Classroom Series: The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern Science

Given my really late Monday night slot, I was almost sure no one would come to my solo talk “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern Science”. Instead, we had a full room at the Artshouse.

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The audience had been promised an informative and entertaining evening. I hope I delivered.

Thank you to my content maven wife Patricia Mulles (for creating a beautiful deck from my notes), the Singapore Writers Festival, and to everyone who took the time to attend.

You can watch a video of my slides below:

Here are my notes draft script for the lecture:

The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern Science

 05 Nov, Monday 8.30pm – 9.30pm (60 Minutes)  Venue: The Arts House, Living Room

What were the science fiction works that came before modern science? Published in 1818, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been argued to be the first sci-fi novel. Since then, authors such as Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke have imagined what science could achieve through their writing. In this Classroom Talk, sci-fi author Victor Fernando R. Ocampo explores the relationship between literature and the sciences, and how science fiction has actually inspired, and continues to inspire, the science of today.

  1. A Bit About Me

Good evening.

My name is Victor Fernando R. Ocampo and I am a Singapore-based Filipino Writer of Speculative and Experimental Fiction. In my day job I work with both Artificial Intelligence and Telecommunication systems. I have been part of companies like Yahoo, the SIM card manufacturer Gemalto, the ethical hackers Cellebrite, and Singapore Technologies, where I worked on a number of Defense projects.

  1. Why Fiction is Important: The Role of Fiction

“Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths. Any large-scale human cooperation – whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city or an archaic tribe – is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination.”  ― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011)

Harari argued that the ability to create fiction was what made Homo sapiens the apex species and allowed mankind to conquer the Earth.

Inside every work of fiction is a dream and we dream to achieve goals or solve problems.

  1. Science as a Plot Device – What is Science Fiction?

Science fiction stories puts our hard, tangible Scientific knowledge into the cultural context of the real world.

The funny thing about SF is that there is no universally accepted definition for Science Fiction. In fact, grand master Damon Knight once said that “Defining Science Fiction results only in bloody knuckles.”

  1. Foreshadowing vs. Inspiration – Something between an educated guess and a coincidence

The subject of this talk is very specifically books or works of fiction that have directly inspired a specific scientific advancement or technology.

However there are many more instances where they seem to have the predicted the future.

  • Frankenstein or, the Modern Prometheus (1818) was inspired by the emerging science of Galvanism (the contraction of a muscle that is stimulated by an electric current). It in turn presaged Organ Transplants and Defibrillator technology.
  • 2001 A space odyssey presented a compelling case for Video Calling. It also inspired the tablet and voice control
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury in 1953 presaged Blue Tooth Technology in the wireless earpieces used by the “Fire Men” to coordinate where they would burn books.
  • Looking Backward: 2000–1887 by Edward Bellamy (1888) contained the first description of Credit and Debit Cards. Read chapters 9, 10, 11, 13, 25, and 26, but these actually function like modern debit cards. It was also the first to envision door-to-door delivery and cooperatives like Sam’s Club and NTUC.

“… a credit card issued him with which he procures at the public storehouses, found in every community, whatever he desires whenever he desires it. This arrangement, you will see, totally obviates the necessity for business transactions of any sort between individuals and consumers.” – Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, 1888

  1. (1) Top 5 Tech – The Submarine 

USS Nautilus (SSN-571) – USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine and the first submarine to complete a submerged transit of the North Pole on 3 August 1958. It was named after the fictional submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

However Verne’s book did not actually inspire the creation of the submarine. The first submersible of whose construction there exists reliable information was designed and built in 1620 by Cornelis Drebbel, a Dutchman in the service of James I of England. It was propelled by means of oars.

in 1800, American Robert Fulton invented a hand-cranked submarine and tested it in the Seine river in Paris. It is often considered to be the first practical submarine. Fulton’s Nautilus inspired Jules Verne to give his fictional creation the same name.

A model of the French submarine Plongeur (launched in 1863) was displayed at the 1867 Exposition Universelle, where it was studied by Jules Verne. This submarine was the direct inspiration for the book “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: A Tour of the Underwater World” which was published in 1870.

