When Real Life Overtakes Fiction
I write science fiction and fantasy, so I get to create imaginary things and events all the time. I also love reading about scientific advances, historical events, and fascinating people. They spark my muse, especially when they make me think, “Cool! What if….?”. However, sometimes this comes back to bite me when real life overtakes fiction in my stories.
Advances in Real Life Happen Fast
Here's a recent example. In my Central Galactic Concordance space opera series, Jumpers, the special forces marines of the future, get cybernetic replacements for unrepairable body parts. The heroine in Jumper's Hope (written in 2016) has a cybernetic thigh and knee, plus implanted processors to control them. Similarly, the hero in Pet Trade (written in 2017 for the Pets In Space 2 anthology) has implanted processors for cybernetic legs and a cybernetic arm. Both characters complain about how the nerve-to-cybernetic-limb mapping never feels quite the same as the original flesh and muscle.
So what do I see in the news this week? Researchers are figuring out how to map nerves to control a prosthetic hand. It's way cool, and a much needed advancement. However, my space opera series is set much farther in the future than, say, the twenty or thirty years it might take for this kind of surgery routine. Clearly I need to improve my futuristic advances in cybernetics.
Real Life Overtakes My Current Fiction, Too
At the start of my latest story, Spark Transform (being written in 2020), the hero is recently recovered from catastrophic injuries caused by being crushed by a collapsing building. He spent weeks in surgery and months in physical therapy. The procedures to rebuild his body included 3-D printing of bone, muscles, blood vessels, and skin. In my far-future space opera universe, any half-decent medical center on any planet can do them.
And now I find out that we're already starting the building blocks to achieve this. Clever scientists have invented a biologically-based material that can be 3-D printed into tubular shapes that act like blood vessels. Looks like I need to improve my futuristic advances in medicine, too, because the future is now.
Actually, I shouldn't be surprised. This has happened to me before. In the late 1980s, I co-wrote Hooray for Holopticon, a science-fiction romp about a brave little company taking on the overbearing tax authority. Publishers didn't want it back then. Fast forward to 2009 and the rise of independent publishing. We loved publishing our hilarious, fast-paced, well-plotted pride and joy, but we had to include a disclaimer about the dated technology. It seems that in the interim, someone actually invented two of our book's totally imaginary technologies: the internet and email.
Even Real Life Events Overtake Fiction
Population density and modern mobility make the perfect breeding ground for a novel disease to spread and infect people across civilization. And no, I'm not talking about COVID-19. I'm talking about the first book in the CGC series, Overload Flux (written in 2014). The plot centers around the mystery of missing vaccine for a pandemic virus-phage that is spreading across the galaxy. It has a long incubation time, making it difficult to detect and stop its spread. Sound familiar?
Don't worry, I'm not going to let these issues stop me from writing. If I keep dreaming up my ideas for fantastic advances, I'm hoping that scientists will keep making them reality.
I have a wish list. To start with, Pico's Crush mentions a home clothing printer that will create stylish, made-to-measure clothes in an hour or two. I'll gladly contribute to the IndieGoGo campaign of whoever invents this. 🎆
Image Credits: Design by Carol Van Natta with elements from DepositPhotos