Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 184
…The hard working people of the Midwest will be spared a case of the dreaded Dianetics, which should not be confused with Diuretics…
The Chicago Stadium holds over 21,000 people, for events like these that do not require a wooden court, skating ice, or rodeo dirt. Political conventions and circuses also take advantage of its cavernous interior. Truman was not nominated there, but Democrat F.D.R. was. Economically ill-timed Herbert Hoover and ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch’ Thomas Dewey were Republican conventioneers. And rumor has it that idyllic Roy Rodgers lassoed to Dale Evans into matrimony, wowing the crowd with his six-shooter… how can a girl resist?
And isn’t it a crying shame, that the very run of Billy Graham Crusades takes the dates once promised to the departed Langston Richard Cannon and his Spiritual Engineering gaggle. The hard working people of the Midwest will be spared a case of the dreaded Dianetics, which should not be confused with Diuretics, though they have similar results in different parts of the body, 2 feet apart.
One thing for sure, the many thousands seeking charismatic attention will not be causing much of a ruckus on their own. Neither would the weather on Saturday March 10th, with a warm front pushing the thermometer near 60 degrees, though the penalty paid comes in the form of a foggy drizzle. But signs of an early spring are a gift from God, having paid the price of a usually harsh upper Midwest winter.
The stage is set for another attempt at causing revival. Actual revivals are normally born of prohibitionist personalities, because it is easier to guilt a person into becoming a believer, if you can point out their debauched behavior. Graham, however, has found more upbeat ways to bring his audience closer to their God, like convincing a life-long scientist to profess his belief that, in his field of expertise, he readily accepts the parameters of a divine Creation over the speculation of random Evolution.
Footnote: More than a few of the people attending each evening mention President Truman’s radio address touting Billy Graham as the reason they came out.
Constance Caraway P.I.
Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 183
…Random ramblings from the principles of Libby Affair…
…“Are you saying the landing gear locks were disabled or was there a mechanical failure?” Ace Bannion asks the Civil Aeronautics Board inspector the same question for the second time. They are standing next to the fallen Angel of Blue Ridge.
…“I’m so sorry Worth! I cannot believe that you are a target. That means none of us are safe.” The CCPI 2nd female is genuinely worried about a man for… maybe the first time. She tends to him like a Florence, not a Fanny.
…“Did you hear about that crash out at Midway Airport? It was Rev Graham’s plane and Ace Bannion was the pilot.” Eddie Dombroski speaks to wife Edie from a place of sympathy. Even as he is on the mend, he still feels like a member of the team.
…“I am 90 percent sure that Forever Mastadon is fronted by the Department of Justice. The FBI is up to their neck at 5046 and way in over their heads when it comes to knowing what this whole battle is about.” Agent Daniels is up front with his assessment of the Libby Affair.
…“Half of my staff are either bandaged or in splints. Do you want me to carry on with the Chicago Stadium alter call?” Reverend Billy Graham is speaking to his Lord, a habit that he will never lose and an example of living his faith.
…“What do I have to do to put an end to these people? The Divine One is set against the Great Deception.” Pentateuch would be talking to L. Dick Cannon directly, had he been up front with the man and told him who he really was. Instead Cannon slithers away to his true delusional followers.
…“Maybe we should abandon Project Forever Mastadon. Would it be the end of the world if “they” find out that humankind has only been around for 20 thousand years?” Gilbert Conroy, the science dork, asks the Deputy Attorney General Ross.
…“My fellow Americans, I speak to you as a believer, a believer in the grace of Jesus Christ, not as your President,” President Harry Truman is making good on his promise that he would use his weekly radio address to urge his fellow Americans to affirm their faith in God.
…”Is a scientific breakthrough worth all the trouble it has caused?” Willard Libby wonders.
Not-so-random orders from the top…
“I am here Lord.”
“It is time.”
…dot dot dot…
CONSTANCE CARAWAY P.I.
At this point, writing a script for a film or an episode of television should be down to an exact science. Even people with a passing interest in scripts know about phrases such as inciting incidents, peaks and valleys, and denouncements, and even without popular web-pages like IMDb goofs or the endless ranks of video essayists on YouTube, we can sniff out a hole in a plot.
