02 December 2007

Sci-Fi 101

I grew up on science fiction and fantasy in a way no generation before mine could imagine and every generation after will take for granted. It gives a unique perspective on the world and what’s considered “common knowledge”.

In NBC’s new fall drama Journeyman, journalist Dan Vassar finds himself moved through time, forced to assist different individuals to reach whatever potential Fate/Destiny/The Universe has in store for them. It’s Quantum Leap meets Voyagers meets Every Super Hero Bestowed With Powers Without Explanation or Choice. What makes Journeyman stand out is that the character isn’t lost in the past but transported there in segments of time that range from minutes to days. He has to hold down a job and keep his family together in the present while being unexpectedly yanked into the past at any moment. It makes for a greater emotional interplay than any show it borrows from, and it also makes for the most interesting conversations on the part of Dan Vassar.

In one episode he attempts to explain the fact that he’s a time traveler and absolutely everything he said made sense. To me. He was talking to someone from the late 60’s/early 70’s and they were completely lost. It highlighted for me the change in perspective over a single generation.

From books to movies to television I’ve been exposed to the concepts of faster-than-light space travel, timeline manipulation, terra-forming, artificial intelligences and human-tech hybridization as common ideas of the future. My childhood is full of parallel universes, quantum leap accelerators, flux capacitors, and modified deflector dishes emitting tachyon pulses.

I know that if I discover a time machine in the future and go back into the past to tell myself how to build it, I’ve created a causal loop. I know that no computer system should ever be given autonomous control over a defense system because it will eventually try to kill us all. And no matter how much of a good idea it sounds like at the time—no good can come of a super-virus because it WILL escape and devastate the entire planet if not the entire solar system.

It’s all common knowledge. Even if you don’t quite understand how the science works, you know it works and that’s enough. I could no more imagine not understanding the idea of the space time continuum than my godchildren could conceive that people once lived without computers in their living rooms. Some things have just always been…even when you know they haven’t.

What have you noticed seeping into the collective consciousness and becoming part of the common knowledge in the last years?

Sci-Fi 101 Ramble Done

~X
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