Clarkian Magic

in science fiction

I live in somebody’s fictional future. Science fiction writers follow a process. First, they decide where their story will be on the spectrum of happiness-utopia or dystopia? Second, they construct a narrative history which links here and there. And finally, the writer exaggerate their made-up tomorrow for dramatic effect.

The writer makes sure you know that This Is The Future. Their future. If the setting wasn’t enough by itself, the cast of larger-than-life and self-consciously future characters hammer the point home with their glittering silver jumpsuits, nutrient pills, cyber implants and fancy made-up words. They inculcate a dramatic sense of wonder, future shock, difference and Not Now.

Truth is, now is now and now is normal. Death and taxes are still inevitable. Whatever we grow up with is normal, however the fuck strange it looks in any other context. Take aliens. For the sake of the story, most science fiction describes alien life in contexts that are uncomfortably Up Close and Personal. In fiction, somebody cracks faster-than-light travel, or otherwise makes the Long Hard Journey Across Space. Either way, aliens turn up on our doorsteps in order to invade, meet, greet, teach or fuck us. Maybe all of the above.

Real alien life will be small and far away, enough that, after we find them, the story of how we found them will be “dumb blind fucking luck.” They won’t change anything either. Take Tabby’s Star, KIC 8462852.

We will find aliens and nothing will change because they are so far away. They’ll answer a philosophical question or two, sure, but, we cannot ever talk to, visit, copulate with or otherwise in any way learn more about them.

I lead with this because I live in a digitally-interconnected global society. We are more at peace now than we have ever been before in history. Most major economies have moved toward a post-industrial base. Powerful interests have begun to recognize the necessity of environmental stewardship at a planetary scale. There remain fundamental-and maybe unsolvable-problems, but let’s stop for a moment to give ourselves a pat on the back. We did this. We created an astonishing science fiction future that deserves to be pointed at wondered over.

Wat een (Bergachtig) Dag!

in ireland

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