Funny Moments in Far-Flung Futures in Fiction

You keep changing your argument…could we stick with one, so I can keep track of exactly what you’re trying to say?
Anyway, no, it wouldn’t “bankrupt the Earth,” although it would require a very sizable investment, which is why it hasn’t happened yet.

Not just incorrect predictions about the future, but predictions that the author should have known at the time were wrong?

The “-In Death” series of novels by J.D. Robb, set in the 2060s, are enjoyable but have throwaway plot lines about offworld colonies that are ludicrously implausible.

Basically any work of science fiction that doesn’t understand the difference between interplanetary and interstellar distances.

Ripley: And if one of those things gets down here that will be all, and all of this bullshit that you think is so important, you can kiss all that goodbye!

In her frustration, she grabs a handful of printouts from one of the bureaucrats and waves it around. The traction-printer holes down the sides of the sheets is apparent.

I have not changed my argument.

Current cost to low orbit is variable, but even assuming that with a large infrastructure that it dropped as low as $100 per Kg… One billion metric tons of infrastructure to LOW Earth orbit = 1,000,000,000,000 kg * 100 = $100 trillion. You got that lying around?

Then there’s the whole “Ok, we made 1,000 bulldozers in low orbit. How the fuck to we get them back down to Earth?”

But this is all a different argument than the OP and you clearly have no clue as to scales involved or what is possible, so I’ll leave it off in this thread.

You don’t BRING a billion tons of infrastructure off the planet, you mine it in space and build it there. You start mining with a small setup, then use what you mined to build a larger setup.
And it’s much cheaper to get stuff to earth from orbit than vice versa.

I just read a reference in Human Man’s Burden to the Roebuck-Ward’s catalogue.

Yes, it’s a little hard to swallow. Stirling basically just wrote off entire large regions of the country like California, Texas, and pretty much everything east of the Mississippi. I think he did it to keep the story simple.

Another plotline that was hard-to-swallow was when he suddenly opened up the setting of his stories and brought places like Idaho, Montana, and Utah into it. The first few books dealt with the local situation in western Oregon with several small communities struggling for control. And then around volume four we’re suddenly told that there are several major powers practically next door, any of which is a hundred times larger than the little towns we’ve been reading about.

Several issues were raised. Why did no characters in the book ever mention these places before? Why did Oregon collapse down to small communities when these other places were able to maintain larger nations? And why didn’t any of these other powers tried to take over Oregon earlier?

But don’t get me wrong. Overall, I still enjoy reading Stirling’s work. I just wish that occasionally somebody wouldn’t be revealed to secretly be a prince or princess.

I thought you said you’d start with workers’ habitats? That alone is going to be a whole lot of tonnage. Heck, even getting the workers themselves up there would probably cost more than it’s worth: The marginal cost of a Space Shuttle flight is about 60 million dollars, and can nominally take up seven people for a few weeks. That means that even before you include the habitats, food, etc., you’re paying nearly nine million dollars per worker. Plus, of course, you’ll need to either shuttle them up and down frequently, or pay huge salaries to compensate for it being impossible for them to have families. Or maybe you move the families up into space, too? Then triple or quadruple the cost of sending the workers up.

– yeah, but of course NYC is -much bigger- than 100,000 people, so the circle is bigger. Again, a small percentage of a very large number is a large number.

Now add in -all the other cities- and draw circles around them.

I’ve done this. The whole of eastern North America is a set of overlapping circles.

GSN rerun.

– nah, it’s the math, the population densities, and the geography. There’s a consistent pattern, if you care to trace it out. There are places that are certainly doomed (eastern megalopolis, most of California), there are places that are probably going to be reasonably OK (remote Nevada ranching country) and there are places where survival depends on people doing the right thing (Iowa).

– it’s mentioned that the far interior does much better; but right after the Change, long-distance travel virtually ceases. Occasional individuals do move long distances, but mostly people don’t. They’re too preoccupied with local concerns, and anyway they don’t have the equipment, draught animals and so forth necessary. A mile is a long way again. A hundred miles is a -very long way-.

A generation later, things have settled down, tools and livestock have been accumulated, and people can start broadening their contacts again.

I considered that, but the little girl is the daughter of a hooker who lives in a flea bag motel with a TV with bad reception. Basically, all of the little anachronisms in The Passage stem from things that are included if “the present” had been the 80s (when Cronin would have been a teenager). Taking place in 2020, things like the Wheel of Fortune line are just errors.

The radius is limited by how far the people can get on foot before starving, not by how many there are. New York City won’t have any larger a radius than any other city. And even if you also draw circles around all the other cities, there’s still a decent-sized chunk of northern New York State that’s far from all of them.

– nope, it’s partly a function of numbers, interacting with distance and a clutch of other stuff.

Some people will stay and starve or die otherwise in place; some will immediately grasp what’s happening and run like hell; others will be in between. How far they get will be a function of a whole lot of factors; the weather, the geography, how early they start, what precautions they take, what sort of leadership they have, and so forth.

Say 1% are able to make it 250 miles before dying.

If you’re starting with 100,000 people, that’s 1,000 total survivors at the outer fringe, and the locals may be able to deal with them.

If you start with 8,300,000 people, that’s nearly a hundred thousand, and it’s an entirely different proposition.

And the same ratios apply at all distances.

– remember, it’s not limited to cities -in New York State-. The political boundaries are irrelevant, including the international ones. You have to factor in -all- the cities.

Here’s a rough estimate, giving the gross distances from various cities:

Note that all of New York State is covered by multiple overlapping circles; Montreal’s and Tornoto’s death-zone intrudes into the upstate area, for example.

Y’know, I’m human and therefore I make mistakes. But I rarely make -that kind- of mistakes.

Strictly speaking, this won’t be “wrong” until 2021, because WoF could reintroduce the prize shopping round at any time between now and 2020, and MAKE the book correct.

Political boundaries are irrelevant, but geographic ones aren’t, and all the cities that close to upstate NY are across major rivers or lakes. And even at that, you still haven’t covered the entirety of the state.

There’s also a difference between how long someone can last before starving to death, and how long they can last and still be good for many miles per day, or be able to effectively fight off locals.

John Wyndham’s “Stowaway to Mars” has hits and misses on the prediction front:

HIT: The USA and Russia will compete strenuously to be the first to achieve space exploration.
MISS: 1) Mars, not the Moon. 2) USA vs Russia - vs Germany vs UK. You know, all the major powers of the 1930s.

HIT: The police, to aid with crowd control, will use rotary-wing aircraft to provide a birds-eye view of the situation.
MISS: Gyrocopters. Also, in order to communicate with each other, the pilots of the copters steer to within a few yards of each other, and shout.
I foudn the mistakes so glaring precisely because they were wrapped up in some genuinely insightful predictions.

I remember after Case has an encounter with one of the AIs he describes it as so advanced, it’s not just RAM, it’s full-on “ROM.” Which makes me wonder whether William Gibson really understood what RAM and ROM were in the first place.

ETA: I had it backwards:


Yes. And the first group of workers will be very, very small.

Since the hijack persists: I’m still waiting for someone to show me this space mining and manufacturing technology. It currently does not exist.