Patrick G Cox

The Challenges of writing SciFi ...

Writing SciFi presents a number of challenges these days, not least the speed of technological advance! When I first started writing seriously in this genre (now almost eighteen years ago), personal computers, were only just established as everyone's indispensable aid, mobile phones were just that, a phone using wireless technology, and "palm pilots" were a novelty. Tablets were still in the future, and pocket sized CD Players were still the way to carry music about. Within a very short time of my starting to write about ships managed and run by AI computer systems, almost all of that had changed.

Today's mobile phone is essentially a fully fledged computer in its own right. In fact I'm pretty sure that the RAM, Processing capacity and storage memory on my current phone is around three times that of the laptop I was lugging around in 2000! So how to describe what you think the technology 200 years hence will look like? 

Once upon a time you could read up all sorts of magazines on the latest technology (think Popular Mechanics, Popular Science on several more that were the sort of magazines I read back in the 1960s and 70s when various uncles, friends and others passed them on) and, using a bit of imagination, work out what something might look like in future. Assuming, of course, you chose the particular technology most likely to survive and evolve. Ah yes, anyone remember VCR Tapes? Or Betamax? How about those big television tubes? Or the computer terminals using the same technology? All of them gone in the last 18 years and replaced by flat screens using LED/LCD or Plasma ...

Right, so what will be using in 200 years time? Tricorders? Flip open communicators? I suspect that for some things, we will have to continue to use some form of screen, but, for others a 3D projection may replace a screen altogether. The real problem is us. It comes down to a question of what can WE adapt to using and how do we use it. Our eyes and ears are a part of the limitation, our brains can probably adapt to the sort of information processing a lot more readily than our "aural" and "visual" sensory equipment, so now a SciFi writer who likes to keep things realistic and possible is in really tricky territory.

Add in to this that we are already developing nano machines and experimenting with the development of computers and components based on quantum technology, and you see the challenge. I begin to think there is a PhD in this for me just trying to get my head round where the technologies are likely to be next year, never mind in 200!

So, there is the challenge. I hope that, in ten, twenty or a hundred years someone coming across one of my books will say (as I often do with Asimov and Clarke) "Hmm, I wonder how he got that worked out?" I suppose a crystal ball would help, but I don't have one, so -- back to researching and trying to pick a winner ...


Interesting point, Mr Hodges. The limitations of our genetics and biological functions are I suspect the next frontier.
Interesting that you talk about the limitations of the aural and visual senses. I believe my olfactory is very powerful in terms of memory. Imagine new technology devising a way to tap into our sense of smell, touch and taste?

Leave a comment: