Future history

A future history is a postulated history of the future and is used by authors of science fiction and other speculative fiction to construct a common background for fiction. Sometimes the author publishes a timeline of events in the history, while other times the reader can reconstruct the order of the stories from information provided therein.

Background

The term appears to have been coined by John W. Campbell, Jr., the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, in the February 1941 issue of that magazine, in reference to Robert A. Heinlein's Future History. Neil R. Jones is generally credited as the first author to create a future history.[1]

A set of stories which share a backdrop but are not really concerned with the sequence of history in their universe are rarely considered future histories. For example, neither Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga nor George R. R. Martin's 1970s short stories which share a backdrop are generally considered future histories. Standalone stories which trace an arc of history are rarely considered future histories. For example, Walter M. Miller Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz is not generally considered a future history.

Earlier, some works were published which constituted "future history" in a more literal sense—i.e., stories or whole books purporting to be excerpts of a history book from the future and which are written in the form of a history book—i.e., having no personal protagonists but rather describing the development of nations and societies over decades and centuries.

Such works include:

  • Jack London's The Unparalleled Invasion (1914) describing a devastating war between an alliance of Western nations and China in 1975, ending with a complete genocide of the Chinese. It is described in a short footnote as "Excerpt from Walt Mervin's 'Certain Essays in History'".
  • André Maurois's The War against the Moon (1928), where a band of well-meaning conspirators intend to avert a devastating world war by uniting humanity in hatred of a fictitious Lunar enemy only to find that the moon is truly inhabited and that they had unwittingly set off the first interplanetary war. This, too, is explicitly described as an excerpt from a future history book.
  • The most ambitious of this subgenre is H. G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come (1933), written in the form of a history book published in the year 2106 and—in the manner of a real history book—containing numerous footnotes and references to the works of (mostly fictitious) prominent historians of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Notable future histories

Alternate history

Unlike alternate history, where alternative outcomes are ascribed to past events, future history postulates certain outcomes to events in the writer's present and future.

The essential difference is that the writer of alternate history is in possession of knowledge of the actual outcome of a certain event, and that knowledge influences also the description of the event's alternate outcome. The writer of future history does not have such knowledge, such works being based on speculations and predictions current at the time of writing—which often turn out to be wildly inaccurate.

For example, in 1933 H. G. Wells postulated in The Shape of Things to Come a Second World War in which Nazi Germany and Poland are evenly matched militarily, fighting an indecisive war over ten years; and Poul Anderson's early 1950s Psychotechnic League depicted a world undergoing a devastating nuclear war in 1958, yet by the early 21st century managing not only to rebuild the ruins on Earth but also engage in extensive space colonization of the Moon and several planets. A writer possessing knowledge of the actual swift collapse of Poland in World War II and the enormous actual costs of far less ambitious space programs in a far less devastated world would have been unlikely to postulate such outcomes.[2] 2001: A Space Odyssey was set in the future and featured developments in space travel and habitation which have not occurred on the timescale postulated.

A problem with future history science fiction is that it will date and be overtaken by real historical events, for instance H. Beam Piper's future history, which included a nuclear war in 1973, and much of the future history of Star Trek. Jerry Pournelle's "CoDominium" future history assumed that the Cold War would end with the United States and Soviet Union establishing a co-rule of the world, the CoDominium of the title, which would last into the 22nd Century—rather than the Soviet Union collapsing in 1991.

There are several ways this is dealt with. One solution to the problem is when some authors set their stories in an indefinite future, often in a society where the current calendar has been disrupted due to a societal collapse or undergone some form of distortion due to the impact of technology. Related to the first, some stories are set in the very remote future and only deal with the author's contemporary history in a sketchy fashion, if at all (e.g. the original Foundation Trilogy by Asimov). Another related case is where stories are set in the near future, but with an explicitly allohistorical past, as in Ken MacLeod's Engines of Light series.

In other cases, such as the Star Trek universe, the merging of the fictional history and the known history is done through extensive use of retroactive continuity. In yet other cases, such as the Doctor Who television series and the fiction based on it, much use is made of secret history, in which the events that take place are largely secret and not known to the general public.

As with Heinlein, some authors simply write a detailed future history and accept the fact that events will overtake it, making the sequence into a de facto alternate history.