So knowing audiences have that level of savvy, how can filmmakers that have to devote months, if not years to these projects think that they can get away with having holes in stories that seem like they would take a conscious effort to ignore? On top of that, how do they sometimes not only get away with it but make movies and episodes that audiences cherish for generations? Perhaps we can gain some insight into that by looking at the stories below. All 10 examples are, we should mention, movies and episodes that we love enough to have watched multiple times. Still, you can’t really love something until you accept its flaws.
(By the way, if you’re expecting Citizen Kane and its infamous supposed plot hole to be on here, check this page for why it isn’t. Also, SPOILERS ahead!)
10. Avengers: Infinity War
In the fourth movie in world history to gross over two billion dollars at the box office, the villain Thanos wants to become so powerful that he can, at a stroke, kill half the universe’s population to provide more resources for the other half. Aside from how nonsensical that is (think how many systems of producing and distributing the needed resources would be practically wiped out, how traumatized many of the survivors would be, etc.) considering he can do whatever he wants with time, space, reality, and so on, it also means that he can provide infinite resources to everyone. So why would he kill half the population to deal with alleged shortages?
However, some might try to dismiss that by claiming it’s part of his insanity. In terms of sheer plot mechanics, there’s a less high-falutin example near the end of the movie. The hero Doctor Strange possesses a green stone which allows him to, among other things, reset time for at least a short period. This was demonstrated quite memorably in the climax of Doctor Strange. Yet after a confrontation with Thanos late in the movie, he allows himself and his associates to be defeated without employing this power at all, despite the loss being an extremely near-run matter. There’s a common trope among superhero stories of the heroes “forgetting” their powers, but rarely does it go that far.
9. Get Out
While the meticulous plotting of Get Out‘s screenplay required twenty drafts and resulted in Jordan Peele receiving the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, he left an unfortunate hole in the story that’s as much unnecessary as it’s a cheat.
The basic plot of the film is that Chris goes with his girlfriend Rose to visit her parents’ home. While there, he encounters a person from his neighborhood who is now in a relationship with a much older woman. Since he and other black people that Chris has encountered have been acting weirdly, he is deeply suspicious, even before he receives confirmation from his friend Rod that, indeed, the person he just met has been listed as a missing person, just as numerous other black people in that neighborhood have been. Shortly after, Chris discovers a box in the closet of the bedroom he and Rose have been sleeping in. It is full of photos of Rose with a large number of black boyfriends and girlfriends, including the person Chris knew was missing, revealing that something profoundly wrong is happening.
The issue is this: Why does Rose have that very incriminating box of evidence where Chris could find it? In the following scenes, it’s revealed that Rose is a willing participant in the disappearances and feels no remorse. Indeed, we see her casually looking through photos of up and coming athletes shortly after, indicating that she’s already moving on from the harm she’s going to inflict on Chris, so it’s not as if she’d subconsciously be sabotaging the crime. They’re also printed photos even though the movie is set in contemporary times when surely she would be inclined through social conditioning to take digital photographs. Even the best screenplays can’t seem to escape these missteps.
8. Black Mirror: National Anthem
Often hailed as The Twilight Zone for the internet age, Charlie Brooker’s science fiction anthology struck a chord with audiences from its pilot episode, which premiered in December 2011. In the episode, Princess Susannah is kidnapped by an unknown person who will only release her alive on the condition that the prime minister do something by that late afternoon that the prime minister very much does not want to do, with the full understanding of the public. One of his subordinates makes arrangements to cheat the arrangement in the event Princess Susannah is not rescued in time. Word of the attempted cheat gets out, so the kidnapper releases a video of him removing one of the Susannah’s fingers, and he sends a finger to the press. Learning about this cheat and the harm inflicted on the Princess turns the public against the prime minister, forcing him to go through with the deal. In the end, it’s revealed that the princess is released unharmed and that the kidnapper was an old performance artist who cut off one of his own fingers.
The issue with that is that the performance artist is revealed to be an aged man with a generally working class body while Princess Susannah looks like she’s a model in lower middle age, at the oldest. There’s no way their fingers could plausibly be mistaken for each other, even in the heat of the moment. Even if the extent of the news that leaked was that a finger was sent to a media outlet after the video of the supposed finger removal (which is staged so that the injury itself does not happen in the camera’s line of sight), word would just as quickly get out that it wasn’t her finger, which would massively undercut the public pressure for the prime minister to meet the kidnapper’s demands.
