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The (tech) world is catching up to fiction

Posted: Jon Peddie 09.19.17

We need a new category—SciFi is no longer applicable

When I was a kid I read the comics (OK, I still do). We read them because we didn’t have TV, hadn’t even heard of it. Our phones were plugged into the wall and had a big round dial with holes in it. Try to imagine that as the norm, and then as a young impressionable kid, picking up a colorful, exciting comic book and seeing a hawk-nosed detective in a rain coat looking at video on his watch. OMG-what an incredible thing. 

Remember, no TV yet, so how in the world could those images get on that watch!?! Today lots of people have the equivalent of a Dick Tracy watch. And no doubt, the bold imagination of Chester Gould influenced some of the designers of today’s devices. A few tinkerers (sorry, we call them “makers” now don’t we?) built replicas of Detective Tracy’s watch, and there have been various toys that imitated the idea (but didn’t work—the tech wasn’t there yet in 1990). And strangely enough, no manufacturer is offering such a style device, I’d think it would sell like crazy—hell, people bought pet rocks for crying out loud. 

There have been other marvelous futurist ideas portrayed in comics, paperback books, and magazines (anyone remember Omni?). And many of those ideas have come to life. There are constant comparisons to the tech of Star Trek. But these ideas, and the stories that contain them are labeled science fiction. We even have a TV channel dedicated to them (with some pretty crappy stuff on, but filling a channel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week can be challenging, so give them a break). 
But should the marvels that become products be called “Science” fiction? Sure, science has been used to create them, and maybe even craft them, but they aren’t science devices. They don’t do science like a gas chromatograph or a The Large Hadron Collider does. 

Rather, the mindstretching ideas presented in movies, books and magazine, and games should be called product fiction, or maybe even product planning. But the word product is too colorless, too humdrum, prosaic. 
What if we called it tech-fi? Visualize this tweeted conversation. 

I also think there should be a review/ collection of the stuff imagined in magazine, games, comics, movies, and TV, and an annual award for the best (jury selected). There should be categories (health, weapons, communications, tele-transport, propulsion systems, etc.), and then the best of the best. Not talking about Academy, Emmy, or Ellie Awards, that’s just for movies, TV, and magazines. We need something that embraces all of the media associated with Tech-Fi. Here are some examples (games, comics, weapons, and movies, and if you’re interested in some classic Sci-Fi podcasts, check this.) 

I worry about the youth of today and what is stimulating their imaginations. Other than some (OK, a lot) of Sci Fi movies, mostly about space, which seem to carry the same tired clichés; there hasn’t been much novelty in the media lately. The comic books of today seem to stuck in super hero land, there are four (that I know of) Sci Fi magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction (which you can get on your phone or Kindle) and it has almost no illustrations, Shimmer, Uncanny, and Strange Horizons (free, but make a donation) there’s a few magazines like Popular Science, and Wired that show today’s stuff and some laboratory stuff that might be real stuff one day (BTW— you can get all the back issue of Omni on-line, for free—highly recommended). Also, there’s new version of Amazing Stories coming to TV. 

But what is grabbing our imaginations today that will inspire some kid who in 20 or 30 years will actually build the thing? What is the source of the make believe? Do kids today even do make believe, and pretend to be the characters they see in the movies or (if they do) read about? When I was a kid we pretended we had ray guns, and would make cardboard versions of what we thought one might look like. There’s an unrealized Tech-Fi item—the closest thing we have to it is a Taser. 
Maybe we should stay with the term Sci-Fi, It may be more inspiring, more mind expanding, more fantastic. OK, we’ll keep Sci-Fi—what have you seen lately that’s inspired you?