Tomorrows That Never Were: The Obsolete Futures of Science Fiction

Where do the lost things go? Fallout shelters stocked with slowly quickening cans of beans, cities suspended at needlepoint and serviced by cloudcycles and dirigibles, an nft collection promising a bunk bed and an extra extruded meat ration on Mars. An array of futures now gathered, now gone, leaving the woozy aftertaste of a banished sneeze.


It is impossible for us to imagine the future without being science fictional. Even saying that the future will be only an intensification of the present, that nothing will intrude from the outside to change our understanding of the universe, is to speak in the figures of science fiction. To step even a little faster than the pace of time, to make our most timid forecasts—that things will go on getting worse, but there will be more microchips involved—is science fiction of the mundane variety. Science fiction is so entwined with the present because in modern civilization, the past is constantly being made obsolete. Modernity rips out roots with a bulldozer, and slumbering history roils beneath it, the useless scads are torn up and thrown away, and seeds lying latent burst forth under the guano of the present. This, at least, is the promethean premise of science fiction: knowledge of the future within one’s grasp. It only asks a reader who feels themselves thrown into a one-way history of relentless change to accede to the logic of change and allow themselves to be moved by its rhythms.

The genre of science fiction arose in the 1920s and the 1930s in a context of collaborative and combative speculation in the pulp magazines, combining sober extrapolation with heterogeneous obsessions such as future histories, lost civilizations, extrasensory powers, and doomsaying. Editors of such magazines often claimed that extrapolation into the near future was only possible for their elect readership, who had been made able to think through the constant self-revolutionizing of technical civilization. A whole industry grew that was devoted to fashioning futures that, once articulated, seemed to tug the present toward them. But for all the talk of hardheaded speculation, the pages of these magazines are filled with constructs that we now know to have been mirages—the canals of Mars, the swamps of Venus, imminent human evolution, your children scattered through the solar system and your grandchildren cast among the stars. A paradoxical attitude was demanded from the reader of the pulps—skepticism and credulity entwined. Yet when we belated readers approach these failed futures, we do so from out of our own troubled futurity, a futurity that stems from a failure to consummate that sparking edge of scientific and parascientific speculation.  We walk past the corpses of these forecasts each day, and if we dawdle by them we can read in their entrails other futures narrowly missed. And while we are among these spectral futures that range around us like distorted faces of the past in funhouse mirrors, from time to time we suddenly recognize ourselves in a feature.

For the Brazilian philosopher Vilém Flusser, the characteristic statement that distinguishes modernity from other ages is something like this—”Models are tools for the understanding of phenomena, they are made by those who seek understanding, they may be improved upon and replaced by better models.”[1] Science fiction as it arose was a madcap branch of model-world-making, with its own messy and error-prone laboratories. But error cannot be told so easily from wandering, and without wandering the many spectral futures of science fiction would never have come into being. As the march of time leaves the various unworkable futures by the wayside, they remain in spectral cohabitation with us in genres such as the pastoral romance and the repetition of myth. And yet the science fictional cast of mind presents itself not as an atavism but as a necessarily fallible mode that is not itself made redundant when its predictions fail. Models of scientific understanding continue to be elaborated with the technical means available, and those elaborations lead to new technical means, leading to newer models. As long as technological capital is thus reinvested into itself, as long as the means of scientific understanding and the horizons of the modeled universe continue to expand, science fiction remains the only means for laypeople to divine some of the potential directions in which the dynamo of the world will move.

Science fiction took upon itself the challenge of imagining modernity in a way no other branch of literature could. Engaging with the field meant gaining a competence in a vast and growing vocabulary of concepts and bracing oneself for the tumult of modernity. John Cheng argues in his history of the pulp magazines that science fiction in the interwar years was an important venue for the public imagination of the future, envisioning the role science would play in the transformation of society.[2] And certainly the twentieth century, that age of the intertwining of state power and technoscientific research, served as a vindication to many of the dreams first printed in pulp magazines. In the span of the twenty years from 1945 to 1965, non-fiction articles about moon bases went from the pages of Astounding Science Fiction to the New York Times. As Aren Roukema notes in his study of the connections of the excluded esoteric roots of early science fiction, “[t]here are few people left on Earth who have not in some way interacted with the tropes, devices, and expectations of science fiction. Some of these, like the UFO and the extra-terrestrial, have long since left the womb of their development in science fiction, to become everyday archetypal aspects of the human imagination.”[3]

