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When I was growing up, I ate books for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,
and since I was constantly running out of reading material, I read
everyone else’s -- which for a girl with older brothers meant science
fiction. The books were supposed to be about the future, but they always
turned out to be very much about this very moment.
Some of them -- Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land --
were comically of their time: that novel’s vision of the good life
seemed to owe an awful lot to the Playboy Mansion in its prime, only
with telepathy and being nice added in. Frank Herbert’s Dune had
similarly sixties social mores, but its vision of an intergalactic
world of disciplined desert jihadis and a great game for the substance
that made all long-distance transit possible is even more relevant now.
Think: drug cartels meet the oil industry in the deep desert.
We now live in a world that is wilder than a lot of science fiction
from my youth. My phone is 58 times faster than IBM’s fastest mainframe
computer in 1964 (calculates my older brother Steve) and more powerful
than the computers on the Apollo spaceship we landed on the moon in 1969
(adds my nephew Jason). Though we never got the promised jetpacks and
the Martians were a bust, we do live in a time when genetic engineers
use jellyfish genes to make mammals glow in the dark and nerds in
southern Nevada kill people in Pakistan and Afghanistan with unmanned drones.
Anyone who time-traveled from the sixties would be astonished by our
age, for its wonders and its horrors and its profound social changes.
But science fiction is about the present more than the future, and we do
have a new science fiction trilogy that’s perfect for this very moment. READ MORE