The Future, Man

I originally posted this as a FB status, but it seemed to hit a note and I wanted to explore and expand on it.

The other day, I read an article about how anything resembling the Enterprise was many years in the future, and for some reason, it’s been bothering me ever since.

History is full of people saying, “Yeah, haha, that can’t happen for another HUNDRED YEARS!”, usually with the result that this impossible tech shows up within the next couple of years. And that was in the beginning of the technological revolution.

For all of our social ills, our scientific problems, and our problematic governments, we’re in an age where we have possibly more potential than ever before. We have people like Elon Musk and even James Cameron, who have big dreams and the money and connections to make it happen. There are pieces of technology that haven’t been utilized to their fullest, and a huge crop, worldwide, of brilliant people looking to build a new piece of the future. The Internet makes it possible for big dreamers to find support networks, resources, and outlets. We have calls for Martian settlers, tests for anti-grav technology, and biotechnology that would make the SF writers of twenty (TWENTY!) years ago green with envy. And they aren’t claims or projects by crackpots, but by leading scientists and entrepreneurs.

Moreover, we have writers–of novels, movies, games, nonfiction–who are positing and contemplating the technical and social aspects of these new developments, creating an incredibly rich environment of possibilities. I believe that one of the biggest aspects of any new development is the understanding of its effect on the world and its users, and with the so-called ‘soft sciences’ like psychology, sociology, and family sciences slowly gaining recognition and respect, there’s a wider outlet for those examinations than ever.

Dr. Michio Kaku’s “Physics of the Future” talks about how futurist predictions are almost always wrong because they look at the trajectory that things are on at the time, and project that into the future, when, in fact, progress happens in leaps and bounds, plateauing for a while and then springing forward with huge strides.

I know I’ve complained in the past that it seemed like SF’s push and imagination had sort of stalled out and gotten left behind, but in the last couple of years, it seems like that is a hurdle that’s been overcome. This is particularly noticeable in short stories, where the industry is seeing an absolute burst of highly-talented authors. (A lot of those award-winners are heading into novel-length fiction now, and I look forward to seeing what they will add to that field.)

It may be that something like the Enterprise is 30 or 50 or 100 years in our future, but I think we have reached a point where we have to be careful in claiming that anything is too impossible, or too far in our future, because announcements are made weekly about new things once only found in SF.

Besides, isn’t it our job to bring the future right to our doorstep?

Nebula Awards Weekend

The 2011 Nebula awards were presented on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at the Nebula Awards Weekend in Arlington, Virginia. By now, you’ve probably read a list of the winners, but I’ll do a quick recap at the bottom of this post, in case you haven’t.

The convention ran from Thursday until Sunday, but because of other commitments, I was unable to attend the entire convention. This was only my second writers’ convention. I attended my first (World Horror in Salt Lake City, Utah) earlier this year.

I was very nervous about attending WHC, but surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous this weekend. I suspect it’s because I was too excited to finally meet in person several people I’ve known for a while online, namely Jaym Gates, Jake Kerr, and Jamie Todd Rubin. It’s funny. When you talk to people frequently (even if those conversations happen via Twitter, email, or what have you), critique each other’s work and such, you feel like friends already. Meeting in person is simply a formality.

When you’re relatively new to the business, meeting people who are already firmly established is daunting. And more than a bit frightening, to be honest. I did my best to keep my fear firmly tucked inside, but I felt tongue-tied more than once.

At the banquet, I sat next to Jack McDevitt. I may have consumed a glass of wine very rapidly to keep from running away shouting, “I am not worthy to sit at the same table with you, let alone next to you.” And if that wasn’t intimidating enough, I was also seated with Joe and Gay Haldeman, Myke Cole, and editor extraordinaire, Ginjer Buchanan. I may have regaled them with a clever tale regarding my first name, or I may have simply mumbled incoherently. If it was the latter, I hope they will forgive me.

The acceptance speeches of Neil Gaiman and Connie Willis were amazing, as was Astronaut Michael Fincke’s keynote speech. Talk about feeling small and insignificant.

Fear and rambling aside, I had a wonderful time and regret not being able to attend the entire convention, but there’s always next year.

2011 Nebula Award Winners:

Novel: “Among Others”, Jo Walton (Tor)

Novella: “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”, Kij Johnson (Asimov’s 10-11/11)

Novelette: ”What We Found”, Geoff Ryman (F&SF 9-10/11)

Short Story: “The Paper Menagerie”, Ken Liu (F&SF 3-4/11)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation: Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife”

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book: “The Freedom Maze”, Delia Sherman (Big Mouth House)

Solstice Award: Octavia Butler and John Clute

SFWA Service Award: Bud Webster received the

2011 Damon Knight Grand Master Award: Connie Willis

For a full list of all the nominees, please visit  SFWA.