Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #272

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #272

…That’s not all he wants to rub,” she pats her bottom, “you let ‘em do it once and they think they can do it all the time…

Typewriter-001

We get letters“We’re getting a hundred letters a week, Lyn. The test audience wants to know why Constance Caraway is working without a partner. What about a dashing tall, dark and handsome type, you know the FBI or even better, the CIA that would give it an international flavor.”

Stanley Rogers – Editor

“Christ almighty, Stanley. The day Constance teams up with some damned government freak will be a cold day in hell.” Carolyn Hanes has had it with editors, not that Stanley Rogers is a bad one, but he one of the new breed editors who are what she considers as, overly concerned and influenced by the readers. “The last time I listened to you, and it may have been the last time I do, you talked me… I mean her, into marrying that sleazy politician.”

“You didn’t have to make him sleazy,” the editor reminds her.

“If it walks like a politician, somewhat upright, with two legs and a male brain, he has to be sleazy.”

“Fine, but did you have to have him sleeping with everything wearing a skirt?”

“Everything is right,” Lyn gloats. “Remember, you don’t have to be a lady to wear a skirt.” Stanley blushes. “What about you, Stan? I can lend you one of mine.”

“All right, enough of this silly talk. What are you doing tonight? Old man Harper wants to rub elbows with his star writer.”

That’s not all he wants to rub,” she pats her bottom. “You let ‘em do it once and they think they can do it all the time.

Fanny-001  “He is the publisher and that was three books ago – before he found out about your ‘friend’.”

Sara/Fanny.

 There isn’t a day that goes by without some memory of her or the character she inspired. The true essences of fictional Fanny and so-real Sara have always been interchangeable, to the point that Lyn would mentally confuse the dressmaking housemate with the picture taking investigative partner. Sara would bristle when she was called Fanny. Likewise, Sara’s name used to occasionally appear in the same paragraph with Constance Caraway. That is what editors are for.

“I’m sorry, Lyn, I keep forgetting she’s gone.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

The Hawaiian Spy-001

Episode #272


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #267

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #267

…Please give me some details about how things turned out. I had planned on being there, when you get to New York, you know, for my book and all…

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS by Mario Ortiz Martinez

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS by Mario Ortiz Martinez

Answers prove to be too slow in coming. As much as he regrets having to do so, it is time to ascend into yet more of the unknown.

“I am truly sorry, Miss Hanes, but we are leaving within the hour. May I assume you will be staying behind?” Ford has to keep the Clipper moving. He has two dozen other people he is responsible for and he cannot be sure of what lies ahead.

“I understand, Captain Ford. At least we have the British to look out for us.” She hangs her head in despair.

 “I know you’re worried to death and it may be small consolation, but until a body is found….”

“Okay, yes, thank you,” Lyn cares not to think about unaccounted bodies and such. “I pray that the rest of your journey goes well.” She scribbles an address and a telephone number on a scrap of paper. “Please give me some details about how things turned out. I had planned on being there with you in New York, you know, for my book and all.

“I will do that, Lyn.” he promises.

She appreciates the kiss on the cheek by a true gentleman.

Questions WO Answers-001

Answers are not forthcoming; two days after Sara vanished into the Ceylonese night. In a strange way, at least bruised and battered body would be tangible evidence.

“An innocent civilian woman becomes the first victim of a Pan American Clipper trip”

… the newspaper headline may read. Instead, Carolyn Hanes is obliged to play an agonizing waiting game, at the mercy of authorities on a huge island off the southern coast of India.

With tears streaming down her face, ten days and no news later, Carolyn Hanes changes the text of her manuscript. The man in the blue suit is much more dangerous than they had 1937 CC P.I.-001suspected. Neither he nor Fanny Renwick is ever seen again. Constance Caraway has only a film-less camera to remember her by. Constance will always be Constance, and retirement to a life of seclusion will never happen, as is the case with her creator. Both author and a fictional heroine move on, without their right hand gal.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Questions WO Answers-001

Episode #267


page 248

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #263

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #263

…Merely for the sake of argument milady, if you were a spy, would you travel on the Clipper?…

Belle of the Ball by Bridget Davies

Belle of the Ball by Bridget Davies

“May I cut in?” Barney Sawicki, the same Barney Sawicki who was star struck by Mary Pickford, aboard an earlier incarnation of the Clipper in 1935, steals a dance with Sara Fenwick, who has turned into the belle of the ball. Lyn was so busy pumping Lady Mountbatten for information about British intelligence, poor Sara is forced to dance her feet off. She will get even, sooner or later, but for the time being any number of men get a close up view of her chest. What the hell, what harm can come of a few fixated peeps? No man fondles her girls, thank God.

