We went to London this weekend. My wife Jo had been keeping the details of the day, a belated birthday present, very close to her chest even though I was the one who did all of the driving. As it turned out, she’d booked tickets for us to attend the screening of Back to the Future at The Royal Albert Hall, accompanied by an orchestra performing the score throughout. This was the second such event we’d attended, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek last year was the first, and I can’t sing the praises of the experience enough. If you have the chance to attend a screening of this kind (Indiana Jones next year FYI) give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.
But watching the film poked my mind.
Back to the Future is 30 years old. Just let that sink in. We are now the same distance from the original film as the past time storyline is from the ‘present’ of the hero. Indeed, the second film shows Marty’s future time line as this year. Aside from some odd stuff on Facebook, Hover Boards still aren’t real and we don’t have flying cars.
So I sat watching the film and tried to think how I’d create elements of a future world which carry levels of where the world today could end up.
I’m writing a short story, well short-ish, at the moment as well as working on The Circle of Duty, which is based in the future. Yes there is a spaceship. Yes there is all kinds of new tech and yes there are differences in what the characters call ‘normal’. My concern is, if I write ‘whatever’ along the way, will it drag someone out of the narrative if elements of what I’m saying sound just too out there?
I understand that there really is no way to future proof any story but how far can you push the boundaries before it just seems like some random ‘man from space’ nonsense? Star Trek had the ships move away from just the numeric naming and instead stuck with the more recognisable naval links. They still had the transporters as the far off tech but the military framework kept the story more real/believable. If I just let my mind go and pushed my imagination as far as I could, I’m pretty sure it would be almost unrecognisable as a world that the reader could find themselves. There’d be nowhere to get a grip on things leading to a lack of engagement.
I suppose, all of us read and insert ourselves into what we read in some way. We can understand the context of what we read because there are elements of our world in there which ground us. Trying to future proof the stories isn’t possible but we do our best, but having our world in there somewhere gives us the anchoring familiarity.
Maybe we shouldn’t even care about the future proof.