Fact and Fiction

Christian Fantasy Fantastic in the Everyday

Echoes of speculative fiction often find their way into the realm of fact, as scientists discover more about the world in which we live and new technologies make possible what would have been wondrously improbable in earlier eras.

The discovery of Kepler 22b, a planet recently discovered by NASA by means of the Kepler Space Telescope, illustrates this further. It exists outside our solar system, yet bears vast similarity to Earth, occupying a potentially habitable zone. It orbits a sun-like star at an ideal distance and based on available data would likely share similar temperatures to Earth. Furthermore, some of the data suggests it may be a planet entirely covered in water, which brings me to the correlation with speculative fiction.

Over seventy years ago, CS Lewis wrote Perelandra, a continuation of the tale of Ransom’s exploration of space. In it, Ransom finds himself on Venus (Perelandra), an unfallen world inhabited only by a man and woman created for this realm and untainted (so far) by sin. Aside from a single mountain known as the Fixed Land, the planet was oceanic and the Adam and Eve of this Perelandra dwelled on floating rafts of vegetation that drifted through the vast seas.

When I read of Kepler 22b, a possibly habitable oceanic planet, Perelandra was the first thing to come to mind–a demonstration of the way imagination found its reflection in reality all these years later. Of course, much of the information offered by NASA on Kepler 22b falls into the realm of an educated guess, but it’s an interesting correlation nevertheless. Since Kepler 22b is over 600 light years away from earth, if we’re ever to explore it, we’ll have to discover a more efficient method of space travel. Perhaps the scientists should consult works of speculative fiction, because sometimes imagination echoes reality more closely than we know.

Have you ever been surprised to find that a fantastic book you read (or wrote) ended up unexpectedly resembling reality?

Image credit: NASA

Comments

  • Mary Ruth Pursselley
    December 14, 2011 - 11:12 am · Reply

    Just a day or two ago I was reading one of my dad’s agricultural magazines and found an article about genetically altered chickens that are mature enough to reproduce in roughly a quarter of the time of a normal chicken, and how this could be a huge step in solving world hunger and all that stuff. I remember thinking ‘This sounds like something out of a science fiction novel’.
    I think you’re right, a lot of the time sci-fi writers aren’t completely out of the realm of possibility, they’re just way ahead of their times.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      December 14, 2011 - 12:33 pm · Reply

      How interesting, Mary. And a bit scary too, when you think of how the alterations could impact humans consuming this genetically enhanced chicken. So often we don’t know the impact “advances” will cause until years in the future…I suppose that’s one of the beauties of speculative fiction, that it allows us to consider and explore such questions.

  • Patrick J. Moore
    December 14, 2011 - 1:52 pm · Reply

    I was surprised to find iPads in Ender’s Game. They were called “desks” but they sounded an awful lot like iPads. It’s kind of humorous watching old Star Trek shows- this is supposedly a future time taking place before our eyes, except our current computer and communication technology has surpassed what they had projected so far into the future. We have computer and communication technologies that when I was a child would have sounded more like the magic of fantasy, than the potential realities of science fiction.

    But our transportation and medical technology have not even come close to making it to the Star Trek level. What’s up with that? Where’s my Back To The Future hover board? Or Jetson’s style automobiles? Why are we still consuming fossil fuels? Oh how wish I could teleport to work to avoid traffic “Beam me in, boss”. Medical scanners that can analyze the body to determine exactly what is wrong in seconds, and tell exactly what needs to be done to fix it! Shots without needles! Medical beds that provided whatever treatment a particular patient needed at the time.

    I just read Jeremy McNabb’s post on Speculative Faith “Guest Post: Goodbye, Old Friend” about how “Space Opera” and science fiction in general are becoming things of the past, and his guesses as to why that might be.

    My guess is that our computer and communication technologies are changing so quickly they don’t leave enough time for anyone to speculate what might be in the future before they are already creating it… and the transportation and medical fields seem so hopelessly stuck that we are running out of speculative ideas that no one has thought of yet.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      December 17, 2011 - 3:13 pm · Reply

      Patrick, I watched a few old Star Trek episodes several months ago and thought the same thing. It’s difficult to reconcile an advanced civilization with technology and special effects that look so outdated. 🙂

      Interesting point about our medical and transport technologies not keeping up with computer and communications. I can understand the slow advance of medical technology somewhat, because the body is unbelievably complex and certain ways Western medicine has developed has actually hindered progress, in mu opinion. But I have no idea why we’ve haven’t developed alternate means of transportation. I suppose there’s at least some political component, because so much of the world balance of power depends on our reliance on fossil fuels.

      I read that article as well, and I think another thing that may be playing a role is a general cynicism and disillusionment over the state of the world. Glowing science fiction futures are giving way to grim dystopian fiction. It will be interesting to see if the trend turns around.

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