5 Writers who predicted the future

Received wisdom would have it that truth is stranger than fiction. However, the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, and while the following writers may not have set out to make predictions for the future, life has since imitated their art in a variety of surprising, alarming, and tragic ways.

J. G. Ballard: A present atrocity

J. G. Ballard Predicts the Future

Known as ‘The Seer of Shepperton’ (an initially tongue in cheek comment from Will Self that the media very much ran with), J. G. Ballard wrote with a finger firmly on the pulse. He observed developments in society, technology, and architecture, and offered frequently terrifying prognoses of the ways in which they might allow the human condition to express itself. His 1977 short story The Intensive Care Unit is a great example of this. It is the grotesque account of a world whose citizens live physically isolated from each other. That includes families. Relationships have become entirely electronic, mediated through screens on which each individual constantly broadcasts their best self. In the 21st century it is hard to read without thinking of social media, iPhones, and tablets.

Especially notorious among Ballard’s work is The Atrocity Exhibition. The novel is written in an experimental form, consisting of a series of non-linear fragments. One such fragment refers to President Ronald Reagan. Nothing unusual about this? It was written in 1968, 13 years before he was elected President.

Ballard’s first four novels form a litany of apocalypses in which the world ends through fire, flood, crystallisation, and tornado respectively. The smart money would appear to be on flooding, but given the bases he’s covered it seems that before too long we may be adding another correct prediction to Ballard’s list of credits…