A day in the future…

I keep reading that science fiction is harder to write than it used to be because… you know, we’re living in the future now.

And this is how it is. The other day I wheeled my bike out of my comfortable Victorian house, pedalled down to Bristol’s handsome old central library and got a still usable, if slightly yellowed book out of store.

Started reading it on a train journey to Salisbury. The train moved slowly through the green Wiltshire countryside. Warm rain fell. Damp sheep munched wet grass. I looked forward to a quick look at the cathedral, weather permitting, and a good lunch. The scene rolling by, in fact the whole train thing, seemed pretty much the same as it would have been when I was born, a half century or so ago, and probably a half century again before that. A shinier, quieter train. Better class of coffee on the station. A smoking ban. And I could have used a mobile phone while travelling, or even taken my laptop and filed this.

But I chose to read that book. An 40-odd year old tome called Future Shock – Alvin Toffler’s cleverly put together, slightly hectoring, 1970 view of how accelerating social, technological and economic change were leading to mass disorientation and personal and collective pathologies of all kinds. Hugely popular at the time, as I recall. So are we living with future shock now? Don’t see it myself. More an example of book out of its time as self-refuting artefact, thus salutary for would be-author of a book about the future… How about you?

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