Necessity has been called as the mother of invention but imagination is what creates the idea for that invention. Impossibility finds a way to seep into our dreams but it’s their depictions that brings them into existence.

Fiction has been one of the key mediums for people to connect with versions of themselves, who they inspire to be. It deals with imagination which is the first component of any technological invention, advancement or venture. Science fiction is a genre of fiction that deals with imagining technology that does not exist presently. The ideas behind a lot of modern technology has been inspired from the field. Here’s a short list of tech inspired from science fiction:

  1. Payment Cards: Before moving pictures depicted fictions scientific technology, written word was the way that jogged the most powerful graphic chip on the planet – the human brain. Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward 2000-1887 published in 1888 was the first novel that introduced the concept of “universal cards”. These cards were used by the author’s citizen of utopia to purchase goods and services anywhere in the world. Credit cards have been around since the 50s but the idea dates back half a century.
    Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons
    Payment cards

    2. Video Chatting :

    Inventors struggled for nearly two centuries to invent the technology that enabled humans to communicate with each other without being in the range of sound emitted by human mouth i.e. the telephone. While people were getting used to idea of talking to one another on the phone, someone thought of seeing the person at the other while doing that. That man was Hugo Gernsback. It was his novel, Ralph 124C+1 published as a twelve-part series in Modern Electrics that had a device called “telephot” that led people to see each other while talking across large distances.

    Video chatting
    Video chatting

    3. Antidepressants and Genetic Engineering :

    Gadgets and gizmos aren’t the only areas where science has benefitted from fiction. Medicine has been influenced as well. In 1931, Aldous Huxley gave the concept of antidepressants in form “mood altering” medicine that was given to the citizens of 2540 London to keep them mentally balanced. Apart from this, the novel details a society where humans are engineered as per their role in the society. Sounds a lot like tinkering with the genome to modify and produce desired living things, doesn’t it?

    Anti Depressants
    Anti Depressants

    4. 3D Printing: 

    The earliest reference that I came across about 3D printing was from Eric Frank Russell’s novelette, the Hobbyist. Published in 1947, he describes machines which are manufacturing different things, both living and non-living. We haven’t come across the former, but the latter is something that we have all witnessed, either in person or in countless videos on YouTube.  Who’s to say how far we are from creating something or someone using a combination of Russell’s fabrication device and Huxley’s notion of genetic engineering?

    3D Printer in action
    3D Printer in action


Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Kavach Chandra

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“We all-adults and children, writers and readers-have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine.”

I anticipate two kinds of readers-one category will scoff at the above statement and mumble to themselves about the kind of trash that the internet produces these days. The second category will find that their hearts and minds resound with the statement above, with every novel they lift off the shelf and every page they turn.

The statement quoted was made by Neil Gaiman, a master storyteller who reigns supreme over the world of fiction. It was part of an article published in The Guardian and aptly titled, ‘Face Facts: We need Fiction.’

The category of readers who scoffed at the statement would, in all likelihood, like to refer to fiction as a form of ‘escapism.’ Fiction, to those who consider it a waste of their time, is a convenient way of running as far away as possible from the harsh realities of the world we inhabit. It serves as a temporary retreat when the tribulations of the ‘real’ world become too heavy a burden. Cannot deal with adult problems anymore? Turn to hippogriffs, or Gandalf, or Mowgli, to forget about them for a while. Such an argument sees fiction as a form of entertainment that takes our mind off of more pressing matters-a route to the land of collective amnesia, if you will. Once our allotted, limited time for leisure has come to an end, we must return to the mundane lives of our everyday chores and routines for, fiction is not as significant as the circus that is world politics or the imminent threat that is global warming.

Though valid to a certain extent (yes, I shall make that concession), this line of thought refuses to acknowledge the fact that ‘fiction’ mirrors the very world we live in. The fantastic world of Narnia or the castle of Hogwarts, are not as untrue or feigned as the word ‘fiction’ portrays them to be. The creators of these magical realms are those who inhabit our very societies, and writers are a product of their times. The worlds that emerge from their enviably rich imaginations are not entirely disconnected from our very own realities, for the writer is largely influenced by his or her circumstances. Therefore, there are important lessons to be gleaned from animals that can talk and feel, or from the possibility of a Jurassic Park. In the process, if the story gives the reader respite from their own problems, or even better, offers a solution to them, fiction has served its noble purpose.

Fiction equips us with the powerful weapon of imagination and the ability to dream of alternative realities and truths. The academic disciplines of history or science are not the only worthy pursuits that will someday make a change in the world. Imagination can be just as powerful.

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Abhinaya Harigovind

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‘Fiction’ and ‘non-fiction’ are the two genres that a writer goes for. There was a time when fictional books were written only for entertainment purposes but that is not the case anymore. The new trend is to provide morals to the readers apart from engaging them. The learning derived from the two genres are slowly but steadily converging to a single goal of reminding the readers of something intricate yet basic, sending across a message about the world they are currently inhabiting or dream of, for better or worse.

The fictional books provide a platform to the readers to identify themselves with the characters present in the book. The reader, in the process, suffers if the character he/she identifies with, encounters sufferings and is made to learn a lesson in the end. The non-fictional books intend to give out a message by describing the journey of a person’s life or some other real situation. It appears as if the fictional books serve as examples of the contexts explained in the non-fictional books.

While Harry Potter’s battle with Voldemort tells us that with grit, determination and by having faith in yourself, any evil can be fought and defeated, his endeavors throughout the series , leave a message of perseverance  until you have achieved your goal no matter how messed up the circumstances are. The same morals can be derived from a non-fictional book containing an account of someone who has strived hard, against all odds, to achieve a position he currently enjoys, the autobiography of a renowned individual as an example. The suspense that a reader enjoys while reading an autobiography to know how the individual got out of messed up circumstances is the same as the suspense enjoyed when the reader grows restless to know what will happen next to a character in fictional books. A non-fictional book giving an account of the partition of India as seen through the eyes of an individual who has survived the partition, gives the same moral message of violence and wars being disastrous and futile, as a fictional book in which the same scenario is related. The examples can be innumerable.

Thus, the demarcation that separates the two genres, although being there, is blurring when it comes to the morals and the learning derived from a certain book. That being said, both are equally intriguing facets of writing.

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