Lastly, some writers formally transform their future histories into alternate history, once they had been overtaken by events. For example, Poul Anderson started The Psychotechnic League history in the early 1950s, assuming a nuclear war in 1958—then a future date. When it was republished in the 1980s, a new foreword was added explaining how that history's timeline diverged from ours and led to war.

See also

References

  1. ^ Ashley, M. (April, 1989). The Immortal Professor, Astro Adventures No.7, p.6.
  2. ^ Robert F. Vernon, "Reasoned and unreasoned speculations about what will be and what might have been" in Marcia Gracie (ed.) "Trends in Speculative Fiction", New York, 1998

External links

Alliance–Union universe

The Alliance–Union universe is a fictional universe created by American writer C. J. Cherryh. It is the setting for a future history series extending from the 21st century out into the far future.

To date, the corpus of the Alliance–Union universe consists of 27 science fiction novels along with a series of seven short story anthologies edited by Cherryh and a few other miscellaneous works. It encompasses both books for which Cherryh won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, Downbelow Station and Cyteen, and also incorporates various other series books such as the Faded Sun trilogy, the Chanur novels, the four Morgaine books, and the Merovingen Nights shared universe series.

CoDominium

CoDominium is a series of future history novels written by American writer Jerry Pournelle, along with several co-authors, primarily Larry Niven.

Far future in science fiction and popular culture

The far future, here defined as the time beyond the 10th millennium, has been used as a setting in many works of fiction or popular scientific speculation.

Future History (Heinlein)

The Future History, by Robert A. Heinlein, describes a projected future of the human race from the middle of the 20th century through the early 23rd century. The term Future History was coined by John W. Campbell, Jr. in the February 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Campbell published an early draft of Heinlein's chart of the series in the March 1941 issue.Heinlein wrote most of the Future History stories early in his career, between 1939 and 1941 and between 1945 and 1950. Most of the Future History stories written prior to 1967 are collected in The Past Through Tomorrow, which also contains the final version of the chart. That collection does not include Universe and Common Sense; they were published separately as Orphans of the Sky.

Groff Conklin called Future History "the greatest of all histories of tomorrow". It was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series in 1966, along with the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Lensman series by E. E. Smith, the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, and The Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien, but lost to Asimov's Foundation series.

Future History (album)

Future History is the second studio album by American singer Jason Derulo, released on September 16, 2011.

As the executive producer of the album, Derulo collaborated with several record producers, including DJ Frank E, The Fliptones, The Outerlimits, Emanuel Kiriakou, RedOne, Jai Marlon and frequent collaborator J.R. Rotem, among others.

Upon its release, Future History received mixed reviews from music critics. In the United States, the album debuted at number 29 on the Billboard 200, with first-week sales of 13,000 copies, significantly fewer than his debut album a year prior. The album reached the top ten in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and the top twenty in Ireland and Switzerland.

Preceding the album's release was the lead single "Don't Wanna Go Home", which peaked at number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and became Derulo's second number one on the UK Singles Chart. "It Girl" was released as the album's second single, which reached the top ten in several countries. "Breathing" and "Fight for You" were released with moderate success, as the album's third and fourth singles, respectively. "Undefeated" was released as the first single from the platinum edition of the album in 2012.

H. Beam Piper

Henry Beam Piper (March 23, 1904 – c.  November 6, 1964) was an American science fiction author. He wrote many short stories and several novels. He is best known for his extensive Terro-Human Future History series of stories and a shorter series of "Paratime" alternate history tales.

He wrote under the name H. Beam Piper. Another source gives his name as "Horace Beam Piper" and a different date of death. His gravestone says "Henry Beam Piper". Piper himself may have been the source of part of the confusion; he told people the H stood for Horace, encouraging the assumption that he used the initial because he disliked his name. On a copy of "Little Fuzzy" given to Charles O. Piper, Beam's cousin and executor, he wrote "To Charles from Henry."

