The Sci-Fi Years That Weren't
Can you believe it’s already 2010? When we used to think about that number, it seemed like a year far off in the future. So did a lot of other years when sci-fi writers and filmmakers set their stories in the future. Here are some of the best sci-fi years that didn’t turn out as planned, and looking ahead some speculation about where we’re going.
1984 (Set in 1984)
Fortunately, Big Brother did not take over our lives in 1984 as George Orwell predicted. That didn’t happen until the ‘90s. Ha ha! Okay, while we don’t have giant eyes telling us what to do, there are plenty of technologies monitoring our activities and politicians judging what’s good and bad.
Escape from New York (Set in 1988)
1988 is the year that Escape from New York said New York was turned into a walled off prison. Not only didn’t that happen, but it got totally cleaned up too. Now you can’t even find a decent peep show on the street anymore.
Demolition Man (Set in 1996)
In Demolition Man, John Spartan (Stallone) comes from a war torn 1996 Los Angeles. Back in 1993, it might have seemed that post-riot L.A. would only get worse, but I live here and it’s actually still okay. Also, there’s no cryogenic industry at the level where you could freeze prisoners indefinitely and thaw them out in the future. The most disappointing part of all though is that Taco Bell still isn’t a fine dining establishment.
Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (Set in 1996)
Here’s one you may have forgotten. Back in the early ‘90s, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man was set in the near future of 1996. Only in the future could Don Johnson and Mickey Rourke be action heroes. It took another 12 years for Rourke to find his footing but Johnson still has to live off Miami Vice and Nash Bridges residuals.
Predator 2 (Set in 1997)
Now I’ll give you that Predator might have had a hunt here and escaped unnoticed, but Predator 2 set his hunt in a “future” L.A. overrun by Jamaican drug lords in a heat wave. Sorry to disappoint you, but law and order has maintained the balance in the city, and the weather is still a pleasant 72 degrees.
Strange Days (Set in 1999)
Strange Days promised that by this year we would be able to trade memory downloads of hot women in lesbian three-ways. Dammit, where are my lesbian virtual reality downloads? They did call it for Y2K. As in the real world, as everyone predicted the end of the world at midnight on New Year’s Eve, everything continued on as normal.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Set in 2001)
As brilliant as Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke were, they were wrong about NASA’s prospects for the new millennium. We did not make it to Jupiter by then, nor have we had to deal with an ambiguous monolith or sentient, overly-emotional HAL 9000 computer system.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Set in 2003)
Even though Terminator 2 said that Judgment Day was in 1997, they prevented it. Terminator 3 said they only postponed it, and according to their present day, the machines still rose up. So far, all our iPods and DVRs are living in harmony with us. Also, I wouldn’t take T3’s word for anything. They also said that 9 years after T2, John Connor would be 23. Terminator logic hurts my brains.
Paycheck (Set in 2004/2007)
Either date you start, Paycheck suggested technology that hasn’t existed yet. We can’t go into your brain and pinpoint specific memories to erase, or even erase a set block of years but leave the rest intact. Much as I’d like to erase a few of the more embarrassing years, I’ve gotta keep the bad with the good.
2010 (Set in 2010)
Perhaps it’s not fair to pick on 2010 after 2001 didn’t happen. There was no Discovery mission to follow up nine years later. Still, to be complete, there is no Discovery on a path to crash into a Jovian moon. Also there’s no Soviet Union anymore for NASA to team up with.
Looking into the future now...
2012 (Set in 2012)
The Mayans. End of the world. You believe that?
Escape from L.A. (Set in 2013)
Boy, John Carpenter really has to think further ahead. He set Escape from L.A. in 2013 where the City of Angels is now an island slum. Granted, we all expect it to happen someday, but there’s only three years to go and L.A. is still attached. Even if it broke off tomorrow, we’re looking at at least 2017 before Kurt Russell can surf Wilshire Blvd.
Back to the Future Part II (Set in 2015)
Back to the Future Part II suggests that we’ll have flying cars by the distant future of 2015. For them to be in regular use in five years, I think we’d have to have seen some prototypes by now. I’m fine with this though. The day they let average drivers pilot flying vehicles is the day I lock myself indoors permanently.
Blade Runner (Set in 2019)
We love Blade Runner but it’s a little late to think that we could still get Tokyo-esque architecture breathing fire into the Los Angeles sky by then. Maybe if the break ground on that pyramid building now, but there doesn’t seem to be anything of the like on the zoning board. For that matter, put me down for a replicant once they go on the market.
Minority Report (Set in 2054)
If psychic precogs emerge in the next 40 years, perhaps Minority Report will be onto something. The whole preventative crime stopping sort of hinges on that macguffin. Folks more tech savvy than me can tell us if we’re within reach of those motion sensor air video screens and single user jet packs.