The Nautilus’ original inspiration, the Plongeur, was a very primitive craft that ran on a compressed air engine and did not have a good system for retaining air. Jules Verne worked all of these kinks out in his story by incorporating ballasts as refillable air pumps and using electric motors.

Verne’s book  inspired Spanish engineer Narcís Monturiol to design the first air–independent and combustion–powered submarine, the Ictineo II.

  1. (2) Top 5 Tech – Atomic Power

“The World Set Free” was a novel written in 1913 and published in 1914 by H. G. Wells. It originally appeared first in serialized form with a different ending as A Prophetic Trilogy, consisting of three books: A Trap to Catch the Sun, The Last War in the World and The World Set Free.

Wells was inspired to write this book after reading the work of William Ramsay, Ernest Rutherford, and especially Frederick Soddy, who discovered the disintegration of uranium). Soddy would later praises “The World Set Free” for its prescient views on Atomic power.

Wells’s novel had directly influenced the development of nuclear weapons, as the physicist Leó Szilárd read the book in 1932 — the same year the neutron was discovered. In 1933 Szilárd conceived the idea of neutron chain reaction, and filed for patents for a Nuclear reactor on it in 1934 with Enrico Fermi. In late 1939 wrote the letter for Albert Einstein’s signature that resulted in the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb.

  1. (3) Top 5 Tech – The Internet

“Dial F For Frankenstein” was a 1961 short story by Arthur C Clark that inspired Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee to create the World Wide Web.

It foretold an ever-more-interconnected telephone network that spontaneously acts like a newborn baby and leads to global chaos as it takes over financial, transportation and military systems”

Other notes from Tech by Clarke –

  • Clarke was the first to suggest that satellites which remain at a fixed point relative to Earth could be used for worldwide communications. The geostationary orbit is now known as the “Clarke orbit”.
  • In his novel Rendezvous With Rama, Clarke created “Project Spaceguard”, a system to track asteroids that might collide with Earth. When such a system was set up in 1996, it was called “Spaceguard”, in homage.

My favourite prediction:

In The Fountains of Paradise (1979), a “space lift”, a geostationary satellite tethered to the Earth’s surface, allowed people and goods to travel up and down without having to blast into orbit. Carbon nanotubes may make the 22,000-mile-long tether feasible.

8. (4) Top 5 Tech – Virtual Worlds or the Metaverse

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, published in 1992 was the inspiration for Second Life.

The Metaverse, a phrase coined by Stephenson as a successor to the Internet, constitutes Stephenson’s vision of how a virtual reality-based Internet might evolve in the near future. Resembling a massively multiplayer online game (MMO), the Metaverse is populated by user-controlled avatars as well as system daemons.

The Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the internet.

Second Life creator Philip Rosedale formed Linden Lab with the intention of developing computer hardware to allow people to become immersed in a virtual world. He initially credited Snowcrash as an inspiration in many early interviews but has since retracted this for legal reasons.

  1. (5) Top 5 Tech – The Mobile Phone

“Star Trek” by Gene Roddenberry debuted in 1966

The first handheld cellular mobile phone was demonstrated by John F. Mitchell and Martin Cooper of Motorola in 1973, In 1983, the DynaTAC 8000x was the first commercially available handheld mobile phone.

  1. The Relationship between Science Fiction and Real Science
  • Science fiction authors are inspired by actual scientific and technological discoveries
  • Scientists, in turn, often derive inspiration from the imaginative possibilities that exist in fictional worlds
  • The inventions in fictional worlds seldom transition to the real world—at least not in the way they are first imagined.
  • Science Fiction and the pursuit of Science form an endless loop that keeps iterating to solve the problems of human existence.
  1. Conclusion

If you are a scientist READ MORE SCIENCE FICTION.  Science fiction is required reading for a lot of schools like MIT. There are actually think thanks that get paid to read science fiction to mine it for ideas.

If you are a writer DON”T BE AFRAID To use SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AS INSPIRATION to solve the deep and existential questions of humanity. The issue with our education system is that disseminated knowledge is not the best way to learn something. Nobody learns by passive consumption. People learn when they want to learn and they are most attracted to stories.

