We seem to have a shortage of Future these days. When I was a kid, there seemed to be no limit to Future. I grew up anticipating (and dreading) 1984. Halley’s Comet had last lit the skies in 1910, igniting the imagination. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we were told, and everyone knew it was coming back in 1986. On television, the schlock on “Son of Svengoolie” and “Creature Feature” often described the future of 1974 or 1980 or some such date. Gil Gerard in Buck Rogers left the earth in 1987 (only to return 500 years later). Even Thundarr the Barbarian told of a world in 1994 when a runaway comet hurtled between the Earth and the Moon.
However, the biggest movie that foretold the future had us all waiting in anticipation for a single year: 2001.
Maybe Future’s future has faded because the future – when it finally arrived – turned out to be less than spectacular. I read 1984 when I was in sixth grade (1982) and was less than impressed by the world of Winston Smith. My friend and I sat outside on his driveway in the winter of 1986, searching for Halley’s Comet through a small telescope. Unfortunately, that time around, the comet was too far away and we were on the wrong side of the earth to see it well. We eventually saw a dim blue splotch that we assume was the comet; in any case, it was so cold that we gave up looking any longer. And 2001, once known for HAL and the black monolith is instead remembered for 9/11.
These days there is still a lot of science fiction and a lot of it takes place in the future. But the future is less well-defined, taking place in or around “Present Day”. Either that or the future is much farther off. I blame this on the longevity of reruns and DVD sales. It no longer makes economic sense to predict something twenty or thirty years down the road; it may still be on television somewhere, earning revenue.
I find it sad that Future’s best days may be behind us. Thundarr the Barbarian was canceled long before 1994 and Buck Rogers looked hopelessly dated even by 1987. Sure, we still have 2010 to look forward to, but it was hardly the space odyssey 2001 was. Halley’s Comet will be back in 2061, but again it won’t shine very brightly in the skies of Earth (however it’s supposed to look spectacular from Venus). And that best hope for the future – Star Trek – won’t show up until I’m well over 200 years old.
We need more future! And we need the future right now!