Talk:1491: Stories of the Past and Future

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search will take you to the large version, which the comic currently doesn't have a link to. I expect that will be fixed shortly. 05:30, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I just realized he has a text link for it in the top banner. I'd delete my comment, but that's rude on a wiki. Whatever. 05:35, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

The bottom diagonal seems to be mislabelled? Shouldn't it be "Stories written X years and set X years ago" instead of "set 2X years ago"? -- 05:38, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

It is correct, if you see both relative from now. The middle line is written X years ago and set X years ago and thus contemporary. Sebastian -- 06:46, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
Correct, but could be clearer. I thought it was a bug at first. 'Stories written X years ago and set X years before publication' Jbalcorn (talk) 16:21, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I'm not sure where to open bug tickets, but Lest Darkness Fall actually takes place ~1500 years ago, not ~500. 06:35, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I'll second that -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:36, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Kind of reminds of a Minkowski diagram. Sebastian -- 06:50, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

More and more science fiction works wander into the category obsolete science fiction, and more and more historical works are not recognisable as such by the average viewer as the movies have been filmed such a long time ago anyway. Sebastian -- 06:55, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

There seems to be a mistake with the large diagonal line. It says "Stories written X years ago and set 2X years ago." It should say, "... and set X years ago." Am I missing something here? Effy (talk) 09:35, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Nevermind, I see now that the y-axis is date relative to publication, not absolute dates relative to today. My bad. Effy (talk) 09:37, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I may have missed it, but can't see Paris in the Twentieth Century, written in 1863, about 1960, but only published in 1994. Which would have been an interesting addition. 10:13, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

In fact, I'm thinking it could have been represented as a (dotted?) diagonal arrowed line between "1960 in 1863"/future-trending and "1960 in 1994"/past-trending points. But never mind. 10:38, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

... this is why experienced sci-fi writers don't date their stories. On the other hand, many sci-fi became obviously obsolete even without the date. -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:00, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I have experience with this. Back in 1995 I advised a prospective author-friend (prospective author; already and still a friend, surprisingly) on the latest computing matters to help a plot device in a "five minutes into the future" story. Even two years later, it sounded so dated and... naff. ('Luckily', it didn't sell too well anyway (bad choice of publishers), so my failure-as-futurologist - uncredited as it also fortunately was - wasn't so wildly known.) 13:04, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I've been trying and trying to figure out what the heck his point might be, as IMO there usually seems to be some point he's trying to make or way he's trying to be clever, beyond the interesting nature of the observation - and I think I might have seen one (though there is probably something else) - anyone notice that the area under the "Stories set in 2015" line is awfully bare? at least compared to the areas on either side of the 'x / 2x' line. that could simply be his particular selection of works(?) anyone have some ideas of things that might deserve to go in there that were not included? -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:45, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I think the point here is that there are a lot of books one hasn't read yet. I, for one, sought out Memoirs of the Twentieth Century and The Pillow Book after reading this strip. --Koveras (talk) 13:30, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
He has done stuff like that before, right? Putting the age of some books and movies into perspective, to make the reader feel old. -- 15:16, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
maybe he just wants to see what the people who transcripe it will come up with. 12:31, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

As for writing a transcript or explanation, concerning order, I would think it would make some sense to flatten it on one axis (probably the y-axis, starting from Star Wars?) or if it is practical enough, the best might be some sort of "radial"(?) axis (is that a thing?), where the axis would be anchored at "this chart", and swing like a radar beam around from the bottom (Downton Abbey, Mad Men, and Star Wars, up through the 'x / 2x' line, through the 'contemporary' line and then the 'set in 2015' line, to finish with '3001', possibly making a small attempt to keep related works (like Star Wars) together in the listing. Any comments? -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:55, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Whatever the fixation, I started work on something, but other people will get there before me. So here's my ideas. Five columns: "Story (and format description/author?)", "First Published/Premiered", "Date offset(s)", "Featured date(s)" and "Notes", with sorting on each potentially numerical one (although ranges/freetext/vagueness may play havoc with such sorting, by past experience).
I already have a complete list of listed titles (in case anyone needs it), though maybe not error-free and not yet been ordered other than by "input order".
...excised by original author...
(Do cut that out of this Talk Page when no longer necessary!)
What I've so far put together (but not yet checked my link formats or WikiTabled) is...
...excised by original author...
...but I'm probably duplicating someone else's efforts so by the time I get back to it you'll have a complete and better version online. FYI if you're determined to build on this while I'm absent, however. 14:22, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

