That Grey and Dreary Future

Humans don’t know the future. But we think we do, or at least can extrapolate it.

This worked very well in the times of Gorg and Morga, cave people who donated us the brain we think with. (Okay, no, I don’t know for sure, but as an explanation, it sort of works.) It didn’t take a genius to know if you went to fight the Hurgs over the ridge by your lonesome self, or even with your three brothers you would lose. Why they had 100 people and that new fangled throwing spears thing. The same way if a hunter went out in drought or famine, he was likely to come back empty handed, etc. And if Morga hasn’t conceived a child in ten years, she probably won’t tomorrow.


We live in a world that’s far more complex, and filled with different inputs in information, all of which give you a very different idea of the future.

And since all through the 20th century — partly mind you simply by the human desire to be in with the “crowd” and to be “right” in the opinion of those with power, partly because so many people were captured by the Marxist nonsense and because those in power kept those who disagreed out — the media, the entertainment, and the general culture was heavily Marxist, the input was filtered through “capitalism bad, and it will crash and impoverish everyone.”

It was further filtered through the sense most conservatives seem to have (heaven only knows why) that prosperity is bad (I think y’all have some Puritan ranter in the backs of your brains, okay?) and that you should live in caves and eat acorns or the future will be corrupted. (Okay, some puritan ROMAN ranter. Never mind, that’s who lives in the back of mine.) This gives you “if things are good, or at least not terrible, we’re headed for disaster.”

Then there are the people who are convinced left to their own devices people make terrible decisions. These are mostly educated beyond their abilities, or as we call them bureaucrats and others of their ilk.

The result of this is that the inputs most people in my generation got were horrendous. They were also, as we’re becoming OBVIOUSLY AND PATENTLY FALSE. (They were obviously wrong to me sometime in my thirties, when an anonymous donor sent me a subscription to Reason and I started thinking about what I’d been fed.)

Stuff like “The world will be massive overpopulated by 1990.” Or “We’re running out of fossil fuels” in the seventies. Or “There will be no food or potable water for everyone.”

We now know those are bullshit, of course, but it was — go look if you don’t believe me — the ethos of science fiction in the eighties and nineties, and it is still, massively, the ethos of science fiction published by traditional sources today. (Baen mostly excepted. Salutes.)

Sometime in the early nineties, my scream was “NO MORE RUSTY FUTURES” which was my description of futures in which everyone lived in the gutter, ate bugs, and groveled before an unaccountable elite.

Now I’m not going to say me and my kind are prophets. (I hope not. Mostly I write what’s interesting, not what I think will happen.)

And we know only what? 0.8% of the population even reads science fiction/doesn’t think we’re terrible eggheads with no clue.

In fact, it’s sort of the other way around. My tribe tends to write a distillation of what they’ve been fed. (Which combines with the editors’ ideas of what’s coming, and wanting our fiction to rest on “solid foundations.”) Which means the dystopias of the 80s and 90s is what everyone believed would happen.

I found is so depressing, I started reading alternate history or historical.

Not only because the futures were depressing, but because I found them so unlikely. I mean, how are you going to have cities packed to the level of New Delhi in the sixties when so few people are even having kids? And why is everyone wearing masks against pollution, when our air is clearer than it was in the early 1900s? And–

My suspension of disbelief was hung by the neck until dead.

BUT what was out there was what had seeped to the back of people’s brains and it was as expected as that tiger jumping on you would be to a caveman.

What is this in the name of?

Well, I look at our exquisitely indoctrinated educated “elites” and the world they’re trying to bring about.

The US hasn’t reproduced enough to cause massive overpopulation, but they’re sure it’s out there, somewhere, so they are importing people by the batch load over the Southern border. And they’re sure we’re running out of fossil fuels, so we must transition to “clean/green” energy now. And they KNOW we’re massively polluted, even though we’re obviously not, so we’re all going to dieeeeee. when Gaia gets offended enough she turns up the thermometer. Oh, and we must eat bugs or go Vegan, because otherwise how will we feed everyone.

This is all absolute and complete twaddle, of course. But it’s in their back brains, as “obviously” so they can’t argue with it. They just go along with it, because it’s “true.” True at that level they can’t think, because it’s the assumptions fed to them in the seventies and eighties (and for the younger ones recently, as word from above.)

THIS is what we’re fighting against.

And I’m not absolutely sure how to do it. I promise, and intend to continue to beat those ideas up on my blog, and hopefully to incorporate the ideas of a bright, hopeful future into my fiction, to try to turn this around.

You see, what they project can’t come about. But it can destroy a lot of wealth and kill a lot of people before it crashes.

It’s time to attack the false prophets. I can’t, of course, do it alone, so I must ask that you amplify it, in words, in blogs, in stories.

Let’s build a bright and hopeful future, to which we can aim our civilization.

Be not afraid. Steer to the future we deserve.

America comes from that better future. And we’re going back there.

142 thoughts on “That Grey and Dreary Future

  1. Oh yes indeed. I was musing while looking at medieval, Dark Ages (Look, Antiquity barely got to Scotland, so Late Antiquity doesn’t make lots of sense as a time period), and prehistoric stuff, now surrounded by sheep pastures, hay meadows, and some wheat and barley (and potatoes). The “Progressives” bought/buy into the idea that pre-modern = paradise and that people like Robert Owen (New Lanark*) and others were eeeeeeevil corrupters of innocent farmers and pastorialists. Then along come the archaeologists, and the archivists, and say, “Um, nope. Sorry. Didn’t work like that.”

    The reason the castles and stone alignments are surrounded by farms and pastures is because we can feed so many people, and sanitation is so good, that 80% of the population of Scotland can live in cities and be supported by everyone else, and by imported goods and foods. That’s not the world of Bladerunner. That’s paradise compared to what came before 1750!

    *I was pleasantly surprised by all the material at New Lanark praising Owen and his successors. Apparently it really was a wonderful place to work and live right until the last part of the factory closed and the jobs went away.

