Anyone who’s ever written or read scifi knows about this problem.  Predicting the future is not a simple skill set, simply because humanity is often difficult to predict.  For example, at the birth of the automobile, the electric car was actually the superior model to the steam and gasoline cars.  Electric vehicles had many advantages over their competitors: they were quiet, you didn’t have the scent of gasoline blowing back on you as you drove, you didn’t have to crank them to get them started, and you didn’t have to change gears.  Steam cars didn’t need to change gears either but if you had that car in a cold climate you often had a long time to wait to get it started.  Anyone looking at the vehicle market in the early 1900’s could have easily envisioned a logical progression of electric cars into the future, but they would have been wrong.

As the roaring 20’s approached, roadways improved, gasoline became cheaper, and our good friend Henry Ford invented the assembly line.  This meant that the gasoline vehicles not only became the affordable choice, but since the electric vehicles did not have the superior range needed to travel those fancy new roads between cities, the demand for shorter range electric vehicles declined.  Plus, if you ran out of gas on the way to your neighboring city, no problem: pull out that spare gas can, fill ‘er up and go on your merry way.  But what happens when you run out of charge on your battery?  You can bring a spare battery, sure, but it’s not as easy as the gas can method.  Plus, gas was CHEAP, and to top it all off, the electric starter had come along eliminating that annoying need to crank.

The moral of the story?  If you ever want to persuade someone, you can often do so just by hitting their wallets and appealing to their laziness. 😉 Little cynical I suppose, but people are people and thinking along these lines can help you make reasonable, believable choices as well as inaccurate ones.

So what does this mean to a science fiction writer?  Consider science fact before you write your science fiction and put your world through a logical, fun progression. Would a telepathic race need to learn how to use speech? How would a blind race learn about the stars? Consider your fiction society’s values and goals, and project them on the world you’ve created. Do your end items make sense?  Are you prepared to be right or wrong?  Are you prepared to have a really cool idea and have it get published or manufactured before YOU get published, or have that idea manifest AFTER and be the one who inspired its creation?

In my own writing, I’ve also put together technologies based on other science fiction novels. Many authors do. The Odin panel, which looks remarkably like an iPad, I actually dreamed up about 14 years before the iPad came out because I loved the idea of the computer “desks” from Ender’s Game.  I wonder if the folks from Apple did, too.  And why not?  After all, the cell phone’s birth was inspired by science fiction – star trek to be precise. Star Trek also inspired NASA and social morality in its own way. What will my novel be the precursor for? Who knows. Probably nothing so fantastic. I am no Jules Verne, but I like to think sometimes that if I had actually gotten my novel out there a little sooner when the idea was still young, perhaps I could have inspired something like the iPad myself.

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