As John W. Campbell Jr., the most influential editor of what is called the Golden Age of Science Fiction, put it in his editorial introduction to the October 1937 issue of Astounding Stories

I could not write in this vein to most magazine audiences, but you and I belong to a select circle. We can sit side by side though we may be a thousand miles apart — for we are watching the same stars, the same moon, the same planets. You and I have learned to know them, not as flickering points of light in a distant sky, but as familiar distances which we have traversed together.[4]

Magazines of science fiction were thus not merely a flavor to be chosen among tobacco-spitting cowboys, hardboiled crimefighters, and chain-dragging ghosts, they were the entertaining arm of a great pedagogical project. Their readers, alone among their peers, would be able to parse the line along which the world would take flight. So when Campbell says “you and I” it is precisely a conspiratorial claim in the etymological sense of con-spirare, of “breathing together,” of forming an inside opposed to an outside, giving its adherents a shared pocket of air and silence. You may breathe the ether between the planets, and the vastnesses of space may be the neighborhoods of your mind, as long as you are on this side of the magic circle. This rarefied air promised by early science fiction promised its breathers membership in the avant-garde of knowledge of the structures by which the universe changed with time. History and its machinations were a mystery no longer to the readers of these humble pages advertising correspondence courses for radio operations and entreaties to buy war bonds. Science fiction thus had a visionary character and an ability to proof its readers from future shock, since its readers would be the only ones who would not be surprised by the technological marvels of the twentieth century.

So, in their humble ways, the readers and writers of science fiction become augurs, whose augury concerns itself not with intimations from superhuman forces but with the political and technical feasibility of their manipulation. So science fiction derives its power from its own planned obsolescence, since the ground it stands on is necessarily fallible. The strangest thing about the extrapolative aspect of science fiction is that it is the only branch of non-realist fiction that can become realist with the passage of time. A story written in the 1940s about two astronauts having a chat on a space station is science fiction, but no longer. This is the thrust behind Samuel Delany’s definition of science fiction as things that could have happened, as opposed to fantasy being about things that could not.[5] Some science fiction stories have prefigured the world we live in now, among many others that did not, although at the time they could not be told apart. And despite the inadequacy of the axioms or the predictions of failed futures, the remains of their speculations serve us differently when they are no longer alive. If saying sooth is part of science fiction, then much can be gleaned from the figures those imagineers glimpsed in the fires that never took form. The hindsight with which we read these tales may have more value than their purported foresight. When they were current they were attended by the protean character of hope. Now, in their ashes, these futures remain what Elizabeth Grosz calls “readable pictures of the present that produced them.”[6]




A universal foodomat that can summon any meal at the press of a button—and yet the button must be pressed by a housewife awaiting the return of a husband from the asteroid mines. Oh honey, you must be so tired, your visor’s positively covered in micrometeorites.


Science fiction elaborated over decades a body of specialized vocabularies and concepts, from warp drives to alien invasions, which exists in between and among the texts of science fiction rather than within them. This is the “megatext” of science fiction, which is “the huge body of established moves or reading protocols that the reader learns through immersion in many hundreds of sf short stories and novels”[7] By becoming a more competent reader, one becomes more able to situate the world of a given text of science fiction into its own kind of future, and thus futures too begin to have their own taxonomies. Thus the archive of science fiction has given us many spectral years, all numbered 2000, all with different technological characteristics and overriding impulses. As Istvan Csicsery-Ronay notes, “[i]n the absence of real experience of the future to reinforce or refute the fictional worlds, the megatext acts as an imaginary archive of the future.”[8]

It is the devices and tools gleaned from this “imaginary archive of the future” that allow a writer of science fiction to use the future as a rhetorical device which can be inhabited by a story rather than merely a belated stop on our timestream. To go from the present to the future, at least in writing, requires only an indulgence in the small thrill that comes from adding numbers to today’s date and putting them into a story. Anyone reading them would supply their own fragments of the future, even though that date may have come and gone, and the reader’s window is not blotted over by dirigibles or flying cars or aw-shucks windowcleaners wearing televisors. This facility for projecting from the present into the future which has so permeated mass culture proves the success of the science fiction as a promissory note—and what it sells you is not the future, but the promise of the future. And promises abound—an end to terrestrial existence, a spacecraft that is several V2 rockets strapped together, atomic cars for all. Such were the promises made to the first generation of readers of science fiction, all of which were belied by time. The reactionary tendencies in the fandom of science fiction are not to return to the past, but to return to the future as it used to be.