    1. Every ‘Progressive’ should spend a year doing medieval subsistence farming with nothing to eat but what they grow themselves. The survivors might actually learn something. Farm laborers flocked to those ‘dark satanic mills’ because the work, and the pay, were so much better!
      ‘Progressives’ will do the wrong thing just because the people they hate do the right thing.

      1. Hmmm, might be a better idea to put a group of ‘Progressives’ on a plot of farm land with seeds and tools, and tell them to work out sharing the labor and food however they want.

        They’d eat the seeds and be at each other’s throats within a week.

        1. Remember CHAZ? And the vegetable plot that would have been a useful supplement to the diet of a small family in a few months? But certainly could not have supported even one person?

      2. It is sad that humans have to learn that lesson over and over. I suppose it is equally sad that people like me hope the butcher’s bill will be small and me and mine will survive to see a better future.

        1. Remember that any plan that contains “If everyone would just” is going to fail. You can never get everyone to just.

          Unfortunately, that includes learning this rule.

      3. At the very least, they should watch the hilarious “Clarkson’s Farm” on Amazon Prime. I got the impression while watching that at least some of the mistakes that Jeremy Clarkson makes were intentional. He knew that things would go wrong. But he could afford it (he’s got a considerable amount of money), and it made for better watching. And there are plenty of people out there who would think his decision was the correct one… until reality jumped up and bit him in the rear end.

    2. Yellow Springs, and the Owenites who became middle aged Dayton Shakers who made fondly remembered socks – they really were pretty well run, as bizarre socialist utopian projects go.

  2. Hmm… I’m trying to write myself (my primary problems are (A) my habit of writing/making up fanfiction rather than anything I can actually sell, (B) my inability to WRITE consistently on anything, and (C) my habit of working out stories in my head whenever I’m alone… and then never writing them down). My standard genre is fantasy (and variations thereof – modern/urban fantasy once, high fantasy is my go-to, dark fantasy a preference).

    What are people’s thoughts/ideas/story prompts about a sci-fi story that ran so far into Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote that it became fantasy? Someone discovers a ‘programming code of the universe’ and now we have wizards? Space elves (wait, Star Trek already did that, didn’t they) and space dwarves?

    1. Lord of Light by Zelazny. There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo (and its sequels).

      And also Elon Musk, whose success he himself attributes to his figuring out how to “hack the simulation”.

              1. The Reader cheerfully asserts (based on practicing for over 40 years) that it is not. Engineers however are odd in their own particular way (a little different than writers the Reader thinks) and it often appears to outsiders that it is wizardry.

                1. Whether it as kit or a ‘home grown’ bit of circuitry, Pa would loudly declare “FLAME TEST!” just before flipping the power switch. I do not recall there ever being flames. Nor even smoke, for that matter. We were careful about things.

                  That said, I think I recall the MPF102 transistor having a habit of detonating if mistreated.

              2. I can’t disagree with him.

                From Brooks “Mythical Man-Month:
                “Yet the program construct, unlike the poet’s words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be.”

              1. The Reader doesn’t either. But he can assure you that what Musk has been doing in that regard is living out fantasies shared by most engineers when they take a break from practicing wizardry. And that every group of engineers everywhere has someone in their ranks doing what Musk is doing in that regard, even if at smaller scale.

                1. Musk gave us rockets that land like the old B movies promised! Wizardry!
                  add quirks like the fastest Tesla being the Plaid and he was entertaining even before his red pilling.

                  1. Nah. The Reader just forgot to add a sarc tag to ‘practicing wizardry’. He wasn’t fully caffeinated. That’s his story and he is sticking to it. Now if some writer here want to write the ‘engineer as wizard’ story, the Reader promised to be a beta reader.

            1. There are SOUND TECHINICAL REASONS why you have to sacrifice that black goat every new moon.

                1. We will not discuss what software engineers have to sacrifice. Even dread Cthulu shudders at the mention of the practice.

                  1. Ducks. As long as you’re using chicken tape, the only appropriate sacrifice is ducks.

                    1. “Ducks.”

                      Shhhhh. Don’t tell my UofO software engineer classmates. Since I’m a Beaver, first, I’m exempt from other software engineer sacrifices … Or does that make me a platypus? Either way, I’m exempt.


                  2. I did once have the title “Software Engineer” (title only, I figured was ‘just’ a programmer…) so I suppose have (yet another) claim to Monster-hood. The Real ENEMY though, are those whho can’t write a spec. “We want $X!” “How how come you didn’t give us $Y!”

                    1. “The Real ENEMY though, are those whho can’t write a spec. “We want $X!” “How how come you didn’t give us $Y!””


                      Every. Single. Time.

                    2. Had the saying posted on my cubical wall. Never heard the song. 100% truth.

                      🙂 ❤

                    3. As one of the very senior hardware engineers in our shop it often fell to the Reader to bring our Systems Engineers back to reality. The Reader’s response to whatever the latest scheme was one of three.

                      I can’t do that – followed by an explanation of what laws of physics their concept broke.
                      I won’t do that – followed by an explanation of why while one of what they wanted could exist with 20 engineers hand crafting it, it could never go into serial production.
                      That’s going to be really hard – followed by a negotiation to get the requirements back to reality.

                      BTW the Reader was known in our systems engineering community as the Dark Lord of RF, and it was not a term of endearment. There was one systems engineer in our sector exempt from these responses but that is a story for another day.

      1. You can’t forget Chalker’s Well World series in which they literally found the programming language of the Universe.

        And found that in order to create something, you first have to understand it. Power combined with ignorance can destroy the universe.
        ‘Progressives’ believe everybody else is even stupider than they are. This explains a lot.

          1. Jack Chalker. Where to start. Um.

            An extremely gifted and prolific and fast writer, who either had a LOT of fetishes. or discovered that fetish-y late Seventies and Eighties SF sold big. Or both. Libertarian-ish. So imaginative in his worlds, too. (But yeah, you literally cannot just “skim the weird sex and body horror stuff,” because that’s most of the books.)