The MI5 Crest

“MI-5 is the most tenacious organization in the world,” Lady Mountbatten relates to her intrigued inquisitor. “They need to be, with Hitler at our doorstep. It is all they can do to keep him from bombing our brains out. If it were not for the air raid sirens and the intelligence we get from them, casualties would be devastating.”

“If you were a spy…?”

“I beg your pardon?” The word spy repulses the Lady.

Merely for the sake of argument milady, if you were a spy, would you travel on the Clipper?

“Oh yes, most definitely. With all the stops it makes in the Pacific Theater, good heavens, a touristy looking chap could have been practicing his craft for years. He could have a contact in every harbor. But keep in mind, because of your unexpected detour; he will be acting more suspiciously.”

An excerpt from Constance Caraway P.I. – The Hawaiian Spy:1937 CC P.I.-001

“Have you been watching that man in the blue suit, Fanny?” Constance has, ever since she saw him sneak off the Pacific Clipper in Colombo, Ceylon.

          “I did. I don’t think he thought that anybody would notice. But I did not recognize the launch that picked him up.”

          “Yes. Yes.” The gears inside Constance Caraway’s mind are turning and churning. This mysterious man had raised no suspicion until now, like he knows what he is doing and doing it for a while. “And have you noticed that he speaks to no one on the plane, and when we’re ashore, he disappears into thin air.”

          “Maybe I should follow him around at our next stop, take a few pictures,” Fanny suggests. “That photo lab we set up in our stateroom is actually quite good.”

          “Yes it is. Those chemical baths are easier to get than good airplane fuel… I didn’t think we were going to clear the trees back there.” The sound of rustling palm leaves, tickling the flying boat belly, would not be audible, but it can be imagined. “Let’s get back to our mystery man, my dear Fanny. If you could get pictures of the people he meets, that would be helpful. That would leave me free to follow some other leads. It seems that we are attracting an unusual amount of attention, considering we don’t have a flight plan,” Constance tells her trusted colleague.   “Be careful Fanny!”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Fiction vs Nonfiction

Episode #263


page 245

Great Sci-Fi, Wrong Future – WIF Bookshelf

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These Science Fiction

Novels Got the Science

Very, Very Wrong

Science fiction author Ray Bradbury said, “Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas[.]” He may have been biased, but he wasn’t incorrect. There are two genres of science fiction. Hard science fiction is usually scientifically rigorous, while soft science fiction uses elements of sociology, anthropology, and psychology. World building in science fiction is often creative, but  it doesn’t always reveal humankind’s future. Here are 10 inaccuracies found in science fiction.

10. Time for the Stars by Robert A. Heinlein

Concept: Relativity

Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity says time is relative, and one’s perception of time varies based on how quickly one is moving. Since general relativity and special relativity are theories, their applications are less concrete than the uses for technology in some science fiction on this list. We use special relativity to explain why astronauts living in space are moving more quickly — and aging more slowly — than people on Earth. Special relativity is important to the plot of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1956 novel Time for the Stars. Heinlein also uses the Twin Paradox as a plot device.

The Twin Paradox is a thought experiment that is only made possible because of the theory of special relativity. Imagine two identical twins. One remains on Earth, while the other travels to a star six light years away using a rocket that travels at six times the speed of light. Before the traveling twin leaves Earth, both twins reset their watches to zero. When the traveling twin reaches the star, her watch says eight years have passed. When the twin on Earth reads her watch, she will find 16 years have passed by the time the traveling twin reaches the star. From the perspective of the twin on Earth, the traveling twin’s rocket takes 10 years to reach the star. The light that will show the traveling twin at the star will take an additional six years to return to Earth, making the trip to the star take 16 years. To the traveler, whose rocket moves at six times the speed of light, the star she is traveling to, which seems six light years away to her twin sister on Earth, is only 4.8 light years away. It takes another 4.8 years for light to travel from Earth to her rocket, so she perceives the trip as taking roughly eight years.

Robert A. Heinlein is respected as a gifted science fiction writer. He was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master in 1974. He also pursued graduate degrees in physics and mathematics at UCLA. Because of his scientific knowledge, his explanations of special relativity and the Twin Paradox are mostly correct. He applies the theories correctly, with one minor inaccuracy. In his novel, the traveling twin and the twin on Earth are communicating in real time via intercom. Once the traveling twin is moving at the speed of light, he hears the twin on Earth as though he is speaking more slowly. By contrast, the twin on Earth hears the traveling twin as though he is speaking more quickly. In fact, each twin would only be conscious of his own perception of time.

9. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Concept: Colonizing Mars

In Ray Bradbury’s 1950 collection of vignettes, humans have successfully colonized Mars. Bradbury explores which impulses, noble and ignoble, humans obey regardless of which planet they’re inhabiting. As of 2019, NASA is still planning to send astronauts to Mars. The topographical features that led Bradbury and other science fiction writers to imagine it might be possible to colonize Mars by the mid-20th century, though, have been revealed to be misleading.