While it is a tale as old as time, most viewers today are probably familiar with it through either the 1951 animated Disney adaptation or the 2014 live action Disney adaptation. Or maybe the 2014 deconstruction in Into the Woods by… uh, Disney again. Our readers very likely don’t need the plot synopsis, but in brief: There’s a hardworking stepdaughter/maid who sneaks to a royal dance after her fairy godmother gives her a dress, carriage, and slippers made of her old clothes, a pumpkin, and magic respectively. She dances with the prince, they fall in love but she has to leave at midnight, leaving her slipper behind. He hunts her down by having every woman in the kingdom try on the slipper until it fits her.
But this story, whether it be the original French version, the German version by the Brothers Grimm, and every film adaptation, has a major problem related to the character of the prince. It doesn’t even make sense by fairy tale logic that the prince loves someone without even knowing what she looks like. Even the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet knew each other’s faces! While fairy tales naturally get deconstructed a lot despite being wish fulfillment fantasies for children, everyone always seems to get too hung up on how impractical glass slippers would be as an article of clothing to observe this problem with the plot.
6. Raiders of the Lost Ark
This 1981 film was both a tribute to 1930s movie serials (even though creators George Lucas and Steven Spielberg admitted they didn’t actually like those when they screened a few for each other during pre-production) and one of the films that codified Hollywood’s blockbuster era. Indiana Jones was instantly iconic as a tomb raiding academic who goes on an adventure to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant in a race against his old rival Belloq and his Nazi collaborators.
It probably helped that in Lawrence Kasdan’s acclaimed screenplay, Indiana Jones is more relatable because he so often fails on the way to the climax, including said climax beginning with him in captivity.
This is where the trouble with the story emerges. As Indiana and his fellow captive Marion Ravenwood look on, the Nazis open the Ark. Ominous light emanates from the Ark, and out of the blue, Indiana Jones tells Marion to shut her eyes. As they do, angels that seem more like demons emerge and kill all of their captors. Never mind the moral issues that they indiscriminately kill everyone solely on the basis of looking at them. How does Indiana know that shutting their eyes is the way for him and Marion to save themselves? The only thing he’s said about it before this scene was when, back at the university, he sees an image of the Ark and blithely guesses that the light emerging from it is the “power of God.” It’s a very puzzling oversight.
Except it actually isn’t. Kasdan included a scene in the original screenplay where the means of surviving was explained to Dr. Jones, but it was cut during editing. Which just goes to show that even a perfect script can be undone during the production process.
5. Black Mirror: USS Callister
After six years and a move from BBC to Netflix, the premiere for Black Mirror’s fourth season once again left audiences in awe and slightly disturbed. In brief, the episode is about the creator of a virtual reality online video game named Robert Daly. Instead of merely playing his game (which is modeled in large part on a fictional equivalent of the original Star Trek series) as a light adventure as originally intended, Daly makes artificially intelligent copies of coworkers and tortures them into treating him as essentially a god. Part of Black Mirror’s conceit was well-established by that time that AI simulations of people have the equivalents of physical sensations and emotions, thus making the AI in this show as sympathetic as any human beings would be and their existences just as Hellish.
Still, a problem with the story is revealed almost immediately. To properly map out the memories and emotions of his coworkers to make the simulations as accurate as possible, Daly sneaks samples of their DNA home from work from such things as discarded Styrofoam cups. The issue of that is that while Daly would indeed have good DNA samples to make clones, in real life he wouldn’t be able to make replicas required by the narrative because our DNA does not contain our memories. It’s a testament to the execution of the episode that this did not seem to take many viewers out of the experience.
4. A Quiet Place
The producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form were questioned about the nail and the best they came up with was saying that the family couldn’t risk the noise of removing a nail. Which… Fine. But why, or even how, did they get it there in the first place?!
While there are many that are contemptuous of this horror hit (hence the fact the influential audience test score called Cinemascore gave it a D+), those that view it favorably tend to be passionate about it. It is deliberate in its pacing and unpredictability, and its art design is as subtly creepy as it is beautiful. Near the beginning, a family learns that a recently departed grandmother’s grave has been desecrated and things… well, they get even more grisly and disturbing from there, including the death of of the main character’s young daughter, Charlie, which culminates in a truly horrifying ending.