Great science fiction stories puts our hard, tangible knowledge into the cultural context of the real world. The best SF stories have one job: to evoke a sense of curiosity in you and to teach you to enjoy learning for its own sake.

I personally feel that Science Fiction is the most important genre of literature, in the sense that it doesn’t only educate, it forces us to constantly dream of the future.  And if we cannot dream, we cannot change.

So, read and, if you have the passion, write some Science Fiction today.

Thank you very much for listening on my thoughts on this topic. Now I’d like to hear from you.

The Familiar and The Alien

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I greatly enjoyed moderating “The Familiar And The Alien” panel last Sunday, November 4. My amazing speakers included Rachel Heng whose novel “Suicide Club” is set in a near future in New York City where people can live for 300 years; Krishna Udayasankar, a Singapore-based Indian author known for her modern retelling of Mahabharata through her Aryavartha Chronicles; and Kass Morgan, author of “The 100” series (the basis of the eponymous CW TV show).

We discussed how it was the role of writers to introduce readers to new worlds and experiences. But how do we make stories believable without loosing the wonder of the unfamiliar, or wandering into exoticizing?

Thank you #SingaporeWritersFestival 2018; panelists Rachel, Kris and Kass; and everyone who attended the event!

My Schedule for the 2018 Singapore Writers Festival

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The 2018 Singapore Writers Festival is just around the corner.  As both a moderator and a featured writer, I have a lot more events this year than in 2017. Please drop by and say hello.

SCHEDULE

03 Nov, Saturday 8.00pm – 9.30pm (90 minutes) – Break Out: A Gala Reading

  • What: Reading
  • Venue: The Arts House, Gallery II
  • Featuring: Adam Aitken, Maria Galina, Law Lok Man, Louise 羅樂敏, Nina McConigley, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Sithuraj Ponraj, Yoko Tawada
  • Moderator: TBC

How does one stay true to one’s identity even as he/she crosses multiple cultures, languages and time zones? Is a person’s voice to be discovered, or a continuum of incremental influences? Whether whipping up new speculative realms or switching between linguistic codes, these writers exemplify the magpie sensibility. Don’t miss this special reading showcasing imaginative wordsmiths.


04 Nov, Sunday 7.00pm – 8.00pm (60 Minutes) – The Familiar and the Alien

  • What: Panel Discussion
  • Venue: The Arts House, Chamber
  • Featuring: Rachel Heng, Kass Morgan, Krishna Udayasankar
  • Moderator: Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

In imagining the future or an alternative reality, a writer must achieve resonance through setting and characterisation. How does one draw in the reader with enough known elements from the real world in order to make it relatable? Kass Morgan creates a dystopic series where Earth has been devastated by a nuclear apocalypse; Rachel Heng sets her novel in a near future in New York City where people can live for 300 years; and Krishna Udayasankar, a Singapore-based Indian author known for her modern retelling of Mahabharata through the novels Govinda, Kaurava and Kurukshetra.


05 Nov, Monday 8.30pm – 9.30pm (60 Minutes) – The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern Science

  • What: Classroom Series
  • Venue: The ArtsHouse, Living Room
  • Featuring: Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

What were the science fiction works that came before modern science? Published in 1818, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been argued to be the first sci-fi novel. Since then, authors such as Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke have imagined what science could achieve through their writing. In this Classroom Talk, sci-fi author Victor Fernando R. Ocampo explores the relationship between literature and the sciences, and how science fiction has actually inspired, and continues to inspire, the science of today.


08 Nov, Thursday 7:30pm – 8:30 (60 minutes) – LONTAR Retrospective

  • What: Panel Discussion
  • Venue: SWF Bookstore
  • Featuring: Jason Erik Lundberg, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Christina Sng
    Moderator: Michelle Martin

BooksActually presents LONTAR Retrospective with Jason Erik Lundberg, Christina Sng, Victor Ocampo.


