A writer’s unshackled vision of an unknowable future is sometimes acutely prescient. HG Wells foresaw numerous scientific, social and technological advances. He fantasised about automatic doors, airplanes, even space travel, long before they were invented, enriching his legacy as the father of science fiction. But novelists’ prophecies are rarely positive; stories, somehow, are more gripping in their descent towards doom. Wells simultaneously feared technology’s dark side: in The World Set Free (1914) he coined the phrase “atomic bomb” in describing a future weapon of destruction. A century earlier Mary Shelley had authored Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, the prototype for the horror genre and — nearly 200 years ahead of her time — the predictor of artificial intelligence and medical technologies such as genetic engineering. Often, literature which peers ahead suspends the march of human progress, proclaiming that humanity’s evil nature will never be fully tamed. Franz Kafk...

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