20 May 2009

The Latest Miracle Tech

When L. Frank Baum wrote The Master Key (1901) and The Boy Fortune Hunters in Yucatan (1910, using the pseudonym Floyd Akers), the answer to almost every technical problem his characters faced was that burgeoning technology: electricity!

Guns that stun instead of kill? The ability to fly? Pills that fill all your nutritional needs? Boxes that allow you to look at anything happening anywhere in the world? Those books took advantage of how readers were ready to believe that a hard-working inventor might soon come up with just that device, harnessing the infinite potential of electricity.

In the same era, the Stratemeyer syndicate gave us Tom Swift and His Electric Runabout, Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, and Tom Swift and His Electric Locomotive.

Half a century later, the new technology with unlimited reach was: atomic power! So it's no surprise that the Tom Swift, Jr., series (1954-1971) featured titles like Tom Swift and His Atomic Earth Blaster and Tom Swift and His Triphibian Atomicar.

So what is today's equivalent? Judging by a reading copy of Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom, by Tim Byrd, it's: nanotechnology! Do you as an author need your characters to breathe (and, apparently, see) while swimming through an underground stream? To coat an airplane with impervious armor? To heal all wounds and kill all bacteria? Nanotechnology is the answer for you!

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