Wednesday, November 6, 2013

When the Fantastic Becomes Mundane

This morning it was 37 degrees outside.  Inside the house it was 72 degrees.  With a turn of a knob hot, clean water rained down on my body, allowing me to clean myself.

That mundane, every-day experience would be, 100 years ago, an unspeakable luxury.  And 200 years ago it was unavailable to the richest person on the planet and, if the term existed at the time, would have been thought wild science fiction.

This is why science fiction writers have it so tough.  What mundane yet amazing thing will people experience 100 years from now?  From my work in progress, Treasure of the Black Hole, comes this sentence:
"Thanks, doll," I said, and walked through the dilating door to my office.
No comment, no reaction by my character, just a regular mundane thing that would be, in this age, science fiction.

Another example from the real world.  Before the invention of the steam engine, the fastest thing around was probably a galloping horse that went, what, 35 miles per hour?  Then with steam came trains, then internal combustion gave us cars and propeller-driven airplanes.  Finally jet engines routine fly people around at over 500 miles per hour.  Cars, airplanes, trains are all mundane to us.  To an 18th Century man, they would have been fantastical.

Or think about the Internet which is only about, as a consumer product, 20 years old.  Yet we all use it, take it for granted, and it's become a mundane part of our lives.  In 20 years.

Of course, you don't want to write about mundane things.  A description of my shower, even published 200 years ago, would be rather boring.  But you, as a science fiction writer need to decided what is mundane to your characters and what is extraordinary.

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