This conservatism of thought persists even when shot through with veins of brilliant imagination. Joanna Russ puts it best: “Mummy and Daddy may live inside a huge amoeba and Daddy’s job may be to test psychedelic drugs or cultivate yeast-vats, but the world inside their heads is the world of Westport and Rahway and that world is never questioned.”[9] In the quaint and terrifying coziness of these stories, their promises of material abundance do not loose any of the strictures on life or change the relations between or within societies.

This dissonance one feels when reading stories of obsolete futures is the result of a feature of science fiction: its own planned obsolescence. The way this obsolescence functions is as follows: a certain concept, such as atomic energy, acquires currency in the field of science fiction when it is construed as technologically manipulable. From this point on, any stories from the past of the genre which extrapolated into the future without addressing this manipulation may be understood as dated and naive. Other kinds of subject material, such as stories of extra-sensory capabilities and imminent alien contact, which were part of the mainstream current of the genre, seem like nonsense once the fervor for them has died away. According to the science fiction writer and critic Thomas Disch, “it has been the tacit mandate of science fiction that its writers should create a kind of consensual future, a map of both what we’ve agreed to wish for and what we collectively dread.”[10] The future is not a stable entity towards which one can aim; each future is instead one among many imaginative spaces that can be inhabited together and argued together. Most of these futures die out because the societies for whom they served as the future no longer exist. Thus Disch characterizes the vision of the future current in the science fiction of the Golden Age as “the cheery Buck Rogers universe of space travel and infinite economic expansion, an imaginative landscape that mirrored the socioeconomic ideals of America from 1948 through 1962.”[11] Shortly after, for the New Wave writers of science fiction such a future is already untenable, and so “the characteristic future landscape [is] the ruins of what the thirties and forties had dreamed of.”[12] Glittering promises of the future—like the soaring green lines of profit, like the spaceways linking us to the stars—all come crashing to this Earth, from which they never rose as promised. Even so these virtual futures may be encountered in the stories that evoked them, and when we meet them they seem to gather around us like a loosely fitting skin, and we tug at their ends.

When one browses through the covers of pulp-era magazines, one is struck by the way reality has leached away the power of the images that seemed to some like the future. Cities do not hover on turbines, robots do not tower over the landscape, and yet—where has that lost power gone? William Gibson’s short story The Gernsback Continuum is the characteristic tale exploring this question. The title refers to Hugo Gernsback, the coiner of the term “science fiction,” the namesake of the Hugo awards, the editor of the first exclusively science fiction pulp magazine Amazing Stories, and recipient of a special Hugo in 1960 as “The Father of Magazine Science Fiction.”[13] And the continuum—the continuum is not so easy to pin down. It is the persistence of the virtual futures of science fiction among the real present, and the madness that accompanies such a persistence.

The narrator of this is a rambling and somewhat dissolute photographer who receives an assignment focusing on particular relics of the American architecture of the 1930s and 40s, a style that the historian hiring him calls “raygun gothic.”[14] These derelicts are all physical remnants of the imagination of that society—the future has passed along with the society, leaving behind the “movie marquees ribbed to radiate a mysterious energy,” “Coca-Cola plants like beached submarines,” “movie houses like the temples of some lost sect that had worshipped blue mirrors and geometry.”[15] The “shadowy America that wasn’t”[16] evoked by them is built from marble piled to unlikely heights; its skies are crowded by aerodynamically unworkable superplanes and eighty-lane freeways are gouged across the landscape. With no home in the real world, they are “segments of a dreamworld, abandoned in the uncaring present.”[17] These “semiotic ghosts,” “fragments of the Mass Dream,”[18] are the odds and ends of futures that once were. The lines that stretched from the past that imagined them to those futures may have snapped, but they remain aloft like Borges’s Tlön. All at once, they begin to intrude on the narrator’s reality.

