In the first few weeks of this New Year, it comes naturally to look forward and hope for better things. That’s something which has become closer to home for so many of us in these last few pandemic years, when no-one can predict what’s going to happen next and the newspaper headlines have increasingly been happening right on our doorsteps.
It’s made me think. What of writers who predict the future? Of course there are as many possible scenarios as there are books, films and TV shows. I remember when that most ominous of years – 1984 – dawned and we all breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Well that didn’t happen…’ But these relatively small jumps into the future such as ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and alternative reality scenarios like ‘The Man in the High Castle’ tend to concentrate on changes in society rather than technology. They’re about our own world and what might happen to it if we don’t watch out.
But there are a lot of tales of the future that are set many years from now, when human beings inhabit a completely different world. And since last year was the year when Captain Kirk (William Shatner) really did go into space, is it possible that this kind of future might be happening a little sooner than expected?
What about the other things that Star Trek promised us? Transporters. Sadly not, although they’d be extremely handy for shopping. The Replicator. Oh, how I’d love a replicator, particularly on a Saturday evening when I find I’ve run out of hearing aid batteries or light bulbs. Perhaps in the future, Dr McCoy will have been on my case and there’ll be no requirement for hearing aid batteries… THE HOLODECK! The holodeck became much more of a thing when Captain Janeway and the crew were stranded in the Delta Quadrant and there are times during lockdown when a holodeck in our homes would have been a dream come true. Many of us made do with a well-stocked bookshelf, where arguably the ‘pictures’ are better 🙂
Some things have materialised (although not with the aid of a replicator). Captain Kirk did make it into space although according to news reports he never got to switch his phaser to stun, or kiss an inhabitant of another world. We’ve become used to lights and other household appliances that switch on and off on command. Medical science helps combat an increasing number of illnesses and injuries, but just as the crew of The Enterprise were still vulnerable to new viruses, so are we.
Phones, computers and touchscreens have revolutionised communication and access to information. Although in the future, every last thing that the computer tells you is correct. Most of us have developed a healthy scepticism for some of the things we read on the Internet and perhaps what Star Trek didn’t acknowledge is that information is only as good as the human beings who provide it in the first place. (I suppose there’s an alternative – but we all know what happens when computers start to think for themselves…)
One thing that didn’t feature quite so widely on Star Trek as it does in my life, is technical incompetence. The warp drive may have threatened to explode on almost a weekly basis but Scotty always worked something out, and when the technology was working people knew how to use it. I, on the other hand, spent a good fifteen minutes this morning trying to work out how to switch ‘modes’ via the touchscreen on the new radiator in my home office. In the future, someone’s definitely going to have to do something about making it all a bit more user-friendly.
So what about this bright, shiny New Year? Perhaps its most valuable gift to all of us is that readers and writers can still dare to imagine. Not just within the boundaries of science fiction – romance goes just as boldly into the realms of what we’d like to achieve. Human beings thrown into situations that are difficult and often unfamiliar to them, and who have to fight for their happy ending.
I’ll finish by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. May our dreams and imaginings never desert us – and may some of them come true 🙂