Books are a great way to reimagine aspects of daily life, but when it comes to science fiction, literature often goes past the present, extrapolating on current trends, troubles, and technologies to imagine the future. And sometimes these predictions actually come true. Recently, we found out that Chengdu, China, is planning to launch an artificial moon, just like the Ooolandian’s plan to do in Patricia J. Anderson’s Threshold, which was written back in 2016. This got us thinking, what other books have predicted the future?
Feed (2002), M.T. Anderson
In this young adult dystopian novel, people have chips in their brains that give them access to the “feed”—a digital network where people can interact and share media. This certainly does not seem far-fetched now, but Anderson was writing before the invent of Facebook and Twitter. But Feed did not just predict social media, it also discussed how corporations mine individual’s data to send them targeted ads.
Earth (1990), David Brin
While David Brin’s Earth has been prescient on a number of environmental matters, the novel specifically alludes to a Fukushima power plant meltdown and broken levees in the Deep South. The novel is set in 2038, so we still have some time before we know just how accurate all of Brin’s visions prove be.
Parable Series (1993-98), Octavia E. Butler
Octavia E. Butler attracted renewed interest during Trump’s campaign. Above is the second book in her Parable series. Parable of the Talents includes a conservative presidential candidate running on a platform to “make America great again.” Eerie, right? The series also touches on a number of present day issues including climate change, the rise of fascism, and inequality.
Gulliver’s Travels (1735), Jonathan Swift
Going back a little further, Jonathan Swift wrote about Mars having to moons in Gulliver’s Travels. In 1872, 142 years later, it was discovered that Mars does indeed have two moons.
From The Earth To The Moon (1865) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870), Jules Verne
There could be a whole post on Jules Verne’s predictions, but I will just focus on those found in From the Earth to the Moon and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The first imagined a moon landing with surprising similarity to the Apollo missions.
For example, the dimensions of the projectile in Verne’s novel are similar to those of Apollo 1, both crews included three people, and Verne’s projectile also launched from Florida.
The second novel predicted electric submarines.
The First Men in the Moon (1901) and A World Set Free (1914), H.G. Wells
H.G. Wells is another author known for his predictions. Like Verne, he wrote a novel about a moon landing. He also predicted the invention of atomic bombs and warned that global government was necessary to prevent countries from destroying themselves with nuclear weapons.
The Machine Stops (1909), E.M. Forster
Technically, this one is a short story, but I am including it anyway. The Machine Stops takes place in a world where humanity can no longer live on Earth’s surface.
Instead, individuals live in isolation underground. It has a lot to say about technology’s role in our lives and depicts characters interacting via technology like modern video chatting.
Frankenstein (1818), Mary Shelley
Science was only beginning to explore reanimating organs with electricity when Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein. It would be a while before scientists would catch up with the organ transplants Shelley imagined in her gothic tale.