To think about the future, first, consider the past.
10,000 years ago, an ice age was ending. As the ice sheets receded, they revealed giant glacier-carved valleys that can still be seen today. The mastodons went extinct, but human populations were booming at 5 million people across the face of the planet. Our ancestors were in the process of transitioning from the hunter gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural one. Pottery, sewing, and weaving were sweeping the villages. Some groups in Europe were adapting to drinking cow’s milk.
At this point, the Neanderthals had been gone for 30,000 years. It would only be another 5,000 years into the future until the now-oldest living organism on Earth began to grow.
Why do this research? Why learn about the past when my books are set in the future?
One of the ways I challenge myself to think about where we might go as a society and planet, is to consider where we came from. Remember how much has changed in so little time.
All three of my current books are near future which means they take place between 50 and 150 years in the future. You’ll recognize city names, plants, societal norms like birthday parties and Christmas pageants, all with a backdrop of aliens. The technology is, if still futuristic, close enough that we can visualize how we might get from here to there.
My current book, Untitled 7, is set in the far future. 10,000 years into the future.
How do you research what hasn’t happened yet?
Somethings we know with more certainty:
- Ten millennia from now, Deneb will be our new north star.
- The Earth could be anywhere from 2-7 degrees Celsius warmer—in fact the current global warming crisis may just be starting to slow. That will certainly have an impact, but we won’t know how for, oh, about 10,000 years.
- Plant life will acclimate to warmer, tropical temperatures in the northern hemisphere.
- Animals could have new physical adaptations for dealing with pollution.
- Mammals could have less fur due to the heat.
And what about us? Will we still be around? Will we have jumped to a future of interstellar travel and cede all the boring parts of Earth management to some kind of global AI? Will we be living within the new bounds of genetic control, making us taller, healthier, smarter?
Or, will our lives resemble those of our ancestors? Even go the way of the Neanderthals?
You and I will never know. That is a sadness we share.
It’s also an opportunity. Just like those ancestors who first learned to thread a bone needle or plant a field of crops, our actions today decide what the future will look like, even if we won’t see it ourselves.
And so, as a speculative fiction writer, what I write in this next book might as well be truth. Fiction or not, we’ll get to experience it together.