Science Fiction Story Starters: Writing About the Future
|Idea 1. The Singularity.
Vernor Vinge has developed the concept of a moment in time in the near future where things will be changing so fast that it is possible to predict what things will be like.
Moore’s law is a principle of technology that states, in general, that computers will double in power ever 18 months. This law has held true since the first computers. Some time in the next 20 years, if Moore’s Law holds true, there will be computers smarter than humans. (And 18 months later, computers will be twice as smart).
At the some point, according to Vinge, technology will spike. At this “singularity” we will enter the next phase of human development and move, perhaps, to a trans-human state.
We can expect, if Vinge is correct, a day around 2015 when everything changes. All things will quickly become possible as super intelligent machines cope with questions that have stumped mankind. We will be able to live forever. We will be able to extend ourselves and become as intelligent as the machines. We will know no disease or pain or want. We will be in a kind of heaven on earth.
What is the downside of this? What part of our soul do we sell to achieve heaven on earth? What happens to religions when death is millions of years off? What happens to morality when we can have whatever we want without paying for it in any way? Will mankind enter its adulthood or enter infantile senility?
What if the machines decide that humans aren’t worth bringing along. Will we be wiped out? Will the earth be a big park where humans are set free to roam? Will benevolent machines be left behind as caretakers as our mind’s children roam the stars?
Is the singularity really armageddon?
What about those who don’t want to enter the brave new world? What about the Amish and other anti-technology groups? Will truly religious people refuse to look at this new salvation?
Will hate and greed and jealousy and lust still exist after the singularity. What does a super computer hate? Will all emotions grow or just the positive ones? Will there be emotions after the singularity?
Will we meet aliens that have already gone through their own singularity?
Are their aliens out there ready to greet us when we open the door of the singularity?
|Idea 2. The smooth road.
Most people like to believe that the future will be just like now only more so. We, after all, are very much the same as the people of 100 years ago except that we have better gadgets.
This tends to be simplistic. The technology of the future may cause complications much more interesting than the replacement of music boxes with DVD players. Each new technology interacts, not only with the technology of the past, but synergistically with other technologies of the future.
A smooth road means the future will be a more advanced world than our own and the future is more or less a straight line from here on.
What will the changes be in Computers, Technology, Medicine, etc.? If the future is a smooth road, then certain basic things will not be solved. Computers will reach a limit in speed and power. Life can be extended, but there will be no cure for death. Things will go faster, but there will not be a way to travel to the stars for a long time. Eventually things will stagnate as the limits of science are reached.
Smooth road stories are probably the majority of the stories about the future. Here are some ideas.
Malthusian population growth. What happens when the earth is full and cannot support the huge population that will eventually come about. What about mandatory birth control like there exists now in China? Will we build huge habitats in space? Will the moon eventually hold as many people as the earth under transparent domes?
Cool new gadgets. After cell phones, what next? And then what next in 50 years? Will we have 3D TV’s and will we have internet so fast that we can create holographic environments to share with people all around the world just as now there are game playing sites and chat rooms? Will we enhance ourselves with interactive brain ports? Will mechanical body parts be better than cloned originals? What will be the fashions of a future with intelligent fabric that can move and change in strange ways?
What will the politics be like in the future once poverty is eliminated? What benefit could be gained by new government programs and raised taxes? How will politics work once cash is eliminated and there is a record of each dollar that changes hands? How do politicians hide bribes?
Will politics move to the religious right or to the liberal left? What will happen to the fundamentalists whose children are seduced by a way of life which is extremely rich in stimulation but devoid of spirituality?
What will happen to the individual (the essence of the SF character) when a man has lost the ability to be heard “above the madding crowd”?
|Idea 3. The Coming Holocaust.
Before there was a TV movie called “The Holocaust” describing the horrors of World War II, the word meant a huge disaster, usually natural. The future of the singularity or the smooth future will be delayed or interrupted by some devastating event.
The holocaust may be a war or a plague or an asteroid. Mankind might not be wiped out and the remnants of civilization will move back into barbarism. In this post holocaust future, some technology may survive. Stories are all variations on the search for rediscovery and the adaptation of the human race to the primitive world.
First, you’ve got to live through the holocaust. In my family, when the nuke hits or the plague starts, the plan is to pack the cats in the truck and head north-west towards Niagara Falls. The winds around New York are from the North and West so if we keep the eye of the wind in our faces, the the prevailing winds will be pushing the bad stuff back and away from us. We all meet at my brothers house in Rochester, NY and plan the next move.
How will your characters survive the disaster? Will they go to ground and live in the cellar. I had an uncle who had a bomb shelter and he kept it stocked through out the 50’s and 60’s. Will your character run? Will he be part of secret government installation? Is he a research scientist with access to an antidote to the biological weapons?
Are you characters in a space shuttle watching earth destroy itself? Are the in a space station? Can your hero escape to space?
You can also make the holocaust a thing of the past. If it is the near past then you have modern men struggling with a damaged world, salvaging some things and learning to live without others. If it is in the distant past then the modern world might just be a memory.
What technology will survive? How will small societies be able to repair radios and medical equipment? How will a broken world generate electricity? How long will computers work when spare parts become scarce? Who will keep the water flowing? How ingenious are we? Can we keep a good part of the good life or will it be slow slide backwards? Can man turn it around and come back stronger than ever?
Will we be driving 200 hundred year old Volkswagen bugs 200 years from now?
In the distant future will a rising mankind excavate old ruins as archeologists now excavate Roman ruins or Egyptian tombs? What will archeologist makes of the strange things in our homes and offices? Will they guess what a urinal was used for? What about the rusted hulks of cars?
Will the scientist of the future be able to figure out how to listen to the music on a CD?