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I think it was Robert Heinlein’s Starman Jones that first opened my eyes to that concept.
I was born in 1963 and I grew up reading Science Fiction. Mostly what was available in the local library had been published in the 1940s and 1950s, the so-called Golden Age when John W. Campbell was king and Asimov was his prime minister. The stories of that era assumed that New York was the future, with occasional trips to Chicago for atmosphere. The cities in space were called things like New New York and New London and (for the daring) New Tokyo.
Science fiction was about science, and science meant progress, and progress meant big cities. Skyscrapers and subways were as much a part of my early future landscape and rocketships and rayguns.
Starman Jones was different. I can remember reading it and being confused at first because it was set in the country (the Ozarks, in fact, where I lived) but was also in the future.
Could you really do that?
It was a real eye-opener for me because even at a tender age I wanted to be a Science Fiction writer, and I’d gotten the impression that if you wrote something in the future it had to be set in either New York or Los Angeles because the rest of the country somehow ceased to exist once people had strato-cars to fly over it.
Well, here it is the year 2020 (years after some of my childhood favorites were set) and I am still living in the Midwest.
And I am writing stories set both in the future and in the country. Go figure.
What’s more my publisher for this project is also in the Ozarks, albeit on the Arkansas side, which is like the Dark Side but without the cookies.
Now, not all of the stories in this collection are set along side what was once Route 66—two take place in Southern California, separated by a few centuries, and another takes place on an alien world, for example—but a preponderance of them are set within an hour’s drive of Springfield, Missouri.
Because the future isn’t something that happens just in big cities. It’s something that will come and find you, no matter where you are. You can’t hide from the future, it knows where you live.
Even if you live out in the boonies.