Writing Info

How Sci-fi Writers Incorporate Present-day Technology

Ever wonder how sci-fi writers have so much imagination that they can paint an unbelievably convincing picture of futuristic worlds chock-full of cool gadgets and back-to-the future-type machines?  Sometimes it all comes from the recesses of their creative minds.  But sometimes the science and mind-boggling future technology is based on present day life–inventions that are in development this very minute.

Sci-fi writers have to mix the perfect balance between believable/understandable and real life.  If they’re talking about the effects of global warming three hundred years from now, it should be based on some type of real science.  Sci-fi readers are smart, and if they see holes in a writer’s logic, they’ll pick it apart…mercilessly.  Yes, sci-fi novels can include magic and all sorts of futuristic do-dads that we’ve never heard of before, but usually people like to know that the laws of physics still apply.  And if the future world defies these laws (like showing characters flying), readers require explanation on why and how the current laws of physics have been modified/eradicated in the future world.

When I was writing the Elected series, I got a chance to do research on a ton of cool technologies.  Some, like Elected’s “armor glass”, which can withstand nuclear blasts, is half-based on real-life materials.  But then as a fiction writer I take what we know about a current technology and stretch the imagination to show what the technology could look like years from now and how it could be used.  I read technology magazines and research articles about cool new, cutting edge science.  What might be the new “cell phone” two hundred years in the future?  What will everyone have that people back in the middle ages couldn’t have dreamed of.  Can you imagine if Paul Revere just called someone to tell them the redcoats were coming instead of riding frantically for days/weeks on a horse?  (reference funny commercial on tv now).

One of the cool technologies I read about recently is the use of a protien and light pulsation to control cells in our brain/make them do what we want.  It’s a form of mind control called Optogenetics that’s in the early phases of testing.  But take just that bit of info and imagine if scientists perfected it.  What are the moral consequences?  How would it be used for good and evil in the future?  Could doctors use optogenetics to force a body to reject cancer cells?  Or could dictators use it to control citizens?  Maybe both?  And there I had the start of a premise for Elected’s book 2!

My advice to sci-fi writers is to look on the web for info on new technologies.  Read about research on mapping the brain.  Look at the DARPA website.  Anything that’s cutting-edge right now could be commonplace in your futuristic novel.

What are some technologies you’ve included in your sci-fi writing that are based on current real life?

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