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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Charles Stross: "It is not currently possible to write near-future SF." Via MeFi, with more at io9 and Pharyngula.

There's a graph I'd love to plot, but I don't have the tools for. The X-axis would plot years since, say, 1950. The Y-axis would be a scatter plot with error bars showing the deviation from observed outcomes of a series of rolling ten-year projections modeling the near future. Think of it as a meta-analysis of the accuracy of projections spanning a fixed period, to determine whether the future is becoming easier or harder to get right. I'm pretty sure that the error bars grow over time, so that the closer to our present you get, the wider the deviation from the projected future would be. Right now the error bars are gigantic. I am currently guardedly optimistic that the USA will still exist as a political entity in 2023, and that the EU (possibly under a different name; certainly with a different political infrastructure) will do so as well. But in planning the background for that novel set in 2023, I can't rely on the simple assumption that the USA and the EU still exist. We're living through interesting times; I just hope (purely selfishly, wearing my SF author cap, you understand) the earthquake is over bar the aftershocks by next March, or I'm going to have to go back to my editor and suggest she markets the new novel as fantasy.
All true, and yet somehow I feel confident that the political, aesthetic, and eco-economic concerns of my planned dissertation on all this stuff will still be relevant when the stupid thing is done (expected completion date, ironically, 2023). The world will still be here then, and we won't wear hamburgers on our heads.