# Difference between revisions of "1491: Stories of the Past and Future"

 Stories of the Past and Future Title text: Little-known fact: The 'Dawn of Man' opening sequence in 2001 cuts away seconds before the Flinstones theme becomes recognizable.

## Explanation

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A larger version of the image is available here.

X-axis: Date of publication.

Y-axis, "Years in the future": Number of years the story's events take place, after the story's publication.

Y-axis, "Years in the past": Number of years the story's events take place, before the story's publication.

For example, "Water Margin" was published in the 14th century (x ~= 1300) and relates events from the 12th century, about 200 years before its publication (y ~= 200 in the past).

Another example: The film The Bridge on the River Kwai was released in 1957 and it was set around 14 years before (~1942-43).

Grey area in the "Years in the future" part: Stories set in the future (from their publication's date), whose the story's events' date is already past (from now).

Grey area in the "Years in the past" part: Stories set in the past (from their publication's date), published closer to their setting than to today.

Taking the "years in the past" on the y-axis to be read as negatives like in most graphs one can write:

Dates on the lower line satisfy: y = x-2015. Corresponding works were published in the year x = 2015+y and are set in the year x+y = 2015+2y.

Dates on the upper line satisfy: y = 2015-x. Corresponding works were published in the year x = 2015-y and are set in the year x+y = 2015.

Thus it's clear that the definitions of the lines are consistent with each other as they follow similar but inverted functions.

In the top portion of the graph, the two sides of the line are defined as "still possible" and "obsolete" (gray area). The gray area (obsolete) expands over time, the prediction (or science fiction work) that are not confirmed by reality are doomed to be obsolete. The author mark the line of the stories set in 2015; they are the expectation for our present in different past times.

In the bottom graph, the line indicates the limit in which the publishing time is nearer to the time treated in the work than to the present. The work in the gray area could be perceived as written by contemporary writers while in most cases they refer to a further past. This is expressed in the warning: "Modern audiences may not recognize which part were supposed to sound old". This is a recurrent theme in the author's work, being already formulated in Period_Speech.

The bottom of the chart has the Star Wars films, which are set "A long time ago".

