Literary works anticipacting the future trends
February 8, 2008 8:50 AM   Subscribe

What literature anticipated future trends, but does not have a causal link? What did the literature anticipate? I'm thinking of 1984/USA politics and Neuromancer/Internet I'm looking for some good reading material about this subject; therefore, I'm looking for these literary instances, or even books based on this subject--including reference material, or websites.
posted by Knigel to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of Jules Verne's inventions preceded technology that would be developed later (submarines, space travel).
posted by lhall at 8:57 AM on February 8, 2008

A couple of notes. First, it's facile, trite, and not particularly accurate to compare 1984 to current US politics (I mean, have you actually read the book?). Second, John Brunner's "Shockwave Rider" anticipated the internet earlier and better than did Neuromancer (which is what I assume you meant by "Necromancer").
posted by dersins at 9:05 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

The OP is asking a real question guys - yeah he's stumbling a little in his comparisons (and the Necromancer ref made me groan...) Anyway... of the top of my head:

Brave New World - we're not there yet, but we're getting close.
Fahrenheit 451 - wall sized televisions, reality TV, interactive media, COPS.
Snowcrash - for general future society queasiness that sets in every time I get close to today's cable television.
Metropolis - It probably is an example of a "missed future" but the movie essentially presents a vision of humans reduced to cogs in a giant mechanized city... or yeah, first to show us a robot.

Generally I second the Orson Wells era fiction for taking 19th century industrialization and extrapolating it to the future. Particularly in regards to transportation they got a lot right. This is repeated in the "space-age" era of the 1950s where Sci-Fi focuses on the aerospace industry.

You probably should take a look at Phillip K. Dick, I'm sure there is a lot of his stuff that could apply to what you're looking for.
posted by wfrgms at 9:25 AM on February 8, 2008

Response by poster: Are you telling me that there are no aspects of 1984 in U.S. politics, specifically homeland security? I think Big Brother is watching is very accurate. However, I know many people think that there is a comparison to be made between the two, that is why I made the reference. Of course it is debatable.

And I did mean Neuromancer, my spellcheck changed it after. Thanks for the correction.
posted by Knigel at 9:27 AM on February 8, 2008

Definitely second the Brave New World connection.

Orson Wells = H. G. Wells?
posted by thomas j wise at 9:35 AM on February 8, 2008

Mod note: Fixed the necro/neuro issue, removed a comment. It seems clear the question is about literature that anticipates trends, not about the applicability or not of 1984 to US politics, so let's skip the debate, please.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:36 AM on February 8, 2008

In Carl Sagan's Contact, written in 1985 but set in the millenium, he keeps mentioning 'asynchronous telenetting', which I'm pretty sure just means e-mail.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:46 AM on February 8, 2008

Heinlein's "Future History" stories, later collected here, made some interesting, if slightly off the mark, predictions about the use of atomic power among other things.
posted by qldaddy at 9:50 AM on February 8, 2008

It's not so much that 1984 is specifically anticipating US policy in 2008 -- Orwell is dealing in truisms of how humans use political power, how citizens can be manipulated. Big Brother and controlling thought through controlling language and information are concepts that have seemed eerily familiar to a number of different governments since 1984 was published. Most of the good anti-Utopian fiction is going to have this sort of relevance, because it's similarly going to push forward aspects of human nature + authority.
posted by desuetude at 9:53 AM on February 8, 2008

Oh, sorry, meant to link to the wikipedia on dystopian lit.
posted by desuetude at 9:55 AM on February 8, 2008

This might not be what you're looking for, but Sterne's, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, was way ahead of its time, anticipating the postmodern turn in literature centuries centuries before the postmodern revolution of the 20th century.
posted by farishta at 9:55 AM on February 8, 2008

Personally, when I first read Atwoods Handmaid's tale soon after it was published in 1985 I remember totally dismissing the idea that the liberal US that I knew of with a strong distinction between state and religion would ever succume to Christian fundamentalism. When stuff like attacks on Roe vs Wade and intelligent design began to be taught in elementary and secondary schools I began to wonder.... Her more recent dystopian novel Oryx and Crake also is an interesting read.
posted by saucysault at 10:04 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Philip K. Dick's Flow My Tears the Policeman Said published in 1974 featured a primitive version of cybersex and also predicted videoconferencing (though on a much larger scale than actually exists today). He also predicted flying cars, though I guess the jury is still out on that one.
posted by The Gooch at 10:18 AM on February 8, 2008

Maybe the Vernor Vinge novella True Names? Admittedly we're not quite there yet, but pretty interesting predictions regarding cyberspace and virtual reality.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:26 AM on February 8, 2008

Poul Anderson had a company which was basicially Google in one of his mid 70s books in the Polesotechnic series. I think it was Satans World.
posted by Riemann at 11:41 AM on February 8, 2008

Picking up on Thomas J Wise, HG Wells 'War of the Worlds' has a strong 2-class society idea which many think predicts rich/poor divide of the future
posted by Marzipan at 1:47 PM on February 8, 2008

Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. Very accurate in some parts, especially about how all the corporations eventually merged into one. It was written in the 1880s, I believe, and predicted the credit card pretty well I think, as well as some aspects of how the governments takes care of non-workers. Only thing it got totally wrong was how storekeepers do NOT make an effort to push their products on customers. :) Great read.
posted by Melismata at 2:32 PM on February 8, 2008

Best answer: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by John Clute and Peter Nicholls (1993) has articles on Prediction, Futurology, Near Future, and others.

Chris Morgan. The Shape of Futures Past: The Story of Prediction (1980)

David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace and Irving Wallace. The People's Almanac Presents The Book of Predictions (1981)

MIND MELD: Which Predictions Did Golden Age Science Fiction Get Right & Wrong?

Science Fiction and Prediction
posted by euphotic at 1:15 PM on February 9, 2008

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