While it could be fairly said that writer-director Ari Aster attempted a much more grounded form of occult horror, he still left some substantial holes in the story. Staci Wilson of At Home in Hollywood pointed out that the cemetery calls the family to inform them of the desecration. However, later in the movie Charlie’s remains are also seen, and the movie devotes time to seeing her burial. So how is the family not being told about this desecration? How are the police not being informed of it? With a clear connection between the two desecrated graves, why are the police not investigating the family? Aster has to really fill the run-time with unsettling imagery to keep the viewer’s mind off matters like that.
2. The Dark Knight Rises
While it might not have achieved the heights of critical hype and commercial success of 2008’s The Dark Knight, this 2012 film still made quite an impression with its story of how Bane practically paralyzes the billionaire vigilante Bruce Wayne and conquers the city of Gotham. It makes Bruce’s eventual recovery and triumph all the more compelling, especially with how costly it was in the end. And for this entry, we’re going to go ahead and ignore the well-established plot hole of how Bruce somehow got halfway around the world and snuck into Gotham despite being, at this point, a former billionaire with no resources.
However, one of the greatest problems with the story was that Bruce Wayne recovering from his injury and going through the spiritual journey that allows him to go confront Bane again on more favorable terms takes five months. Can you imagine any administration allowing a city to fall into the hands of criminals to such an extent that people physically cannot enter the city? We can just see some commentators saying something like “sure, look at Chicago, New Orleans, etc,” but you know what we mean. Even in a series where urban crime is to an extent decided by costumed heroes and villains having fistfights, that’s just silly. Silly in a way that the movies directed by Christopher Nolan have tried their hardest not to be.
1. The Sixth Sense
One of the biggest hits of 1999 and the possessor of perhaps the most famous twist in modern cinema history, this film had members of entertainment media predicting that M. Night Shyamalan would be the next Steven Spielberg. We’ll see if his recent hit Split will put him back on course to achieving that honor, but we can always appreciate his story of a child who could see the many ghosts that walk among us. One or two oft-parodied scenes dominate most people’s memories of this film, but there’s a particularly touching scene where Cole Sear conquers his fear of ghosts by helping bring closure to the ghost of Kyra Collins.
Problem with it is that Kyra’s sequence brings with it all sorts of problems. For one thing, it’s said of the ghosts that “they see what they want to see,” so why is she the only one who’s aware she’s dead? There’s also the fact that the way she imparts the truth to Cole for him to pass on to her father is by pushing a VHS tape out from under her bed when he goes to her house during the funeral. But if Collins is aware she’s dead, and has apparently already watched the tape (otherwise she wouldn’t know that it has the information that would identify her murderer on it), then she must be able to move the tape around considerably. So what’s to stop her from just showing it to her father herself without seeking out Cole Sear? Like the rest of these, it’s hardly a movie ruining problem, but it’s enough to make you wonder how such inconsistency was never picked up by critics or harped on during the years-long Shyamalan backlash.
Plot Holes Exposed –
WIF @ the Movies
Books That Predicted
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.
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 1984. Postman 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 –
Sci-Fi Writers (Not Gwen)
On How America
In American history, there are many incidents that could have drastically changed, or even destroyed, America. Altered versions of these “What If” events are a popular genre of science fiction called “alternate history.” To help visualize their Alt-Histories, authors often supply maps of the ALT-USA… and that’s precisely what we’re going to take a look at today. Warning, though: Below Be Spoilers.
10. The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle is a TV show based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name. In this universe, history diverged from our own when Franklin D. Roosevelt was assassinated by Giuseppe Zangarast in 1933. This was based a real event, but in our history Zangarast missed FDR and killed Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak instead. In Dick’s history Roosevelt was killed, and without him America struggled under the Great Depression and became extremely isolationist. This allowed the Axis powers of World War II (Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan) to become victorious in Europe and in the Pacific.
By 1945, the Axis powers have invaded North America from both the Pacific and the Atlantic. A Nazi atomic bomb in Washington DC forces America’s surrender, and the occupation creates the division of the United States between Germany and Japan; much like how, during our timeline, Germany was divided into the East and West. The events in The Man in the High Castle TV show take place in the 1960s, and maps show that Germany and Japan had split America between them with a small neutral zone separating the two.
Revolution was an American post-apocalyptic NBC TV show that takes place in 2027. In this universe, a mysterious 2012 event called “The Blackout” caused all electricity to permanently cease to function. The show, produced by JJ Abrams, followed the survivors as they deal with the consequences of a world without electrical power.
