Speculative fiction’s appeal lies inherently with its imaginative properties; casual readers and scholars alike gravitate towards the genre (or device, in some cases) with the hopes of perhaps parsing some kernel of humanity’s future fate. As one can expect, most not proven wholly wrong have yet to work out, if they ever even will. Sometimes, though, an author either calls components or – even rarer – creepily manages to predict phenomena with full accuracy. Time will obviously reveal whether or not the following novels bear fruit, but all of them hold the closest potential to coming true. In some form or fashion, of course, even if remaining more in spirit than actuality.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Ostensibly a secular government, American politicians nevertheless frequently capitulate to the demands of Christianity. Even the allegedly hyperliberal Barack Obama willingly ignores separation of church and state from time to time. Canadian author Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985 as more of a warning against theocratic rule than an accurate prediction. Unfortunately, with religion acting as just another DC lobby these days, her fiction may someday end up this nation’s oppressive (and frankly un-American) reality.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This highly popular dystopian novel meant to mourn the sacrifice of the written word at the altar of television, though most readers focus on the censorship element instead. When one peers at the surface elements, however, it’s easy to see how many of Ray Bradbury’s writings could easily spiral out of control in the near future. Government and citizen censorship are, of course, nothing new anywhere and at any time period. By this point, nobody would be surprised if the feds started rolling out book burning mobiles, although media evolution probably means SOPA would’ve proven the Internet Age equivalent had it passed. Heavier pressure from the entertainment industry and ambiguous wording are all it takes to make Americans watch their favorite law-abiding websites shut down permanently.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Scientists may be able to clone complete animals, but duplicating tissues and organs for transplant continues eluding them. So if the idea of creating entire humans as walking, talking, and thinking donor farms is quite a ways away, assuming it even happens at all. Obviously, such a concept comes inherently swaddled with numerous ethical questions. Humanity’s track record of observing such things remains, to put it nicely, on the spotty side; no matter how many laws various governments pass illegalizing the practice, it’ll still happen. Assuming the technology eventually comes to pass, at least. They might not wind up in Kazuo Ishiguro’s creepy boarding school, but the commercialization (underground or otherwise) of cloning oneself for exact organ matching seems a logical conclusion should science enable.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Like many of the great cyberpunk novels, elements of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? already exist – but only on a nascent level for now. Artificial intelligence pops up in the news regularly these days, often touting just how eerily advanced it’s grown, and speculation about where these technological advances could head inevitably lead to discussions of what life would be like if people couldn’t tell themselves from androids. This novel, which inspired the loosely-adapted cinematic classic Blade Runner, envisions an environmentally-ravaged, post-WWIII future where such questions arise in a major way. Protagonist Rick Deckard works as a bounty hunter tasted with shutting down rogue androids, but encounters some of the aforementioned difficulties (not to mention the expected ethical issues) along the way.
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Imagine a pill that could eliminate the fear of death entirely. Although White Noise otherwise more or less hews identically to known reality (or reality as it was known at the time of its 1985 publication), that one little departure carries with it the requisite black hole-dense amount of questions and concerns. Pharmaceutical companies have yet to develop magic medicine to alleviate the all-too-human anxiety over impermanence, but discovering it does not sit outside the realm of improbability. Far beyond mere antidepressant and antianxiety pills, scientists know how to erase painful memories chemically; the Pentagon, in fact, might start using it when treating soldiers with PTSD. All it would take to start deadening the fear is finding the appropriate alchemy to switch it off in the same manner as the ingrained experiences.
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
Seeing as how Neal Stephenson predicted, in some form or another, Second Life, anti-rape devices, the prolificacy (and exploitation) of memes, and other phenomena in 1992′s Snow Crash, it stands to reason that The Diamond Age might very well follow suit. People already enjoy ebooks, albeit with significantly less interactivity than the one employed by heroine Nell, and seemingly tend to gravitate more and more towards subcultural identities now that the internet enables like-minded individuals to connect. Should any of the postcyberpunk novel’s ruminations on inadequate AI and out of control nanotech occur, it likely won’t be anytime soon! But considering the author’s famously in-depth research and futurist sensibilities, he might prove more on the nose than most sci-fi writers, even if things ultimately take on a different shape.
The Running Man by Stephen King
The biggest name in horror set a story of a decrepit economy (sound familiar?) and a horrific game show channeling "The Most Dangerous Game" in 2025. While not a prediction so much as a conduit for a young Stephen King’s apoplexies (the book was originally published in 1982), contemporary audiences might still find it eerily resonant. Reality shows might not necessarily resort to the extreme measures of hunting down and killing people for ratings, but they certainly seem more and more shameless as each new season rolls out. Rather than literally murdering humans, human dignity undoubtedly dies tortured and screaming at a corresponding crescendo. At some point, one channel or another is going to accidentally result in someone croaking on live television.
