Back to the Future

Sometime around 1999, possibly suffering from a case of pre-millennium tension, I got fascinated by futurism. I ended up collecting lots of examples of predictions that were supposed to have flowered by 2000, from cyborgs to vitamin-fortified alcohol to gunfights between astronauts in outer space. You can read the resulting article here; it starts with an overview of the field of futurism and then rates the success of nine different futurists (or prophets, if you prefer).

(My prediction at the end of the piece on the 21st-century success of the electric car has largely come true in the intervening nine years–not so much a tribute to my prescience as an underscoring of the obviousness of the prediction.)

The article has one of the more unusual publication histories of anything I’ve written: it’s never seen print before, but I was paid twice over for it. I originally pitched it to Playboy (for reasons that will become obvious if you read it); they liked it and paid me in full, but then kept pushing its publication date back: every month, it seemed, there was an article with a more topical peg that took its place. After a year, my editor conceded that for whatever reason, the magazine wasn’t going to run it; the rights reverted to me and I sold it again, this time to Wired. Again, I was paid in full; another year similarly passed without its seeing the light of day, and the rights returned to me again. By this time, we were well into 2001 and the millennial moment seemed to have passed, so I didn’t try for the hat trick. Enjoy.

posted 8 September 2008 in Archives, Articles, Unpublished and tagged , , , , . 2 comments

2 Comments on Back to the Future

  1. Chris M. Says:

    I can see why Playboy gave up on it — don’t they save their longer slots for interviews? — but why would Wired dump it? For them, it seems like a gimme.

  2. Gavin Says:

    Wired, particularly back then, made some inscrutable editorial decisions.

    Playboy in some ways seemed like an ideal place to write for: I knew a friendly editor and they had lots and lots of editorial pages to fill (aside from the pictorials and the long Interview, they’ve always run a ton of features of all stripes). But the chain of command was diffused from New York to Chicago to the Mansion; getting them to commit to anything was like getting a battleship to execute a sharp right turn.

    Incidentally, this article got linked today from BoingBoing.

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