Let’s take a time-dredge back to 1964 for today’s Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column about great science fiction of the past.
If you’re a consummate Philip K Dick fan, you may recognize that term and know that we’re going to be talking about “Waterspider”. If you’re not, you probably figured it out from the title.
“Waterspider” at first comes off as a simple science fiction tale. It seems to follow a group of scientists who are trying to send a successful spaceflight to a colony called Proxima. They determine that someone with precognition (called pre-cogs)in the 1950s had foreseen this, and they go back into time to get the formula that will save their flights, which ultimately changes their timeline and timeline of the man they kidnapped… making the whole adventure obsolete.
I say “comes off as” only because it only seems that way to those who maybe haven’t read as much early science fiction. For those who are like me, it’s a science fiction fan’s kind of science fiction. This is because everything in the story is suggesting that the future scientists think 21st-century science fiction writers were people who predicted the future. They think Dr. Asimov is the founder of positronic robotic industry, and that Bradbury predicted all of the political upheavals of the 20th century. To them, copies of “If” ( a science fiction magazine) are like an oracle.
It’s a funny a premise, but not entirely wrong. After all, cellphones are attributed to ‘Star Trek’.
What’s even more science fiction-y about the whole thing is that the person/”pre-cog” they went back in time to get is famed science fiction writer, Poul Anderson, who clearly doesn’t have their answers. Instead, he talks about if he gets too technical he’ll lose readers. Also, he just doesn’t answer because he’s a writer.
But that’s not all when it comes to how meta this piece is. The very idea of pre-cogs (people who can predict the future) is lifted from Dick’s own work, “The Minority Report”.
“Waterspiders” is fun as a time travel science fiction, but more fun to a science fiction fan because of all the Easter Eggs.
If you haven’t read it, and you love science fiction, I highly recommend it.