By 1960, astronomer Carl Sagan had discovered that Mars is consistently freezing due to its lack of atmosphere, and the canals on Mars were not, as had previously been hypothesized, former waterways.

8. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Concept: Reanimating Dinosaurs

Unlike the saddled dinosaurs calmly coexisting with humans in the Creation Museum’s exhibits, the destructive dinosaurs in Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel are a cautionary tale for humans. A course of action made possible by scientific advancement isn’t necessarily a wise one. However, despite the intricately detailed scientific plot of the novel, resurrecting dinosaurs isn’t possible.

The science of paleontology dates from the 19th century, and dinosaur footprints and fossils have consistently been recognized as historically important. To resurrect dinosaurs, though, paleontologists would need viable dinosaur DNA in order to reassemble dinosaurs’ genetic codes. Dinosaurs dominated the Earth roughly 66 million years ago. Even if their DNA was found, it would be too decayed to be useful in reassembling a genetic code. That’s good news for anyone getting tired of holding onto their butt.

7. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Concept: Reanimating Humans

Defibrillators can be used to revive someone who has gone into sudden cardiac arrest. However, it’s impossible to revive someone who has already been hanged, like the scientist Victor Frankenstein does in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel. During the 19th century, there was scientific research that seemed to support the possibility that corpses could be revived through the use of electricity. In 1781, a surgeon, Luigi Galvani, dissected a frog while standing near a static electricity machine. When an assistant touched a nerve in the frog’s leg with a scalpel, the frog’s leg spasmed. Galvani built a bronze and iron arc, and he attached the frog’s leg and the static electricity machine to it. The frog’s leg twitched whenever it touched the metal. Galvani formed a hypothesis: he believed the frog possessed what Galvani called animal electricity. The bimetallic arc conducted the animal electricity to the frog’s nerve, making its leg twitch. The plot of Shelley’s novel is an exploration of what might be possible if humans, too, possessed animal electricity.

After reading Galvani’s work, physicist Alessandro Volta replicated Galvani’s experiment. He observed the same result, but he reached a very different conclusion. His hypothesis, which we now know to be accurate, was that the metal was acting as a conductor for the electric current from the static electricity machine. When the current touched the frog’s leg, the frog’s leg twitched.

6. Never Let You Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Concept: Human Cloning

Jodi Picoult’s 2003 book My Sister’s Keeper explores the question of whether it’s morally defensible to expect one sibling to become an organ donor for another. In Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel, organ donation is a social requirement. Human clones are created solely to become organ donors. There are many science fiction novels featuring human clones. While the question of how humans determine quality of life will always be a valid one, human cloning isn’t currently possible. Further, there is no way to guarantee that a clone will be as healthy as the animal from whose cells the clone was created.

In 1996, Dolly, a sheep, became the first successfully cloned mammal. The average lifespan of a sheep is 12 years, but Dolly was euthanized in 2002. At six-and-a-half years old, she had already developed a progressive lung disease. She also had shorter telomeres than other sheep of a comparable age. Telomeres are pieces of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes. Since telomeres shorten as cells divide, they are considered an indication of an animal’s age. Based on Dolly’s lung disease and the length of her telomeres, scientists speculate that she was actually born six years old, the same age as that of the sheep from which she was cloned.

5. Babylon Babies by Maurice Dantec

Concept: Designer Babies

In Maurice Dantec’s 1999 novel, a woman is carrying genetically modified twins whose birth might forever change the human race. Unlike most of the scientific advancements on this list, this one isn’t currently impossible. In 2018, Chinese researcher Jiankui He created the first babies with artificially increased resistance to HIV. Afterward, the embryos were implanted in the mother’s uterus, and the babies were born healthy.

Technically, these weren’t designer babies, because their parents weren’t selecting particular genes. However, the same gene editing techniques could be used to create designer babies. Gene editing in embryos is permitted in Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, and Sweden. Gene editing is scientifically possible, but there’s not international consensus regarding whether it’s ethical. Consistent gene editing could allow certain countries to practice genocide or produce physically and intellectually enhanced soldiers that would give them an advantage during international conflicts.

4. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Concept: Utopia

Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1979 novel The Dispossessed isn’t the only science fiction novel depicting a utopian future for humankind. Though no author who has imagined the future as a utopia is right (so far), Le Guin’s utopia is unique for two reasons. First, her world has an anarchic planet, Anarres, that’s rich in resources. It’s a colony of an arid planet, Urras. Even in a utopia, inhabitants of Anarres are deprived of their own natural resources. Second, the novel’s protagonist, Shevek, fares better than his real world model. Shevek was modeled on a family friend of Le Guin’s, J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Shevek makes the citizens of Anarres question both the limits of their personal autonomy and the consequences of exercising it. By contrast, Oppenheimer’s expertise made the first atomic explosion possible in 1945. Unfortunately, he was stripped of his job title, chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission, when he opposed the United States’ development of a hydrogen bomb. Asking the American government to critique its own use of personal autonomy cost Oppenheimer his professional reputation.

3. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Concept: Time Travel

H.G. Wells’ 1895 novella isn’t the only story involving time travel. However, Wells popularized the idea that humans could invent a machine that makes time travel possible. Technically, time travel exists. As previously mentioned, Einstein’s theory of special relativity says time is relative, and one’s perception of time varies based on how quickly one is moving. Astronauts living in space are moving more quickly than people on Earth. Therefore, an astronaut living in space for a year will age slightly less than people who are living on Earth during that year.

The Large Hadron Collider moves protons at almost the speed of light, essentially propelling them into the future. The kind of time travel that Wells writes about — the kind that’s controlled  by humans and measured based on a Western European perception of time — isn’t possible. In 2015, Ali Razeghi, the managing director of Iran’s Center for Strategic Inventions, claimed he had invented a machine that could accurately predict five to eight years into a person’s future. His claim was debunked when he declined to release the design for his time machine.

2. The Xenu Files by L. Ron HubbarL.Rond

Concept: The Origin Of Humanity

Unlike most of the entries on this list, The Xenu Files isn’t a novel. L. Ron Hubbard was a writer of popular science fiction short stories, but he’s most famous for founding the Church of Scientology. Scientologists pay a minimum of a quarter of a million dollars to audit Scientology courses. Once they reach the level of Operating Thetan 3, they are permitted to read the religion’s origin myth. According to the 2015 HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, the origin myth, which was handwritten between 1966 and 1967, is stored at the church’s Advanced Organization Building.

According to Hubbard, Xenu, the dictator of the Galactic Federation, needed to solve his planet’s overpopulation problem. He sent his own subjects to Earth, then called Teegeeack. There, they were strapped to atomic bombs and hurled into volcanoes. The spirits of Xenu’s subjects, called Thetans, cling to contemporary humans. The only way to rid oneself of Thetans is through the Scientologists’ practice of auditing. In auditing, someone talks about events from his or her previous lives while an auditor reads an e-meter (a lie detector). The person’s truthfulness, as determined by the auditor, shows how susceptible the person is to Thetans.

If these religious practices seem like they belong in a science fiction novel, perhaps that’s because science fiction readers were the original intended audience for Hubbard’s ideas. After failing to convince doctors, psychologists, and explorers to integrate his ideas into their professional practices, Hubbard appealed to the science fiction readers who were fans of his work. He and his editor, John W. Campbell, Jr., developed the system of dianetics, a term used to describe the methodology of Scientology. Hubbard’s first article about dianetics appeared in a 1950 issue of the magazine Astounding. Campbell, who owned the magazine, primarily published science fiction short stories, including Hubbard’s. Later, Hubbard used one of his science fiction short stories, “Masters of Sleep,” as a prolonged advertisement for dianetics. In his 2012 post for The Village Voice, Tony Ortega says Scientologists might be more susceptible to Hubbard’s origin story in The Xenu Files because many of them have vividly experienced past lives during auditing. For Hubbard’s early readers, the process was much simpler. They encountered information about dianetics in the same magazine that had published Hubbard’s science fiction.

1. The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle

Concept: The Future

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, isn’t noteworthy because her book contains prescient predictions. The North Pole isn’t a portal to another planet. We haven’t discovered a planet that we can verify is lit by the brightest stars ever created. No human has been transported to another planet, then declared war against her own home planet (unless alien victors have compromised our collective memory of the event).

No, Cavendish isn’t noteworthy because of how she envisioned the future. She’s noteworthy because of when she did it. Written in 1666, The Blazing World is widely regarded as the first science fiction novel. A respected poet, playwright, biographer, and essayist in her own time, Cavendish also created a genre. As Bronwyn Lovell says in her 2016 article for The Conversation, “Science Fiction’s Woman Problem,” science fiction is still a male-dominated genre. Still, Cavendish ensured a future for female writers by creating a space for them.


Great Sci-Fi, Wrong Future

WIF Bookshelf


Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #210

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #210

…I actually read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to a niece of mine when she came for a visit, way back in 1904, before I married Harv…

Rebecca by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Rebecca by Jessie Wilcox Smith

The influenza even affects the War Bond effort, halting the star-studded fundraising events. Viewed as just another way to allow the virus to spread and rightly so, the motion pictures industry pulls their precious stars from the field, of raising money for the war. As a result, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm’s production is moved up, in light of the stars’ availability. Mary Pickford is being rushed to the studio and guess who she takes with her – Judith Eastman , the unlikely new face on the silver screen; no time for casting, only Mary Pickford’s word that she has the perfect person to play Rebecca’s beloved school teacher, Miss Emily Maxwell. She had originally thought her to be a good older sister, Hannah, but upon discovering that the youthful looking Judith was indeed 55 years of age, she reconsiders.

