Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Brief Essays on Genre, Part 5: On Prediction




On Prediction


In The Door Into Summer, published in 1956, Robert A Heinlein predicted cell phones, Ticketron, computer-assisted design, metal detectors in airports, robot vacuum cleaners, and much more that has since come to pass. Today, Heinlein’s visionary descriptions of then-nonexistent technology are as dull as dirt to read.


In a story titled “The Mole Pirate,”  Murray Leinster posited a device that would put matter out of phase with matter, making it possible for someone to walk through walls. A criminal steals the technology and uses a retrofitted submarine to surface inside bank vaults and make off with all the money. The climax when the device fails and the criminal falls helplessly toward the Earth’s molten core is nonsense but riveting.


Draw your own conclusions.


--Michael Swanwick


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