Difference between revisions of "1491: Stories of the Past and Future"

 Stories of the Past and Future Title text: Little-known fact: The 'Dawn of Man' opening sequence in 2001 cuts away seconds before the Flinstones theme becomes recognizable.

Explanation

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X-axis: Date of publication.

Y-axis, "Years in the future": Number of years the story's events take place, after the story's publication.

Y-axis, "Years in the past": Number of years the story's events take place, before the story's publication.

For example, "Water Margin" was published in the 14th century (x ~= 1300) and relates events from the 12th century, about 200 years before its publication (y ~= 200 in the past).

Another example: The Bridge on the River Kwai was written around 1957 (actually 1952) and it was set around 13 years before (actually in 1942-43, i.e. 10 years before).

Grey area in the "Years in the future" part: Stories set in the future (from their publication's date), whose the story's events' date is already past (from now).

Grey area in the "Years in the past" part: Stories set in the past (from their publication's date), published closer to their setting than to today.

Taking the "years in the past" on the y-axis to be read as negatives like in most graphs one can write:

Dates on the lower line satisfy: y=x-2015 . Corresponding works were published in the year x=2015+y and are set in the year x+y=2015+2y

Dates on the upper line satisfy: y=2015-x . Corresponding works were published in the year x=2015-y and are set in the year x+y=2015

Thus it's clear that the definitions of the lines are consistent with each other as they follow similar but inverted functions.

In the top portion of the graph, the two sides of the line are defined as "still possible" and "obsolete" (gray area). If no new works were added, the "obsolete" realm would expand over time, with "still possible" including fewer and fewer works. Conversely, the gray area in the lower portion (works published closer to now than to their setting) would contract. Perhaps the artist is making a comment about a perceived lack of imagination in literature? But given the highly selective list of works chosen, it's not very clear what overall conclusion the reader should draw. Perhaps it's just intended to show an unusual and interesting way to look at literature in a quantitative fashion.

Trivia

There is a hypercorrection in Rip Van Winkle as Rip van Winkel. Washington Irving may have misspelled van Winkel.

Transcript

Stories of the Past and Future The page shows an XY chart with the X-Axis representing "Date of Publication", and the Y-Axis showing "Years in the Future" positive, and "Years in the Past" negative.

 Publication Description Year Written Year Difference Year Set In Memoirs of the Twentieth Century book written by Samuel Madden 1733 264 1997 Golf in the Year 2000 novel written by J. McCullough 1892 108 2000 Looking Backward novel written by Edward Bellamy 1888 112 2000 Enoch Soames short story by Max Beerbohm 1897 100 1997 The Time Machine novel written by H.G. Wells 1895 800,806 802,701 1984 A Week in the Wales of the Future The Jetsons Star Trek !TOS! 2001: A Space Odyssey Space: 1999 2010: Odyssey Two Star Trek: The Next Generation 2061: Odyssey Three Zero Wing 3001: The Final Odyssey Enterprise Back to the Future Part II Transformers (TV Series) Terminator 2 (1995 Portion) Casablanca The Pillow Book History of the Peloponnesian War Moby Dick Gospels The Epic of Gilgamesh The Iliad Ashokavadana Book of Genesis Water Margin King John Henry IV Richard III Henry VIII Julius Caesar King Lear A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Lest Darkness Fall Asterix The Ten Commandments The Flintstones 2001: A Space Odyssey (prologue) Star Wars (IV - VI) Star Wars (I - III) Raptor Red Star Wars (VII - IX) Ice Age 10,000 BC 300 Year One The Prince of Egypt Downton Abbey Pearl Harbour Saving Private Ryan Chariots of Fire Blazing Saddles Back to the Future Part III Roots Treasure Island The Last of the Mohicans A Tale of Two Cities Gone With The Wind Gunsmoke Rip Van Winkel [sic] Les Miserábles [sic] Oklahoma! Lawrence of Arabia The Music Man Annie (Play) Annie (Movie) Schindler's List Mad Men Evita Bonnie and Clyde Chinatown Gandhi The Sandlot Back to the Future Patton Catch-22 (Movie) The Great Escape Catch-22 (Book) M*A*S*H Grease Happy Days Platoon The Wonder Years Dirty Dancing The Right Stuff JFK Apollo 13 That '70s Show The Wolf of Wall Street Freaks and Geeks I Love the '80s The Bridge on the River Kwai American Graffiti Apocalypse Now The Big Lebowski United 93 film directed by Paul Greengrass 2006 -5 2001 I Love the '90s TV miniseries on VH1 2004 -14 1990 Hotel Rwanda film directed by Terry George 2004 -10 1994 I Love the 2000s TV miniseries on VH1 2014 -14 2000

Mouse-over text: Little known fact - The 'Dawn of Man' opening sequence in 2001 cuts away seconds before the Flintstones theme becomes recognizable.

Discussion

http://xkcd.com/1491/large/ will take you to the large version, which the comic currently doesn't have a link to. I expect that will be fixed shortly. 108.162.210.177 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. 108.162.210.177 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"? --108.162.250.175 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 --108.162.231.68 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. 141.101.80.121 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 --108.162.231.68 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 --108.162.231.68 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. 141.101.98.192 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. 141.101.98.192 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.) 141.101.98.192 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. --173.245.53.151 15:16, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
maybe he just wants to see what the people who transcripe it will come up with.108.162.250.173 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. 141.101.98.192 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? -- 108.162.210.169 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? 141.101.98.192 15:43, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I created a basic table using 141.101.98.192'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. (http://i.imgur.com/Z0adeEJ.jpg) The transcription also lists "Rip Can Winkel [sic]" but the comic actually uses "Rip Van Winkel." 108.162.238.181 (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. --173.245.53.151 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). 199.27.128.215 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". 173.245.55.29 (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? --108.162.249.166 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.--108.162.229.165 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. 108.162.216.79 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.108.162.216.79 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.) 141.101.98.192 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. 199.27.133.136 (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..? ;) 141.101.98.181 21:57, 3 March 2015 (UTC)