Mary Pickford on the set of the film of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (c) 1917 Apis/Sygma/Corbis

“You must be going daft. Mary, you want me to take the train out to Los Angeles with you, just like that?” Judith asks.

“You can play the part of Miss Maxwell and write the greatest article about film making ever.” Mary Pickford sounds as perky as she looks. “Did you read the book?”

Rebecca_of_Sunnybrook_Farm_Emily Maxwell  I actually read it to a niece of mine when she came for a visit, way back in 1904 or so, before I married Harv.” She thinks fondly about her dear husband, wondering where he is and what he will think when he finds out she is in California making a movie, with Mary Pickford no less. “As I recall, Emily Maxwell was Rebecca’s biggest supporter – A teacher – I guess that is not an outlandish notion.”

“That is what I want to hear!” exclaims the 25 year old star. “You are going to have the time of your life and we will be getting away from that awful influenza.

“I am feeling guilty. Harv may be on the western front, knee high in mud or maybe worse.” She does not know that, in fact he is quite safe and the tide of the war has turned for the Allies.

“Look at it this way: you will be doing your part to boost moral at home.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #210


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #192

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #192

…The Lord asks us to share our brothers’ burden. I need to take up the cause, stand shoulder to shoulder with my kinsmen,…

“What does your cousin say?” asks Martha Ferrell of her husband John, who reads a letter from Scotland intensely. It is dated 22 March, 1915, received the day before Thanksgiving same year.

“Oh, Martha, they’re suffering great hardship. Nearly everything is rationed, living off their potato plot, they are. Most of the grain they grow goes to the cattle; the rest must be submitted to the war effort.” As he reads Sir James M. Barrie’s tale of woe, waves of guilt wash against his spirit, remembering the happy days of his youth, playing with James. John’s own son is named after his relative left behind, after the Ferrells abandoned the  Isle clan for a new life in Florida. “He fears his son, Matthew, will be drafted into the British Army, though a recent bout of consumption may disqualify him from battle.

“‘How ironic; spared the horrors of war by a disabling disease.’”

 “Those are his very words, aren’t they?”  She recognizes the work of a writer, albeit far from his wispy ‘Peter Pan’. “I so love his letters, every one a masterpiece unto itself.”

  “I’ve been praying about the plight of our people. We are so blessed by the lord, insulated from adversity, bounties beyond deserving. I ask myself, ‘what can I do to support my homeland an ocean away?’ My answer is never the same.”

Scotland      “What if we take a collection of goods, you know, foodstuffs, clothing, anything the Panhandle can offer that will help them survive hostilities.”

“Yes, yes, and we can hire a ship out of Panama City to carry them to Perth. How I would love to see old James again!”

It was a splendid idea until mention of him going home to the Central Lowlands enters in the back door. “Must you go to Scotland? Why put yourself in harms way?”

The Lord asks us to share our brothers’ burden. I need to take up the cause, stand shoulder to shoulder with my kinsmen, making a difference in their community.” John Ferrell lacks only a kilt. “Please wire Dundee with the news of our plan. I am going to begin gathering the cargo, I think Herb Love will jump right in with both feet, if I know him and Jacques Francoise will mix up some medicines, maybe help Matthew with his tuberculosis. And every farmer in Leon and Gadsden County will surely contribute something. I know we can fill a small freighter.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #192


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The Future in Print – WIF Bookshelf

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Books That Predicted

the Future

With Eerie Accuracy

When authors write about the future, they have to predict what technology and life might be like decades down the road. While the books are often written as a metaphor for their contemporary society, some authors have made amazingly accurate predictions about what modern life has actually become.

These are all fiction books that, somehow, managed to predict the future. 

10. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? By Horace McCoy

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is a relentlessly bleak book that was published in 1935. It’s about a young man named Robert who moves to Los Angeles to get into the film industry. When Robert tries to get work as an extra on a movie, he meets Gloria, a young woman who wants to be an actress. After failing to get jobs, they decide to join a dance marathon. The problem is that these marathons are death marches that can go on for weeks. The only breaks that the contestants get are 10 minute time-outs after an hour and fifty minutes of dancing. The couple that lasts the longest gets $1,000, and all the contestants are fed.

Throughout the contest, new gimmicks are added to liven up the marathon. Like at the end of the night, there’s a speed walk and the couple that comes in last is eliminated. Another twist that is added to the marathon is two contestants get married, and are saved from elimination. Other times, celebrities show up at the marathon for cameos.