### Works listed

 Publication Description Year Written Year Difference Year Set In Memoirs of the Twentieth Century book written by Samuel Madden 1733 264 1997 Golf in the Year 2000 novel written by J. McCullough 1892 108 2000 Looking Backward novel written by Edward Bellamy 1888 112 2000 Enoch Soames short story by Max Beerbohm 1897 100 1997 The Time Machine novel written by H.G. Wells 1895 800,806 802,701 1984 novel written by George Orwell 1949 35 1984 A Week in the Wales of the Future novel written by Islwyn Ffowc Elis 1957 76 2033 The Jetsons TV series produced by Hanna-Barbera 1962 * 100 2062 † Star Trek !TOS! TV series created by Gene Roddenberry 1966 * 298 2264 2001: A Space Odyssey novel written by Arthur C. Clarke 1968 33 2001 Space: 1999 TV series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson 1975 * 24 1999 2010: Odyssey Two novel written by Arthur C. Clarke 1982 28 2010 Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series created by Gene Roddenberry 1987 * 377 2364 2061: Odyssey Three novel written by Arthur C. Clarke 1987 74 2061 Zero Wing arcade/computer game 1989 112 2101 (previously referenced in 887: Future Timeline) 3001: The Final Odyssey novel written by Arthur C. Clarke 1997 1004 3001 Enterprise TV series 2001 * 150 2151 Back to the Future Part II film directed by Robert Zemeckis 1989 26 2015 Transformers (TV Series) TV series 1984 * ~ 20 < 2010 Terminator 2 (1995 Portion) film directed by James Cameron 1991 4 1995 Casablanca film directed by Michael Curtiz 1942 < 1 1941 The Pillow Book book written by Sei Shōnagon 1002 6 996 History of the Peloponnesian War history written by Thucydides ~400 BCE ~10 431-411 BCE Moby Dick Gospels The Epic of Gilgamesh The Iliad Ashokavadana Book of Genesis Water Margin King John Henry IV Richard III Henry VIII Julius Caesar King Lear A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Lest Darkness Fall alternate history SF novel 1939 1404 535 Asterix French comic by Goscinny and Uderzo 1959* 2009 50 B.C. The Ten Commandments film by Cecil B. DeMille 1956 3412 1446 BCE The Flintstones TV series produced by Hanna-Barbera 1960* >2,5 million Stone Age 2001: A Space Odyssey (prologue) novel written by Arthur C. Clarke 1968 >2,5 million Stone Age (Lower Paleolithic)| Star Wars (IV - VI) original film trilogy 1977-1983 A long time ago Star Wars (I - III) prequel film trilogy 1999-2005 A long time ago Raptor Red novel by Robert Bakker 1995 >65 million Cretaceous Period Star Wars (VII - IX) sequel film trilogy 2015-2021 A long time ago Ice Age animated films by Blue Sky Studios 2002* >12,000 Paleolithic-Mesolithic 10,000 BC film by Roland Emmerich 2008 11,992 10,000 BC 300 film by Zack Snyder 2007 2487 480 BC Year One film by Harold Ramis 2009 2008 1 AD The Prince of Egypt animated film by DreamWorks 1998 3412 1446 BCE Downton Abbey Pearl Harbour film by Michael Bay 2001 60 1941 Saving Private Ryan film by Steven Spielberg 1998 54 1944 Chariots of Fire film by Hugh Hudson 1981 57 1924 Blazing Saddles film by Mel Brooks 1974 100 1874 Back to the Future Part III film by Robert Zemeckis 1990 105 1885 Roots Treasure Island The Last of the Mohicans A Tale of Two Cities Gone With The Wind Gunsmoke Rip Van Winkel [sic] Les Miserábles [sic] Oklahoma! Lawrence of Arabia The Music Man Annie (Play) Annie (Movie) Schindler's List Mad Men Evita Bonnie and Clyde Chinatown Gandhi The Sandlot Back to the Future Patton Catch-22 (Movie) The Great Escape Catch-22 (Book) M*A*S*H film by Robert Altman 1970 19 1951 Grease Happy Days Platoon The Wonder Years Dirty Dancing The Right Stuff JFK Apollo 13 film by Ron Howard 1995 25 1970 That '70s Show TV series 1998-2006 >22 1976-1979 The Wolf of Wall Street film by Martin Scorsese 2013 >18 1987-1995 Freaks and Geeks I Love the '80s The Bridge on the River Kwai film by David Lean American Graffiti film by George Lucas 1973 11 1962 Apocalypse Now film by Francis Ford Coppola 1979 10 1969 The Big Lebowski film by the Coen Brothers 1998 7 1991 United 93 film directed by Paul Greengrass 2006 -5 2001 I Love the '90s TV miniseries on VH1 2004 -14 1990 Hotel Rwanda film directed by Terry George 2004 -10 1994 I Love the 2000s TV miniseries on VH1 2014 -14 2000
• = first episode aired. † = conjectured year set in.

## Trivia

There is a hypercorrection in Rip Van Winkle as Rip van Winkel. Washington Irving may have misspelled van Winkel.

It's Les Misérables not Les Miserábles. Note that French doesn't have "á".

Lest Darkness Fall takes place about 1400 years in the past, but is places around the -500 years line on the graph.

