A Short History of the Future

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 20, 1989 - Social Science - 323 pages
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In the tradition of H. G. Wells's The Shape of Things to Come, W. Warren Wagar's A Short History of the Future is a memoir of postmodern times. Cast in the form of a history book, the narrative voice of the book's powerful vision is that of a far-future historian, Peter Jensen, who leaves this account of the world from the 1990s to the opening of the twenty-third century as a gift to his granddaughter. A dazzling and imaginative combination of fiction and scholarship, Wagar's speculative history of the future alternates between descriptions of world events and intimate glimpses of his fictive historian's family through the ages.

Jensen's tale traces the flow of the future from the early twenty-first-century reign of a megacorporate global economy, to its sudden collapse in 2044, when nuclear catastrophe envelops the world. In the traumatic aftermath, a socialist world commonwealth comes into being in the year 2062, followed by a lengthy transition to a decentralized order of technologically mature autonomous societies, many located in outer space. The riveting literary interludes that follow each chapter take the form of letters and documents from the history of Jensen's family, evoking the everyday lives of people in the midst of these global-historical events. Here we meet a woman in Brazil whose son is dying from a new immuno-deficiency disease, two brothers comparing life on earth with life in a space colony, and many more.

Neither fiction nor nonfiction, Wagar's brilliantly creative work is not meant to forecast the future, but rather to draw attention to possibilities and alternatives for humankind and planet Earth. In doing so, it also serves as an unforgettable reminder that the future is being made now.

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A short history of the future

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This future world history is presented as the reminiscences of a 115-year old historian, supposedly transcribed from a "holofilm'' bequeathed to his granddaughter in the year 2200. Wagar is not a ... Read full review


A Note to the Reader
The Last Age of Capital
Ruling Circles
Fouling the Nest
The Molecular Society
The Catastrophe of 2044
The Coming of the Commonwealth
We the People
Vested Interests
The Small Revolution
The Autonomous Society

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About the author (1989)

W. Warren Wagar is Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of History at the State University of New York at Binghamton. In addition to writing numerous science fiction short stories, Wagar is the author of seven scholarly books, including Terminal Visions, Good Tidings, The City of Man, and H. G. Wells and the World State.

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