Publishing Technologies In Science Fiction

Recently, I was asked by a reader if there were any examples of science fictional publishing methods that have become fact:

I was wondering, do you have any examples of SF that has become fact in relation to technology used in publishing. Perhaps, printing on demand, ebooks, audiobooks, virtual reality goggles?

And this may be a long shot... but are there any examples in the literature of a publisher/author/editor using technology within the narrative?

In his 1961 novel Return from the Stars, Stanislaw Lem described a new kind of "book store" with books of a very different kind; take a look at electronic book store, lectons, crystal corn and optons. Don't forget to look at the linked real-world examples for each item! (Also, take a look at the interactive map which presages the publication of map data in an interactive format.) He describes a more complete technology than Isaac Asimov telebooks from The Fun They Had (1951).

There is no reason that your printed materials can't read themselves to you; see the live memo from The Simulacra (1964) by Philip K. Dick, the talking tape from Distraction (1998), memo-voice from War Game (1959), the e-sheet from Darwin's Children (2003) and the talking pamphlet from do-it-yourself (1974).

In 2011, writer Paul McEuen describes DNA publishing; fantasy and sf writer Barbara Hambly describes the basic idea decades earlier in heritable memories in The Time of the Dark (1982), which has a list of real-world references.

The idea of printing a newspaper in your home is quite old; see home news printer from The Senator's Daughter (1898) by Edward Page Mitchell. Compare this device to the personalized news from Hugo Gernsback's 1911 novel Ralph 124c 41 + and the homeopape from his 1969 novel Ubik (it is also called the homeostatic newspaper in his 1963 story If There Were No Benny Cemoli).

Philip K. Dick's homeostatic newspaper used news receptors to gather information; Dick also described an autonomic interviewer (roving robot reporter) which could also contribute stories.

There is really no need to wait for new works - in Gulliver's Travels (1726), Jonathan Swift describes a knowledge engine that provided a quick shortcut to books. George Orwell liked the same idea; see the novel-writing machine from 1984 (1948). Computers are quite able to publish their own material; see verse transcriber from Studio 5, The Stars (1971) by J.G. Ballard and the electronic bard from The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age (1965) by Stanislaw Lem.

One of the most unique forms of publication described in science fiction is the book of the Kalends, the "ever-changing book without a title" from his 1969 novel Galactic Pot-Healer. For music publishing, see the preserving machine from the eponymous story by Dick (1953). Also see the living book from The World Below (1929) by Sydney Fowler Wright.

Dick also describes relay in his 1954 story Souvenir:

When a discovery has been made it's absurd to repeat it on countless planets throughout the universe. Information gained on any of the thousand worlds is flashed to Relay Center and then out again to the whole Galaxy. Relay studies and selects experiences and coordinates them into a rational, functional system with contradictions. Relay orders the total experience of mankind into a coherent structure.

Of course, the structure of the Internet, our primary publication medium, was described neatly in Murray Leinster's 1946 classic A Logic Named Joe. See all the referenced items in that story.

Secure publishing is important: see the argento-platinoid dispatch boxes from Venus Mines, Incorporated (1931) by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat), the message cylinders from Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune and the personal capsule from Isaac Asimov's 1951 novel Foundation.

You'll need personalized news, given the volume of publications; check the autosecretary from Earth (1990) by David Brin and the Personal Interest Profile from Clarke's 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise and the earlier interests profile from Frederik Pohl's 1966 novel The Age of the Pussyfoot.

I love unusual printing technologies; consider the chalf-memory stick from The Tactful Saboteur (1964) by Frank Herbert. Print on mist with ghostsmoke from The Ophiuchi Hotline (1977) by John Varley.

Printed communication with aliens will be needed; see communication with extraterrestrials from From the Earth to the Moon (1867) by Jules Verne.

Probably the earliest form of virtual reality as a way of "publishing" history or experience is the life chamber from The Chamber of Life (1929) by G. Peyton Wertenbaker. Modern readers might be more familiar with the Saga technology from Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars (1956). I'd also mention the feelies from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), although the feelies did not offer a fully immersive experience, and stimsim from William Gibson's 1984 Neuromancer (1984).

I should also mention the house records from Frank Herbert's Chapterhouse Dune (1984).

A variety of suggestions are made regarding the recording of personal or life information that can then be shared with others in divers unique methods. Consider the the Psypyx from John Barnes' 1998 novel Earth Made of Glass; it recorded your mental impressions, the alibi-archive from Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer, the lifelog from Charles Stross' 2007 novel Halting State (which can be published - shared - CopSpace. Also The life recorder from Roger Zelazny's 1966 novel The Dream Master.

I should also point out the educational messages that have been sent to Earth from well-meaning aliens. For example, in Carl Sagan's Contact (particularly the movie version), a very elaborate message is sent. Another elaborate example can be found in Ratner's Star, by Don DeLillo. The Hercules Text by Jack McDevitt is another example that I can recall. Clifford Simak's Time and Again is also in this group, as is 2001: A Space Odyssey. More recently, Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem is a Chinese take on this idea.

Well, that should give you a place to start!

Reader suggestions are welcome at @technovelgy; I'll append to this document.

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