Idealism (Christian eschatology)

Idealism (also called the spiritual approach, the allegorical approach, the nonliteral approach, and many other names) in Christian eschatology is an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that sees all of the imagery of the book as symbols.Jacob Taubes writes that idealist eschatology came about as Renaissance thinkers began to doubt that the Kingdom of Heaven had been established on earth, or would be established, but still believed in its establishment. Rather than the Kingdom of Heaven being present in society, it is established subjectively for the individual.F. D. Maurice interpreted the Kingdom of Heaven idealistically as a symbol representing society's general improvement, instead of a physical and political kingdom. Karl Barth interprets eschatology as representing existential truths that bring the individual hope, rather than history or future-history. Barth's ideas provided fuel for the Social Gospel philosophy in America, which saw social change not as performing "required" good works, but because the individuals involved felt that Christians could not simply ignore society's problems with future dreams.Different authors have suggested that the Beast represents various social injustices, such as exploitation of workers, wealth, the elite, commerce, materialism, and imperialism. Various Christian anarchists, such as Jacques Ellul, have identified the State and political power as the Beast.It is distinct from Preterism, Futurism and Historicism in that it does not see any of the prophecies (except in some cases the Second Coming, and Final Judgment) as being fulfilled in a literal, physical, earthly sense either in the past, present or future, and that to interpret the eschatological portions of the Bible in a historical or future-historical fashion is an erroneous understanding.

If This Goes On—

"If This Goes On—" is a science fiction novella by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, first serialized in 1940 in Astounding Science-Fiction and revised and expanded for inclusion in the 1953 collection Revolt in 2100. The novella shows what might happen to Christianity in the United States given mass communications, applied psychology, and a hysterical populace. The novel is part of Heinlein's Future History series.

In 2016 the story won the 1941 Retro-Hugo Award for Best Novella of 1940 at the 2016 WorldCon.

Jason Derulo

Jason Joel Desrouleaux (born September 21, 1989), known professionally as Jason Derulo (; formerly stylised as Derülo), is an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Since the start of his solo recording career in 2009, Derulo has sold over 30 million singles and has achieved eleven Platinum singles, including "Wiggle", "Talk Dirty", "In My Head", and "Whatcha Say".After producing records for several artists and writing songs for Cash Money Records co-founder Birdman, Young Money Entertainment owner Lil Wayne and rapper Diddy, Derulo signed to minor recording label Beluga Heights. After Beluga Heights became part of the Warner Music Group, Derulo released his debut single "Whatcha Say" in May 2009. It sold over five million digital downloads, gaining an RIAA certification of triple Platinum, and reaching number 1 in the U.S. and New Zealand. Derulo released his second single, "In My Head", in December 2009 and his debut studio album, Jason Derulo, followed on March 2, 2010. He released his second album, Future History, on September 16, 2011; the album was preceded by the release of the UK number-one single "Don't Wanna Go Home". Derulo's third international album, Tattoos, was released on September 24, 2013 and later repackaged as his third U.S. album, Talk Dirty, released on April 15, 2014.

In 2015, Derulo released his single "Want to Want Me" and announced his fourth studio album, Everything Is 4, which was released on June 2, 2015. His next album, 2Sides, will follow in 2019.

Last and First Men

Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future is a "future history" science fiction novel written in 1930 by the British author Olaf Stapledon. A work of unprecedented scale in the genre, it describes the history of humanity from the present onwards across two billion years and eighteen distinct human species, of which our own is the first. The book employs a narrative conceit that, under subtle inspiration, the novelist has unknowingly been dictated a channelled text from the last human species.

Stapledon's conception of history is based on the Hegelian Dialectic, following a repetitive cycle with many varied civilisations rising from and descending back into savagery over millions of years, but it is also one of progress, as the later civilisations rise to far greater heights than the first. The book anticipates the science of genetic engineering, and is an early example of the fictional supermind; a consciousness composed of many telepathically linked individuals.

In 1932, Stapledon followed Last and First Men with the far less acclaimed Last Men in London. Another Stapledon novel, Star Maker (1937), could also be considered a sequel to Last and First Men (mentioning briefly man's evolution on Neptune), but is even more ambitious in scope, being a history of the entire universe.

It is the 11th title in the SF Masterworks series.

Methuselah's Children

Methuselah's Children is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in the July, August, and September 1941 issues. It was expanded into a full-length novel in 1958.

The novel is usually considered to be part of Heinlein's Future History series of stories. It introduces the Howard families, a fictional group of people who achieved long lifespans through selective breeding. The space ship in this novel, the New Frontiers, is described in the Future History timeline as a second generation ship, following the Vanguard, the vehicle for Heinlein's paired novellas "Universe" and "Common Sense".

