Thursday, July 7, 2011

Welcome to the future- Writing now, inventing then.

BattleTech Art- 2010
BattleTech Art- 1988


Why be a writer?

I've been asked this question more than once and goodness knows I've asked it my to myself many times. In my three part blog, on being a freelance game designer , I touched on this same question.  More recently I had a chance to revisit this question and have it lead to another interesting question that just has me wondering.

Being a fan of BattleTech and a father of boys it is a moral responsibility to introduce them to the game. I'm currently reading the original Warrior's Trilogy, by Michael Stackpole  to my oldest son (For those unfamiliar with BattleTech, this trilogy introduces the entire BT universe through the eyes of the major powers as an interstellar war unfolds) . Perfect bedtime story material (with some minor edits to remove some words). While reading the first book, Warrior: En Garde I had an absolute "welcome to the future moment."

One of the lead characters books an interstellar voyage. Her profile is loaded into the cruise lines computers and a series of automatic actions takes place. Her medical file is reviewed and the computer automatically adjusts the pharmacy's inventory for items she might need. Flight Engineering reviews her physical statistics to ensure she can handle the travel and any other special medical needs she might have. Her food purchase and restaurant ordering history is then dissected and the data is compiled with all the other passengers to shape the menu for the cruise.

Then things get really fun. Her age, social status and other factors (interests, clubs, education, etc) are reviewed. First the housing computer decides she gets an active deck, with other younger passengers (no screaming babies in her future).  Her dining partners for the first few meals are then determined. She is automatically booked for several activities that match her personality. After all this, the review by the intelligence agency computers is almost tame. In the matter of a few seconds her entire life is analyzed and her entire trip is laid out to best match what is expected she will want. 

This book was written in 1988.

In 1988 the Internet hadn't even become mainstream. Email was something scientists and college students had. You still used floppy disk to save data. Intel's premiere computer chip was the 386SX and had a blinding clock speed of 16MHz! Just to bring this back to reality, Intel chips today run in the 3.0 GHz range. That's GigaHertz! One Gigahertz is equal to 1000 Megahertz.

And here Mike Stackpole was writing about technology that we are just now seeing come into its own with the explosion of Social Media. Over twenty years ago, when the Internet was likely something he'd never heard of, he was creating technology we have today.

So that brings me back to my questions.

Why do I like to write fiction?
Because you get to make **** up! When I wrote the Castle Brian rules for BattleTech's Jihad Hot Spot Terra I was treading brand new ground. I was writing rules that had never existed in the BT universe. It was a complete rush to make up new things that people would be reading and incorporating into their games. I'd become part of the fabric of the BattleTech universe.

So I've only been writing for a few years now. In that time real world technology has surged ahead but I've not had any moments of "Hey I thought of that." Which brings me to my next question.

I wonder if Mike Stackpole ever looks around him and says "Wow, twenty years ago I wrote about just this."?

WELCOME TO THE FUTURE… (It's a great song, even if you don't like country)

Stackpole is not the first, of course. Heinlein, Asimov, Clark and the other fathers of modern Science Fiction were making predictions about the future decades before it came to pass. Heck, what robotics scientist doesn't have the three laws of robotics memorized?

Why be a writer? Why not? Even if it never makes me a fortune, there is something about playing with the reality. Whether you're writing a 20's era detective mystery - with magic swords and dwarves, or a 31st century interstellar war - with great big stompy robots, the sky is the limit. And you just might end up predicting something that happens in the future.


Until next time,
Writer, Explorer, Learner

Caveat Emptor- These blogs are written without the protection of an editor. I do proofread them, but I know I'm far from perfect. The ideas are sound and I'm still learning the foundational techniques. Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Yet, even in a technological decline the Successor Houses were capable of this, but they apparently weren't capable of tracking the movements of ComStar JumpShips to and from the Hidden Worlds.