            But yeah, at least the first book of Well World was really good. Being prolific and fast, though, his series kinda went on and on.

            So yeah, kinda shelve him with Philip Jose Farmer and Samuel R. Delany, maybe?

            He also wrote a biography of Scrooge McDuck in a fanzine, which is preserved at Bowling Green State University’s pop culture library.

            1. Jack’s Mirage Press was one of the major small presses (publishing mostly non-fiction) of the 70s/80s. Including the first edition of The Guide to Middle-Earth.

              He had a number of books outside the Well World series — but those were popular enough that his publishers pushed him towards writing more Well world, and less other stuff. And Timescape (an early 80s Pocket Books imprint) which published his Identity Matrix (one of his early non-Well World books) was folded shortly afterwards when that line, although it published a lot of good books, wasn’t commercially successful enough for Pocket to keep it going.

      2. And probably “The Mathematics of Magic”, later collected as part of The Incompleat Enchanter, by DeCamp and Pratt.

        1. There is probably at least one Planet Stories tale about regressed-to-caveman descendents of a spaceship crash encountering the rescue party and believing them to be wizards/gods/etc., too. Would have been right in their wheelhouse.

          1. Chuckle Chuckle

            Then there’s Christopher Nuttall’s Sufficiently Advanced Technology.

            A highly advanced human civilization discovers a “Lost Colony” of humans and realizes that some of the humans there are using what appears to be magic.

            It was interesting because one of the magic users sees the technology of the off-worlders as “magic” different from what he knows. 😀

    2. Depending on how you look at it, Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun fell into this category, and probably M. John Harrison’s Pastel City novels.

    3. I’m just gonna leave this here:

      Libertarian Space Elves spreading Awesome, Freedom, and Mad Science across the universe. They also have some basic ontotech in the current era (“programing code of the universe”).

    4. You might look up “The Magic Goes Away” by Larry Niven . He made a corollary to Clarkes law that “any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from Technology”. Other things you might consider are Roger Zelazny’s Amber books (first 5 not the second set except for completeness sake). Also if you’re a computer nerd consider the Wizardry Compiled series by Rick Cook.

      1. Yes, that’s the one I was trying to remember: Rick Cook’s “Wizardry Compiled” (maybe 2-3 books or more?).

        It wasn’t “the programming language of the Universe” — but it sure helped when the main character found lots of practical advantages to “writing” spells in a high-level language, instead of (effectively) machine code.

        And it was doubly-hillarious to me when the language he chose was Forth — the oddball one where you program by extending the language, no really — becuase twice upon a time, long ago, I wrote a Forth in machine/assembly language.

        1. I have worked in a lot of languages but FORTH is NOT one of them. Closest relative is probably Lisp. One weird thing in Lisp is that it is an interpreter and so you can generate lisp and then execute it. So you can write self modifying code. In fact in the course where I learned lisp they encouraged you to write one of the projects self modifying just to convince you how stupid an idea it was 🙂 .

          1. The only times I wrote self modifying code the OS called a Segfault. More of an “oops, got the index wrong” than intentional… 🙂

            I’ve used FORTH in a package, but never got under the hood. Long enough ago that “IBM Compatible” wasn’t much of a thing. The computer was an HP 150 touchscreen. The hard drive was 15Megabytes, and it was my second (Heath H8 with 56K RAM for the first) home computer. That lawn is long dead, so no need to get off it.

            1. RCPete, Heath H8 sounds neat. I remembered the H11 which used a DEC 11/03 micro chip RT 11 (at like $5000 in 1978, I think that would get you a VERY nice Mercedes Benz, or Corvette) Forgot they had made an s100/CPM machine. I did assemble my own H19 terminal in college, there was a version of that with a z80 board and a floppy the H89 that was out of my league pricewise. And we seem of about the same age, so if folks won’t get off your lawn (H8 or otherwise I’ll come help you chase them off…

              1. I built an H19 terminal after the first noname kit proved to be awful (300 Baud, and it was allergic to room temps near 80F). The H8 wasn’t S100, but used a proprietary bus. Fun computer to play with, but it was way too easy to hit the limits when trying to program it. I tried the UCSD Pascal OS that was available at the time, but the 56K worth of ram meant that longer programs went toes up. (Re 56K rather than 64. Couldn’t bear the thought/cost of trashing the 4K card I had, but the budget let me get 16K and 32K as time went on.) The non-standard bus made expansion hardware a bit expensive, but then all computers were spendy for a while.

                I think I had about $3000 in the system (terminal, CPU, and printer), and sold it for pennies on the dollar when I got the HP 150. Foothill College in Silly-con Valley had a nice tech flea market. FWIW, for a couple more systems (HP** 150, HP Vectra (IBM “compatible*”)), $3000 was pretty much the figure for a complete system. An Apple Mac Classic II (the first and last Mac I owned–did not realize that it had been designed to allow almost no upgrading, and I wasn’t following the Mac market, but I needed one to drive a MIDI music system) broke that at $1000 or so. The HP 486 tower was obsolete as a server before it hit the market, so it was sold at a pretty nice discount. After I left HP, my choices got a) more diverse, and b) less expensive/better bang for the buck, regardless of discount.

                (*) That Vectra had a reputation as the least compatible of the PC clones.
                (**) Employee discount for all the HP computers.

    5. There will never be enough space elves, space dwarves, space orcs, or space platypodes. Go forth and hack the universe. (Warning, the Universe tends to hack back.)

        1. He wasn’t the one I was thinking of, but sure?

          (I have a world where Samurai Space Platypodes are fighting Imperial German Space Platypodes. It’s possible I am mildly obsessed with the platypus.)

          1. Do Platypi (platypuses?) use their poisonous spikes on their “elbows” when they fight hand to hand (or paw to paw as it may be)? They are rather intriguing creatures.

