing. As these authors describe ideas in books, they are shaping the future without even realizing it, allowing reality to grow and attempt these new ideas whether we are aware of these connections or not. Many predictions have been made about the future through science fiction novels, so the question I want to leave you with today is: Do you believe some authors had sort of futuristic visions, writing about these ideas in hopes of one day seeing them come true? Or, the scariest idea of them all … is it all just one big coincidence? 

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