Whether it's a futuristic utopia or dystopia, many of us are influenced by the work of science fiction writers. They often offer a glimpse into future technology or inventions that are not only ahead of their time, but have also inspired innovation. In fact, a number of the technologies that are now woven into our lives were originally imagined on the pages of a sci-fi novel.
Some of the best known examples include teleportation from Star Trek, a computer on every desk, and jetpacks. However, there are numerous other examples of the power of fiction to predict and influence society.
In his 1922 book, the author Ray Bradbury predicted a future in which people use electronic devices worn in their ears to communicate with one another. This became the basis for Apple's earbuds. He also portrayed androids that think and feel in his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, and this was the inspiration for the movie Total Recall, which featured a thinking (and feeling) android.
Arthur C. Clarke was one of the first sci-fi writers to describe robots in their works and he also envisioned satellite dishes that could relay television signals in his 1968 novel, 2001: A Space Odyssey. He even created a fictional device called the "Ray gun," which would send electromagnetic filaments through the skin to detect alien activity in the vicinity.
Margaret Atwood is an author that focuses on speculative fiction, looking at trends in culture and politics to see what the future may hold. Her books, such as Oryx and Crake, are an exploration of our reliance on technology and the dangers it poses to the human brain. She has received two Nebula and three Locus awards for her work. Other notable speculative writers include Cory Doctorow, author of several stand-alone novels and the Mars trilogy as well as short stories, who is an activist for liberalizing copyright laws. He is currently a professor of science fiction and creative writing at the University of Toronto.