            1. When they go hand to hand they certainly do. To the point they tend to have their uniforms designed so they can unless they’re in space suits. Then ‘alive in space’ trumps ‘use one of the nastier neurotoxins in the galaxy’ of course most of the Platypus people are resistant to said toxin.

    6. my primary problems are (A) my habit of writing/making up fanfiction rather than anything I can actually sell, (B) my inability to WRITE consistently on anything, and (C) my habit of working out stories in my head whenever I’m alone… and then never writing them down).

      Not sure of your hours, but if you’re available about 8am or 8:30pm central time, there’s a MeWe group for a year round NaNo attempt that has “sprints” then– it’s “Focus on writing, then talk if you think you should”.

      There’s also Cedar’s Book Club With Spikes for not-time-determined support.

      I haven’t finished a story yet, but they’ve helped me grow by leaps and bounds as far as actually connecting the scenes.

    7. I’ll second analytical-engine-mechanic’s recommendation for Rick Cook’s series. I only read the first one (“Wizard’s Bane”) but I liked it.

      I’ll also recommend “A Logical Magician” and “A Calculated Magic,” a duology by Robert Weinberg. There’s no magical programming language in it, but the hero has to figure out the rules of magic and find ways to exploit them to win so it might still be the sort of thing you’re looking for.

      Finally, if you don’t mind short interactive fiction games, you might like “Suveh Nux” by David Fisher. You play as the servant of a wizard who gets locked in your master’s vault and has to experiment with a simple magical language to get free. It’s so good I would have offered to run a Let’s Play of it here, as I think some in this crowd would have a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately I can’t seem to get emails through to Sarah.

      Come to think of it, though… I could probably still run that game easily enough. Sarah, if I provide an announcement post through some public file-hosting service, would you be up to letting me run it? The action would be taking place in the comments and the game is short enough that one post is probably all it would take.

      Anyway, if anyone wants to go ahead and play it now, you’ll find links to both a browser version and a downloadable version here:

    8. You just haven’t had the opportunity to write them down yet. I spent many a day in class in college writing stories instead of taking notes. This is particularly helpful with the gen ed classes full of information you already know. Writing is also a good way to fill the time in meetings. It may not always turn into a full-blown story, but the exercise is seldom wasted. You can always use the inspiration elsewhere.

    9. My initial thought (I am not a published author, and have in fact only managed to complete one novel, which was so long ago I should probably start the fourth (or maybe fifth) draft with a blank sheet of paper and come up with something only tangentially related to the original manuscript) is “What’s wrong with fan fiction?” I’m thinking of something Brian Neimeier has said: Write A Million Words. You’re just now getting ready to go off to college, so I’m guessing you’re well shy of that. You might write a lot of bad fanfic as you learn your craft. That’s fine. The only way to be good at anything is to be willing to be bad at it and persist while learning. Fanfiction seems like a good way to practice as you learn to tell stories and build characters, in an world you already know you enjoy.

      Most of my poetry isn’t worth publishing, either. Some is too juvenile. Some is too personal. Some of it maybe, might be worth someone else’s time. I wasn’t worrying that as it went down on paper, though.

  3. What was “Interesting” when I read an article written by a Liberal complaining about the “Terrible Futures” that other Liberals were creating.

    IE The person was complaining that other Liberals couldn’t write about Futures where “Liberal Ideas” created a Better World.

    IMO It’s as if the Liberals can’t believe that the Ideas that they support can lead to Better Worlds. 😈

      1. I think there was a strong Liberal Element to the original Star Trek but it was also a Positive Future when it was created.

        Plenty of SF of that time “looked forward” to an Atomic War, a world destroyed by Pollution, a world destroyed by Over-Population, etc.

        But yes, like they attempted to destroy the Star Wars universe, they are attempting to destroy the Star Trek universe. 😦

        1. In Margaret St. Clair’s Sign of the Labrys, the narrator is approving of the plague that killed 90% of the population. It stopped a nuclear war; and the pre-plague world left behind such a huge surplus of food, shelter, and supplies that socialism finally works. (I’m sarcastically oversimplifying, but that’s basically it.)

        2. Roddenberry was liberal, no doubt there, and ST is a Utopian future, but at least, like you said, it was positive. The Original Series had people striving and overcoming and it was upbeat, and the storytelling, when it was good, was real good. TNG was uneven. Then Deep Space 9 came along and knocked everybody’s socks off because we saw the cracks in the Federation’s Utopian facade. Sisko is, IMO, the best lead of a ST series because he was a pragmatist. He lied, he cheated, he rationalized doing some fairly underhanded stuff to beat the Dominion. It was a breath of fresh air and one that has not even come close to being repeated. The less said about Discovery and Picard, the better.

          BTW, I am actually hearing good things about ST: Strange New Worlds. As in it recaptures the spirit of old Trek and isn’t nearly as horrible as Discovery and Picard.

          1. I am over the moon with Strange New Worlds. It’s just like what I remember from when I was 8 and watching TOS and TNG. Optimism! Fun! Drama! The story telling is very very good, definitely better than The Cage… 😉

            1. Glad that you’re enjoying it, but you are basically the only person I’ve encountered with that reaction. Everyone else is somewhere from “they’re trying, but they don’t understand how” to “the writers are pretending, badly, and the amazing cast can’t make up the difference”.

              1. Strange New Worlds is Star Trek TOS, the good, the so-so, and the silly. The only annoyance out of it is that it shows that “they” could have done this at any time, and they chose not to, until now.

                  1. Based on the reviews and clips I’ve seen, it seems like a partial success at recreating the TOS formula, but with less sense, less internal consistency, and zero attempt at maintaining canon with old Trek or even itself.

        3. They have literally destroyed the Trek universe. The end of the first season of Picard destroyed all life in the galaxy, only the writers were either 1) too stupid to realize it, or 2) hoped the audience was too stupid to realize it. And that’s leaving aside all the other ways they have broken it time and time again.