The narrator begins to be beset by visions of a future or futures that are at once beautiful and insidious, the realization of grand dreams that resemble a nightmare.  He is left in a vertiginous image of a world composed momentarily by turning the kaleidoscope of reality by one degree. The Tucson beside which the strung-out narrator wakes is not of glass and concrete, but is composed of fluted chrome and neon spires and roads of crystal around a golden temple. Its inhabitants, caught in his headlights but not acknowledging them, are the “Heirs to the Dream,” blond and blue-eyed, wise and strong, American. It would have been their world, if not for lusterless reality; they had been hoodwinked and they had been robbed. What are the knives that killed the dreams of America that wasn’t? “[P]ollution, the finite bounds of fossil fuels, or foreign wars it was possible to lose.”[19] The narrator notes that the scene has “all the sinister fruitiness of Hitler Youth propaganda.”[20] It is no wonder that these futures seem to have a “sinister totalitarian dignity.”[21]

This dreamlike world is “thrown up out of the collective yearning of an era,”[22] and it is thrown up indeed. The sf megatext as it existed in the 1930s and 40s becomes for the narrator the raw material for a blind recombination and regurgitation that we see in the products of neural networks. Our narrator flounders in a stream that springs from the science fiction of that time, which was in the business of imagining futures without necessarily interrogating the way they might reproduce the fissures of the present.

The escape the narrator finds is no escape at all, it is instead a plunge into the seedy corners of the really-existing mass psyche of the near-dystopia in which he lived (as do we). He inoculates himself by subjecting himself to game shows and soaps, depressing non-fiction about ecological collapse, and a porn film called Nazi Love Motel. Evidently this therapy works, and the other “wavelengths of probability” that battered him diverge from him. Only glimpses remain in the corner of his eye, just as they do for us, paranoias that clothe themselves in furtive little grey men, killer nanomachines, unseen pulses that make us boil and bubble from within.




Whizz-bang-flash-pow. The cracked helmet that is discarded in wonderment, a strand of Martian elms that waves purply in the breeze, the antidemocratic barbarian slugmen who threaten the hero and his barely-clad squeeze while peace-loving luddite hamsterfolk cower in a corner and await the reckoning of Biff’s all-American fist.


Veronica Hollinger calls sf stories “impositions of imaginative plots on time future.”[23] “Time future” is a tense, taut space where the becoming of matter is articulated. And among its canvases are fictive worlds overlaid on real ones, where our anxieties and hopes may be projected. Images of the future that did not become obsolete tend to seem obvious in hindsight, or seem so diffused into the mainstream to have lost the power of amazement they once held. The effects of these visions persist even when their currency fades. In some sense the litanies of horror, the maps of hell, that science fiction has given us are never obsolete, since they have served their purpose by burrowing into the paranoias and neuroses of mass culture. Aliens may not have visited us, but they may serve well as costume for mystical experiences. The sun is not yet clouded by the irradiated clouds of eternal winter, but this threat was enough to turn great power politics into a permanent standoff at the edge of apocalypse.

Our technics are thus inscribed into the world; once the force and the danger of a technological revelation is felt the world cannot recede to become what it once was. Knowledge of nuclear fission and ecological catastrophe changed our models of the earth just as the knowledge of trigonometry and gunpowder changed our models of cities. The end to the Cold War has caused a reduction in the intensity of the fear of nuclear winter without actually reducing the technological capacity for it. In a world whose supply chains are global and maintained by overwhelming force of arms, there is no possibility for the eye scanning the horizon to blink—any advantage of arms once found must be hoarded and entrenched and extrapolated to infinity. Technology seems suited to nothing better than to furnish us with swords to dangle above our heads like so many grim chandeliers.

When the writers themselves are in the networks of research and development and futurological analysis, their work can be seen in light of what Disch called “SF’s role as a debating society, moral-support system, and cheerleading section for the present and future personnel of space-related industries and military services.”[24] During the moon landings in 1969, Walter Cronkite introduced Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein as eminent science fiction writers and as authorities of a sort in this historical event. When they were asked whether any details of the landing had surprised them, they answered in the negative. In some aspects, the future could be predicted down to the nuts and bolts—and perhaps especially to them. Predictions are not only of the order of “such are the changes in society revolutionized by new technologies,” they may also be of the order of “such and such will be the characteristics of an eventual spacefaring vessel.” In default of there being errors in the calculations of the writer, or unaccounted physical processes at play, the prediction may well serve as a viable blueprint. Science fiction went a long way from its paraliterary origins and parts of it came to be folded into the elaboration of technomilitary power.

