Jaded with SF

Ganesha's picture

Following along with our discussions about long-in-the-tooth SF writers, I just watched the movie, Transcendence with Depp, Freeman and some other folks. It's about Johnny Depp getting shot with a radioactive bullet, then his wife and buddy upload his personality so he can live on. Just like the story in Analog Magazine from sometime in the late 80's or early 90s. All the elements are the same: A character was sprayed with radioactivity by a hit man, who had metal armor encasing his skull (a character in the movie has metal in his head). The hit man and many other people in the time of the story use nanobots to keep themselves young and healthy. The character who was assassinated gets uploaded while she is dying, then lives in the 'net, as a protector of humanity. She was a cop when she was a human.

I haven't watched or read The TIme Traveler's Wife, but I read a story in Analog 20 years ago about a time traveler who was going backwards through time. When he first jumps forward in time, he is in his late 20's and is met in his future by an old woman. She tells him all about their love and children, who are middle-aged. The Time Traveler only stays for a short time, then bounces back a few years. His next touch down is when his children are in their 20s, his wife is in her 40s and he's just turned 30. He can stay longer in this time. Then he bounces back again. The next stop is when his wife is younger, his kids are kids, and he can stay even longer. Jump again. His wife is young and pretty. He's in his 40s and the kids are not born yet. He can stay even longer. Jump again. He's an old dude, His wife-to-be is a young girl. He becomes a favorite uncle and friend of the family.

Actually, a nearly identical plot was used for one of the characters in Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. The only difference is that the young man is time-delayed by relativistic travel, and his girlfriend is, of course, much older each time he returns to her planet. Every year for him is about a dozen for her.

The first backwards time traveler that I read about was Merlin in The Once and Future King. I can't remember if it was a spell he cast on himself, or if Morgana or another enemy did it to him, but he's portrayed as not being able to remember much of what happened, but having a great memory of what hasn't happened yet.

So, us old-timers have a few things working against us. We consumed mass quantities of SF when we were younger. Most of the ideas were new then, too. "The Future" was wide open, because we didn't know jack diddly about what was possible and what was not, so just about anything was possible. Since then, we've gotten closer to many of our obstacles and learned that they are much higher than they looked from further away. At the same time, more ideas have been presented and examined and compared to reality: No canals on Mars. No rainforests on Venus. Leaving the protection of Earth's magnetosphere is deadly. And even though we find more and more planets every day, they are a long, long, long way away. Our willingness or ability to suspend disbelief has diminished and we are much more discerning about what we consider to be "quality."

I'm not cynical at all. I believe that our material lives are improving every day. We can keep 7.5 billion people alive nowadays. If we reach 10 billion, it will be because we figured out how to feed 10 billion. At the same time, we are learning that we should probably target 5 billion or fewer, so we will work out some way to keep the population vibrant without the need to make so many kids every year. There are more old people alive now than in any time in human history, because, again we've figured out how to keep them spry. And, as we've talked about, we can keep people alive whose ailments, genetic defects, or accidents would have killed them dead 50 years ago. Every developed nation puts more land into trusteeship, to preserve nature. We spend a bigger percentage of our GNPs successfully diminishing pollution every year. And more people have more access to income than at any time in history, worldwide. I'm bullish on the future.

At the same time, it takes more to give me the "Gosh! Wow!" feeling. I need to get it vicariously through my kids. Fortunately, it aslo takes more to make me lose hope. We've experienced so much and come through it, that whatever new problems come up don't seem as bad as they used to.

It's harder to get excited, but it's easier to overcome dispair.

I'd say that's a good trade-off.

 

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