Essay: Form follows fiction

Form follows fiction

Organizations and corporations need more imagination. Lot’s more imagination.

They need to understand that to create something out of nothing, you need to imagine it first. You need to literally create it out of thin air.

That’s where imagination comes in. That’s where writers come in. (Personally, I think every organization should have a writer in residence, a resident poet. Yes, even Goldman Sachs. Especially Goldman Sachs.)

Part of a writer’s job is to create in words what doesn’t yet exist. To present a future possibility as an existing reality.

We wouldn’t have gotten the moon without Jules Verne. In “From the Earth to the Moon” (1865) and its sequel, “Round the Moon” (1870), Verne described how two adventurous Americans and an equally intrepid Frenchman arranged to be fired in a hollow projectile from a gigantic cannon that lifted them out of the earth’s gravity field and took them close to the moon. Verne not only pictured the state of weightlessness in space, but also had the prescience to locate the launching site in Florida.

Obviously scientists pooh-poohed the cannon idea and superseded it with rocket propulsion. That’s the job of scientists and technicians. To fine tune ideas and make them work. It’s the writer’s job to come up with the ideas.

Scientists didn’t come up with the word ‘astronaut’. That was Neil R. Jones in his short story “The Death’s Head Meteor” (1930).

Czech playwright Karel Capek first used the word ‘robot’ in his play “R.U.R” (1921). It’s derived from the Czech word for forced labor.

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke first proposed the idea of geostationary satellites for telecommunications relays in “Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?” (1945). When asked why he didn’t try to patent the idea of communications satellites, Clarke always answered that a patent is really a licence to be sued.

Clarke wrote “The Sentinel” (1951) which film director Stanley Kubrick used as the basis for “2001: A Space Odyssey”. There’s a scene in the film with astronauts using personal computer tablets. Samsung recently cited this scene as prior art when sued by Apple for copying the iPad.

Yes, it’s kind of telling to turn to a filmmaker in an intellectual property battle over a nascent $49 billion market.

A filmmaker who turned to a writer for inspiration.

A writer who turned to his imagination.