Published in the mid-1930s, They Shoot Horses was written as a metaphor of the plight of people during the Great Depression. However, today it can be seen as a frightfully accurate precursor to reality TV shows.

In reality shows, people voluntarily do things that are physically and mentally grueling and/or humiliating, all for money and their 15 minutes of fame. Reality shows are also known for using gimmicks to make the show more exciting. Finally, celebrities of varying degrees of fame are known to pop up on all types of reality shows, from Big Brother to MasterChef.

The question is, is a grueling dance marathon any more dehumanizing than making someone eat something like horse rectum or blended rats, like some contestants on Fear Factor had to do?

9. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest is a long and unwieldy book; the story is nearly a thousand pages and there are over 100 pages of footnotes. It’s believed that the book takes place around 2009, in an alternate timeline where the years aren’t numbered. Instead, they are sponsored by companies. For example, there is the Year of the Whopper and the Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment.

Due to the scope of the book, the plot is impossible to summarize in a few sentences, but it’s mostly set at a tennis academy and a halfway house for addicts. Both are in Boston, which is part of the Organization of North American Nations, or O.N.A.N. In this reality, the United States forced Canada and Mexico to join America as one big super state.

There are several groups of characters in the book and some of those people are looking for a lost film called “Entertainment.” The film is supposedly so entertaining that if someone starts to watch it, they can’t stop. They will do nothing else but watch the film. This includes stopping eating and drinking, and eventually, they will die while watching it.

In many ways, Wallace’s novel predicted contemporary life fairly accurately. Most notably, he predicted the way people would consume media and their obsession with entertainment. In the book, people watch teleputers, which are combinations of televisions, phones, and computers. People can get movies and TV shows off the InterLace to watch whenever they want, and then they listen to their teleputers with white ear plugs.

Of course, all of those inventions are now commonplace, albeit not exactly the way that Wallace envisioned it. Teleputers sound a lot like smart phones, Wallace just didn’t predict that they would be mobile and fit in the palm of your hand, while the InterLace is a lot like Netflix. However, Wallace thought that a system like the Interlace would be the death of TV advertising. Finally, the earplugs are, of course, Apple’s earbuds.

Wallace also wrote about video phones, which had been predicted by many other writers before him, but Wallace had an interesting insight. In Infinite Jest, videophones were just a fad because people don’t like seeing themselves on the screen. In real life, there are many reasons people don’t use video chat as frequently as texting. One reason is that people don’t like seeing pictures of themselves.

Finally, Wallace predicted the rise of Donald Trump. In his book, the President is the loudest and brashest right wing sensationalist of the mid-1990s – Rush Limbaugh.

8. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood’s End, by famed sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke, is about an invasion of Earth by a group of aliens called the Overlords. The Overlords aren’t violent, but they hide themselves from human eyes. Through a spokesperson at the United Nations, they say that they will reveal themselves to humankind in 50 years. 

During those 50 years, the Overlords improve life on Earth in many ways – ignorance, poverty, hunger, and disease are all things of the past. Of course, the Overlords also help advance human technology. One of those technologies was a type of virtual reality that is like a movie, but it is so realistic that you can’t tell the difference between the movie and real life. “The program,” as Clarke called it, would appeal to all the senses and would allow the person to be someone completely different from themselves, or even a plant. Why someone would want to be a plant is beyond us, but that isn’t the only head scratching prediction Clarke made.

He also predicted that in the early 2000s, people might watch TV for three hours a day. The only way someone would be able to watch all the programming would be to never sleep, as opposed to it being impossible.

So while Clarke didn’t foresee cable TV or YouTube, he did correctly predict video games and virtual reality. This is pretty impressive considering that when the book was published in 1953, televisions in homes were just becoming common.

7. The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth

In Phillip Roth’s 2004 book, The Plot Against America, a well-known celebrity gets into politics and starts to spew conspiracy theories about minorities. Finding his niche, the celebrity, with no political experience, panders to racists and anti-Semites. Surprisingly, he wins the nomination of the Republican Party and then goes on to win the presidency. As president, he aligns himself with a notorious and brutal world leader and this creates global tension and conflict. He also begins to persecute the minorities that he villainized in his campaign.

The Plot Against America takes place in an alternate timeline and it starts in 1940. The celebrity who is running for president is Charles Lindbergh, who uses a platform rife with anti-Semitism to become president. After he’s elected, the world leader that Lindbergh associates himself with is Adolf Hitler.

Of course, the parallels in Roth’s book to real life should be obvious to anyone who wasn’t living under a rock in 2016. But if you were in a coma or something, let us fill you in. Celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump ran for the Republican ticket with no political experience. His platform included racist conspiracy theories and he spouted offensive rhetoric about minorities. He found popularity among white nationalists and people who were anti-immigration and then shamelessly pandered to them. Amazingly, he not only won the Republican nomination, but he went on to win the presidency.

