History and Timeline
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.
—Patrick Henry, from a speech at the Virginia Convention, Richmond, 23 March 1775
To the general public, most of whom read little or no literary science fiction, that term conjures up images of rocket ships and ray guns, mysterious worlds and aliens that speak English (or German, or Russian, or Japanese, or . . . )—in short, space opera, for the most part. Many people unfamiliar with more serious attempts to extrapolate the future are astonished by the very concept that, to create a plausible milieu, one cannot simply make things up, that instead a careful study is required of not just physics and technology but of anthropology, history, and sociology as well. To create the future, one must understand the past.
The most common technique used to project a future history is to start with the present, whenever that might be for an author, and continue current trends in more or less a straight line. It is by far the easiest way, given the complexity of the real world and the limited resources available to any single author, and the most comfortable for readers, but timelines created by this means look dated, sometimes absurdly so, in a relatively short time. (For satirical effect, in which the object may be to exaggerate some contemporary situation or foible, it can work very well indeed, however.) A much more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding, method is to attempt to create a nonlinear future, in which trends that are changing continue to change—for instance, the steadily increasing rate of technological advance—and cyclical aspects of society continue to cycle.
The final hurdle is all but insurmountable: surprise developments in politics and technology that could not have been anticipated regardless of how carefully research was carried out and applied. Science fiction of the fifties through the eighties usually tended to assume that the rivalry of the United States and the Soviet Union would continue, perhaps indefinitely. Few people outside the intelligence community realized that the USSR was consuming itself like a burning house to support its end of the rivalry, and would be unable to sustain that effort much longer than it did without collapsing catastrophically. Likewise, stories of the forties and fifties set centuries hence speak of massive mainframe computers attended by flocks of highly trained specialists . . . because nobody had any idea that the microchip was about to be invented.
With all these pitfalls, one might reasonably ask, Why bother? Itll just be wrong anyway. Its difficult to present a simple answer. The goal, really, isnt so much to hit the bulls-eye—to predict with absolute accuracy exactly what will happen—as it is to approximate what the world might look like if certain things happen. Figuring out what those certain things are, and how likely they are to happen, is the tough part. But SF authors, for many different reasons, are driven to explore the future, to speculate, to question, to forewarn.
A quarter-century and more has passed since the earliest sketchy ideas of what would become the wormholes universe first saw the light of day. Since then, the creative forces behind that universe, science fiction as a genré, and the state of the real world have changed profoundly. As a result, much of the original material has drifted hopelessly out of date or, on more mature consideration, seems less plausible than it did at the time it was created.
The only answer to such concerns is a complete overhaul. Necessary as it may be, such a rewriting is a great deal of work, and will require a goodly amount of time. Until it begins to take shape, these pages will likely seem rather bare.
Many characters, elements, and situations were created wholly by or in collaboration with others, most notably the Double Helixers and alien species, created by Ken Pick; other contributors are noted elsewhere in this site.
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