## Transcript

Date of Publication
[A logarithmic scale running horizontally, from 3000 BCE to past 2015 CE]
Years in the Future
[A logarithmic scale running vertically, from 1 billion down to 0]
Stories Set in the Future (Science Fiction, Prediction)
Stories set in 2015
[A line divides this region into two. The upper side is labelled "Still Possible"; the lower side is labelled "Obsolete".]
[from left to right...]
Memoirs of the Twentieth Century [1733, 265 years in the future]
Looking Backward [1888, 112 years in the future]
Golf in the Year 2000 [1892, 108 years in the future]
The Time Machine [1895, 800 thousand to 30 million years in the future]
Enoch Soames [1916, circa 60 years in the future]
1984 [1949, 35 years in the future]
A Week in the Wales of the Future [1957, 76 years in the future]
The Jetsons [1962-63, 100 years in the future]
Star Trek [1966-69, 300 years in the future]
2001: A Space Odyssey [1968, 33 years in the future]
Space: 1999 [1975-77, 24 years in the future]
2010: Odyssey Two [1982, 28 years in the future]
Transformers (TV series) [1984-87, 20 years in the future]
2061: Odyssey Three [1987, 74 years in the future]
Star Trek: The Next Generation [1987-94, circa 500 years in the future]
Back to the Future Part II [1989, 26 years in the future]
Zero Wing [1989, 112 years in the future]
Terminator 2 (1995 portion) [1991, 4 years in the future]
3001: The Final Odyssey [1997, 1004 years in the future]
Enterprise [2001-2005, 150 years in the future]
This chart [2015, 0 years in the future]
Years in the Past
[A logarithmic scale running vertically, from 0 down past 1 billion to "Big Bang"]
Stories Set in the Past (History, Period Fiction)
Stories written X years ago and set 2X years ago
[A line divides this region into two. The upper side is labelled as follows.]
Former Period Pieces
Stories set in the past, but
created long enough ago that
they were published closer
to their setting than to today.
Modern audiences may not
recognize which parts were
supposed to sound old.
[from left to right...]
The Epic of Gilgamesh [circa 2100 BCE, 600 years in the past]
The Iliad [circa' 800 BCE, 450 years in the past]
History of the Peloponnesian War [circa 390 BCE, 10 years in the past]
Book of Genesis [circa 500 BCE, 4000 years in the past]
Ashokavadana [circa 100 BCE, 300 years in the past]
Gospels (various estimates) [circa 250 CE, 24 to 75 years in the past]
The Pillow Book [1000 CE, 5 years in the past]
Water Margin [circa 1300, 195 years in the past]
Richard III [circa 1590, 115 years in the past]
Julius Caesar [1599, 1650 years in the past]
King John [circa 1600, 500 years in the past]
Henry IV [circa 1600, 190 years in the past]
King Lear [circa 1606, 3000 years in the past]
Henry VIII [circa 1612, 105 years in the past]
The Last of the Mohicans [1826, 69 years in the past]
Rip Van Winkel [1819, 31-51 years in the past]
A Tale of Two Cities [1859, 60 years in the past]
Moby-Dick [1851, around 10 years ago]
"Some years ago--never mind how long precisely..."
Les Miserábles [1862, 30 years in the past]
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Treasure Island
Gone With the Wind
Lest Darkness Fall
Casablanca
Oklahoma!
The Ten Commandments
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Gunsmoke
Catch-22 (book)
The Flintstones
The Great Escape
Asterix
Lawrence of Arabia
The Music Man
Bonnie and Clyde
2001: A Space Odyssey (prologue)
American Graffiti
Patton
Catch-22 (movie)
Chinatown
Apocalypse Now
Happy Days
Grease
M*A*S*H
Annie (play)
Roots
Chariots of Fire
Star Wars (IV-VI)
Annie (movie)
The Right Stuff
Back to the Future
Gandhi
Platoon
Dirty Dancing
Back to the Future Part III
The Wonder Years
JFK
The Sandlot
Schindler's List
Raptor Red
Apollo 13
Star Wars (I-III)
The Big Lebowski
Evita
Saving Private Ryan
The Prince of Egypt
Freaks and Geeks
Hotel Rwanda
I Love the '80s
That '70s Show
Pearl Harbor
Ice Age
I Love the '90s
United 93
300
10,000 BC
Year One
The Wolf of Wall Street
I Love the 2000s
Downton Abbey
Star Wars (VII-IX)

# Discussion

http://xkcd.com/1491/large/ will take you to the large version, which the comic currently doesn't have a link to. I expect that will be fixed shortly. 108.162.210.177 05:30, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I just realized he has a text link for it in the top banner. I'd delete my comment, but that's rude on a wiki. Whatever. 108.162.210.177 05:35, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

