Some years ago I was attending a meeting of the committee that ran one of the local science fiction conventions. I had just joined the staff, and it was my first full meeting. One of the topics debated that day was a proposal that the committee obtain an email address that several committee members could check, because people kept asking why they didn’t have an email address. […]

During the debate, one person admitted that he had voted “no” each previous time the question had come up, but he had recently realized that it was as inconvenient for him and his friends that he didn’t have an email address of his own, as it had been inconvenient for he and his family that his elderly great-aunt refused to get a telephone. He wasn’t the only member of the committee to admit that they had been resisting adopting that “new technology.”

And this was a bunch of sci fi nerds.

fontfolly on strange technophobia.

If you’ve ever tried to, say, vote in the Hugo Awards you’ve probably encountered the weird resistance to modern technology that plagues a lot of “old guard” SFF communities.

You see it in sci-fi itself, too; outside of the Standard Fantasy Elements like faster-than-light travel, energy shields, and ray guns the reality is technology is most sci-fi isn’t that revolutionary. Or rather, it isn’t roadmappable, meaning the tech tends to being aspirational fantasies that don’t really reflect current technology trends, which is why people in Star Wars still manually drive their privately owned flying cars (as opposed to relying on a public-transport-like network of self-driving drones) and people in Star Trek still use computer terminals and mobile phones/”communicators” (as opposed to AR interfaces).

Sci-fi also tends to be shit-terrible at predicting social change (and yes, terrible Ray Bradbury story about the housewives going to drink milkshakes while they wait for their husbands to come back from Mars, I’m looking at you) or, for near-future sci-fi, even just understanding the generation their characters allegedly grew up in. Newton Geiszler from Pacific Rim is my favorite example of this: the dude is a Millennial, born in 1990, but he’s so obviously been written by a Gen Xer1 and has the social and cultural tastes of someone born thirty years earlier.2

On the other hand, Once Upon a Time there was a sci-fi sub-genre that managed to do okay at predicting where the world was going and, uh, well. Cyberpunk. That didn’t last long, did it?

  1. Beacham was born in 1980, so… that’s cusp-y. []
  2. Yeah, you can argue the Watsonian excuse of “he’s just like that”, but… c’mon. Newt is how he is because no-one has a freakin’ clue how to write an edgelord teen emokid from the early 2000s as an adult. And also probably a bit because of the worry older audience members wouldn’t know how to relate to one, either. Ditto with Hermann, who has kind of the reverse problem in that his visual coding as someone who’s supposed to be a “nerdy loser” just makes him look like an I-liked-Macklemore-before-he-was-cool smashed-avo-eating hipster who couldn’t let go of the aesthetic. []