10 Nov, Saturday 10.30am – 11.30am (60 minutes) – Speculative Fiction as Moral Compass

  • What: Panel Discussion
  • Venue: The ArtsHouse, Blue Room
  • Featuring: Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Rachel Heng, Nuraliah Norasid
  • Moderator: Khoo Sim Eng

From pursuing immortality to eradicating marginalization, speculative fiction reveals the deepest desires of humankind. How can the genre prompt readers to assess humanity’s moral progress, and to rethink what could be right or wrong? This panel brings together authors across science fiction and fantasy to discuss the potentialities of the genre.


11 Nov, Sunday 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM (90minutes) – Chicken Rice and Adobo: What We Love about the Philippines and Singapore

  • What: Reading and Panel Discussion
  • Venue: HideOut@Funan Showsuite, Junction of Hill Street and High Street. Free Event
  • Featuring: Aaron Lee, Claire Betita de Guzman, Lawrence Ypil, Heng Siok Tian, Felix Cheong and Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
  • Moderator: Eric Tinsay Valles

Description:
Increased trade and cultural exchanges between Singapore and the Philippines have led to shared experiences and stories in prose and poetry. This session continues a literary dialogue that has spawned joint anthologies and readings. Listen to the featured writers read excerpts of their works and join in the fellowship centered on what we love such as comfort food, cultural diversity and a good story.


SWF 2018

The Infinite Library And Other Stories Shortlisted For The 2018 Rubery Award

My book, The Infinite Library And Other Stories has made it to the official shortlist of this year’s prestigious Rubery Awards, the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the Booker Prize for independent, self-published and small press publications.

Victor R. Ocampo, a Filipino living in Singapore, is a clever, skilled writer. His short stories are subtle and demanding, hovering in the space between literary fiction, experimental fiction and cyberpunk.”

Rubery Award 2018Infinite

 

Here Be Dragons at the Internationale Jugendbibliothek in Munich

These two copies of my Romeo Forbes Award-winning children’s book “Here Be Dragons” are on their way to join the collection of the Internationale Jugendbibliothek (The International Youth Library) in Munich, Germany.

Housed in Blutenburg Castle, the IB holds the world’s largest collection of children’s literature, with over 600,000 volumes in 150 languages. I am happy that they will contribute to the representation of works by immigrants in general, and the Filipino diaspora in particular.

Here Be Dragons was published by CANVAS Press in 2015 with illustrations by Jon Jaylo and a Filipino translation by Rhandee Garlitos.

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A New Story in the Quarterly Literature Review of Singapore

Thank you to the editors of the Quarterly Literature Review of Singapore for including my short story “As If We Could Dream Forever” in QLRS’ 17th volume.

Set 150 years in the future, this work deals with the concept of Free Will and using humans as receptacles for AI automation,  teenage angst, and extending National Service to young women.

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This story was inspired by three different, totally unrelated works – the comic book “Planetary” by Warren Ellis, Gregorio Brilliantes award-winning short story “The Cries of  Children on an April Afternoon in the year 1957” and of course,  Goh Poh Seng’s seminal novel “If We dream Too Long ” (from which the title of my story is derived).

As if we Could Dream Forever

Three Quick Reviews of The Infinite Library And Other Stories

A great big ‘Thank you!” to everyone who has read my book and and an even bigger shout-out to those who have sent me kind words over social media — especially to the three excellent folks below who took the time to write me reviews:

(1) First there is vlogger Rachel Tan who does her Rachel’s Now Reading reviews on Youtube.  You can check out here video here .

If you like her work please follow her on –                                                                      Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/rachel.tan.shiying
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/cobravirus/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/rachel_tan
Tumblr – https://www.tumblr.com/blog/rachelsnowreading

Rachel Reads Review

(2) I am a big fan of Ng Yi-Sheng‘s work, whether it be his poetry, stories, performances or his important advocacy work for LGBTQ issues. Thank you for spending some time to read my stories!

Screenshot_20181020-180607_Facebook(3) Lastly, thank you to the anonymous BooksActually Elf that did the review for “The Infinite Library And Other Stories”.  You can read it here.

BooksActually Review

You can get copies of my book delivered to you by BooksActually here.