The bottom diagonal seems to be mislabelled? Shouldn't it be "Stories written X years and set X years ago" instead of "set 2X years ago"? --108.162.250.175 05:38, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

It is correct, if you see both relative from now. The middle line is written X years ago and set X years ago and thus contemporary. Sebastian --108.162.231.68 06:46, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
Correct, but could be clearer. I thought it was a bug at first. 'Stories written X years ago and set X years before publication' Jbalcorn (talk) 16:21, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I'm not sure where to open bug tickets, but Lest Darkness Fall actually takes place ~1500 years ago, not ~500. 141.101.80.121 06:35, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I'll second that -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:36, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Kind of reminds of a Minkowski diagram. Sebastian --108.162.231.68 06:50, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

More and more science fiction works wander into the category obsolete science fiction, and more and more historical works are not recognisable as such by the average viewer as the movies have been filmed such a long time ago anyway. Sebastian --108.162.231.68 06:55, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

There seems to be a mistake with the large diagonal line. It says "Stories written X years ago and set 2X years ago." It should say, "... and set X years ago." Am I missing something here? Effy (talk) 09:35, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Nevermind, I see now that the y-axis is date relative to publication, not absolute dates relative to today. My bad. Effy (talk) 09:37, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I may have missed it, but can't see Paris in the Twentieth Century, written in 1863, about 1960, but only published in 1994. Which would have been an interesting addition. 141.101.98.192 10:13, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

In fact, I'm thinking it could have been represented as a (dotted?) diagonal arrowed line between "1960 in 1863"/future-trending and "1960 in 1994"/past-trending points. But never mind. 141.101.98.192 10:38, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

... this is why experienced sci-fi writers don't date their stories. On the other hand, many sci-fi became obviously obsolete even without the date. -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:00, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I have experience with this. Back in 1995 I advised a prospective author-friend (prospective author; already and still a friend, surprisingly) on the latest computing matters to help a plot device in a "five minutes into the future" story. Even two years later, it sounded so dated and... naff. ('Luckily', it didn't sell too well anyway (bad choice of publishers), so my failure-as-futurologist - uncredited as it also fortunately was - wasn't so wildly known.) 141.101.98.192 13:04, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I've been trying and trying to figure out what the heck his point might be, as IMO there usually seems to be some point he's trying to make or way he's trying to be clever, beyond the interesting nature of the observation - and I think I might have seen one (though there is probably something else) - anyone notice that the area under the "Stories set in 2015" line is awfully bare? at least compared to the areas on either side of the 'x / 2x' line. that could simply be his particular selection of works(?) anyone have some ideas of things that might deserve to go in there that were not included? -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:45, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I think the point here is that there are a lot of books one hasn't read yet. I, for one, sought out Memoirs of the Twentieth Century and The Pillow Book after reading this strip. --Koveras (talk) 13:30, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
He has done stuff like that before, right? Putting the age of some books and movies into perspective, to make the reader feel old. --173.245.53.151 15:16, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
maybe he just wants to see what the people who transcripe it will come up with.108.162.250.173 12:31, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

As for writing a transcript or explanation, concerning order, I would think it would make some sense to flatten it on one axis (probably the y-axis, starting from Star Wars?) or if it is practical enough, the best might be some sort of "radial"(?) axis (is that a thing?), where the axis would be anchored at "this chart", and swing like a radar beam around from the bottom (Downton Abbey, Mad Men, and Star Wars, up through the 'x / 2x' line, through the 'contemporary' line and then the 'set in 2015' line, to finish with '3001', possibly making a small attempt to keep related works (like Star Wars) together in the listing. Any comments? -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:55, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Whatever the fixation, I started work on something, but other people will get there before me. So here's my ideas. Five columns: "Story (and format description/author?)", "First Published/Premiered", "Date offset(s)", "Featured date(s)" and "Notes", with sorting on each potentially numerical one (although ranges/freetext/vagueness may play havoc with such sorting, by past experience).
I already have a complete list of listed titles (in case anyone needs it), though maybe not error-free and not yet been ordered other than by "input order".
```...excised by original author...
```
(Do cut that out of this Talk Page when no longer necessary!)
What I've so far put together (but not yet checked my link formats or WikiTabled) is...
```...excised by original author...
```
...but I'm probably duplicating someone else's efforts so by the time I get back to it you'll have a complete and better version online. FYI if you're determined to build on this while I'm absent, however. 141.101.98.192 14:22, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

