Sunday, 22 December 2019

worldbuilding

In contrast to an early twentieth century conjecture that the then three and a half billion humans could all be fit on the Isle of Wight if all were standing shoulder-to-shoulder, science fiction author John Killian Houston Brunner (*1934—†1995) predicted that the population of seven billion of the 2010’s—an accurate foresight like many of the other visions of his future, overcrowded world, with all its attendant calamities—in his 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar would need a significantly larger landmass.
The rather pioneering piece for the genre alternated between narrative and expository chapters that formed the future world setting that’s strangely familiar and would be one dystopia recognisable to contemporaries. A world of propagandised social media, centralised super computers, American hegemony, nuclear proliferation and mobile, instantly-accessible encyclopædic knowledge, the litany of negative predictions that do ring true is a bit bleak (though there are on balance enlightened ideas and attitudes towards gender-identity, sexuality and race that have their place in this future as well) but the methodical process that led Brunner to correctly extrapolate the fantastical and unimaginable by the conditions and trajectory he witnessed more than a half a century ago confer a certain solace on our inability to appreciate future consequence.