SF Priestess and Techoprophet

Priestess of the oracle at Delphi, John Collier, 1891

OK, I’m getting kind of freaked out by the almost daily occurrence of “This is like something I wrote about in my books.” Am I an oracle? How many times am I going to read about the latest gadgets, technology, theories or augmented reality games on Buzzfeed, ThinkGeek and The NY Times (1) (2), and be able to find an equivalent idea in my novels? Or hear about some social or political issue in the news, after it’s already affected my characters?

The latest to cross my laptop is “We’ll be uploading our entire MINDS to computers by 2045…

In just over 30 years, humans will be able to upload their entire minds to computers and become digitally immortal – an event called singularity – according to a futurist from Google.

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, also claims that the biological parts of our body will be replaced with mechanical parts and this could happen as early as 2100.

I don’t feature body parts replaced by machines but entire people replaced by digital “sims” — 3D holographic projections. In Stellarnet Rebel, there are sim copies of a living person — Hax — and they help him run the Tech Center in Asteria Colony. In Stellarnet Prince, one of the characters is a sim of a deceased person (I won’t say whom, so no spoilers), whose knowledge, memories, personality, voice and physical appearance are programmed into what is essentially a virtual ghost, linked to the Net.

I’m getting all kinds of worked up whenever these parallels occur, not because I think I’m original or special. Heck, no. SF authors have been predicting the future, extrapolating technology and incorporating social issues into their stories for decades. And a lot of these ideas have been around awhile. I got the idea for J’ni’s “bracer” from an article in Omni magazine about wearable computers — back in the 1980s.

Goddamn chick book

What riles me is the general notion that SF books written by female authors are short on science and research. Or that a character-driven story with romantic elements can’t also have a lot of technology and social commentary. Or this chucklehead who thinks that female authors of SFR “don’t get the details right” because they haven’t read Ray Bradbury (I have) or Arthur C. Clarke (I have) or Douglas Adams (I’ve not only read him, I met him before he died).

I’m right A LOT. Even with my boobs on.

I’ve been told “I don’t read chick books” by men who see the cover of Stellarnet Prince or find out that my publisher is an imprint of Harlequin.

And yet, during the North Carolina Science Festival’s The Science of Science Fiction in April 2012, I sat on a panel with David Drake and read an excerpt from Stellarnet Prince in which Belloc plays a full-body controlled, immersive video game. Afterward, an audience member approached me and said that the excerpt reminded him of the games he used to play in the Stanford virtual reality lab.

A similar game called Mysteria is featured in the first book in the series — which I began writing in May 2009, the same month that tech sites buzzed with rumors about Microsoft’s motion-controlled gaming technology for Xbox, now known as Kinect.

So, when I see things like the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest saying it wants “Moon bases, Mars colonies, orbital habitats, space elevators, asteroid mining, artificial intelligence, nano-technology, realistic spacecraft, heroics, sacrifice, adventure,” and Alex Steffen at Worldchanging and others writing about the failure of futurists and SF authors to imagine a plausible future rather than regurgitating galactic Disneylands or regressing into steampunk and alternate histories, and while SFWA refuses to acknowledge my publisher as a “qualifying market” and finds itself mired in charges of sexism, here’s me. Doing my thing.

When Google builds a space station named Perspective, just remember: I called it.

~ J.L. Hilton

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