Generation A Douglas Coupland
So honeybees are still endangered, which might very well result in a few different, agriculturally important plant species (like almonds) eventually winding up extinct. Not to mention a dwindling supply of honey. This novel isn’t set in a future with sophisticated robots or hostile Christian takeovers – just a simple lack of our favorite buzzing collectivist pals. OR IS THERE?! Five very different people wind up stung, subsequently launching an insane flurry of both media and scientific fervor before finding themselves sequestered on a bizarre island.
The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman
Chances are, a cabal of murderous revolutionaries won’t rise up and slaughter reporters in a bloody statement against media bias and manipulation. But writer and artist Jonathan Hickman’s tense, imaginative graphic novel perfectly bottles up how so many Americans switch on or pick up the news and grow frustrated with all they absorb. Rather than channeling this helplessness into violence as he depicts, however, it’s easier to believe that revolt will happen once society hits a tolerance event horizon and starts demanding more from a consumer’s perspective. One can already witness early rumblings of a cultural shift when it comes to covering politics, with trained journalists jettisoned in favor of condescending audiences with "Cult of Personality" talking heads offering commentary instead of facts.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Correcting deviant behavior burst into being shortly after deviant behavior itself, making the basis of A Clockwork Orange near universal. The Ludovico approach to the very real aversion therapy remains entirely in the realm of fiction right now, but ramping up existing methods’ severity to that level could feasibly occur. Considering the anarchic, dystopian world which Alex and his merry band of murderous, rape-hungry thugs cavort, extreme measures make perfect sense. Here, our future is only forecast should we happen to devolve into such a truly terrifying universe – but does punishment crescendo in reaction to swelling delinquency, or does delinquency crescendo in reaction to swelling punishment?
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Future scenarios don’t always have to embrace the gloom and doom of human nature, though most literary critics will agree they make for much more complex and compelling fiction. Aside from the perpetuation of war and the death penalty, protagonist Consuelo Ramos ("Connie") encounters a time traveler from the most idyllic future imaginable – one where all peoples truly coexist as equals, with all lines of marginalization fully eradicated. She serves as the lynchpin of this vision, however, as one misstep means a horrific plutocracy instead. Complicating matters even further, Connie can’t figure out whether or not what she knows might actually occur or just happens to exist all in her imagination. Cynics will, of course, disagree, but with advances in human rights hitting the news regularly (even small, overlooked stories), future generations might very get to witness firsthand just how harmonious we can get.
Neuromancer by William Gibson
More speculation about mankind’s possibly intimate biological relationships with nanotechnology from the man who brought us the word "cyberspace." Once again, the foundations for the fictional advancements already appeared in the real world, most notably in the exciting and fetal field of nanomedicine. But for every altruistic action, there is an equal and opposite not-so-altruistic reaction, as evidenced by the shady paramilitary, mercenary types populating this quintessential tale of "high tech, low life." In the book, hackers plug their brains directly into machinery; although today’s interfaces don’t connect with the internet, we do possess the ability to control computers using nothing but the mind. However, such technology only seems to be applied to medicine these days, and lacks the same level of sophistication as William Gibson’s imaginings. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t very well take the path towards the cyberpunkish later.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Overpopulation will probably always plague humanity until we achieve easy access to birth control (and the social permissiveness that allows it) on a global level. Dystopian future Japan’s solution involves shipping high school kids off to an island and embroiling them in a mandatory contest to murder each other. Last one standing wins! Most countries probably won’t act nearly as blatant when faced with the inevitable crises, but human nature’s boundless cruelty allows for murderous atrocities to occur on national scales every day with others neither knowing or caring. Reining in numbers probably won’t go down like this, but few would express shock if it ever did.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand and her Objectivist disciples worshiped self above all, praising those at the top of the economic hierarchy as inherently superior – no matter how many egregious ethical violations they committed to end up there. Rationalized selfishness and other sociopathic and psychotic tendencies increase in correlation with power acquisition. Or at least the perception of power acquisition. For far too many nations, Atlas Shrugged (or elements of it) already stands as the grim reality of exploitation. The lucky ones now might not enjoy the sheltering after the wrong people gain clout; Objectivism’s damaging reach could wreak havoc on small and major scales alike.
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
If we can’t have the flying cars science promised, can humanity AT LEAST evolve into cuddly-wuddly little seal creatures?!
Plus, flying cars would be so very, very sweet.