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Future History

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In science fiction, a future history is a postulated history of the future that some authors construct as a common background for a portion of their fiction. Perhaps the first detailed one was that of Robert Heinlein, who originated the term in the sense described here. His collection The Man who Sold the Moon offers a vertical timeline labeled "FUTURE HISTORY 1951-2600 A.D." with stories and novels located appropriately, lives of significant characters marked with vertical bars, and commentary.

Larry Niven also provides an explicit timeline for his "Known Space" series in the collection Tales of Known Space. Some authors never put together (or at least never publish) an explicit chronology, but still provide enough detail in their stories for a rough history to be reconstructed. John Varley's Eight Worlds series can be placed in this category.

Unlike alternate history, where alternative outcomes are ascribed to past events; future history postulates certain outcomes to future events. One problem with future history science fiction is that it will date and be overtaken by real historical events. For this reason, many authors set their stories in an indefinite future, often in a society where the current calendar has been disrupted due to a societal collapse or undergone some form of distortion due to the impact of technology.

However, a number of hard science fiction writers extrapolate today's technology and events into the near future. Their stories need no fantastic technologies that have not yet been discovered but merely take the next step or two in forseeable technological advancement and ask "What If"?



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