This image released by Hulu shows Elisabeth Moss as Offred in a scene from, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” premiering Wednesday on Hulu with three episodes. The remaining seven hours will be released each Wednesday thereafter. (George Kraychyk/Hulu via AP)

COLUMN: The future isn’t what we thought it would be

Dire dystopian predictions haven’t come true, but the warnings are still needed

Predictions from a few decades ago painted a rosy picture of an exciting life all of us would someday enjoy.

It was to be a world with nuclear-powered self-driving cars, homes with computerized appliances, robot butlers, three-dimensional television, short work weeks and cheap, convenient space travel, allowing us to zip across the galaxy.

Those dreams have long been forgotten.

While we have innovative appliances and while self-driving cars are being developed, today’s world isn’t nearly as wondrous as what was once imagined.

Much of yesterday’s science fiction turned out to be nothing more than fiction. And many stories from the pulp magazines of the golden age of science fiction are forgotten.

But some visions of tomorrow are still studied.

These are not dreams of a glorious tomorrow. Rather, they are dystopian nightmares.

Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, Brave New World, tells the story of a future society, defined by conformity.

George Orwell’s 1949 masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, is about a totalitarian government, demanding conformity and controlling the information they receive. Dissenters are tortured.

Ray Bradbury describes a world of book burning and surveillance in his 1951 novel, Fahrenheit 451.

And Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, presents a chilling vision of the worst elements of the Religious Right and the anti-abortion movement in a totalitarian theocracy.

One could add We, a 1921 novel by Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin, and It Can’t Happen Here, a 1935 novel by American writer Sinclair Lewis.

Some believe the bleak stories are not just predictions of worlds to come. They show elements of our reality, here and now.

What sets these dystopian novels apart from so many other tales of tomorrow is how little they rely on science to tell their stories.

Brave New World has the most science-related elements, including genetic engineering, artificial wombs and drugs to keep citizens happy. But the story is about the society more than the scientific advancements.

Nineteen Eighty-Four has elaborate monitoring in place, but that is the only futuristic element in the novel.

Fahrenheit 451 has surveillance technology, interactive television and some robotics, but the story isn’t about the technology. It’s about a society where books are burned.

Atwood had no science fiction elements in The Handmaid’s Tale. None.

I first read Atwood’s novel shortly after it was published and at the time, I thought it was an absurd, unbelievable story.

Today, it doesn’t seem at all far-fetched.

The Religious Right in the United States is a much more powerful force today than it was in the mid-1980s and its blend of religion and politics is no longer seen as a fringe movement.

Other dystopian novels no longer seem like impossible scenarios.

The all-encompassing surveillance described in Nineteen Eighty-Four is much more believable today than in the late 1940s when the book was written.

Book banning, described in Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, remains a threat as there are challenges to many books each year.

We don’t live in any of these dystopian nightmares as they are presented, and I don’t see any of them coming true in the foreseeable future. Not completely.

The future isn’t what we had imagined. Still, the warnings from these novels should be heeded.

But now, after contemplating the bleak futures in these novels, I need a break.

Does anyone have a light science fiction story to recommend? I’d like a pleasant tale of a happy family with a robot butler, watching three-dimensional television while they travel to a distant planet for a vacation.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

Just Posted

Summerland’s Antlers Surf is bringing more than just local boards to the beaches

The Summerland-based company is moving into the Skaha Marina this summer

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Thunderstorm possible for South Okanagan

The rest of the region will enjoy a sunny day.

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Severe thunderstorm watch

Environment Canada forecasts thunder, cloud and rain for one more day

Housing provided for women and children fleeing violence in Penticton

Announcement on Friday is part of a provincewide initiative to construct additional housing.

People’s Party of Canada leader talks B.C. trade to Penticton supporters

Maxime Bernier, head of the new federal political party, spoke at Time Winery on Friday

REPLAY: The best videos from across B.C. this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week in the province

UN urges Canada to take more vulnerable Mexican migrants from Central America

The request comes as the United States takes a harder line on its Mexican border

Mistrial declared in Jamie Bacon murder plot trial

Bacon was on trial for counselling to commit the murder of Person X

B.C. VIEWS: Money-laundering melodrama made for TV

Public inquiry staged to point fingers before 2021 election

Okanagan group offers suggestions on overdose prevention site

Downtown Vernon Association agrees proposed facility should be near Vernon Jubilee Hospital

Canadian homebuyers escaping high housing costs by moving to secondary cities

In British Columbia, exurbs have grown in the Hope Valley and Kamloops

Feds lay out proposed new rules for voice, video recorders in locomotives

Transport Canada wants to limit use of recorders to if a crew’s actions led to a crash

Brothers acquired land at entrance to Garnet Valley

Name of Summerland valley and lake does not match spelling of family name.

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Most Read