          1. He hilariously seems to have believed that you can take away all basis for the accumulation of wealth (i.e., banks, investing, money, etc), and somehow still arrive at a future that looks like the one in ST. where people are motivated to join Star Trek, and search out new worlds and, ahem, work for a living.

            Once I realized that, it made the show a whole lot more entertaining. Totally unbelievable though… I’m still cracking up over it!

            1. A lot of Roddenberry’s later nonsense came about during his lean years after all of his later projects failed and he was living mainly on fees from Star Trek conventions.

              IE After the original Star Trek series ended.

              The original series was Roddenberry at his best, the later series were after he descended into Leftish Nonsense.

            2. I’m not sure where the pre-Federation society was supposed to be in ST:Enterprise. IMHO, it had promise, but the Xindi season was a crapton of weird, and the final season was a crapton of, er, crap. The politics of Vulcan were a bit of a yawn, though the attempt to explain Klingon brow ridges/no ridges was amusing. Silly, too. And Lord save us from Alien Nazis! That shark did NOT need to be jumped. Ever.

              I rather liked most of the first two seasons, especially where it was laying out the history of Treknology. Early transporters made for a couple of entertaining stories, and seeing Earth ships going from Warp Factor 2(?) to 5 in Enterprise made some sense. (Not sure about the beagle on board. Ship’s cat, maybe, but I know what kind of mischief a beagle can get into.) If I recall correctly, they actually stored Real Food ™ on board, rather than the replicator.

          2. Once upon a time there were progressives who actually believed in progress. They died out in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the Apollo program being their last hurrah. Afterwards they were supplanted by a new left with a new party line of “Learn to live with less, you hate-filled greedy bastards!”

            Now those actually-for-progress progressives had some major flaws. One was a willingness to bulldoze people’s personal plans in favor of their own Big Plans For Society. Another was to seriously underestimate just how poisonous socialism and government regulation are to an economy. But they still favored a better, brighter, more prosperous future in a way the “Learn to live with less!” leftists did not.

            Roddenberry was originally one of the old progressives-who-believed-in-progress. He later joined the “Learn to live with less!” leftists. He also benefited from the networks holding him back from showing some of his loonier leftist ideas in the original Star Trek series.

      2. I really liked TOS but that was mostly because it was the only real attempt at SciFi on TV. Some of the episodes were outstanding though most were potboilers. TNG had better production values, better special effects and, sometimes, even better writing. All of which, to me, helped to reveal the fundamentally militaristic and fascist nature of the Federation. Give me another Stargate SG1 any day. Hell. Even a Stargate Atlantis.

        The less said about that abortion called Starge:Universe, the better.

  4. It had its ups and downs, to be sure. The transition to coal from firewood happened after a long period of increasing problems heating and cooking.

  5. There is a subgenre of dystopia where some of the oppressed escape to the toxic outlands only to find that they’re not toxic at all, the Earth has recovered, and the elites were lying the whole time to maintain power in their limited domain.

    I’m not saying they were prescient, or anything, but… waves at everything.

        1. Yeah, WALL-E is different in quite a few ways. But it’s got the same basic them, albeit wrapped in a different package.

          1. Well, that and the fact that you basically know the Earth is okay from Wall-E’s scenes. And the background was chosen to suit the premise of the story, which was “the loneliest robot in the universe.” But yeah, definitely fits in, sort of.

  6. Sci-fi futures only ever seem to be one of two kinds. Either they’re grimy and gritty and grimdark and dystopian (ranging from, say, Blade Runner all the way up through Warhammer 40k), or they’re Utopian based on a one-world or larger socialist government where there is no money and everything is peaches and rainbows and space kittens (Star Trek’s Federation). Now I am not nearly as well-read in fiction as all of you here, my reading tends more towards historical (currently reading Timothy Snyder’s “Bloodlands”) but as a casual consumer of pop-culture sci-fi, it’s very rare to find a middle ground between grimdark and socialist Nirvana. To find a realistic-ish setting, where people still struggle and work but life isn’t all THAT bad overall, is a rare thing indeed.

    1. Babylon 5 has always been a favorite of mine, as a sci-fi TV show. My Dad introduced me and my siblings to it. Fantastically rich characters, one of the greatest tragic figures known to television, and near-constant use of foreshadowing.

      If one can bear slogging through Season 1, that is. But a little bit of patience there is more than rewarded later.

      Oh, and Farscape. Lots of fun, even if several episodes leave you wondering ‘What the heck did I just watch?’ An American astronaut lost in space, surrounded by crazy aliens and chased by even crazier military commanders, slowly losing his mind but learning to survive in the midst of it all. (And in later seasons, someone literally dances on top of tables with an atomic bomb strapped to his waist. It makes sense in context… sort of.)

      Stargate: SG-1 has its moments as well. Some hilarious episodes that you want to go back to again and again, as well as some heartbreaking ones. (Urgo is amazing. And Window of Opportunity somehow manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking.) And the bad guys are so fantastically cliched you really have to see it to believe it.

      1. It’s not a season of Farscape unless Crichton mangles the name of an alien species and gets his mind fucked with at least once each. 😉

        Seems you watched the same stuff I used to back when I watched TV. It’s almost eerie.

      2. I agree with all of the above, but a more recent sci-fi I’d add to the list is the show Eureka. Small town, middle of America, all top secret researchers working on crazy science with IQ over 300 . . . and the main character is a regular guy sheriff who needs to bring the scientists back down to earth on a regular basis.

        Probably one reason I like it is it takes the whole ‘The Dad is a dumb idiot’ trope and stands it firmly on its head. In a sci-fi setting that is fun and a bit kooky.

      3. Oh, how about Fringe? That show was just plain weird. A small, secret agency investigating ‘fringe science’ and getting all tangled up in it. Tighten your tinfoil hats, people!

    2. Star Wars books. Most of the ones written prior to the Disney Aquisition. Particularly Timothy Zahn, Aaron Allston, Michael Stackpole.

