What Is Near Future Sci-Fi???

Steampunk is a recent sensation and is a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction that often incorporates elements of fantasy. The setting is usually late 1800s Victorian Britain. Futuristic inventions and innovations are powered by steam and introduce conflict that help drive the stories and often lead to alternate historical paths. Steampunk generally tends to be less dystopian than its literary cousin cyberpunk.

H. G. Welles and Jules Verne were masters of using fictional machines that took their audiences on a magical mystery tour without having to leave the comforts of their home. These writers were far ahead of their time.

Today we see an emerging genre similar to Steampunk called Near Future Sci-fi. Instead of using futuristic steam powered machines in the present setting, we see potential breakthroughs in physics, technology, biochemistry, and nanotechnology leading the way. Near-future science fiction is set in the present day or in the next few years. Elements of the setting should be familiar to the reader, and the technology may be current or in development. Stories about theoretical physics, nanotechnology, genetics, and techno thrillers often fall into this category.

Example: Einstein-Rosen Bridges, or wormholes as they are commonly known. In a nutshell, wormholes are theorized and predicted portals though the space-time continuum. The term ‘wormhole’ gets its inspiration from the idea of a worm traversing from one side of an apple to the other side. The idea is that if a worm could tunnel through the apple to the other side, then a shortcut would be established. In the same sense, a wormhole through the space-time continuum could theoretically allow matter, including people, to be transported through a hole from one point to another such as Los Angeles to Boston. For now, wormholes are filed under theoretical physics as a proposed theory, something physicists believe may be true about our universe but have yet to prove it in a laboratory under rigorous conditions.

Hollywood likes to fantasize and sensationalize wormhole concepts and place the setting in the future, develop strange characters with pointy ears, and (gulp) use wormholes for time travel, which simply is not a practical or realistic use of wormholes. But they make for a good story nonetheless.

However, using a wormhole to punch through the fabric of space (length, width, and height) is far more realistic. In fact, governments, militaries, universities, large global conglomerates, and the guy working in his garage have committed larges sums of time and resources to discovering a breakthrough in practically using wormholes to travel through space, even if it’s a short distance such as from one side of the laboratory to the other side. We know space is already curved. If space can be folded like a piece of paper, then punching a hole through the two pieces can make a shortcut, or a wormhole.

Wormholes (also called Star Gates and Jump Points in fiction) are seen everyday in children’s TV programs such as Pokeman, Dragon Tales, Dinosaur Train, and Fairly Odd Parents and shows like Stargate, Sliders, and the Star Trek series among countless other shows. They’re also in popular movies such as Déjà Vu (Denzel Washington), Jumper (very cool movie), the Terminator series, and Contact (Jodie Foster). After a cursory glance of my kids DVDs I see two movies with wormholes: Princess and the Frog and Meet the Robinsons.

6 comments:

  1. I was at a writer's conference a few years ago and sat at a table with a bunch of sci-fi writers. They argued the entire evening about worm holes and the impossibility of using them for travel (I think -- the whole conversation was over my head). :D

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  2. Stephen,

    You always have such interesting posts. Though I'm not up on all the information, I love this type of stuff.

    My grandsons watch two of the shows you mentioned - I'll have to keep my eye peeled for wormholes. :)

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  3. Stephen:

    Quite the interesting article! Very intriguing. Thank you for your insightful article.

    Regards,
    Donna
    Award-winning Children’s Author
    Write What Inspires You Blog
    The Golden Pathway Story book Blog
    Donna M. McDine’s Website

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  4. Great post Stephen - even those of us who are fans of sci-fi, will appreciate your clarification of wormholes and how they might be used in a literary sense. China Mieville's latest novel Embassytown uses other universes to allow for travel through vast distances of space, so there are plenty of variations on this. Contemporary physics certainly offers a welter of plot options.

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  5. Folding space like a piece of paper, and punching a hole in it, is exactly how he-who-knows-about-stuff described it to me so I would understand why I couldn't travel through time and space in the way I wanted to :-)

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  6. Stephen, great post. I, too, like the idea of wormholes for space travel. It opens up so many plot options in addition to anything else. Just think, a slight wrong move and you end up goodness knows where..

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