Will the future really look the way we think it will?

Will the future really look the way we think it will? How long have we been promised flying cars, blasters, spaceships, and robots who will mix drinks and carry around our lightsabers for us? It is understandable that our idea of the future is just an extrapolation of what we currently know. Here’s a couple examples:
1. Back to the Future. Cars can fly! Yay! But when folks communicate, it’s through big screen TVs and faxes. They even have a fax machine in a closet. There were no smartphones, no texting. None of that was a possibility in 1985, and so people just pushed forward the technology we knew.
2. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. We have spaceships! Yay! But the course of the spaceships must be plotted by hand, using paper, pencil, and what must obviously be a really good road atlas of some sort. Nobody expected computers to exist in the early 1930’s, and so there was nothing to get that idea from.

This leads me to try to classify the core technological issues of sci-fi films, and I think I’ve identified two types. There are stories where the technology is absolutely integral to the plot. Think Minority Report without the future seeing machine or precogs, 2001 A Space Odyssey without HAL, Old Man’s War without the time dilation effects.
Then there’s sci-fi where the story is more important, and the sci-fi part is more of a setting than a required part of the story. I’m thinking of Rodenberry’s original social messages on the Star Trek TV show. You could have made that show about just about anything, and his metaphors would still have translated. Star Wars, too, is more an homage to the old Spaghetti westerns that entertained George Lucas as a kid. Good versus evil, while in space shooting lasers at each other.
Both are great, in my reasoned and (obviously, since I’m awesome) correct opinion.    🙂
I fall into the second camp. I wrote a story about people in a difficult situation, people fighting for their homes. They could be doing that during 200 BC or in space. I love sci-fi, so they’re in space.
This finally brought me to the question I now ask anyone who stumbles across this blog: What’s the most ‘non-you’ book you’ve ever read?
For example, I love sci-fi, spy thrillers, that sort of thing. A long time ago, before some studio adapted the story into yet another Ashley Judd movie, a friend recommended I read A Prayer for Owen Meaney. It was a story about two kids growing up, how their entire lives were always driving towards one inevitable moment that they had unknowingly spent their youth preparing for.
No explosions, car chases, or dueling ninjas in sight. Michael Bay would have a stroke.
And yet, it was a great novel. It showed me that, much like my example where sci-fi is just a setting, a good story has characters you care about, and it doesn’t matter so much in what context you tell the tale.
So, what book that you’ve read would surprise us?

 

ps- in all fairness to Michael Bay, I loved The Island.

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