This is the realm of hard science fiction, which we may simply define as the subset of science fiction whose premises are falsifiable. When seen dispassionately and with a scientific mind, the uncounted stars seem like so much wasted energy unless they are put to use. There is a universe out there, and something must be done about it; although the vast majority of it is totally inimical to life, through science and engineering humanity can put it to use. Disch states it neatly:

For many science fiction writers and fans the perpetuation of a manned space program stands as the central tenet of their faith in mankind’s destiny as explorer and colonizer of outer space […] SF writers have a legitimate claim to be considered not only the prophets of that faith but the builders of the church.[25]

A strange church, whose cathedral has a vault of stars dotted with orbiting organs of death and destruction. Certain science fiction writers became part of organs that advocated for the militarization of space as a matter of national interest for America. The aerospace and weapons researcher and science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle chaired the Citizens Advisory Council for National Space Policy, which published a report titled Space: the Crucial Frontier. Its 1981 preamble states: ‘Space is potentially our most valuable national resource. A properly developed space program can go far toward restoring national pride while developing significant and possibly decisive military and economic advantages.”[26] This society sees a natural alliance between the capitalist ethos of American nationalism and space colonization. The document is full of calls to “release the energy and vigor of the engines of free enterprise in this new frontier,”[27] coupled with assurances that the threat of the Soviet Union is real and overwhelming. The jockeying for position in the Cold War was not only a military contest but an ideological one, and sober policy proposals are given alongside jingoistic salutes to the United States:

The United States has a world mission. We influence by example, we are the showplace of freedom, and in the present era we must also be the sword and shield of liberty. To fulfill this role we must do more than survive. We must remain militarily, economically, and ideologically strong.[28]

Yet the readiness of the America to take the mantle of space supremacy could not be taken for granted. In an open letter by Robert Heinlein on behalf of the L5 Society, published in 1979 in the science fiction magazine Destinies, he writes:

Space will be colonized…although possibly not by us. If we lost our nerve, there are plenty of other people on this planet. The construction crews may speak Chinese or Russian—Swahili or Portuguese. It does not take “good old American know-how” to build a city in space. The laws of physics work just as well for others as they do for us.[29]

There is a definite anxiety here—the laws of physics are fickle and do not honor dibs; if Americans do not fight for their natural position as purveyors of the earth from above it would be tantamount to conceding space to the enemy.

Yet the future that organs such as these were preparing for did not arrive in the fashion that was predicted—there are no jobs as asteroid miners for waves of go-getting Americans and many of the technological and economic bases for this future have proven to be pipe dreams. Beam weapons in space are not the overwhelming advantage they promised to be, space elevators do not bisect the sky, warp drives do not exist. Rather than tapping into the entirety of the solar system, planetary capitalism seems content with ever more virtual forms of value extraction. To writers such as Pournelle and Heinlein, ours is a failed future. Whether it will lead, as predicted, to the dissipation of the power that is concentrated in the hands of the American empire remains to be seen.




The last morning dawns, and then the next. To conserve what little energy there remains in the cosmos, we have dwindled to almost nothing, a habit of matter that clings tenuously between the stars. The churn of history has almost stilled, and the sky draws itself in. Faced with such mute cliffs of time we have nothing to do. We await apocalypse like pots baked hard in the sun, able to hold anything without cracking.


To extrapolate into the near future seems to be an invitation to failure. Political emergencies, the changing mores of society, or the next issue of Scientific American may all date the story.  A likely escape is into the far future, a time so removed from ours that nothing of our age remains. Here even our standard objections to the plausibility of a yarn seem listless—yes, we cannot imagine a twenty-first century decided at sword point and by sailboats, but what can we say of the eighty-first? History may lapse into cycles once again, and the eternal engine that was to take humans to the stars may sputter and die. Technology in those distant reaches would recede to magic and to symbol, just as for Borges the arrow that at once was a formula of flight and a cruel point and a spurt of blood turns into the mute indication of direction: “Cross, lasso, and arrow–former tools of man, debased or exalted now to the status of symbols. Why should I marvel at them, when there is not a single thing on earth that oblivion does not erase or memory change, and when no one knows into what images he himself will be transmuted by the future.”[30]

Alternatively, if the stars are in the future of humanity, if the teleology of the universe is aligned with our imagination, the prospect is no closer. If humans are to survive the many catastrophes that the universe will undergo they must have subjected themselves to so much technical and biological evolution that they would be indistinguishable from aliens to us. Only remnants of syllables, conventions of nomenclature, and the twin ghostly names of Terra and Sol would haunt a humanity so distant from ours.

