Engineering

A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam

Frederik Pohl
prosthetic arm on blue background
Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

It was stories about the ‘mad scientist’ that kicked off genre literature, ever since Daedalus fabricated wings from feathers and wax for himself and his son Icarus. Invention is the heart of all sci-fi stories, which in turn becomes the heart of inspiration that turns science fantasy into reality. Geosynchronous communications satellites, computer worms, Segways, wall-mounted home theatres, exoskeletons, smartphones, virtual worlds, and organ harvesting were all described by sci-fi writers long before engineers turned them into reality.

Many authors are indeed engineers and scientists, Arthur C. Clarke, Edward E. “Doc” Smith, Joe Haldeman and Isaac Asimov to name just a few, making their work some of the best sci-fi out there. They get to create and test theoretical technology in fiction and at the same time, get inspired to dream up solutions in the real, current world.

Engineering is obviously fundamental to all sci-fi stories, and not only to have fantastical new technology for your characters to play with, but also to ‘engineer’ a world, a society that is victim to the ramifications to the inventions that pervade it.

Engineering is the plot device of plot devices.


Automatic City

A city designed to protect itself and maintain itself over millions of years.

The Man in the Maze, by Robert Silverberg.

Published by Avon Books in 1969


Chronoscope

A device used to see into specific internals of time.

From Legion of Time, by Jack Williamson.

Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1938


Ice-Nine

A crystalline form of water so stable that in practical terms it would never melt.

From Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Published by Random House in 1963


The Metaverse

A virtual universe.

Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.

Published by Bantam in 1992


Repellor Anti-Gravity Rays

Device provides support for planet-side air travel.

Armageddon: 2419 A.D. , by Philip Frances Nowlan

Published by Amazing Stories in 1928


Rhennius Machine

Device of alien manufacture, which will reverse, or turn inside out, any object passed through its mobilator.

Doorways in the Sand

Doorways in the Sand, by Roger Zelazny.

Published by Harper Science Fiction in 1976


Virtual Immortality

A method for storing the mind and memories of a person, and recalling and reconstituting them at will.

The city and the stars

The City and the Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke.

Published by Unknown in 1956