“The sun will come out, tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun” (Annie). As of late, there hasn’t been too much sun going around or nice temperatures for that matter; but there is the hope, as Annie says, that things will improve tomorrow. In and of itself, this is hardly a new concept, yet the idea of what tomorrow could bring has led to the creation of some of the finest pieces of literature, including the genre of science fiction. With the film Tomorrowland opening on May 22nd, I began to wonder, what does tomorrow/future hold? If you have the same thought, here are some books that run with this idea.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne is not the sort of tale that most associate with the future. A tale of high seas adventure, it more closely resembles the classic Moby Dick than sci-fi. Yet one aspect allows it to enter the sci-fi lexicon: the Nautilus. Captain Nemo’s famous submersible housed state-of-the-art technology that allowed it to become a terror of the deep. Long before submarines made an appearance, Verne predicted that one day we could travel to the depths of the ocean into a world as unknown as the stars. It is for this reason that Disney included the vessel as part of Tomorrowland’s park. And for the record, the film version with Kirk Douglas is not to be missed.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and V for Vendetta by Alan Moore both take a darker look at the future. A future where a class system becomes enforced and women become trapped into roles dictated by their biology and status, Handmaid presents tomorrow as something to feared, while futuristic V’s Britain becomes so concerned with safety that its citizens give up their rights and their futures for a feeling of security that is as illusionary as the TV shows they all watch.
Both have elements that Aldous Huxley touched upon in Brave New World (regimented society) and George Orwell in 1984 (Big Brother is watching you). Yet for all the dread and anxiety, there is still the hope that a single individual, whether in a large dramatic fashion, or in small innocuous ways, has the power to subvert the system and create a better tomorrow.
A better world can mean different things to different people. Tomorrowland presents the idea that a better world can only be created if the brightest minds in the world are sequestered away and given the means and the freedom to redesign the world. Take Ender’s Game, for instance. The children are taken from their homes, trained, and then let loose in a war that redefines the future. Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy has a similar notion that by planting a colony elsewhere, new innovations can lead to a better world back home. Yet Asimov has a tendency to point out that technology has a dark side like any other creation. I, Robot examines the importance of connection between robots and humans, and the fear that lies therein. The film takes things a step further by implying that only technology can see the world objectively enough to make decisions regarding our future and act accordingly; the same theme also appears in Marvel’s new film, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Both films imply that technology is not the answer to the problems of tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what direction Tomorrowland chooses to take on this matter. (Though from the clip I saw, androids are the enemy, yet technology itself appears to go either way.)
According to Walt Disney, “Tomorrowland [is] a vista into a world of wondrous ideas signifying [humanity’s] achievements. A step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come.” (Featurette) When Tomorrowland was built, Disney was presenting his idea on how the world was moving into the future. Now Disney’s view of the future has certainly changed since his time and I’m sure that our current ideas of the future will alter as time moves on. Books and film take the pulse of the current world and project its dreams, fears and goals for the future. Some ideas work out, others fail; but no matter what tomorrow we face, we can always be sure, that this undiscovered country always has something new to show us (Hamlet 3.1.79 / Star Trek VI).