So far, as president, Trump has alienated several of America’s allies, but talks glowinglyabout Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government has a horrendous record of human rights violations, which includes state-sponsored human trafficking.

The final similarity between President Trump and President Lindbergh is that after Trump became President, he started to persecute those he villainized in his campaign, specifically Muslims and undocumented immigrants.

6. Neuromancer by William Gibson

William Gibson’s 1984 novel, Neuromancer, not only gave birth to the cyberpunk genre, but it also predicted cyberspace and the internet.

The book follows Case, a former computer hacker and drug addict. Before the book starts, Case was fired from his job and his central nervous system was poisoned, so he couldn’t “jack in” to cyberspace, which is called “the matrix.” Millions of people can jack into the matrix, which is a 3D virtual world that appeals to all the senses. One day, Case meets a mysterious employer who says he will help Case get back into the matrix, but in exchange, Case has to complete an incredibly difficult hack.

In 1984, there was an internet, but only a handful of universities used it. Gibson foresaw that it would eventually connect millions of computers. Of course, the internet isn’t as immersive as the matrix Gibson predicted (yet) but he did predict the rise of technological addiction and people’s need to be online.

5. Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut’s debut novel, Player Piano, was published in 1952, and it takes place in the near future, 10 years after the Third World War. Since people were needed to fight the war, factories were designed to be more autonomous. Also, the stock market is controlled by a computer that tells the factories how many products the world needs. Unfortunately, this automation leads to massive unemployment. Only managers and engineers, who have doctorates, are employed and everyone else can either join the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps, where they do meaningless work like fill potholes, or they can join the army. However, being in the army has kind of lost its meaning as well, because there is nothing to fight for. Essentially, Player Piano is about how automation could make life purposeless for many people.

Of course, we are a long way from the world of Player Piano, but Vonnegut did correctly predict the rise of automation in society, and that it would cause people to lose their jobs. Many people have blamed these job losses on China, or immigrants, but that isn’t exactly the case. Since 2000, America has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs, but American manufacturing output has increased during that time; meaning the jobs are being lost to computers and robots, not to other countries or people.

We’re seeing automation take over jobs more and more every day. Just a few examples include with self-checkout lanes at the grocery store or McDonald’s automated menus. In the future, more jobs are expected to be lost to automation. Drones are already being tested for deliveries by companies like Amazon. Notably, by 2020, self-driving cars are expected to be the norm and this will eliminate all driving jobs. It is expected to get so bad that, over the next 20 years in a country like Canada, four out of 10 jobs will be lost to automation.

So what do you want to do? Join the army or the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps?

4. Earth by David Brin

David Brin is best known for writing the book The Postman, which was made into one of Kevin Costner’s worst movies (and that is saying something). In 1989, Brin published the novel Earth, which takes place in the year 2038. While the novel does have a plot, the book is more or less Brin’s predictions about the future. If you’re curious what the plot is, it’s that an artificial black hole has fallen into the Earth’s core. Scientists have a year to fix it, or the Earth may be destroyed.

The book has a large cast of characters and through these characters, Brin explores what life might be like in the future. Currently, there is a website that keeps track of his predictions, and there are 14 predictions confirmed to have come true and another eight that are likely.

Some of the predictions that Brin did get right are global warming, rising sea levels, and the breaking of the levees on the Mississippi River. Another natural disaster that is postulated in the book that came true was the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.

In 1990, people knew about the internet, but Brin accurately predicted the World Wide Web that was invented by Tim Berners-Lee a year after the book was published. On the “net,” as Brin calls it, there are pages full of hyperlinks. Brin also thought that the net would be used by major news outlets and citizen reporters, along with everyday people who wanted to express themselves. Finally, he also foresaw spam and Trojan horse viruses.

At the time of this list, Brin still has about 21 years to be proven right on the rest of his predictions. So far, only one prediction from his book has been disproven. In Earth, the characters haven’t discovered any Earth-like planets and they didn’t think they would be found any time soon. In reality, we have found several Earth-like planets that are in habitable zones around their star. The first was Kepler-186f; its discovery was announced by NASA in 2014.

3. The World Set Free by H.G. Wells

In The World Set Free, H.G. Wells predicted atomic bombs, even going as far to use the term “atomic bomb” in his book. His bombs are uranium-based and they are about the size of an orange. The explosion is caused by the splitting of atoms and after the explosion, there is corrosive radiation left over. What is so impressive about this is that Wells wrote the book in 1913, 32 years before the first nuclear bomb was tested.

The World Set Free also has an interesting role in the technology it predicted – it helped inspire its invention.

