Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The future of writing about the future

I've always been fascinated by the ability of science fiction writers to look into the crystal ball of their imaginations and build the world as it may be in some future decade, century or even millenia.

I've often heard people criticize science fiction as a genre because they feel some of the ideas are too "out there", too far fetched. After all, what are the odds we will ever be able to walk through a stable wormhole and emerge in another galaxy, or have our molecules scrambled in a transporter beam? Isn't it highly unlikely we will ever consider a conversation with an alien life form to be as commonplace as one with our next door neighbor?

Some could argue that technology will never advance far enough to allow humans faster-than-light travel or vacations taken on a "holodeck", but having seen how far we've come in a few short years since I've been writing science fiction, I'd like to think the possibilities are as limitless as a writer's imagination.

Just twenty-five years ago, if I had wanted to send a manuscript to a publisher, I would have had to slave away at my electric typewriter to produce the cleanest copy possible and then mail it off to someone who would take months to get back to me. [While I might have had a crude word processor back then, no publisher would have accepted a computer printout of a manuscript]. Today, I still slave over my manuscript to make is as perfect as possible, but in many cases I've had the luxury of transmitting them by e-mail to agents or editors. In several cases I've received replies to query letters in hours or days rather than weeks or months.

A quarter of a century ago, joining a critique group would have meant face to face meetings with other writers in my geographic area [of course, still an option] and handing out carbon copies of my WIP [or paying a printing service to make Xerox copies for me]. Today, I share files with fellow writers who live in California, Nevada and even Australia at the push of a button on my keyboard.

Today I have two websites and a blog through which I communicate with readers and fellow writers. I can purchase books online without even using a credit card thanks to PayPal and I can read those books on my computer or download them to a portable e-reader if I choose. We've come a long way, baby, as they say.

And I wonder where we're going.

If I had my way, twenty five years from now [or maybe a lot sooner] my computer will take dictation or translate my chicken scratch rough drafts into printed words that I can edit. [The programs that already convert speech or hand written script to word processing files that I've tried have turned out to be more frustrating than time saving so far]

Maybe authors will be writing holodeck programs rather than novels, and our fans will be able to walk in the worlds we create and be surrounded by them. Perhaps they will actually play the parts of hero and heroine rather than simply imaginging themselves in the roles.

Maybe a true user interface will allow us to step in to cyber space and hang out with our colleagues all over the globe while we brainstorm our next best selling plots.

Who knows? I can't wait to find out.


Annalee Blysse said...

Reading preferences are a funny thing. I gravitate toward ideas that are "out there." I don't read a lot of contemporary romance, I like the ones that have something that probably won't happen to me like solving a murder.

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

That's what I've always liked about reading - I want an experience I can't have in real life. No offense to the contemporary "mom-lit" authors but you won't find me reading about a soccer mom who has to deal with a last minute bake sale - even if she is fighting demons on the side. Too much like real life for me.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Great post, Bernadette! I have to agree about the mundane contemporary novels. Unless they have some paranormal or other worldly feature...well, I live in current times (mostly :D) I don't need to read about them.

Missy Sue said...

Loved the post!!

Cassandra Kane said...

Great post Jen! I'm also one for finding contemporary settings too much like real life to be completely engrossing. And as to technology, how hard is it to remember how we used to cope at work before the computer?