When you’re writing a story set in the future, it’s hard to think beyond the limits of our current technology. This is essential, however, if you want your story to survive the passage of time.
I am currently reading a Star Trek Original Series novel that was written in 1984. The Original Series universe featured a lot of technology that I would have killed to have in 1984. Some of it has finally been invented for us today, and for me, it’s not a moment too soon. Back in 1984, I was dreaming of how great life would be if we had some of those cool things. Apparently, however, the author of this novel didn’t imagine how her life would be different if she had access to Original Series technology, and this lack of imagination caused her characters to do some things that, today, we would find extremely odd.
I don’t want to identify the novel or give too many details, because overall it’s a good book and I would hate to spoil an important part of the plot. I think I’m safe in giving the following example, however.
Two characters take a moonlight hike in the desert. Mr. Starfleet is not deliberately trying to be out of touch with anyone. They are two hours on foot from the nearest city when Mr. Starfleet has a medical emergency. He must wait alone in the desert, trying not to pass out and get eaten by animals, while his companion hikes two hours back to the city and gets help.
Wait — WHAT?
What would YOU take on a moonlight hike into the desert, knowing that your destination was two hours from civilization, you were going to climb some hills, and the place featured carnivorous animals? What would you probably have on you anyway, even if you were going to sit in a garden with a kitten?
Your cell phone, right? Even though your cell might not work in the middle of nowhere, you know it would probably work near the middle of nowhere. And a Starfleet communicator is, of course, about a thousand times more useful.
Mr. Starfleet did not lose his communicator. It wasn’t stolen. He didn’t accidentally leave it behind. He didn’t search around for it and say, “Damn! I left my communicator in my other pants!” He didn’t even wish he had it, and his companion didn’t have one, and didn’t ask if he had one. It never occurred to him to wish he had a way to instantly call for rescue, because the author didn’t have the imagination to think her characters would want to carry communicators when they were on shore leave.
Now, you may be saying, “I don’t think this example has anything to do with me. It’s just the case of an author not understanding the Star Trek universe.”
Well, it’s more than that. A world “of the future,” a world with very advanced technology, has different norms for communications, economic transactions, leisure time and medical treatment than we do. From the perspective of a citizen of 1984, we are currently living in a world “of the future.” If you are old enough, think of how very differently we handle the details of our daily lives now than then.
When you are creating your own “world of the future,” take some time to think about the technology of ordinary life. Not the splashy stuff that impresses all the aliens. The stuff the characters use so often that they don’t think about it anymore.
If this technology existed, how would the characters use it?
How would they want to use it, even if it weren’t possible?
Would they try to use it that way, anyway?
How would you use that technology?
If this technology were in your own neighborhood right now, how would good citizens use it? How would criminals use it?
How would it be regulated? Don’t blindly apply our regulations to your story.
If it’s not available to everyone, why not? Don’t blindly apply the barriers we have to technology use in our society today to your story.
What are the luxuries and necessities in your story, not our current world?
Your story will believable twenty-five years from now if you just think big!
Have questions? Please ask! The comment section is below!