Can Novelists Predict the Future? (Public talk, 26th July)


A hand holding a crystal ball, with reflections of a city

Crystal Ball, by Christian Schnettelker. Reproduced under CC BY 2.0 licence.

Sometimes novels make predictions about the future that turn out to be true. Are they lucky guesses, shrewd insight, or a sign that creative imagination can be prophetic? And what do today’s novelists prophesise? Join novelist and physicist Andrew Crumey to find out at this free talk on 26th July at 13.00.

Some predictions are strikingly precise: in Gulliver’s Travels we read that Mars has two moons, though they would not be discovered until a century and a half later. Others are more like self-fulfilling prophecies: cyberspace existed in fiction before it became fact.

Yet prophecy need not only refer to the future: the prophet is one who interprets and transmits divine will, and it was this aspect that, for example, E.M. Forster emphasised in his consideration of the “prophetic” quality of fiction. Even if the novelist is not divinely inspired, he or she may be able to interpret the present and past in such a way as to point towards the future.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw profound mediations on the nature of time from Einstein and Proust. Before either of them, H.G. Wells was considering the possibility of time travel. What do today’s novelists prophesise?”

Andrew Crumey is a novelist and critic whose work reflects his academic background in theoretical physics and his interest in the history of ideas.

This talk forms part of the Time Machines exhibition currently running at Palace Green Library. Note that the talk will take place in the Pemberton Room, PG21 on Palace Green. Staff at Palace Green Library reception will be able to direct you to the venue. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

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