I was a child of the 90s so cheesy sci-fi in the form of pastel coloured rooms, neon lighting, a councillor on every ship, and a propensity for a moral lesson every episode, was my first experience of the genre.
I was a fan of Star Trek from an early age and I remember desperately wanting to be on board the Enterprise, and I was practically in love with first Geordie Laforge and then Miles Obrien. I wanted to be the one that made all the shiny far flung futuristic technology work. I made control panels out of Lego and stuck them round the house. I drew the LCARS touch screen controls in intricate detail, every button having some kind of purpose that made sense to my young brain. I even cleared out the underside of my Divan bed and turned it into a spaceship. It was not long until I was taking apart old TVS (not knowing the danger of the high voltage in the tube and capacitors back then!) and making alarms for my bedroom door. By secondary school I knew all there was to know (at least in layman’s terms) about the different types of proposed propulsion, and I even tried (unsuccessfully) making a phaser out of an old laser from a CD player.
My uncle was also into sci-fi. Unlike me, he was brought up on the likes of Blakes 7, and it wasn’t long until I turned my attention to other sci-fi. I always found Star Trek the original series simply crap compared to the touch screens and special effects of TNG, DS9 and Voyager, but there seemed to be something a little more realistic about the people in those Blakes 7 reruns and VHS copies I nook into my uncles’ room to steal. Then there was Babylon 5, still cheesy, but with a political and social aspect that, as I grew older, I found more appealing – more life like than the perfect society that Star Trek was trying to represent.
Flash forward to now, we have some truly great sci-fi with The Expanse, Kill Joys, The New Star Trek Discover (controversial I know!) and even The Orville. All these shows have high production values and seem to represent technology that actually looks futuristic to us today. Maybe TNG did to those in the 80s (I thought so a s a kid) and maybe in 20 years todays shows will look dated who knows, but I do feel like technologically at least we are reaching some kind of tipping point.
I’m a great believer in Sci-Fi writers being the predictors of our future at least in technological terms (and possibly in sociological terms too!). We’ve already seen so many technological developments that where predicted in Sci-Fi shows of yesteryear, from the communicator to the computer voice. We now have electronic books, ‘PADDS’ that are actually superior to those in Star Trek, and the mobile phone has defiantly surpassed the communicator (well perhaps not – we don’t have subspace bands yet!). There’re computers that respond to your voice and do what you ask them to (mostly), and medical technology that is already greatly increasing survival rates and quality of life for millions. We even have the beginnings of the Star Trek ‘replicator’ in 3D printers that can build anything from a house to a pizza. There are a few areas we are still lagging behind on – the biggest being space travel, and of course the utopian society, but for the most part we seem to be making massive leaps and bounds when it comes to emergent technologies.
I’m excited about what the future holds and this blog is my way of documenting these achievements. A way of comparing our modern world with that of the sci-fi writer’s imagination, and possibly to give me hope that I may one day be standing on the bridge of the Enterprise! (A boy can dream!)