Your humble SF Gateway scribe tries hard to stay abreast of current events and generally considers himself to be reasonably well-informed. Sometimes, though, things slip by.
You know how it is: occasionally, the morning routine is interrupted – the alarm gets snoozed once too often, the kids are taking twice as long to get ready as usual or you remember at the last minute that today is the day the bins go out – and 100% of your concentration goes to the task of getting out the door and catching the train on time; the TV news never goes on, the radio news is screened out, and you get to work with the previous evening’s news as your latest snapshot of the world. And, usually, it really doesn’t matter all that much.
Last Friday, though, I got to work on the back of a week or so of domestic chaos, and it’s fair to say I was not quite as up-to-date as I like to be regarding international events. So when my colleague, Marcus, started watching a video on his PC and I heard what seemed like a pretty generic SF disaster flick, I asked him whether it was a movie or a game trailer.
‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘it’s film of the meteor that hit Russia.’
‘What?’ I asked – thus garnering top marks for both courtesy and vocabulary. ‘What meteor?’
‘The meteor that landed in Russia. There was a fiery trail across the sky and then it hit. Huge explosion and the shock wave blew out windows and injured hundreds of people.’
‘When did this happen?’ I demanded.
‘This morning; didn’t you hear about it?’
Well, obviously I didn’t but when I came over to his desk to watch the footage, I was astounded that I hadn’t; it’s remarkable:
The thing that immediately struck me – and I’m sure I was far from alone in this – was how closely the reporting resembled the opening of a War of the Worlds-style Hollywood thriller. I’m not sure whether the next few days will bring walking plants or alien-filled cylinders, so I’m keeping an eagle eye out for both – just to be sure.
Of course, at the same time, a 50-metre-wide asteroid missed the Earth by just 17,000 mile. If that doesn’t sound like a particularly close shave, consider that geostationary orbit – the distance at which an object in orbit appears fixed overhead – is a little over 22,000 miles from the Earth’s surface, and the moon, our nearest neighbour, is 250,000 miles away. In astronomical terms, 17,000 miles is like a footballer hitting the post.
And as if that wasn’t enough, in the next day’s newspaper, I find NASA scientists plan Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter moon. I can’t be the only one who read this and immediately thought:
We’ve suspected for some time that we’re living in the future, but now it seems an inescapable conclusion that we’re also living in a science fiction novel. The only question is which one . . . ?