In 1932, English scientists had successfully split an atom through artificial means and the experiment didn’t show any evidence that splitting an atom would cause a huge release of energy. Later that year, Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard read The World Set Free and thought that Wells was correct. Splitting an atom would probably release a lot of energy; the question was how to split the atom. A year later, he had a eureka moment. Szilard said, “It suddenly occurred to me that if we could find an element which is split by neutrons and which would emit two neutrons when it absorbed one neutron, such an element, if assembled in sufficiently large mass, could sustain a nuclear chain reaction.”

Szilard patented the idea in 1933, but he was disturbed by The World Set Free. He didn’t want the patent to become public because it might fall into the wrong hands. Something else that worried him was the rise of Nazism. So in 1939, he drafted the letter that was sent by Albert Einstein to Franklin Roosevelt, saying that Germany was stockpiling uranium. This letter, in turn, gave birth to the Manhattan Project. Szilard and some British scientists worked with the Americans, and this eventually led to the first nuclear bombs. Two of those bombs were dropped on Japan in August 1945 at the tail end of World War II.

Wells died in 1946, after having seen the weapon that he warned against used on civilians in a war.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Yeah, you knew this one was coming.

Published in 1935, Brave New World takes place in the year 632 A.F., which is actually 2540 A.D. (A.F. stands for After Ford, as in the industrialist Henry Ford). In the future, babies are born in labs, meaning the family unit is dead. When they are children, they are told in whispers while they sleep to buy things and to love consumer products. When they are older, the state demands that they be sexually promiscuous, and women wear their birth control on their belts. No one has any real worries about life because mood enhancing drugs are widely available and its usage is encouraged.

Of course, contemporary society isn’t quite to the point of Brave New World, but in all fairness to its author, Aldous Huxley, we still have over 520 years to go. However, he did accurately depict several aspects of contemporary culture, including our consumerist-heavy society. He also predicted antidepressants and their prevalence in modern society.

What’s interesting about Brave New World‘s relationship to contemporary society, is that in 1985, writer and media critic Neil Postman published the non-fiction book Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the book, Postman accurately predicts the rise of a candidate like Donald Trump and the prevalence of fake news in society. In the introduction of the book, Postman explains that he got the idea in 1984, when he was participating in a panel on parallels between George Orwell’s 1984 and real life in 1984.

What Postman realized is that modern life is becoming more like Brave New World than 1984Postman wrote:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.”

Essentially, what Postman says Huxley was warning us against is the dangers of being oppressed by our own amusement; meaning we use endless streams of entertainment to distract ourselves and fail to engage with real life.

1. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Stand on Zanzibar is probably the least well known book on the list, but it is the most accurate prediction of what life would be like in the future. 

The book, which was written in 1968, follows a large cast of characters, but many chapters are backstory and information about the world of 2010. According to the website The Millions, there are at least 17 amazingly accurate predictions that Brunner makes about 2010 in Stand on Zanzibar.

In the book, a major problem in society is that individuals are committing random acts of violence, often at schools. Terrorists also threaten American interests and attack American buildings. Between 1960 and 2010, Brunner predicted that prices would increase six fold because of inflation; it actually increased sevenfold. America’s biggest rival is China, and not the Soviet Union. It’s also a different dynamic because instead of warfare or a weapons race, the competition is seen in economics, trade, and technology. 

As for the rest of the world, the countries of Europe have formed into one union. Britain is part of it, but they tend to side with the United States, while the other European countries are critical of American actions. Africa is behind the rest of the world, while Israel’s existence is still a source of tension in the Middle East.

When it comes to the lives of everyday people, marriage still happens but young people prefer to have short-term relationships instead of committing to someone long-term. Society is also much more liberal. Homosexuality and bisexuality is accepted. Black people are in a better position in society, but racial tension is still prevalent.

When it comes to technology, Brin predicted that cars would run on electric fuel cells. Honda and General Motors are the two biggest manufacturers. And even though General Motors is a Detroit based company, Detroit is a rundown ghost town, but they have a unique techno music scene, which really did emerge in the 1990s.

TV channels are played all over the world thanks to satellites and the TV system allows people to watch shows on their own schedule. Inflight entertainment on planes is in the back of the seats and they feature videos and news. Also, in the book the characters can phone each other on video screens, but instead of a picture of themselves, they use avatars, which can look like the caller or someone completely different. There are also laser printers, which print documents.

Pharmaceuticals are used to help sexual performance, and they are advertised. Due to a societal and political backlash, tobacco has been marginalized and marijuana has become decriminalized. Finally, the President of the United States is President Obomi, which is an amazing fluke or actual evidence that Brunner somehow saw or experienced 2010.

In all, Stand on Zanzibar is a pretty remarkable vision of the future. Unfortunately, the author, John Brunner, did not get to see many of his predictions come true – he died in 1995 at the age of 60.


The Future in Print –

WIF Bookshelf