Douglas Adams has been vindicated. Not because of the ‘Don’t Panic’ sign that was taped to Elon Musk’s Tesla’s dashboard. The Tesla he sent hurtling somewhere into the outer part of the solar system. (For which he wins the title of ‘Grand Nerd Wizard’.) If you didn’t watch the launch, it’s worth a quick view here.
‘Don’t Panic’, if you don’t know, is the tagline of Adams’ imagined Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a digital book that is a universal encyclopaedia of life, the universe, and everything. Adams tackles a heavy issue in the book. He asks what the meaning of life, the universe and everything is, and offers an answer that is incredibly simple: 42. Now it turns out, Adams was right all along. A recent completed cellular study revealed there are 42 million protein molecules in our cells. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I don’t think that’s how Adams got that number right all those years ago.
Here’s my alt-truth: sci-fi writers are in fact prophets who foretell the secrets of the universe. Of course, not all sci-fi writers are prophets. Most of them are in fact nonsensical bullshitters who have never had a proper date. And some are just plain bad writers. But amongst the chaff are the true prophets. They write, unknowingly, the knowledge of the universe into their work.
Adams was a prophet. And so was the guy who wrote about driving a car through space. And here are some others I believe bore the Word of the Universe in their art. Only the future will reveal if our hypothesis is is true. Well that or twisting the truth to make sure they seem like true prophets.
1. Douglas Adams. See above. No further explanation needed, unless you are looking to understand the interconnectedness of everything.
2. Aldous Huxley. Not so much the socio-political climate of our world today which appears in some way to resemble the painfully apathetic nature of society, but of the way people were bred in artificial wombs and in a very real sense grown. There are plenty of other examples in sci-fi where artificial wombs are depicted, but Huxley represents one of the earliest depictions of such a reality.
3. Edward Bellamy. Looking Backward 2000-1887, was written by Bellamy in the late 19th century and he predicted Internet shopping and quick delivery (hello, Amazon Prime Now), debit and credit cards, universal credit, podcasts and the rise of socialism and nationalism. We may be 18 years late to the game, but his predictions over 130 years ago are remarkably accurate.
4. Ursula K. Le Guin. The late great lady of sci-fi describes a world in The Left Hand of Darkness where people have no fixed sex and are ambisexual. They adopt sexual attributes only once a month, with no predisposition for either sex. The evolution of gender and the end of gender disparities seems to have started, though not quite in the way she foresaw. (Image from LA Times.)
5. Arthur C. Clarke. Childhood’s End is an almost perfect observation of the space race as it exists today. The encountering of the Overlords, aliens who are benign overseers of our world supervising international affairs, is more than believable. (Remember the Oumuamua asteroid from out of this galaxy?) Perhaps they are already here and in 50 years, they will reveal themselves to all of civilisation. And let’s not forget his prediction of digital media and video communications in 2001: A Space Odyssey.