Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: A slice of time

This week, Futures is delighted to welcome back Jeff Hecht, with his story A slice of time. Jeff is no stranger to Futures, having penned some ten stories for us, including discussion of quantum entanglement and the speed of dark energy. You can keep a check on Jeff’s activities at his website or by by following him on Twitter. Here he talks about what inspired his latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing A slice of time

The starting point for A slice of time was the title. I wondered who might want a slice of time, why they might want it, and what it might mean to them. I thought of someone among the richest and most powerful people in the world, but somehow lacking something.

That led me to think of Howard Hughes, the mid-twentieth-century billionaire who at his peak was among the richest and most powerful people in the United States. The wealthy heir of a successful businessman, Hughes came to the public eye young, as a film producer, a pilot and as an industrialist. But in his later years he became increasingly eccentric, and wielded his power from behind the scenes. He owned the Hughes Research Laboratory, famed for making the first laser. Yet when I interviewed people who had worked on the laser project, they said no one at the lab ever saw Hughes; he was almost an urban legend. By then, Hughes had become a sick old man, addicted to painkillers and cut off from the outside world by powerful aides who pulled the strings of power in his stead until he died.

What would happen if medicine could keep such wealthy oligarchs alive almost forever? How would the oligarchs react, and the people around them? And what would the rest of us want? Those ideas led me to write A slice of time.

Read more Futures stories by Jeff

Directed energyOperation TeslaQuantum entanglementsThe Neanderthal correlationClear proofEvent horizonWaiting for ChronomaticThe speed of dark energyThe Internet of **** thingsWhen last I saw the stars

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