Psychic Scribes, or, Authors Ahead of Their Time

(I was reading the Omarosa thread and thinking about reality television, particularly shows like “Fear Factor”, where contestants do risky, disgusting, and/or downright degrading things as a means to win a prize or get on camera.)

Anyhoo…I started thinking about Stephen King and The Bachman Books, written in the early 80s. One of the stories, “Rage,” concerns an unpopular high school student who kills his homeroom teacher and takes the class hostage. I believe that even King admits that he began to regret publishing the story once real-life high school shootings became somewhat of an “epidemic” around the 90s.

The other story, “Running Man,” is set in the near future. Society in general is very poor, with many unemployed citizens, and television is truly the “opiate of the masses.” People can participate in reality TV shows to earn money. The shows are often…risky (even life-threatening), disgusting, and/or downright degrading.

It struck me as interesting that these stories, written over 20 years ago, would mirror real life events occuring years later. Not that I think King is psychic or anything…it’s just fun to think about.

Does anyone else have examples of authors whose stories have been surprisingly accurate years later?

I remember reading Robert Heinlein’s 1940 novella “If This Goes On–” in 1975-ish and thinking how off-target he was. After about 30 subsequent years of the collapse of the separation of church and state, and the rise of American fundamentalism, I have resigned myself to the near-future arrival of First Prophet Nehemiah Scudder, or someone very much like him.

Aldous Huxley- for ever parallel someone draws between modern times & Orwell’s 1984, we have lots more in common with BRAVE NEW WORLD.

Nigel Kneale’s The Year of the Sex Olympics was predicting reality TV shows when Richard Bachman was nothing but a fevered glint in Stephen King’s eye …

I was going to say the same thing as Steve Wright. The future of TV being a reality type show was a very tired old theme by the time King got to it. Philip K. Dick certainly touched on it and I doubt he was the first.


Heh. That’s what I get for not reading a lot of science fiction.

The Golden Kazoo by John G. Schneider. Written in 1959, it predicted that presidential campaigns would be run entirely by advertising executives and pollsters, with the candidate being an empty suit who repeated their slogans. In other words, it was The Selling of the President ten years before the title was written.


Stephen King’s The Running Man owes a debt to Robert Sheckley’s much earlier The Prize of Peril about dangerous TV reality shows.
If we want to get into SF predicting the future and all that, we’ve covered it several times here at the SDMB. (Murray Leinster’s “A Logic Named Joe” predicts the Internet, although H.G. Wells beat him to it, etc…)

Then there’s stuff like that book that anticipated so many of the details of the Titanic disaster, and similar cases.

For my money the most interesting yet least-referenced such cases are those “News of the Future” things from Laugh-in back in the 1960s that came true. I saw a lot of these on the Laugh-In retroscpective show a few years back. It’s scary, because they were, after all, trying to be funny and outrageous.

Some News of the Future

Not to highjack my own thread, but I’m reading the Otherworld series by Tad Williams at the moment. Written about 10 years ago, the plot involves an Internet-driven world that uses virtual reality technology. In real life, however, VR, seems to have gone nowhere for the past few years. Or am I missing something?

I sure don’t see anything much about it any more, but remember clearly several books/movies in the mid- to late- 90s that considered VR the upcoming wave of the future.

CalMeacham, is there a source somewhere that details the Laugh-In parallels you describe? That would be interesting reading.

Re: Laugh-In

In several of their “future news” segments, they started out, "In news from 1988, twenty years from today, President Ronald Reagan . . . "

At the time of that outrageous prediction, Reagan was serving his first term as governor of California and was considered a leading figure in the conservative movement.

I think a lot of people lost interest in VR when they realized it wasn’t going to enable them to have sex with celebrities. Part of the problem is the lack of a commonly accepted definition. Every video arcade in the country features some level of virtual reality. On the other hand, the Star Trek holodeck is still some years away.

Martin Gardner’s “The Wreck of the Titanic Foretold” allegedly debunked the legend that “Futility” uncannily predicted the Titanic disaster, although I’ve read neither book.