From the author of The Undead Kama Sutra...
The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be
Recently, I was at the L.A. Times Festival of Books and saw a woman wearing a T-shirt that read:
Isn’t this supposed to be the future?
I knew what she meant. We are well into the 21st century and aren’t we supposed to be having perfect lives inside floating bubble cities? Evidently, the future ain’t what it used to be.
Where are we exactly? We’ve still got poverty, petty crime, crummy jobs, and gasbag politicians. Why does it feel less like TOMORROW and more like Mañana?
The future was Jules Vernes, Flash Gordon, the covers of Amazing Stories, and paintings by John Berkey. Where are the rocket packs, ray guns, flying cars, and kick-ass babes in skin-tight space suits? Instead, engineers on the way to building super-duper stealth fighters get stuck in traffic. With cellular phones, we can chat with anyone and at anytime, and yet we have no idea who lives next door.
Look at fashion. The sci-fi movies assumed we’d all be wearing unisex silver overalls or togas. At the very least we’d have anti-gravity boots. Nobody anticipated flip-flops.
We were promised clean energy. Now we’re poised to pay four bucks plus for a gallon of unleaded. Nuclear energy’s fizzled out, at least in this country. Even its disasters were letdowns. The best scares it gave us were Chernobyl and Three Mile Island when what we secretly wanted were giant, mutated ants and enormous, fire-breathing tarantulas taking revenge for humanity’s misguided devotion to technology.
What about space travel? We’ve been to the Moon several times and have done little since, except turn the lunar surface into a junkyard. Our space stations resemble tornado-bait mobile homes rather than those jazzy Ferris wheels with the artificial gravity like in the movie 2001.
So far, we remain alone in the universe. No Martians have invaded us. No intergalactic zoning commission has sent Earth a form letter telling us that our planet is to be crushed into gravel to make way for the Trans-Andromeda Turnpike. We keep calling outer space, but no one seems to be home. A pity.
If you find the future, please let me know.