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Fantastic realms: Light, speed, progress

Can science-fiction really keep up with science-fact – and does it have to, asks Alex Davis

The earliest days of science-fiction were marked by a distinctive tendency to dream, to imagine, to ponder on what astounding things might be. You could read incredible stories in the fledgling years of the genre, tales of time machines, fantastical alien beings, space travel and teleportation. If early fantasy was the fiction of the knowingly and happily unreal – tales of great heroes and escapism – SF could set itself apart by saying that these were things that maybe, just maybe, could be one day. These were speculations, possibilities, and it’s fair to say that many elements in the earliest scifi are now with us. Sure, maybe we haven’t cracked time travel or teleportation, but think about how our world would look to someone who lived 100 years ago – incredible devices in our pocket that can access almost any information out there and allow us to speak to a person anywhere else in the world, machines that can propel us down highways at astounding speeds, vessels that can take humans to the moon and unmanned craft that can plough even further out into the galaxy. Even folks living ten years ago would be pretty stunned to see what we could do now.

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The UK's bestselling writing magazine • Beat writer's block: Busting the myth and dealing with the reality • Revealed: WM's books of the year • Star interview: Stef Penney – intimate emotions, epic landscapes • 20 packed pages of Writers' News: win £50,588 in writing prizes; opportunities to get published; insider know-how and much more...

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