Courtesy of xkcd.
It’s occurred to me only recently that there’s probably a reason why we haven’t seen the next big “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” in recent history – speculative fiction has officially reached a point where it’s significantly harder to imagine what the future might be like with any real chance of impressing the viewer. Or, for that matter, demonstrating advancement that makes a practical difference (“Is Better”) without being advanced for the sole sake of being advanced (What makes energy weapons better than traditional guns? Sci-fi writers have to think about these things).
Why? Well, frankly, because any number of the gadgets I carry with me to school every day is practically something out of Star Trek as it is. My jailbroken iPod already feels more advanced than the PADD (Personal Access Display Device, unless I’ve forgotten my Trek-isms) both in terms of interface and in terms of information retrieval. 50 years ago, it would have looked absolutely magical; even knowing that the underlying technology is already obsolete, it’s still pretty impressive.
(On the other hand, that paper-thin touch based computer display featured on Andromeda still looks awesome – but we’re probably only a year or two away from it now.)
I was out with a friend a month or two ago, and we were using the GPS on his Android phone to figure out where we needed to go for ice cream, and it was about then that this clicked for me. I turned to him and said, “When exactly did we go to bed and wake up in the future?”
Oddly enough, this realization hasn’t soured me on Sci-fi in the least – though it has heightened my appreciation of “plausible” sci-fi, like Stargate. The “world behind the curtain” approach to fantasy and science fiction works wonders with its feeling of, “this could be happening right now, and you wouldn’t know.” Harry Potter did the same thing, and it was (for lack of a better word) fantastic. Even Star Wars saves itself through clever use of, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….” but as I’ve said before, Star Wars isn’t actually science fiction – it’s a fantasy story set against a science fiction backdrop.
That said, there’s still a lot to love about Star Trek and its vision of a future where Earth has learned that we all should just get along, where we’ve overcome all our stereotypes about race, creed, or gender and crafted our own little utopia – freedom from disease, plenty of peace, prosperity, work for everyone and (thanks in part to holodecks, replicator technology, and abundant free power) a world where no one really wants for anything. . . except maybe adventure. Hence, Starfleet.
But then, I’m an idealist. It’s one of the reasons I like comic books.
I’m sorry for all the non-RPG content lately; I’ve been having so much of my attention pulled away by school and all the “real world” stuff that I can’t focus when I sit down for the fun stuff. I hope you won’t mind if I wax a little philosophical rather than skip out on writing altogether; I’ll be back to the game stuff again, soon.
Thanks for putting up with me.