      1. Oh, dear stars. Timothy Zahn. Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of my favorite characters in the entirety of Star Wars, particularly in his books.

        It’s just… too much fun to watch him shred fleets after visiting an art museum. Or listening to a song composed by a fleet commander.

        Particularly when the people he’s shredding aren’t ‘Our Guys,’ i.e. the Rebels.

        1. He’s probably the most well-liked Star Wars villain at this point after Darth Vader. There’s a reason why they made him canonical by introducing him as a big bad in the Rebels TV series. And there’s a lot of people who hope that the introduction of Asohka Tano to the current post-Jedi live-action stuff on Disney+ means that he’ll turn up again soon (along with Ezra, who we know Asohka goes looking for).

  7. I still think of the words of that great western philosopher, Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    You gotta admit, an infinitesimal fraction of a second from now, we have met the future and it’s still us, warts and all. It’ll take a major gene pool cleaning for it not to be.

  8. I’ve noticed that even optimistic science fiction presumes that the next century or two is going to be terrible, with the optimistic stories all being set multiple centuries to multiple millennia from now.

  9. What makes me laugh is just how…banal and simple most of these disastrous timelines they propose are.

    And, how they think, very firmly, that they’ll be on top of the heap when it’s all over, because they Know Things and are The Smartest People Ever.

    I spit on their desires.

      1. They’re not even original in that respect. Almost all of their horror stories come from Malthus and what little the medieval people recalled about the Fall of Rome. The illusion that there is only so much, and only so many ways to do things.

  10. A quote I came across recently.

    “Essentially Wyeth’s plan was sound and on paper it looked foolproof. But Nate Wyeth lived in Cambridge, and in Cambridge the world has always seemed simpler, more high-minded, and more amenable to reason than it proves to be when one goes out to mingle with the children of darkness.”
    DeVoto Across the Wide Missouri.

    The children of darkness (sic) are much more fun.

    1. DeVoto was a brilliant writer. Ah, for the days when historians told adventure stories! (De Voto, Stanley Vestal, Irving Stone’s Men to Match my Mountains . . .)

  11. Another reason some folks, especially the elite educated types, are so very sure we are headed to a horrible crash is because they do not have god in their lives…. My hope and optimism has always sprung from my faith as it did for the founding Fathers…. Jeremiah 29:11

  12. And we know only what? 0.8% of the population even reads science fiction/doesn’t think we’re terrible eggheads with no clue.

    … Probably more than that, based off of nothing but “a ton of the military reads it,” so bare minimum…..

    But otherwise, sure.

  13. Being steeped in the evangelical world, the predominant view of the future there (eschatology) is of a catastrophically interrupted dystopia. The dispensational eschatology prophesies a future where essentially the devil and his people win, then suddenly God pulls all of His people out, and chaos and judgment roll until He suddenly stops and overturns all of it.

    The net result is a state of of pessimistic cognitive dissonance: things are bad, we have to do something!; and nothing we do can make any difference, it’s rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic! This pessimilleniallism holds thrall a large part of the church and as the cultus goes, so goes the culture. Right now is worse than normal, because everyone sees Covid, Biden, WEF, etc., as fulfilled prophecy.

    So my prayer remains, Lord if that’s true and what You’re going to do, then Your will be done. If not, then save this nation, save this people.

  14. …that you should live in caves and eat acorns or the future will be corrupted.

    Locusts and wild honey.
    Acorns are for the posh sort of peasant that lives in a hovel.

  15. Stuff like “The world will be massive overpopulated by 1990.” Or “We’re running out of fossil fuels” in the seventies. Or “There will be no food or potable water for everyone.”

    Let’s not forget the late-70s to early 80s, “We’re headed into a New Ice Age, oh-no, Reeee!”

    Although the rivers (Mississippi, Missouri,…) freezing up enough some of those winters to keep the coal barges away from the power plants for weeks / months was nothing to (no pun intended) seeze at. (Hint: you only have to refuel a nuclear plant once a year… and even then you don’t really “have” to, the fuel overall lasts about three years, you just can’t quite wait that long either.)

    When today’s projected cataclysmic doom-events are the exact opposite of yesterday’s… hmm.

    1. That late-70’s to early 80’s ‘New Ice Age’ reminds me of a chapter of my 6th grade science textbook that somberly warned us that human civilization was capital-D doomed and we’d see the glaciers overrunning the Great Pyramid and Sphinx in our lifetimes. Complete with a picture showing precisely that.

      I also remember the ‘hole in the ozone gonna kill us all!’ Which made for at least one dumb fun disaster movie in Girdler’s DAY OF THE ANIMALS. Though even when I first saw it as a clueless youth I wondered how a mutant virus could affect raptors, bears, cougars, wolves, rats, dogs, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and New York Ad Executives on vacation the same way.

    2. and i just saw someone claim that the carboniferous period had lower CO2… ummm, nope…

  16. The voice in the back of my brain is my inner critic … she’s a complete bitch.

  17. Well, I CAN tell you that population IS increasing in New Hampshire. There’s considerable deforestation and defarmification (if I may invent the word), to put in dense cluster housing developments all across the southern half of the state. These are not urbanites moving out of New Hampshire cities, which are also experiencing massive housing shortages. The number of buildings that have been subdivided into closet apartments is unbelievable. And it’s real, not a government made up figure for representation, and not a systematic “error” by the Census.

    Now that’s just the Granite State. You can (and should) ask where these people are coming from. Most are Blues moving in from the People’s Tyranny of Flatland, i.e. Massachusetts, with the rest mostly from other southern New England states, and however many illegal aliens Der Fuhrer Xiden is busing and flying in. And most of the southern New England movers are not just packing up and walking away from their dwellings, because they damn well need the money to buy anything in Nuevo Hamster, which means they’re selling and being replaced by other people.

