Friday, May 22, 2009

Thinking the Unthinkable

Understanding and predicting future-reality requires people with imagination; even if the ideas initially appear rather nutty. Think of Tom Clancy and his idea for crashing a plane [or drone missile] into the Pentagon, think of Chris Carter’s Lone Gunmen episode which featured a passenger plane attack on the Twin Towers in New York. I find the use of writers to think the unthinkable very interesting, in fact I have written about it a few times, thanks to my interest in both Science Fact as well as Science Fiction.

This week David Montgomery of The Washington Post has a fascinating article about the fine line between Science Fiction / Science Fact and features Greg Bear, who wrote the wonderful Blood Music, one of the first SF novels to feature Nanotechnology in an SF setting.

The line between what's real and what's not is thin and shifting, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has decided to explore both sides. Boldly going where few government bureaucracies have gone before, the agency is enlisting the expertise of science fiction writers.
Crazy? This week down at the Reagan Building, the
2009 Homeland Security Science & Technology Stakeholders Conference has been going on. Instead of just another wonkish series of meetings and a trade show, with contractors hustling business around every corner, this felt at times more like a convention of futuristic yarn-spinners.

Onstage in the darkened amphitheater, a Washington police commander said he'd like to have Mr. Spock's instant access to information: At a disaster scene, he'd like to say, "Computer, what's the dosage on this medication?"

A federal research director fantasized about a cellphone that could simultaneously text and detect biochemical attacks. Multiple cellphones in a crowd would confirm and track the spread. The master of ceremonies for the week was Greg Bear, the sci-fi novelist whose book "Quantico" featured FBI agents battling a designer plague targeting specific ethnic groups.

The downer in the piece is yet another bookshop facing economic pressure due to the global credit crunch which is seriously pressuring the publishing industry

At Reiter's, a place for science browsers since 1936, the dystopian future includes the possible demise of another struggling independent shop. It's getting hard to pay the rent, said owner Barbara Nelson. On the shelves was at least one factual hard-science text edited by one of the fiction writers on the panel. The tome, "Observatories in Earth Orbit and Beyond," was marked down to $130 from $179. The same unsold copy had been here a year ago.

This annual sci-fi security event, co-sponsored by the Washington Science Fiction Association, is the only night of the year Reiter's sells novels. The fans lined up for autographs of their newly purchased fiction, ignoring the science.

Read More Here

1 comment:

  1. Your post is intriguing and scary at the same time, which requires me to do more reading on this.