According to John W. Campbell, the novel was originally to be called While the Evil Days Come Not. This provisional title stems from a quotation from Ecclesiastes that was used as a password on the second page of the story.

The novel was the origin of the word "masquerade" as a term for a fictional trope of a hidden society within the real world.

Revolt in 2100

Revolt in 2100 is a 1953 science fiction collection by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, part of his Future History series.

The contents are as follows:

Foreword by Henry Kuttner, "The Innocent Eye"

"If This Goes On—" (1940; originally published in Astounding Science Fiction)

"Coventry" (1940; originally published in Astounding Science Fiction)

"Misfit" (1939; originally published in Astounding Science Fiction)

Future History chart

Afterword: "Concerning Stories Never Written"The short novel, "If This Goes On—", describes a rebellion against an American theocracy and thus served as the vehicle for Heinlein to criticise the authoritarian potential of Protestant Christian fundamentalism. The work is not an attack on religion in general, however, as he has a Mormon community take part in the anti-theocratic revolt. Heinlein rewrote the work for this appearance.The short stories, "Coventry" and "Misfit", describe the succeeding secular liberal society from the point of view of characters who reject it.

Later paperback editions have paired Revolt in 2100 with Methuselah's Children.

The afterword describes three stories which describe the beginning of the theocracy and subsequent beginnings of rebellion against it. "The Sound of His Wings" would have concerned a televangelist named Nehemiah Scudder who rides a populist, racist wave of support to the Presidency. "Eclipse" describes the subsequent collapse of American society with particular emphasis on the withdrawal from space travel by the new regime. "The Stone Pillow" offers the rise of the rebellion which the protagonists of "If This Goes On-" later join; the rebellion (styled the "Second American Revolution" in later stories of the Future History) includes Mormons, Catholics, and Jews, groups suppressed by the Theocracy, working in concert with Freemasons. Internal evidence of the series, particularly conversations in Methuselah's Children and Time Enough For Love place the Scudder election in the year 2012.

The character of Nehemiah Scudder, the "First Prophet" of the regime, appeared in Heinlein's first novel (never published in his lifetime), For Us, The Living. He is also used in Spider Robinson's Variable Star, a novel based on an outline of Heinlein's. The novel borrows liberally from Heinlein's Future History, although it does not follow its timeline.

Reviewer Groff Conklin described the Shasta edition as "a classic" and the lead story as "a smashing tale of revolution in the United States." Boucher and McComas, however, described the collection as "[i]mpressive in its time, and important in the development of modern science fiction," but found it highly uneven, "with pages worthy of the mature 1954 Heinlein ... followed immediately by passages from the author's literary apprenticeship." P. Schuyler Miller found Revolt in 2100 to be "a distinctly minor Heinlein contribution, ... way below the mark Heinlein has set himself in his recent teen-age books."

Setting (narrative)

The setting is both the time and geographic location within a narrative, either nonfiction or fiction. A literary element, the setting helps initiate the main backdrop and mood for a story. Setting has been referred to as story world or milieu to include a context (especially society) beyond the immediate surroundings of the story. Elements of setting may include culture, historical period, geography, and hour. Along with the plot, character, theme, and style, setting is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.

TV Century 21

TV Century 21, later renamed TV21 (from issue 155), TV21 and Tornado (from issue 192), TV21 and Joe 90 (from issue 243), TV21 (from issue 278) and TV21 and Valiant (from issue 347), was a weekly British children's comic published by City Magazines during the latter half of the 1960s. It promoted the many science-fiction television series created by the Century 21 Productions company of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. The comic was published in the style of a newspaper of the future, with the front page usually dedicated to fictional news stories set in the worlds of Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and other stories.Many of the leading British comic artists of the time worked for the publication, including Frank Bellamy (who drew two-page-spread adventures for Thunderbirds), John Cooper, Eric Eden, Ron and Gerry Embleton, Rab Hamilton, Don Harley, Richard E. Jennings, Mike Noble, Ron Turner, James and Keith Watson, and the duo of Vicente Alcazar and Carlos Pino under the pseudonym "Cervic". It was adapted for the Dutch market as TV2000. Early copies of TV Century 21 are difficult to find, and attract high prices compared to nearly all other print material associated with Anderson's work.

