9 Books That Predicted the Future

alengo/iStock via Getty Images Plus
alengo/iStock via Getty Images Plus

The problem with writing fiction is that readers expect the worlds authors create, even the most baffling and high concept ones, to make sense—so authors spend a lot of time making the worlds they craft believable. And sometimes, they come up with a plot point in their work that seems to foresee a real-world event. Some of the predictions in these books came true in such eerie detail that you have to wonder whether fiction is as fictitious as it claims.

1. Futility

In this book written by Morgan Robertson, a massive ocean liner described as “the largest craft afloat” is steaming at full speed through the North Atlantic when a watchman cries out “Iceberg.” But the ship hits the ice and begins to sink. With too few lifeboats, many of the passengers drown when the ship goes down.

The story sounds familiar, but this ship wasn’t the TitanicFutility's ship was the Titan. Robertson penned his novel 14 years before the Titanic took its doomed maiden voyage—and those aren’t the only similarities between Robertson’s Titan and the Titanic, either. Such was the predictive power of the text that just a week after the sinking of the Titanic the story—now called The Wreck of the Titan; or, Futility—was being serialized in newspapers as “an amazing prophecy.”

2. Earth

In 1990, sci-fi author David Brin published Earth, a novel packed with a number of predictions about the year 2038. In the book, something resembling spam overwhelms email inboxes; there has been a nuclear meltdown at Japanese nuclear power plant; and the world suffers from global warming. "Three million citizens of the Republic of Bangladesh watched their farms and villages wash away as early monsoons burst their hand-built levees," Brin wrote, "turning remnants of the crippled state into a realm of swampy shoals covered by the rising Bay of Bengal."

In the afterword, Brin said that he “exaggerated the extent greenhouse heating may cause sea levels to rise by the year 2040,” but some models suggest he may not have been that far off the mark after all.

3. The World Set Free

In this 1914 novel, H.G. Wells predicted that the problem of extracting energy from the atom would be solved in 1933—and in that year, Leo Szilard did, in fact, come up with the idea of a nuclear chain reaction. That wasn’t the only prescient element of The World Set Free: Wells also described how radioactive elements could be used in “atomic bombs” that left battlefields radioactive for years to come.

4. Gulliver’s Travels

In Jonathan Swift’s biting 1726 satire, he lampooned many aspects of British life, including scientists and their obscure research. He wrote that the Laputans found two moons with relatively short orbital periods around Mars—150 years before two such moons were discovered. It wasn't just the existence of the moons that Swift got right: According to S.H. Gould in Journal of the History of Ideas, the moons’ “strange behavior agreed very closely with Swift’s description.” Several craters on Mars’s moon Phobos are now named after Swift’s characters.

5. From The Earth to the Moon

More than 100 years after Jules Verne wrote his tale of three men traveling to the Moon from the United States, the first real lunar travelers splashed down in the Pacific—just as their fictional counterparts had (albeit in the sequel, Around the Moon). Verne got their take off spot in Florida right too, though launching them from a giant space gun would have shattered the astronauts’ bones. In the 1950s, John Paul Stapp took a rocket sled from 0 to 632 mph in five seconds, experiencing up to 20 Gs (and hitting 46.2 when slowing down). According to modern calculations, being launched from Verne’s cannon would produce 23,413 Gs [PDF].

6. Fahrenheit 451

When you turn on your flat screen TV or pop in your earbuds, you’re living out the dystopian vision of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 book Fahrenheit 451. In the novel, people bombard themselves with entertainment instead of talking to each other. Much easier to pop your seashell radios in your ears and forget about the books you planned to read.

7. Stand on Zanzibar

Written in the late '60s and set in 2010, John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar predicted a popular politician by the name of President Obomi, president of Beninia; random mass shootings; a European Union; and people connecting to an encyclopedia over the phone. Unfortunately, Brunner never wrote a book about next week’s lottery numbers.

8. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

In The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket—the only novel written by Edgar Allan Poe, published in 1838—sailors are adrift and starving in the ocean after their whaling vessel is hit by a storm. Desperate, they draw lots to decide who should be sacrificed, and the fate of being eaten falls on Richard Parker. Nearly 50 years after Poe had written his tale of cannibalism, a real-life Richard Parker was killed and eaten by his hungry shipmates after their ship, the Mignonette, sank in a storm.

9. “The Machine Stops”

Chances are that you’re currently self-isolating to keep sickness at bay. If you have to see people, you log on to Zoom. Touching anyone else seems risky. In E.M. Forster’s 1909 novella “The Machine Stops” (later featured in the book The Eternal Moment and Other Stories), that’s what the normal world has become. Writing at the BBC, Will Gompertz called the story “not simply prescient; it is a jaw-droppingly, gob-smackingly, breath-takingly accurate literary description of lockdown life in 2020.”

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor

Dash/Keurig
Dash/Keurig

If you're looking for deals on items like Keurigs, BISSELL vacuums, and essential oil diffusers, it's usually pretty slim pickings until the holiday sales roll around. Thankfully, Amazon is starting these deals a little earlier with their Big Fall Sale, where customers can get up to 20 percent off everything from home decor to WFH essentials and kitchen gadgets. Now you won’t have to wait until Black Friday for the deal you need. Make sure to see all the deals that the sale has to offer here and check out our favorites below.

