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The Science in Science Fiction: 83 SF Predictions That Became Scientific Reality

by Robert W. Bly. BenBella 2005. $24.00
Reviewed by Norman Sperling, JIR vol. 50, no. 1, 2006, p32.

Not all these predictions became reality, as the text explains; some are merely theoretically possible. But the stories open up many interesting avenues. Science fiction predicts so much, and so much of it is based on Science and written by people who understand Science, that there is no surprise in SF predictions becoming real.
No surprise, but lots of wonder, sometimes at how far-sighted writers were, sometimes at how near-sighted. Some advances were anticipated by centuries, some by just a few years, and quite a number of scientific advances caught the writers by surprise.

I remember author Poul Anderson commenting how they missed predicting calculators and portable computers; they told about pilots navigating across galaxies by slide rule! Hmm, 3-place accuracy ... mid-course corrections ... .
The 83 topics each include both the science fiction, and a tidy summary of the Science, of the issues. They include very extensive lists of authors, novels, and short stories – enough to lure you back to reading several hundred stories you might have missed. Topics include Androids, Antimatter, Big Brother, Cloning, Cyborgs, ESP, Food Pills, Giants, Internet, Ray Guns, Mind Control, Parallel Universes, Radar, Subsurface Life, Suspended Animation, Time Travel, Undersea Cities, Monsters, Superconductivity, and Utopian Societies.
The variety of topics defies complete categorization, so the author (or publisher?) arranged them alphabetically. This results in a jumpy hodgepodge if you read it straight through; perhaps it's meant as a reference book to dip into. That would also explain some of the repetition when related topics each list the same definitions and stories.
The book's dozen or so typos do not interfere with understanding or enjoyment. A few anachronisms crop up – no one understood red giants as endpoints of stellar evolution in 1895, as page 117 says. On page 105, 1662 is said to be "more than four centuries ago". It isn't yet, but I don't have to be a prescient science fiction author to predict that it will be in the future.
The Great Dying of 251 million years ago is attributed to asteroid impact in one place, but triggered by volcanic and seismic forces in another.
Bly gullibly accepts ESP claims of the self-proclaimed "psychic" Uri Geller, ignoring several documentations of his non-psychic deceptions.
The Waldo segment seems unfinished.
But this book glorifies lots of great ideas, both as fiction and as fact. Use it to trigger your own new ideas, and to find interesting stories you might have missed.

JIR invites readers to suggest scientific aspects or situations which offer science fiction possibilities, that have not yet (to your knowledge) been written into science fiction stories.

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