The Moon Maid

The Moon Maid is a fantasy novel by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, belonging to the Lost World sub-genre. It was written in three parts, Part 1 was begun in June 1922 under the title The Moon Maid, Part 2 was begun in 1919 under the title Under the Red Flag, later retitled The Moon Men, Part 3 was titled The Red Hawk. As evident from its name, Under the Red Flag was originally set in contemporary Soviet Russia, with the Bolsheviks as villains; as this was not popular with the publishers, Burroughs transferred it to a science-fictional setting, with the evil Communist-like "Kalkars" taking over the Moon (in the first part) and then the Earth (in the second part, with the help of a renegade Earthman) and being finally overthrown in the third part. (Also the Thorists, villains of Pirates of Venus, are clearly modeled on the Russian Communists.)

The book version was first published by A. C. McClurg on February 6, 1926, under the title The Moon Maid, though it was shortened from the serial. The three Parts have been published in varying combinations and under varying titles since 1926.

The Psychotechnic League

The Psychotechnic League is a future history created by American science fiction writer Poul Anderson. The name "Psychotechnic League" was coined by Sandra Miesel in the early 1980s, to capitalize on Anderson's better-known Polesotechnic League future history. Anderson published 21 novels, novellas and short stories set in this future between 1949 and 1957, with a 22nd published in 1968.

Anderson did not write the stories in chronological order; instead, as Robert A. Heinlein did with his own Future History stories, he wrote whichever story in the series he wanted to, and trusted his readers to make the connections between them. Anderson included a series timeline in the Winter 1955 issue of Startling Stories to accompany the novella "The Snows of Ganymede".

By the late 1950s, Anderson's political beliefs had altered to the point where he was uncomfortable with the political philosophy underlying the series, and he abandoned it. In particular, he had completely reversed his earlier strong support for the United Nations as the nucleus of a world government, a stance which formed the main plot element of several earlier stories in the series.

The Shape of Things to Come

The Shape of Things to Come is a work of science fiction by H. G. Wells, published in 1933, which speculates on future events from 1933 until the year 2106.

A long economic slump causes a major war that leaves Europe devastated and threatened by plague. The nations with the strongest air-forces set up a benevolent dictatorship that paves the way for world peace by abolishing national divisions, enforcing the English language, promoting scientific learning and outlawing religion. The enlightened world-citizens are able to depose the dictators peacefully, and go on to breed a new race of super-talents, able to maintain a permanent utopia.

Some of Wells’ short-term predictions would come true, notably the aerial bombing of whole cities and the eventual development of weapons of mass destruction. Others, such as the withering of state-power and the dissolution of Islam were wide off the mark.

The State (Larry Niven)

For the DC Comics super-villain, see Kite Man.

"The State" is a fictional totalitarian world government in a future history that forms the back-story of three of Larry Niven's novels: A World Out of Time (1976), The Integral Trees (1984), and The Smoke Ring (1987). It is also the setting of two short stories, "Rammer" (which became the first chapter of A World Out of Time) and "The Kiteman" (printed in N-Space) as well as a stalled fourth novel, The Ghost Ships. After several years in development, Niven announced that The Ghost Ships would never be made, and wrote The Ringworld Throne instead. The novel would have focused on a race of self-aware natural Bussard ramjets birthed in the supernova that created Levoy's Star and were returning to their place of birth to mate. According to Playgrounds of the Mind, Kendy and the kite-fliers from "The Kiteman" would have returned also.

Time travel in fiction

Time travel is a common theme in fiction and has been depicted in a variety of media, such as literature, television, film, and advertisements.The concept of time travel by mechanical means was popularized in H. G. Wells' 1895 story, The Time Machine. In general, time travel stories focus on the consequences of traveling into the past or the future. The central premise for these stories oftentimes involves changing history, either intentionally or by accident, and the ways by which altering the past changes the future and creates an altered present or future for the time traveler when they return home. Some stories focus solely on the paradoxes and alternate timelines that come with time travel, rather than time traveling itself. They often provide some sort of social commentary, as time travel provides a "necessary distancing effect" that allows science fiction to address contemporary issues in metaphorical ways.Time travel in modern fiction is sometimes achieved by space and time warps, stemming from the scientific theory of general relativity. Stories from antiquity often featured time travel into the future through a time slip brought on by traveling or sleeping, or in other cases, time travel into the past through supernatural means, for example brought on by angels or spirits.

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