After the Blackout, America descends into chaos and fragments as technology reverts back to pre-electricity, steam-powered tech. Most of the action in the TV show takes place in the Monroe Republic, which is made up of Northeast America. The character Monroe was able to seize power after setting up a tyrannical military dictatorship that takes away the guns of its people. The West Coast is dominated by the California Commonwealth, and Texas exists as a separate republic… which is pretty much par for the course. The Southwest is abandoned to the desert, and a reemergence of a nomadic lifestyle takes over in the Midwest Plains Nation.
8. Southern Victory
Celebrated science fiction author Harry Turtledove created an alternate universe called Southern Victory. In 1997 he released the first of 11 alternate history books, How Few Remain. In this universe, history diverges during the American Civil War (which you probably guessed based on the title) on September 10, 1862. In real life on this day, a Confederate messenger lost Top Secret Order 191, which outlined the South’s invasion. With these secret plans, the North was able to check the invasion and slog on to eventual victory. In Turtledove’s universe the secret plans weren’t lost. This allows the South to successfully launch a surprise invasion and defeat the Union Army of the Potomac, and eventually the South captures Philadelphia. Capturing such a large city enables the United Kingdom and France to ally with the Confederate States of America, forcing an end to the war with the South declaring independence from the United States on November 4, 1862.
On the map you can see how America wasn’t able to afford buying Alaska from Russia, and the Second Mexican Empire (which at the time was still ruled by the Emperor of Mexico, Maximilian I) crumbles into poverty. In our universe, Maximilian ruled Mexico until he was killed in 1867. In Turtledove’s history the bankrupt Mexico allows the South to purchase the northwestern regions of Sonora and Chihuahua, giving them access to the Pacific. The series continues with North and South being mortal enemies who ally with other world powers to fight each other over the next hundred years.
In the CBS TV show Jericho, a shadow government plans a coup via a nuclear attack on 23 major cities in America, using small bombs smuggled to their targets in cargo vans. After the bombs detonate, civilization breaks down and the American government is destroyed. The first season of the show dealt with a small town as it tried to keep its citizens alive during the aftermath of the nuclear attack.
The show pulled in low numbers and was canceled after one season. Jericho’s fans revolted and launched an online campaign for CBS to do a second season, sending nuts to CBS (it actually makes sense in the context of the show, if you haven’t seen it). Eventually, over 20 tons were mailed to the network. This online outcry was an “unprecedented display of passion in support of a prime-time television series.” CBS caved and made a second season, where it was revealed that civilization had returned but the coup planners had only succeeded in seizing Western America, while Texas became independent (that seems to be a theme in these kinds of alternate histories) and the Eastern USA stopped enough nuclear bombs that some form of federal government survived the WMD attack.
Even with the successful nuts viral campaign, CBS still canceled the show after the second season. However, the universe lived on in comics, which revealed that the East and West USA fragmented into smaller nations while some parts of America were occupied by UN forces.
6. The Handmaid’s Tale
Celebrated author Margaret Atwood first published her book The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985. A 1990 film adaptation of the same name was released, and in 2017 Hulu adapted it into a critically acclaimed series. In Atwood’s America, a polluted country is wracked by falling fertility rates, which cause huge civil unrest. A staged attack wipes out the President and most of the federal government. In the chaos, a Christian Fundamentalist movement calling itself the “Sons of Jacob” seize control. Some surviving elements of the government flee to the West, where America still exists, while east of the Rockies is ruled by a new government called “Gilead.”
The new Christian theocracy decrees Baptists are heretics and brutally suppresses its followers, causing much of the American South to be in continuous revolt. Gilead is able to keep the remnants of America and the world at bay by threatening to use nukes that are seized after coup’s success. A number of areas are radioactive, implying that there was nuclear sabotage or that Gilead demonstrated its nuclear might. Condemned criminals and opponents of the new regime (which are often one and the same) are sent to these areas as “clean up” teams, but due to their high mortality these men and women really face a death sentence.
5. Dies the Fire
Stephen Michael Stirling’s Emberverse series spans 14 novels, with the first book Dies the Fire being released in 2008. More installments are expected as the series chugs right along.
