When Science And Sci-Fi Work Together

When Science And Sci-Fi Work Together

Our imagined moon has long inspired fear, excitement, hubris, and political ambition – fact and myth, science and science fiction have always intertwined.

Some of the engineers who advised Fritz Lang on his 1929 film, Frau im Mond went on to develop the first rocket capable of reaching space, Germany’s V-2. When they later moved to Huntsville, they took with them not just their know‑how but also Lang’s anticipation-quickening innovation of counting down the seconds before the rocket’s launch.

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Science fiction is often seen as anticipation – a fiction peculiarly expected to graduate into fact. But if technologies once found only in SF do sometimes become real they do not, in so doing, always cease to be science fictional.

SF is not, after all, simply a literature about the future; it is a literature about the shock of new capacities and new perspectives, about transcendence, estrangement and resistance in the face of the inhuman. Its ideas shape and constrain the ways in which technological possibilities are seen, understood, and experienced long after those possibilities are first tentatively realised.

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The basics of rocket science are not that complicated, only involving getting the moving force that overcomes the pull of gravity, in a calculated and controlled manner.

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Arthur C Clarke arguably did more than any other author since HG Wells and Jules Verne to catapult his mind into the future, taking a vast global readership along with him for the invariably wild ride. 

As a science writer, he conjured up the idea of a ‘personal transceiver’ small enough to be carried about, enabling contact with anyone in the world and also featuring global positioning, making getting lost a thing of the past. That essay was written back in 1959, and what he was essentially describing was the mobile phone. 

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