The future is now

The problem with writing SF in the 21st century is that every time you think you’ve invented something cool and futuristic, it already exists.

My debut novel “Stellarnet Rebel” is being released in January 2012. But it takes place fifty years in the future. Overpopulation and limited resources mean plant- and animal-derived clothing is expensive. So I thought, how about recycled clothing, woven from polymer threads? That would be cool.

We won’t have to wait until 2062. Check out Eco-Fi.

OK, but what if that fabric was antibiotic? THAT would be cool. No more stanky drawers in the future. Maybe even a few less skin conditions and infections.

Well, we have that, too. Enter Dermasilk and HaloShield.

Even more epic, wouldn’t it be cool if we could program our clothing? The same shirt could be 256 different colors, or we could change the picture on it the way we change our screensavers.

Done. It’s called Lumalive.

Ah, but here’s one we don’t have (or so I thought). Programmable food labels. Your name tickers across the whiskey bottle and everyone else knows if they drink a finger, they lose a finger.

Then I saw someone playing with a Medea Vodka label at last year’s NASFiC.

What if everything was embedded with interactivity, not just clothing and labels? Imagine if you could access the Net through not only through your smartphone or laptop–but the walls, the floors, and the table top. No need for keyboards, a mouse, or a monitor any more.

Coming soon. Corning is on it.

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10 comments

  1. My kids’ school just took delivery of a whole bunch of smart tables. You’re right – it’s getting harder and harder to come up with future tech.

  2. Like you say, there’s not much they can’t do now. Short of the trippy Star Trek tech, it’s tough to come up with *useable* science applications (for everyday life) that haven’t been either done to death in SF or made for real somewhere.

    I came up with a futuristic headset device for my latest WIP, putting as many bells and whistles on it as I could think of…and after a bit of research, I discovered it had ALL been invented already. Every last gizmo. Of course, not all of it is in commercial use, but we’re SO living our SF right now.

    If they ever master time travel, I’m officially retiring from SF writing. In fact, I say kill all scientists, if that’s the only way we can make shit up in peace. They’re too smart. Damn them all to hell!

    1. Yeah, what he said! Darn smarty-pants scientists!

  3. And here I thought I was the only one who was worried about this.

    Let’s not kill ALL the scientists. I’m married to one :)

    1. Ha! We’ll let your hubby live. But tell him and his colleagues to stop being so darn clever! *grin*

  4. Yeah, I worry that my imagination won’t be able to rival what scientists are actually doing. Most of my futuristic stories involve some sort of technological regression or frontier sensibility, which gives me a little breathing room.

    1. I think that’s part of the lure of Steampunk, lately. It’s retro-SF or alternate reality.

      This is a really interesting article about SF in general, and the challenge of being a visionary writer in the 21st century.

      http://www.worldchanging.com/archives//001065.html

  5. Ok, you guys are scaring me. Frankly if I can’t buy it at wallmart – it’s still sci-fi to most people. I guess it depends how far into thefuture you are writing.

    Since my next one is a couple hundred years ahead I’ll be thinking about this, but no too much – I already have reasons to be afraid to set my fingers on the keyboards!

    1. I think that’s a great point, Lilly. That’s why I always liked the show Firefly. It depicted a universe in which cool technology existed… floating islands, laser guns, genetic manipulation… but not everyone had it or could afford it (or could understand it). I think that’s much more realistic than just assuming (cough cough STAR TREK cough) that everyone has a replicator, everyone is peaceful and reasonable, everyone understands particle physics, etc.

      1. So the challenge for a SF or SFR writer becomes not necessarily inventing new things… but figuring out how the cutting edge things we have would be used (if at all), how they would impact the day-to-day lives of the characters, what effect they would have on other aspects of life we take for granted, and how they figure into the plot.

        I was just thinking today, as I did the laundry, that my characters in Stellarnet Rebel never do laundry. For one thing, water is a very limited resource. But also, their clothes are embedded with nanotechnology that would repel stains and kill germs, and the fabric is recyclable. So, all they do is wear it until they’re sick of it, then toss it in the recycle bin and buy something else. I’m so jealous. lol

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