    Is this a net gain in population for all those areas in the U.S.? I do a lot of driving around this country, as do many of you. Most of the places I’ve seen have had huge increases in sprawl. Most of the urban, and suburban places haven’t had noticeable drops in population. There are cities in the Rust Belt that have been somewhat depopulated. And quite a number of places like Detroit where entire neighborhoods have been abandoned. Again, the question is, where did the people go, and was this a net gain or loss for the country?

    If space was the only factor, the U.S. could easily quadruple its population. But a lot of that space is necessary for food production, timber production, O2 production and atmospheric scrubbing. We really do have hard limits for potable water, even if we had the energy to move it all around. If we cut off California from water imports, they don’t have the energy resources to produce it from seawater. And the fact that they regulate what you can do with the water run off from your roofs is just plain crazy.

    And now I’m going to have to take this week to figure out how to tell the people of my town to open their copies of the annual town report, look at the budget and their tax receipts, and tell me what they want me to cut, or how much they want me to jack their taxes up due to inflation. They are in for one hell of a rude awakening.

  18. Posted here, because more recently active, in response to ladyeleanorceltic’s comment (going on college) on 4:35 June 27th, in the We Have Only Begun thread. Apologies for delay, been busy. :

    Time is one of the things that will be difficult for you. You will have lived your life around other people, and navigated your use of time around their use of time. Living around a different group of people is disorienting, and college relies much more on the student’s time management than highschool does.

    This happens to most people, so reasonable degree programs make some allowance, and the early portions may be structured to give a semester or three for the student to catch up if they start out very behind on the self management.

    Work on taking notes. It is a skill, you learn it by practice, and the purpose is using them later. Some classes, it is good to copy everything on the board. Others, you want other things. I like the cornell scheme, though I do not think I have ever used it properly. Notes can be reviewed soon after class time, to help with retention, and to check for confusion. I have many times run into issues trying to apply stuff later, because I did not realize that I didn’t fully understand when I first heard it. Would have had less trouble if I took better notes, and reviewed them properly. Notes and minutes are also useful for things like projects, or volunteer and hobby groups.

    Texas A&M likes to say that people who only attend class are getting 2% of the degree. Texas A&M is considered a cult by some people, but there is a point to saying that the coursework is incomplete, and that some of the extra can be learned outside of class, from other people, including students. This, and classroom study, are things to be cautious about. It is possible to respect, and learn valuable things from, very flawed people.

    The problem is, the people that we spend time around, are also the people that a part of our minds calibrates our sense of sane off of, and there are reasons why this may be incorrect when spending time around people at a university. For students, this is a transistional unstable period. Even in the best environment, some students will have trouble managing their lives in the different circumstances. For teachers, there are at least two major kinds of potential problem. One, some people teach because they are theory obsessive, and these people are a bit weird, even when they are stablely married and quietly conservative. Two, most colleges are going to have pseudo-intellectuals hanging around, and some of them, even at smaller saner schools, look up to and are envious of the bigger crazier schools. Make sure you know the congregations of your denomination that are local to your school, that you attend church regularly, and that you know people who are not connected to the university.

    You will have to do some self driven management in order to get use out of your degree. Not all academic fields are of the same value, and the value of training in the field depends on the student, and is properly calculated from self-knowledge. The challenges are, virtually no one has much self knowledge at the usual age, and the people who do usually do not also have a complete map of what academic fields would, and would not be of any use to them. Some fields have really weak earning potential, and some use theory that is comprehensively screwed up. (I would want to avoid those fields. But, some people would have an actual calling to try to fix the theory of those fields.) A field with good earning potential, and mostly sound theory is probably going to spend so much class time on that theory that you will not be instructed in a bunch of other skills that are necessary to making actual use of your technical skills. Quite a lot of adults, with and /without/ degrees, can give you bits and pieces of those skills, so it is very important not to close yourself off from learning from people who are not professors, or who do not have degrees. This may be hard, because many instructors are very skilled at impressing when they are inside a classroom environment teaching a course that they have given many times before.

    Raw intelligence, and aptitude for an area of theory, are not the most important things. Lots of things are miserable to study, but a lot more fun to apply. Even so, it is important to be clear on what you truly hate, and what brings you joy. The other thing that is pretty important is tenacity. If you enjoy it, and are tenacious, you can go a lot further then smarter people who had an easy time with the first steps. At the same time, you should be careful about choosing to continue. Desperation or inflexible determination are easy roads to selling your soul a sliver at a time. Degrees can be of value, but there is nothing from a degree that can be worth your soul.

    If your previous academic career can be seen as ‘going from success to success’, be wary. There is a strength that comes with the experience of having a project go very badly, and continue on, doing what you can until the end. I know a graduate student who argued that the earlier this happens in an academic career, the more likely it is that a student will get closer to their true potential, instead of plateauing at some obstacle. This seems correct to me, but I have not convinced myself of it independently of that guy’s opinion. All I know, projects can get pretty bad, and that starting again, with even more ambition, can get challenging.

    Grades can be useful, but should not necessarily be the most important measures of your goals. It is possible to get As for a weak grasp of the material. Likewise, lower grades can involve a great deal of learning. (You wnat to be careful about prerequisites. Skipping prerequisites is almost always risky, and involves serious costs. Furthermore, if you are STEM, do not let people talk you into taking an upper division course in your first semester. Freshman courses, sophomore courses, junior courses, and senior courses can have distinctly different difficulties, and assumptions about prior material struggled through.)

    If your degree involves math, struggling is part fo the learning process. Every student of mathematics has areas of weakness from when they studied the more basic material. These are a challenge when learning advanced mathematics, it is normal to have to go back over basics and relearn them properly. Even when you haven’t had a year or two since you learned the material, and have forgotten important bits. (Did I mention that notes are important? With notes, a map of the theory of the academic field, and the confidence to self study from textbooks you find yourself, it is possible to be a scholar in a field without being stuck at a university.)

