The Perils of Writing in the Future

The other day, I had an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. I love my hygienist, Barbara. She's rooted me on (ha! pun intended) since I first told her, in a sheepish (and probably garbled) voice, that I was a writer. The last time I saw her, I'd just signed with my agent, so it was beyond crazycakes to get to tell her that my book had sold.

Before I left, she made me promise one thing: Don't make the villain a dentist. They get a bad rap as it is in media. And she's right. One of my favorite songs from Little Shop of Horrors is You'll be a Dentist.

But I digress.

I assured her that no dentists were slandered in the writing of my book. But I do actually mention them. I needed to think of a profession that will still be around in 200 years (where most of the book is set), and, hey, people will still have teeth.

"But I don't know that they'll need dentists," she said.


It turns out that researchers are developing a cavity vaccine. AND they're working on GROWING NEW TEETH.

Whattity What?

Elizabeth Spann Craig has a great post about the perils of dating your book. But I've run into the opposite problem. How do you decide what will be around in 200 years if you aren't sure what will make the cut in 10 years? In 2? It's hard to imagine up some technical marvel that isn't probably brewing away in Apple Labs as we speak.

I had two rules of thumb:
1.) If it's been around for at least 200 years, it will probably be here in another 200 years. (With exceptions, of course, if technology already seems to be headed in a different direction.)
2.) Extrapolate, but consider where humanity might draw the line. (Especially where there are already rumblings.)

Okay, and a third rule:
3.) Have fun with it. I loved dreaming some crazy stuff up, but at the end of the day...or the millenium...people are people. It's the characters that drive the story, not the gadgets. (Although, there are a few gadgets I came up with that I want NOW.)

Oh, and go hug a dentist.


  1. Love it, Karen! And great thoughts. I know I want to create books that stand the test of time. :) And you look like you could totally be a dental hygienist--you've got the teeth!

  2. That is so funny, and I can't tell you how timely this information is!! In the last month we found out my nine year old son has a condition called hypoplasia (sp?) of the enamel. Well, being the NOT VERY GOOD brusher that he (ugh I suck) didn't realize that his 6 year molars had started to crumble into nothingness. Long story nine year old son is getting....a ROOT CANAL! Unfreakinbelievable. I could have cried. My husband and I felt like horrible people, although the dentist assured us this is a condition that is formed in the tooth before it even appears etc. Anyway, I thought to myself "I hope dentistry improves in the next ten years so my son won't have dentures at age 30." That was this morning, BAM here you are! kiss, kiss, and thank you for lifting my spirits!! lol

    Btw, can't wait to read that book!!! :) I adore time travel!

  3. I'm having the same problem with my new book set in the future. It's hard to balance making it believable with making it seem technologically advanced enough for that time period.

    1. I think yours is actually harder because it's near future. I can get away with flying cows and floating pods. You have to do the harder extrapolating.

      But, y'know, even knowing that Back to the Future 2 is supposed to take place right around this time, does it really impact the awesomeness that it is?