Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology and Inventions

Scienceficideasssss Technovelgy.com has a wonderful rabbit hole of a "Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology and Inventions," sorted by publication date, rife with excerpts from the fiction, and linked to info about similar tech and inventors in the real world. "Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology and Inventions" (via Imaginary Foundation)

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  1. Funny – never in my wildest dreams have I thought of “Gulliver’s Travels” as science fiction. But here it’s listed under as such four times. I’ve always thought of Swift as a political writer first and foremost and in a category all his own. To call him a science fiction author is somewhat of a put down (IMVHO)

    1. Sure because it’s not possible to be one of those schlocky sci-fi writers and entertain lofty political ideas (just don’t tell Cory!)

      There’s an awful lot of assumptions in your statement, most of them ignorant of history and context. As Ethan pointed out, it’s a list of science fiction ideas, not science fiction books or authors. Also, Science Fiction as a genre didn’t exist at the time Swift was writing and wouldn’t for over a century and a half.

      But then that’s what was so great about Swift. His imagination was so vivid that he came up with ideas that were so far ahead of their time no one even had a category in which to put them.

      Gulliver’s travels features a flying island, kept aloft by magnetism, populated by advanced thinkers (if a bit blinkered by their own intellect) who use a telescope more powerful than anything then in existence to discover that Mars had 2 moons. Keep in mind this was before astronomers in the real world discovered the moons of Mars.

      But yes, the Yahoos and Bigendians are also quite satirical.

  2. To note that Swift had resonant scientific ideas in “Gulliver’s Travels” is the furthest thing from a put down.

  3. MacBookHeir, it’s a list of science fiction ideas not science fiction authors–so it’s not really cubby-holing Swift.

    I’m not so sure about the list’s accuracy, though. For example, it has the idea of “automated taxi” originating in 2006… I’m pretty sure the idea is older than that. I seem to totally recall Arnold Schwartzenegger ripping apart an automated taxi in 1990. And I’d be surprised if that movie was the place the idea originated.

    1. The automated taxi was in “Total Recall”, which was a (butchered) adaptation of the Philip K Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”. That story didn’t have automated taxis, but various other of Dick’s stories and novels did; it was a common trope of his. So I’d date the idea back to the 1950s … though I’m sure it must have predated PKD.

    2. There’s also the “Chessplaying automaton” in 1910, although the Mechanical Turk dates from around 1770.

    3. it’s a list of science fiction ideas not science fiction authors–so it’s not really cubby-holing Swift.

      Ideas never stand alone from their originators, so in a sense this list definitely does incriminate Swift as a science fiction writer. It’s like trying to separate the idea of HAL from Arthur C. Clarke. Again, I’ve always thought of “Gulliver’s Travels” as a more powerful political work than “A Modest Proposal” which could almost be considered a short work of Horror

      1. Uh, MacBookHeir you’re losing me. Your first post seemed to object to calling Swift a science fiction author. Now your second post seems to object to not characterizing him as such. Or are you “cleverly” trying to make a modest proposal yourself?

        1. MacBookHeir you’re losing me.
          —–

          No, I’m saying the list characterizes (if a list can characterize…) Swift as a SF writer
          by including four entries related to his work.

      2. “Ideas never stand alone from their originators, so in a sense this list definitely does incriminate Swift as a science fiction writer.”

        Your quibbles are dull. He’s not a genre author, nobody is assuming such, and even if they did, it wouldn’t change that the book does contain science-fiction elements.

        1. He’s not a genre author, nobody is assuming such, and even if they did, it wouldn’t change that the book does contain science-fiction elements.

          MacBookHeir appears to be employing the same “science fiction writer” pigeonholing/ghettoizing that always got Harlan Ellison up in arms.

          It’s rather ridiculous to assert that Swift was somehow less of a talent simply because a few of his ideas happen to fall loosely under the umbrella of “science fiction.” The guy who writes “A Modest Proposal” is a clever satirist, at least as respectable as Twain. But if one of his satires includes floating islands and Martian moons, well, suddenly he must be a hack.

          Could this reflect an incomplete knowledge of Swift’s talent and respectability? Or could it indicate a rather small-minded understanding of science fiction?

  4. Hmm… I now see that there is a 1951 entry for “autocab”… I’m not really sure what distinction it is making between that and Foster’s “automated taxi.” Maybe just an oversight?

    1951 Autocab (from Between Planets by Robert Heinlein)

    2006 Automated Taxi (from Sagramanda by Alan Dean Foster)

  5. Hmmm

    1972 Gravitational Wave Viewer – catch the wave (from Two Planets by Kurd Lasswitz)

    Err… Guys, Lasswitz lived from 1848 to 1910.

  6. the list is interesting… but horribly incomplete and rather inaccurate… most glaring omission would be a complete lack of Mary Shelly from the list, and frankly (see what I did there?) she is the mother of all science fiction.

  7. Lots of omissions. One that comes to mind is GPS. In “Stranger In a Strange Land” Mike talked about watching the maps move while he in a bus/taxi showing him his location…and maybe even laptops as it mentioned he was watching the map on a “Lapboard”.
    http://books.google.com/books?id=Kn1bNU91sAoC&pg=PA188&lpg=PA188&dq=stranger+in+a+strange+land+maps&source=bl&ots=mj7MSSVJrh&sig=6rg8RA7uVsvjJCyAlzIIjNQKuWM&hl=en&ei=vUe3TcbdItSbtwePw-R6&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CBUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

  8. PeterBruells, thanks for the correction – fixed. I have several thousand items from more than six hundred books and stories, so the occasional error does creep in. Any other corrections are appreciated!

    Ethan, snej and others; I tend to list all of the different variations on an idea; for example, Philip K. Dick also wrote about a Robot Taxi in his first novel, Solar Lottery [1955] and James Blish wrote about a Flying Robotic Taxi in his novel Cities in Flight [1957]. In the comments I usually try to pick out the earliest reference I know about.

    sam1148 – thanks for the addition! I’ve added these items to my index. As for your comment that there are ‘lots of omissions’ I’m sure you’re right – please use the Technovelgy site contact form to let me know about specific items.

    Bill Christensen
    Technovelgy.com – where science meets fiction

  9. Love this idea–thanks for collating and sharing it with me. I don’t have time to read this now but I will, I swear it will be done. Meanwhile, a quick search hasn’t turned up L. Frank Baum. A kid and I are rereading the Oz books, and I’m amazed by how prescient some of his fairy inventions are. For example, a magic book that keeps a record of everything happening in the world, or a mirror that shows you everything happening in the world; sounds like the Internet pre-1915. Of course I still love the Scalawagons, though that was John R. Neill’s ca. WWII ozdea.

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