Electronics

Dash/Amazon

- BISSELL Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner $170 (save $60)

- Dash Deluxe Air Fryer $80 (save $20)

- Dash Rapid 6-Egg Cooker $17 (save $3)

- Keurig K-Café Single Coffee Maker $169 (save $30)

- COMFEE Toaster Oven $29 (save $9)

- AmazonBasics 1500W Oscillating Ceramic Heater $31 (save $4)

Home office Essentials

HP/Amazon

- HP Neverstop Laser Printer $250 (save $30)

- HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed OCR Scanner $274 (save $25)

- HP Printer Paper (500 Sheets) $5 (save $2)

- Mead Composition Books Pack of 5 Ruled Notebooks $11 (save $2)

- Swingline Desktop Hole Punch $7 (save $17)

- Officemate OIC Achieva Side Load Letter Tray $15 (save $7)

- PILOT G2 Premium Rolling Ball Gel Pens 12-Pack $10 (save $3)

Toys and games

Selieve/Amazon

- Selieve Toys Old Children's Walkie Talkies $17 (save $7)

- Yard Games Giant Tumbling Timbers $59 (save $21)

- Duckura Jump Rocket Launchers $11 (save $17)

- EXERCISE N PLAY Automatic Launcher Baseball Bat $14 (save $29)

- Holy Stone HS165 GPS Drones with 2K HD Camera $95 (save $40)

Home Improvement

DEWALT/Amazon

- DEWALT 20V MAX LED Hand Held Work Light $54 (save $65)

- Duck EZ Packing Tape with Dispenser, 6 Rolls $11 (save $6)

- Bissell MultiClean Wet/Dry Garage Auto Vacuum $111 (save $39)

- Full Circle Sinksational Sink Strainer with Stopper $5 (save $2)

Home Décor

NECA/Amazon

- A Christmas Story 20-Inch Leg Lamp Prop Replica by NECA $41 save $5

- SYLVANIA 100 LED Warm White Mini Lights $8 (save 2)

- Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle Vanilla Cupcake $17 (save $12)

- Malden 8-Opening Matted Collage Picture Frame $20 (save $8)

- Lush Decor Blue and Gray Flower Curtains Pair $57 (save $55)

- LEVOIT Essential Oil Diffuser $25 (save $5)

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11 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a lot of famous lines, from musings on failure in Tender is the Night to “so we beat on, boats against the current” from The Great Gatsby. Yet even with a seemingly never-ending well of words and beautiful quotations, many popular idioms and phrases are wrongly attributed to the famous Jazz Age author. Here are 11 popular phrases that are frequently misattributed to Fitzgerald. (You may need to update your Pinterest boards.)

1. “Write drunk, edit sober.”

This quote is often attributed to either Fitzgerald or his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, who died in 1961. There is no evidence in the collected works of either writer to support that attribution; the idea was first associated with Fitzgerald in a 1996 Associated Press story, and later in Stephen Fry’s memoir More Fool Me. In actuality, humorist Peter De Vries coined an early version of the phrase in a 1964 novel titled Reuben, Reuben.

2. “For what it's worth: It's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be."

It’s easy to see where the mistake could be made regarding this quote: Fitzgerald wrote the short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 1922 for Collier's Magazine, and it was adapted into a movie of the same name, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in 2008. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay, in which that quotation appears.

3. “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss."

This is a similar case to the previous quotation; this quote is attributed to Benjamin Button’s character in the film adaptation. It’s found in the script, but not in the original short story.

4. “You'll understand why storms are named after people."

There is no evidence that Fitzgerald penned this line in any of his known works. In this Pinterest pin, it is attributed to his novel The Beautiful and Damned. However, nothing like that appears in the book; additionally, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Association, although there were a few storms named after saints, and an Australian meteorologist was giving storms names in the 19th century, the practice didn’t become widespread until after 1941. Fitzgerald died in 1940.

5. “A sentimental person thinks things will last. A romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won't."

This exact quote does not appear in Fitzgerald’s work—though a version of it does, in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise:

“No, I’m romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t. Sentiment is emotional.” The incorrect version is widely circulated and requoted.

6. “It's a funny thing about coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what's changed is you."

This quote also appears in the 2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button script, but not in the original short story.

7. “Great books write themselves; only bad books have to be written."

There is no evidence of this quote in any of Fitzgerald’s writings; it mostly seems to circulate on websites like qotd.org, quotefancy.com and azquotes.com with no clarification as to where it originated.

8. “She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful for the way she thought. She was beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn't beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul."

This quote may have originated in a memoir/advice book published in 2011 by Natalie Newman titled Butterflies and Bullshit, where it appears in its entirety. It was attributed to Fitzgerald in a January 2015 Thought Catalog article, and was quoted as written by an unknown source in Hello, Beauty Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Elisa Morgan, published in September 2015. However, there’s no evidence that Fitzgerald said or wrote anything like it.

9. “And in the end, we were all just humans, drunk on the idea that love, only love, could heal our brokenness."

Christopher Poindexter, the successful Instagram poet, wrote this as part of a cycle of poems called “the blooming of madness” in 2013. After a Twitter account called @SirJayGatsby tweeted the phrase with no attribution, it went viral as being attributed to Fitzgerald. Poindexter has addressed its origin on several occasions.

10. “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."

This poetic phrase is actually derived from the work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, just four years after Fitzgerald was born in 1896. In his book Thus Spake ZarathustraNietzsche wrote the phrase, “One must have chaos within to enable one to give birth to a dancing star.” Over time, it’s been truncated and modernized into the currently popular version, which was included in the 2009 book You Majored in What?: Designing Your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks.

11. “For the girls with messy hair and thirsty hearts.”

This quote is the dedication in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s book Tiger Lily, a reimagining of the classic story of Peter Pan. While it is often attributed to Anderson, many Tumblr pages and online posts cite Fitzgerald as its author.

This story has been updated for 2020.