The future is now

This post originally appeared August 2, 2011, on the Contact-Infinite Futures blog.

The problem with writing SF in the 21st century is that every time you think you’ve invented something cool and futuristic, it already exists.

My debut novel “Stellarnet Rebel” is being released in January 2012. But it takes place fifty years in the future. Overpopulation and limited resources mean plant- and animal-derived clothing is expensive. So I thought, how about recycled clothing, woven from polymer threads? That would be cool.

We won’t have to wait until 2062. Check out Eco-Fi.

OK, but what if that fabric was antibiotic? THAT would be cool. No more stanky drawers in the future. Maybe even a few less skin conditions and infections.

Well, we have that, too. Enter Dermasilk and HaloShield.

Even more epic, wouldn’t it be cool if we could program our clothing? The same shirt could be 256 different colors, or we could change the picture on it the way we change our screensavers.

Done. It’s called Lumalive.

Ah, but here’s one we don’t have (or so I thought). Programmable food labels. Your name tickers across the whiskey bottle and everyone else knows if they drink a finger, they lose a finger.

Then I saw someone playing with a Medea Vodka label at last year’s NASFiC.

What if everything was embedded with interactivity, not just clothing and labels? Imagine if you could access the Net through not only through your smartphone or laptop–but the walls, the floors, and the table top. No need for keyboards, a mouse, or a monitor any more.

Coming soon. Corning is on it.

So the challenge for a SF writer becomes not necessarily inventing new things, but figuring out how our cutting edge technology would be used (if at all), how it would impact the day-to-day lives of the characters, what effect it would have on other aspects of life we take for granted, and how it would change the plot.

I was just thinking today, as I did the laundry, that my characters in Stellarnet Rebel never do laundry. For one thing, water is a very limited resource. But also, their clothes are embedded with nanotechnology that repels stains and kills germs, and the fabric is recyclable. So, all they do is wear it until they’re sick of it, then toss it in the recycle bin and buy something else. I’m so jealous.

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