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  • Getting the Future Wrong: Book titles October 20, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

    Beachcombing is in disgrace this morning. Friends of his from Britain, Pascal and Pascal’s wife Small Coloured Thing have been planning a jaunt over to Italy and Beachcombing’s home there. This was a cause of great celebration two weeks ago when the holiday was agreed upon. But then Beachcombing was so overwhelmed by mid-term exams that he entirely forgot about their visit, until last night when he realised that (gulp) they were arriving this very morning. His blog today will then be a little rushed, while heavily pregnant Mrs B tries to get some sleep and Beachcombing runs around the house tidying things up and generally amusing the tortoises.

    Beachcombing offers, in fact, a ‘cookie-dough’ post for the 20. Hopefully tasty but not the real thing. It is more an appeal for help to his many and brilliant readers. It is not a finished work of the blogger’s art (sic).

    Let us first state the problem. Beachcombing has a small – i.e. pathetically inadequate – file of book titles that get the future badly wrong. For example, Leonardo Blake’s Hitler’s Last Year of Power would have been a reasonable enough book to publish in 1945 or for that matter about 1945. But Leonardo made the fatal mistake of publishing it in 1939… Whoops.

    Likewise Stuart Hodgson, The Man Who Made the Peace: The Story of Neville Chamberlain dated to 1938.

    Or what about Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984?, to which Beachcombing is tempted to shout a resounding YES! Written in 1970 by that brave dissident Andrei Amalrik (obit 1980) at least Will recognised that the Soviet Union was doomed – something that hadn’t occurred to most Sovietologists and the west’s intelligence services.

    This leads us to Orwell’s totalitarian vision of 1984. Beachcombing first read this book a couple of years after 1984 and the passing of the year itself did rather deflate things. In fact, Beachcombing recalls a short-story parody of Orwell’s greatest work where the centralised economy of Big Brother is more realistically rendered: the telescreens are constantly breaking down and they have to use gerbils for the torture scene as the rats have run out…

    Beachcombing can think of a few other fictional dates that have passed without a murmur – why didn’t the earth explode in 1999 sending the moon out through space? Where was the ‘space odyssey’ in 2001?

    But then science fiction writers and journalists are for ever predating the future: as John Prine had it ‘We’re all riding rocket cars and on our way to Mars, I’ll tell you how I know, I read it in the papers twenty years ago…’

    Pundits and fictionalists are though more easily forgiven than catastrophists. Global warming fans will particularly enjoy: The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age (1977) by ‘Impact Team’. Though it is a pity that there is no date in that title.

    Beachcombing must note here at the end that books that get the future wrong are as common as books about the future. For present purposes though the error has to be expressed in the title – again dates help. Beachcombing can but hope there are readers with other contributions. drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    PS Snegly many years ago gave Beachcombing a photocopy of a book of Nostradamus’ predictions with six prophecies about the near future on the front cover. Every single prophecy was wrong though or on the way to being proven wrong. If anyone could scan that cover or give Beachcombing the title he would be extraordinarily grateful.


    Greg writes into Beachcombing his belly full of flame: ‘I have become a habitual reader of your blog. But your October 20 misquote of America’s Poet of Common Sense, has me wondering if I can trust the veracity of any of your little essays. Maybe you just misremeber or make things up to fit your topic? ‘We are living in the future/ I’ll tell you how I know/ I read it in the paper/ Fifteen years ago/ We’re all driving rocket ships/ And talking with our minds/ And wearing turquoise jewellery/ And standing in soup lines/ We are standing in soup lines/…  Tell me it’s not so.’ Beachcombing is appalled to admit that it is so and genuflects before Greg.