Oh No! Cubs’ World Series Win Ensures That Scalzi’s Old Man’s War Will Never Happen

The Cubs breaking their 108-year losing streak kind of threw a wrench into the plot for John Scalzi’s futuristic Old Man’s War sci-fi series.

The Cubs’ curse gets a few mentions from various characters in Scalzi’s series (the first book of which was published a decade ago), and it’s even a key plot point in 2013’s The Human Division. So, if you’re reading the Old Man’s War books as indicative of a future time, they either have to take place another 108 years from 2016 (to maintain the mythology about a century-plus-long curse), or exist in a parallel universe in which the Cleveland Indians won.

Or, you don’t worry about reading them as an accurate prediction of the future and just enjoy the fact that our society’s progress and its fiction are in a state where they constantly leapfrog each other. In fact, Scalzi writes, the cognitive dissonance that now exists reflects the fate that has befallen plenty of classic canon sci-fi:

But of course, with all those assertions above, it’s possible I might be rationalizing just a tiny bit. In which case, yup, it’s time to come right out and admit it: Now the Old Man’s War books suffer from the same problem as all the science fiction stories before 1969 that named a first man on the moon, or the ones that imagined canals on Mars. The real world caught up to them and passed them by, waving as it did so.

And that’s okay. This is the risk you take when you put a plot point in your books that’s contingent on the real world. It is the fate of science fiction books and other media to be continually invalidated by real-world events, or at least, to have the real world catch up to it and then have the work, by necessity, consigned to a nearby but undeniably alternate universe. This had already happened to the Old Man’s War series in a small ways (no one calls hand-held computers “PDAs” anymore, but the folks in the OMW series do, because that’s what they called them in 2001, when I wrote the first book), and in larger ways for other books of mine. Agent to the Stars, for example, has a plot point involving an elderly Holocaust survivor. In 1997, when I wrote that book, that was still a reasonable thing. Today in 2016, it’s a pretty long stretch. In another ten years, Agent to the Stars will undeniably take place in the past, in an alternate universe.

The real world catches up to science fiction. It always does.

What’s interesting is that only a generation or two from now, a Cubs team whose identity has never been tied up in the curse could pick up The Human Division and laugh at this now-alternate take on the World Series. How quaint the sci-fi writers of the early 21st century were!

Photo by Arturo Pardavila, used under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license.


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