Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Thirty years ago and thirty years ahead

Part of my work in progress is set thirty years ahead. Musing about the changes that might happen in the next three decades, it seems useful to consider what has changed since 1984. 

Things we thought okay in 1984 we don't think okay now
  • smoking in bars, restaurants and other people's houses
  • dog excrement on pavements - we didn't like it, but grudgingly accepted that to a dog, the whole of outdoors was a potential lavatory
  • milder forms of sexual harassment
  • huge shoulder pads, streaky hair, clothes bigger than you were (like Princess Diana's wedding dress)
  • burglar alarms that had to be turned off by a human, and frequently rang for three days straight over a bank holiday
Things we have now we didn't have in 1984
  • personal computers
  • smart phones
  • internet shopping
  • ebooks and ereaders
  • 24 hour drinking, often outside the bar to accommodate smokers
  • speed cushions (because road planners are very very stupid)
  • the London Congestion Charge (boo, hiss)
  • fines on motorists (£135 million a year in the UK)
  • a modest London one-bedroom flat costing half a million pounds
So what about thirty years' time? I really hope we get driverless cars, and if we do, people won't be able to understand how we endured the carnage on the roads: in the UK in 2013, 1,713 people were killed, 21,657 seriously injured. They'll also wonder why we put up with the pollution cars produce, and our streets being lined with parked cars. In London, most of us live in a car park.

Other possibilities: a cash-free economy, artificial intelligence, and undeniable climate change.

(And please, can we have drones? Amazon delivering by drone would be SO cool.)

What do you think will change in the next thirty years? Tell me in the comments.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Happy Christmas!

Nature having unaccountably failed to provide snow, here is a picture of some. And a dog. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Killing Hitler

It is not possible to research a time travel novel without coming across the trope of going back in time to kill Hitler. You can listen to brilliant John Finnemore's sketch about it here, at about 26.30 minutes in.

But everything has unintended consequences. I've been thinking about one aspect of this lately, what with Plebgate, Emily Thornberry's snide Twitter photograph, and David Mellor, whose tirade at a taxi driver included the words:

"I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I'm a Queen’s Counsel - you think that your experiences are anything compared to mine? And if you think you’re going to be sarky with me, get a better education before you try being sarcastic with me."

And I thought that though there is a lot wrong with our civilization, how nice it is that a de haut en bas attitude is deeply unfashionable these days. Bragging that you are superior because you are rich, successful, well born, white, male, or well-connected is likely to raise a chorus of boos, where not so long ago it was accepted. Perhaps this is connected to the world's horror at where Hitler's concept of German superiority led.

Hitler tapped into the secret belief most of us have that we are better than other people, a belief we should be aware of and treat with suspicion. 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have to admit, I harbour a deep inner conviction that I am better than people who get apostrophes wrong.