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Extrapolating the Future

In college, I wrote a story called “Sweet Dreams” about a girl who meets her clone. My science fiction and fantasy writing instructor’s major critique: It didn’t seem very futuristic. Other than cloning technology, I hadn’t extrapolated how other technologies might change in the future.

Extrapolation

A lack of extrapolation isn’t always a problem, of course. In experimental or didactic sci-fi, a realistic future isn’t as important since the themes and ideas in the story are the point.

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A Quandary

A Quandary

The last time I mentioned my goals, I said I hoped to avoid rewriting my near-future science fiction novel The Century. Unfortunately, over the past few weeks, it’s become clear that’s exactly what it needs.

I first began the concept of The Century in 2003. (See my timeline on Facebook.) In 2009, I revisited it, rewrote parts, edited, and otherwise muddled with the story. But I didn’t revise the basic idea.

The Future: Are We There Yet?

Now it’s 2012. Science and technology have come a long way since 2003. Check out a few of my original notes about the setting of The Century, in “the future”:

  • Advanced computers have 3D interfaces … depending upon which way your hands move through
    the air (on controls you seem to feel though they aren’t there), the computer
    responds.
    • Now we have stuff like Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect.
  • Phones: no longer separated from computers. 
    • The BlackBerry was already around in 2003, but what I intended was the integration of at-home computers with phones. I certainly didn’t foresee how quickly smartphones would take off. 
  • Food: getting more synthetic all the time. Some people draw the line at cloned food. others draw the line at any genetic manipulation at all. The fad is natural foods, but this is expensive.
    • Organic food is all the rage and genetically modified food is much more prevalent. 
  • People refuse to give up their so-called freedom and privacy. So,
    although roads still exist in rural areas, in cities they are actually “tracks”
    that cars cannot drive off of. The cars auto-drive, needing only human
    supervision in regards to destination and choice of speeds—slow, regular, fast.
    Only police cars and other emergency vehicles can surpass the fast level…. Getting off the tracks is
    possible when the cars are manually overridden, but they refuse to hit any
    walls or people….
So basically, while I was hanging out, going to college, writing other stories, and slacking off for a few years, the future caught up to me. We’re living in the future already! Which means The Century needs to skip ahead some more. 

Fast-Forward to the Future

Over the past few weeks (see my writing record), I’ve been researching the future. This may seem like a crazy idea at first — how do you research the future? My source list is a mile long, but mainly I looked for predictions about “If technology X continues advancing at this pace, in Year YYYY, we’ll have Z.” 
Predictions vary of course, which is good, because that gives me a wider window of realism for the story. It’s also interesting to think about how different technologies might intersect, depending on how advanced each has become. Not to mention how technology shapes nations and cultures. We live among plenty of people who are in future-shock already. 
At this point, most of my research about Earth is ready, which leaves me to ponder about Salvation. No viewpoint characters go to colonize Salvation in Book One, but since I’ll need to make references to the planet in this book, I’m going to need to know more about it. 
All of these changes to the story’s universe will have major implications for the book and the way the characters relate to one another. For instance, in the first round of The Century, the fact that the characters age half as quickly as other people is a big deal. But far enough in the future, we may reduce the rate of aging, or even stop aging entirely, with something like nanotechnology. In which case, appearing to be 25 years old while actually being 50 won’t be much of a surprise to anyone. 

What Now?

My original plans were to finish writing The Ageless, then let it rest while I edited The Century, which I guessed might take four months or so. But now… Rewriting from scratch will probably take me about ten months, by which time The Ageless will have grown old and moldy. 
On the other hand, now that it’s been about a month since I finished writing The Ageless, I could start editing it now, get it all polished, and send it off to beta readers. Then work on rewriting The Century. 
Yesterday while pondering this quandary, I stumbled across a great article on The Fictorian Era called “Starting Over: A Most Exquisite Agony.” And that’s when I realized I should start rewriting The Century now. 
In the years between graduating college and getting serious about writing again, I wrote maybe 37,000 words, or just over 9,000 words a year. Pathetic. So by writing (a.k.a. practicing) more now, and then editing The Ageless later, I’ll be in a better position to judge The Ageless on its merits. 

Timeline

So the new goals go something like this:
  • August 2012: Begin rewriting The Century
  • June 2013: Set The Century aside; begin first round of revisions on The Ageless
  • September 2013: Commence insanity: getting married in October, so I can’t commit to anything, but I’ll probably send The Ageless out to betas around here
  • November 2013: Begin first round of revisions on The Century 
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Wordle: Word Density

Wordle: Word Density

Wordle is so cool! As Patrick Rothfuss would say, click to embiggen the image.

Wordle is like the tag or label clouds you see on a lot of blogs, but it takes all the words on your page and puts them in a cloud. Then you can remove words (I took out the boring ones, like “would’ve” and “got”), save it, and share it!

From looking at the Wordle cloud, I see I need to work on killing some adverbs, even in my blog writing. Looks like “still,” “really,” and “just” are the biggest culprits.

I learned about Wordle from Writing Excuses. They recommend using it to analyze which words you’re repeating too frequently within your stories, especially adverbs and adjectives. Then you can find and pare them down. Seek and destroy!