This appears to be a log-log graph, but with abrupt changes in scale along one axis yielding cusps in the "still possible / obsolete" line. Is there a name for that? -- 14:29, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Hello, me again. I'd also played with a 'transcript description' part. Use (or don't, or correct and then use) what I was writing, if you want. I'm taking the liberty of deleting my prior inserts while I'm here, to avoid the clutter.
X-axis represents "date of publication" of a work and is irregularly split into 1000s (3000BCE to 1000CE) and then decreasing periods of time until 1955, at which point it becomes every five years up to the present day (2015) and one devision of possibly five years into the future (the upcoming "third Star Wars Trilogy" is indicated by an arrow as lying on-or-beyond 'now', with Episode 7 itself due out not long after the comic date).
Y-axis represents "years ahead/behind publication date in which a story is set" with the 'zero axis' being "set at the time of publication.  "Years in the future" spreads above, by decades until "30 years" then in a metalogarithmic manner through various orders of ten to top-out at 1 billion years.  The "Years in the past" scale, below this, extends by five years down to 60 years and then similarly quickly speeds through to 1 billion years in the past, and the time of the Big Bang as lowest limit.
Above the 'here and now', a region is shaded within a line to represent the border between future settings that should have happened by this date, and below we find a similar shading/line that represents set twice as long ago as was written.  Both lines continue into "2015+" territory in a manner similar to a "light cone".
...ok? 15:43, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I created a basic table using's data - bits corrected. Jarod997 (talk) 14:46, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I'm in the process of writing a transcript myself. Mine is not formatted as a table; I am under the impression that this is the preferred approach to transcripts on this site. However, the existing table would be perfect in another section, where we can give more detail than a true transcript can/should provide (e.g. "this is a book written by X, here's the wikilink", "this is an error, it should be X", etc.) -- Peregrine (talk) 14:55, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Meh, I created the table as a starting point. If people want to use it and add to it, great. If something better is created, that's fine too. :) Jarod997 (talk) 15:12, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
I've moved the table to its own section and put in my more minimalistic, list-style transcript (based on what I found in other "large drawing" articles. I have only included dates in the transcript as an indication of the coordinates at which each item is located (and I found several that seem misplaced vertically, perhaps to accommodate other labels, e.g. Next Generation). Also, it isn't finished; everything's listed, in (more or less) the right order, but the last bunch don't have their dates/coordinates. I got as far as Les Mis before stopping. -- Peregrine (talk) 15:45, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
Looks good Peregrine! I like it. =8o) Jarod997 (talk) 17:02, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Not sure of the protocol here, but the trivia section currently states that "Rip Van Winkel" is a misspelling of "Rip Van Winkle." The use of Winkel in the comic can be correct. ( The transcription also lists "Rip Can Winkel [sic]" but the comic actually uses "Rip Van Winkel." (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

This Comic seems to follow the tradition of 647: Scary, 891: Movie Ages, 973: MTV Generation, 1393: Timeghost, and 1477: Star Wars. Making people feel old. -- 16:14, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Seems like it might have been useful to include some kind of indication of related subject matter from the upper left to the lower right in the "Stories set in the past" section. Mostly looking at the WW II related works. (Bridge/Kwai, Catch-22, Patton, Schindler, Ryan, Pearl Harbor) all seem to make a pretty straight line. Similarly, seeing that relationship between Apocalypse Now and Platoon. Finally, calling the earlier WW II era works 'former period pieces' seems odd. I think I'd still understand which parts were supposed to sound old in those (or maybe it's just that I am old). 18:50, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

did nobody see 2001 or was the title text forgotten about? i didnt see 2001 so i cant explain the joke. im pretty sure its just a joke about how it sounds similar, but i dont want to add that explanation if its wrong.TheJonyMyster (talk) 22:55, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Does Randall exclude the 1984 film The Terminator because the main portion occurs in 1984, or do you suppose it's because the film is not technically obsolete, given the wandering date of the predicted Judgement Day (as well as actual existence of killbots, advanced tactical simulation systems & a large broadband computer network named SkyNet)? It has often occurred to me that the only thing fictional about The Terminator is the existence of a device enabling time travel. ("The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that time travel is impossible." T'Pol, Enterprise ;) He seems to have left out many notable predictive works which in fact came true, rather than becoming "obsolete". (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

even correct predictions are obsolete. Because they change into facts. Let's say on Thursday I predict it will be sunny on Friday. It is sunny on Friday. Now it's Saturday. Is my prediction from Thursday obsolete, or current? -- 05:46, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
This comic's theme is stories who don't take place on their publication's date. Also, some of the listed stories have a (more or less) historically accurate setting.-- 12:25, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

Whoever wrote the date explanation for "The Time Machine" seems to have used a ridiculous number of significant figures justified by neither the book nor comic (or, for that matter, films). Even more important, the dates aren't even the right order of magnitude. I'm going to fix it, but I just thought I'd leave a comment in case the numbers actually came from somewhere. If they did, please enlighten me. 22:23, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

At least according to the main Wikipedia, the year in which the traveler first meets the Eloi is known precisely. I'm going to leave it rounded, though, so as not to cause confusion, as the the time of the furthest he gets in the future is definitely not known to more than one sigfig. 22:40, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
'Twas I, in my initial (now excised) part-compilation, using the accuracy I could extract from sources like Wiki. And when I tried to add back in the 'range' element (mysteriously lost, and also wanted to add the last column for notes), I kept getting edit conflicts. Sorted now, though. I don't mind the rounding, except for it actually being a known value (a rare thing). (I had also intended to add in the notes that it actually started in/encompassed 'the present', or rather "three years ago", by the timeline of the primary narator, 'though not indicated as such on the chart.) 14:45, 27 February 2015 (UTC)

The Star Wars footnote is incorrect: our universe is 13.8B, less th 13B for SW uni = ~1B years. The formation of galaxies puts a *maximum* time difference of 13.4B years, not 0.4B. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I found that confusing myself - it's correct, just badly written. Our universe is 13.8b years old; the Star Wars universe is 13b years old (800,000 years younger). - Andrew Williams, 10:57BST, 28 February 2015.

Now, where on the graph would "The Day After Tomorrow" be placed, I wonder..? ;) 21:57, 3 March 2015 (UTC)