In the Emberverse universe a mysterious event called “The Change” alters the laws of physics, throwing the world into chaos. After the Change, modern technology stops functioning, throwing the world back into the Iron Age, with people arming themselves with swords and bow and arrows. Large population areas collapse when food runs out, and from the ashes of urban centers emerge large cannibal groups that create “Death Zones.” From more rural areas, city-states emerge. This is the universe that Dies the Fire sees for post-apocalyptic America.
4. A Canticle for Leibowitz
Walter M. Miller, Jr. first published A Canticle for Leibowitz in 1959. The award-winning book is considered a classic and has never been out of print. It’s a post-apocalyptic story that takes place 600 years after a horrible nuclear war, which sparked a movement to destroy all knowledge called the “Simplification.” During this movement, all books are destroyed except for some hidden away in a Catholic monastery, the Abbey of Saint Leibowitz, in the deserts of the American Southwest.
After all knowledge is wiped out during the Simplification, America reverts to tribal, feudal societies. Sometime in the 600 years after WWIII, the Catholic Church relocates from Rome, Italy, to New Rome, somewhere in the former United States. Surrounding New Rome are a number of Catholic papal states. Also emerging from the fragments of Western civilization are the Empires of Texarkana, Laredo, Denver. Back at the Abbey of Saint Leibowitz, the monastery keeps its vast collection of pre-war books and knowledge alive by painstakingly copying them by hand. From these books, civilization is reborn.
3. The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins released the first book of her Hunger Games trilogy in 2008, and the novels were adapted into the blockbuster series starring Jennifer Lawrence as the story’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Over their cumulative worldwide releases, the four movies pulled in almost $3 billion dollars. So… we’re guessing you’ve probably seen at least one of them.
The Hunger Games takes place sometime in the future after a great war. Rising sea levels have swallowed up vast parts of North America, leaving a new nation called Panem to rise. This dystopian nation is divided into 12 districts that each specialize in specific goods or services.
A lot of the story takes place in District 12 (D12), which is thought to be in the coal-rich Appalachian region. D11 grows grain, and D10 raises livestock. Both are very large, given their tasks of feeding an entire nation. Close by is D9, which processes the food. D8 produces and treats textiles, while D7 specializes in forestry. D6 specializes in research and development, while D5 does genetic research. D4 is on or near the ocean, while D3 works with Information Technology and D2 specializes in weaponry and training peacekeepers. D1 produces luxury goods for the Capitol District and has a diamond mine – possibly the now-commercially closed Kelsey Lake Diamond Mine. The secret, rebellious District 13 is hidden away in bunkers thought to be in the Northeastern part of America.
2. Crimson Skies
Jordan Weisman and Dave McCoy created the Crimson Skies universe first for a board game released in 1998, and then a video game franchise produced by Microsoft Game Studios beginning in 2000.
History diverges from our universe when, in the 1930s, a series of deadly diseases devastate America and the country becomes increasingly isolationist to the point where the federal government devolves all power to the states, leading to the Balkanization of the United States into a series of small regional-states. With no federal government to pull the nation together interstate highways decay while at the same time aviation technology takes off. With a focus on air travel, roads and trains are abandoned in favor of the skies. With so many city-states there are many grievances, which quickly turn into open war. From the chaos of near constant warfare, large groups of air pirates raid commerce and other settlements.
1. The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead has been airing on AMC since October 31, 2010, and is based on a comic book series of the same name created by Robert Kirkman. Even with declining ratings over the last couple seasons, the show was renewed for a ninth season and Forbes’ Paul Tassi has talked about how the series should catch up to the comic books by season 9 or 10. After that, Kirkman hopes the show will diverge from its source material (which it has already started to do, given a few major cast and character shakeups).
In this alternate reality, America has been overrun by a zombie virus that reanimates the dead. The story starts off with the main character, Rick Grimes, waking up from a coma to find the world overtaken by the un-dead. He and a group of survivors first go to Atlanta, and then after meeting another group head to the nation’s capital, Washington DC – which is the general area around which the show now takes place. The main locations are the Alexandria Safe-Zone south of the capital, the Hilltop colony north of DC, and in the urban core of the city, Ezekiel’s Kingdom. They fight against Negan and the Saviors, who are based east of Washington DC at The Sanctuary. Everything outside of these areas is more or less abandoned, given over to the hordes of the walking dead.
Oh, so that’s where they got the title.