Sunday, March 21, 2010

Those Deadly Dates

I was watching Blade Runner last night, for the first time in a number of years, and when I read the opening introduction text I felt a pang of regret when it placed the age of bellowing flames and unbreathable skies in 2019, in L.A.  I regret it because it dates the film badly.  It would have been so much better to never mention the date.  A couple of changes in the script where 2017 could have been said "two years ago", and the story would have been much the better.  It's a flaw in a vision of a dark future that still has things to say about genetic engineering.

I can understand the problem.  I've made the mistake myself, several times.  For example, in a Parking Spacesshort story published in the September 1985 issue of Analog, and maybe written a year earlier, I put 1988 as the date where engine control computers in cars developed a rudimentary intelligence.  It was okay for a 1985 story that was quickly forgotten, but with just a little re-writing and put in Toyotas rather than Fords, it could find a whole new life.

Those early mistakes must have made an impression on me, because I made efforts to avoid explicit dates in nearly everything I write now.  Just like movies use 555 phone numbers, nailing down a fixed point in time has consequences.  Write for an age, not for a moment.

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