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Archive for December 9th, 2009

Living in the Future

Posted by Dirck on 9 December, 2009

In this post-(post-)modern age, we are frequently caught up by a want of the trappings of future living. Robots worthy of the name remain mere show-pieces, the flying car awaits an infrastructure that prevents the idiots who drive ground-cars from actually taking control of one, and moon colonies are conspicuously absent. The similar absence of Morlocks is welcome, but the whole situation still knocks one down a little.

As a one-time avid consumer of science fiction (I’ve dropped to sub-avid, lately), I am among the sort of person who feels this sort of disappointment quite sharply. Part of the motive for my current retro-mode of fashion is likely a subconscious desire to put more distance between myself and this drab present, to restore the possibility of vast shining skylines composed of something other than mere boxes, the potential for Martian weekends, the hope for localized weather control (-32C when I got up this morning). As it happens, an aspect of this obsession with yesterday proves that I am in fact living in the future as posited in the pulps.

There is a recurrent thread in science fiction of a future which has out-run progress. For some reason or an other (usually war, but not always), the action is set in a future which experiences the ubi-sunt sensations which Medieval Europe once knew with reference to the Western Empire; we may be getting along fine currently, but they sure knew how to make things back then. Civilizations which get most of their durable consumer goods out of the middens of the ancestors. H. Beam Piper is the example who springs to mind most readily for me, with either Graveyard of Dreams (aka “Junkyard Planet” and “Cosmic Computer”) or Space Vikings being the best places to find the phenomenon– plenty of others have done it, too. Back in the 1980s and ’90s when I was a gamer, I found the notion in Warhammer 40,000 and Battletech.

They used to know how to build things. Such things as we build today are a mere shadow of that greatness. The French noble of Anno Domini 927 says it of roads, the Poictesme farmer of 893 Atomic Era says it of contragravity barges.

The early 21st century pen fancier says it of Sheaffers, Parkers, and Watermans. Isn’t that interesting? Cheer up, gang, we are indeed living in the future!

Today’s pen of radical futuristic styling (1940s conception): Eversharp Skyline
Today’s ink of futurity: Lamy blue-black

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