In the absence of humans to frame existence, the future is only a matter of matter muttering to itself. Entropy will string the world along, and the mills of time will have turned for so long that all of our referents will have faded away or changed beyond recognition, leaving in the light the terrifying and unspoken aspect—on a long enough timeline, we ourselves will be obsolete, along with our notions of the future.




Now we must note, not being pedantic, that whether the devices of a story of science fiction use vacuum tubes or semiconductors or quantum computers or ether compressors is immaterial—these are only the technical apparatus to give body to the imagination. Romances amid the swamps of Venus, the irruption of spectral futures into the present, the extension of the capitalist colonial project into the stars, and the quicksands of entropy—all these are shapes to the universe, and these shapes cannot be right or wrong. They are only the ways in which the world once made sense. We look at each other across a gulf, those writers who imagined the future and we archaeologists plumbing the past, each having a better vantage than the other. They, unable to pierce the veil of time, see their futures as organic growths from their present. We, unable to forget the figures of memory, see their futures as death masks made by their wearers before the ravages of time could take their course.

Most often we find that the obsolete futures have been casualties of the tenacious grip of the past—old orders hold on, their knuckles white, an undead strength to them. So much of the obsolescence of these futures is caused by their authors not being able to imagine the persistence of their present. The grandchildren of the writers of the Golden Age of Science Fiction did not work at MarsCorp and vacation in Europa, they just worked for Lockheed Martin and vacationed in the Caribbean.

If our proximate future is not among the stars, the other possibilities are not so heartening either. The promised revolution of technology does not come, or it comes in shabby garments, already mundane and one among several. Involutions into genetic re-engineering or virtual reality have not rewritten the code of humanity or translated us into data—they have merely become another domain for the seizing of control. Revolution and revelation are both indefinitely postponed, all we have is revaluation. Cyberspace does not free us from meatspace, it only grafts itself over it like a virtual parasite with no body but appetite. No god has emerged from the machine to free us from the earth, which remains the likeliest final home to our ashes and bones. Billboards block out the horizons of our dreams, and an unseen bell tolls behind them.


[1] Vilém Flusser, “On the Crisis of Our Models,” in Writings, ed. Andreas Ströhl, trans. Erik Eisel, (Ann Arbor: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 75.

[2] John Cheng, Astounding Wonder: Imagining Science and Science Fiction in Interwar America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).

[3] Aren Roukema, “Early Science Fiction and Occultism,” (PhD diss., Birkbeck, University of London, 2020), 161,

[4] John W. Campbell, Jr., “Editor’s Introduction,” Astounding Stories, October 1937, 57.

[5] Samuel R. Delany, “About 5,750 Words,” in Science Fiction Criticism: An Anthology of Essential Writings, ed. Rob Latham, (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017), 104-115.

[6] Elizabeth Grosz, “Histories of a Feminist Future,” Signs 25, no. 4 (2000): 1017.

[7] Damien Broderick, “SF Megatext,” in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, ed. John Clute and David Langford (London: SFE Ltd and Reading: Ansible Editions), last updated December 19, 2020,

[8] Ivan Csicsery-Ronay, The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2011), 275.

[9] Joanna Russ, “The Image of Women in Science Fiction,” in The Country You Have Never Seen: Essays and Reviews (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007), 206.

[10] Thomas M. Disch, “Big Ideas and Dead-End Thrills,” in On SF, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005), 30.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Gary Westfahl, “Gernsback, Hugo,” in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, ed. John Clute and David Langford (London: SFE Ltd and Reading: Ansible Editions), last updated January 2, 2023,

[14] William Gibson, “The Gernsback Continuum,” in Burning Chrome (New York: Ace Books, 1986).

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Veronica Hollinger, “A History of the Future: Notes for an Archive” Science Fiction Studies 37, no. 1 (2010): 26.

[24] Thomas M. Disch, “The Road to Heaven: Science Fiction and the Militarization of Space,” in On SF, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005), 206.

[25] Ibid., 206

[26] Citizens Advisory Council for National Space Policy, Space: The Crucial Frontier, L-5 Society, 1981,

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Robert Heinlein, “The L-5 Review #2,” Destinies, ed. James Patrick Baen, October-December 1979.

[30] Jorge Luis Borges, “Mutations,” in Jorge Luis Borges: Collected Fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley (New York: Penguin Books, 1998), 314.