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A Review of Science from Nature.
When I was growing up, science fiction was generally considered little better than pornography, even among scientists. But times have changed; several years back the great science journal Nature started publishing very short hard science fiction on a regular basis. This makes a great deal of sense. Arthur C. Clarke, the man who invented the stationary satellite, once wrote, “I do not for a moment suggest that more than 1 percent of science fiction readers would be reliable prophets; but I do suggest that almost 100 percent of reliable prophets will be science fiction readers—or writers.”
Nature’s editor Henry Gee has gathered together one hundred of these stories in Futures from Nature. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure that any of these stories will make you money. They are light, pleasant reading that will take you away from the world you live in to worlds that are consistent with what we know about science right now, but that are palpably strange. Most of these stories, perhaps all of these stories will almost certainly turn out to be wrong in both direction and detail, but that is not important. We know almost nothing about the future except that it will be different. Given the way the world has changed in my lifetime, I would argue that most of these stories are not strange enough. On the other hand, reading these stories can open your mind to possibilities and opportunities you can’t see now and that may be the best we can do.
Still, while the odds are that these stories will turn out to be wrong, that is by no means certain. For example, I recall reading a Ray Bradbury story from three or four decades ago that accurately portrayed our over-communicated society.
Although many of the world’s best science fiction writers are represented in the volume, this is not a volume of great fiction. Not their fault. It is hard to do much with character and plot when you are limited to a thousand words. Worse, it is hard to give a feel for how weird the future will be when limited to a thousand words. This is not the literary equivalent of steak and chardonnay. This is Diet Pepsi and salted, mixed nuts. This is fun. This is newer than new.
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"If your mother says she loves you, check it out." --Old reporters' motto; also our motto. Copyright (C) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Fred Gehm. All rights reserved.