    Anyway, I have given advice on a bunch of things that may not even be an issue for you. I tried for complete coverage of stuff known to me, and not mentioned by others. Have probably failed somewhere.

    Oooh. It is possible to study ahead, depending on the degree. Certain degrees, mostly STEM to my awareness, tend to be very structured, and usually divide up the coursework along similar theoretical boundaries. You may be able to find the standard degree sheet for your major and school. Even if not, the degree sheets for the major from a half dozen large schools can be used to generate a pretty solid map of what theory is included, and some of the relationships between types of theory. Then, a) free courseware, MIT has a bunch b) textbooks, for some degrees, Dover publishing is really awesome. Engineering textbooks can run hundreds of dollars, Dover sells classic textbooks in a lot of mathematics, physics, etc., areas for ten to thirty dollars.

    In engineering, at least, textbooks are a capital investment over the entire career. Renting textbooks can be a mistake. If you get through an engineering course with a text book, that is a lot of the effort needed to familiarize yourself with the textbook. It will be a little easier to use that textbook later, then it will be to buy a new text on the topic, and learn how to use the new text. But, that is engineering, and engineering thoery is stable in ways that other academic fields may not be. Whatever field you are looking at, a) find where your university library is b) if practical, skim the older textbooks.

    I happen to know that I have a strong bent towards history. So, when I self study the theory of some academic field, I follow it better if I also read histories of that theory.

    Also, your school will have a lot of instructions prepared for incoming students. Pay close attention to those, otherwise you will miss important things that you will have wished that you had done correctly earlier. Schools are bureaucracies, you have to manage your contact with them the way you would with any other bureaucracy, and your parents will not be there to do the heavy lifting on that. If the college is your first bureaucracy, the learning curve sucks a little. If it isn’t your first bureaucracy, you very much want to have a good relationship with the departmental secretary. (You probably don’t need to be told this, but never abuse the staff.)

    Lots of people manage some of their goals at tertiary school. Since you are going into with concerns, and having done your best to manage a lot of the important risks, that puts you ahead of a great many freshman. At this point, you have almost done every thing that you can possibly do to prepare. Maybe you wnat to try to prepare a bit more, or maybe you should relax, confident in your preparation. Either way, the die is pretty much cast now, so your next real decisions will be after the information you get from the first week or three.

    1. Damn Bob! Well written. The Reader wishes he’d gotten that advice 40 some odd years ago. ladyeleanorceltic pay close attention. There will be a pop quiz at some random point in the next few years.

      1. 100% agree.

        Bob … good summary. Wish we’d had this for our son about 15 years ago. Heck wish I’d had it 50 years ago for my first degree. I’ve mentioned before that my grades shot into the stratosphere when I went back for an associate degree after getting my first bachelors. Being older helped. Being older still when I went back to round out the associate degree with a bachelor in the same field also “helped”. That and I knew not to put up with any BS, and make sure to immediately deal with any.

        Amen with reviewing and retaking, if need be, any math that subsequent to take classes require. No matter how badly you just want to get on to the next thing. Trust me, only being able to take one class a term, it wasn’t easy to step back and retake a class (it had been 10 years). But it was 100% worth the time (and money).

        Some additional advice I would add to Bob’s for ladyeleanorceltic. Cultivate your classmates, not only in the degree, but each class as you take them. The latter pays dividends immediately. The former toward the end of college (at least for both of my bachelor degree fields, you’ll know who and who you can’t partner with). Take 100% advantage of the Cliff Notes. Pay For Them. Put together a homework group for classes. I was rarely the first person to understand the material. I was even more rarely the last person to have a session homework click. BUT what I learned I was really good at was helping the last few understand it, once I did. Win-Win for everyone. The process is: get Taught/Learn, Practice, Teach to someone else, and finally Review. Last, for solid final retention, is Use. (Yes there is a group that does advocate exactly this method, that I am borrowing from.) Which is why math classes I did really well in (finally) I haven’t retained for immediate recall now, some 33 years later. But why, even now after being retired 6 1/3 years, and not doing a single line of code since retiring, I’d have no problems going back to work coding and software engineering (exhausting, but that is age, not knowledge or ability). As far as that goes, I could Timber Cruise, or Log Scale, with no effort either, and it has been 39 years since I’ve done that (okay asymmetric cylinder volumes, but we had cheat sheets for that even then).

        1. $MathDeptHead: “But you already had that.”

          “Sir, I then withdrew from the next class THREE times. I think I that indicates I missed something critical in that first – and it’s been several years.”

          $MathDeptHead: “Oh. Let me sign off on that re-take.”

          1. My wake up call was Discrete Math 1, which required Calculus 1. I got through with a B. But still. Hard enough that rather than dive directly into Calculus II, which I hadn’t had, and was required. I retook Calculus 1. As it turned out, probably didn’t need to as Calculus II, III, and Discrete Math II and III, were refresh of Linear Algebra, different approaches and less condensed. Note, Linear Algerbra wasn’t “accepted” by the second university; they required Calculus 1 – 3 and Discrete 1 – 3. The other class I had to retake (repeatably), was statistics. Neither the associates, nor the second bachelor program would accept prior statistics class. The second bachelor wouldn’t accept an associate college level for statistics, and neither would accept the “Biometrics” class from the first bachelor. Sigh. The latter two classes, full terms worth, were the same as the first 1/3 of the biometrics class. Rest of the biometrics class was spent introducing how statistics were applied to the degree topic, in practice. Frustration was paying for something I’d already had had, and had repeatably used both academically and in practice for a number of years; while not “mastered”, not a stranger to the concepts. Retaking calculus was my decision. I resented retaking statistics, especially when I was only able to take one class a term. In depth refresh of the Linear Algebra concepts wasn’t a bad idea, after all it had been 10 years, did not count as a “retake”, it did make the computer science classes easier to have it refreshed, and fulfilled the “bring up the math GPA” requirement.

      2. Thanks.

        Glad there was some value in the effort, even if most of it was mental drafting.

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