This appears to be a log-log graph, but with abrupt changes in scale along one axis yielding cusps in the "still possible / obsolete" line. Is there a name for that? -- 108.162.210.169 14:29, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Hello, me again. I'd also played with a 'transcript description' part. Use (or don't, or correct and then use) what I was writing, if you want. I'm taking the liberty of deleting my prior inserts while I'm here, to avoid the clutter.
```X-axis represents "date of publication" of a work and is irregularly split into 1000s (3000BCE to 1000CE) and then decreasing periods of time until 1955, at which point it becomes every five years up to the present day (2015) and one devision of possibly five years into the future (the upcoming "third Star Wars Trilogy" is indicated by an arrow as lying on-or-beyond 'now', with Episode 7 itself due out not long after the comic date).
Y-axis represents "years ahead/behind publication date in which a story is set" with the 'zero axis' being "set at the time of publication.  "Years in the future" spreads above, by decades until "30 years" then in a metalogarithmic manner through various orders of ten to top-out at 1 billion years.  The "Years in the past" scale, below this, extends by five years down to 60 years and then similarly quickly speeds through to 1 billion years in the past, and the time of the Big Bang as lowest limit.
Above the 'here and now', a region is shaded within a line to represent the border between future settings that should have happened by this date, and below we find a similar shading/line that represents set twice as long ago as was written.  Both lines continue into "2015+" territory in a manner similar to a "light cone".
```
...ok? 141.101.98.192 15:43, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I created a basic table using 141.101.98.192's data - bits corrected. Jarod997 (talk) 14:46, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

I'm in the process of writing a transcript myself. Mine is not formatted as a table; I am under the impression that this is the preferred approach to transcripts on this site. However, the existing table would be perfect in another section, where we can give more detail than a true transcript can/should provide (e.g. "this is a book written by X, here's the wikilink", "this is an error, it should be X", etc.) -- Peregrine (talk) 14:55, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Meh, I created the table as a starting point. If people want to use it and add to it, great. If something better is created, that's fine too. :) Jarod997 (talk) 15:12, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
I've moved the table to its own section and put in my more minimalistic, list-style transcript (based on what I found in other "large drawing" articles. I have only included dates in the transcript as an indication of the coordinates at which each item is located (and I found several that seem misplaced vertically, perhaps to accommodate other labels, e.g. Next Generation). Also, it isn't finished; everything's listed, in (more or less) the right order, but the last bunch don't have their dates/coordinates. I got as far as Les Mis before stopping. -- Peregrine (talk) 15:45, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
Looks good Peregrine! I like it. =8o) Jarod997 (talk) 17:02, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Not sure of the protocol here, but the trivia section currently states that "Rip Van Winkel" is a misspelling of "Rip Van Winkle." The use of Winkel in the comic can be correct. (http://i.imgur.com/Z0adeEJ.jpg) The transcription also lists "Rip Can Winkel [sic]" but the comic actually uses "Rip Van Winkel." 108.162.238.181 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

This Comic seems to follow the tradition of 647: Scary, 891: Movie Ages, 973: MTV Generation, 1393: Timeghost, and 1477: Star Wars. Making people feel old. --173.245.53.151 16:14, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Seems like it might have been useful to include some kind of indication of related subject matter from the upper left to the lower right in the "Stories set in the past" section. Mostly looking at the WW II related works. (Bridge/Kwai, Catch-22, Patton, Schindler, Ryan, Pearl Harbor) all seem to make a pretty straight line. Similarly, seeing that relationship between Apocalypse Now and Platoon. Finally, calling the earlier WW II era works 'former period pieces' seems odd. I think I'd still understand which parts were supposed to sound old in those (or maybe it's just that I am old). 199.27.128.215 18:50, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

did nobody see 2001 or was the title text forgotten about? i didnt see 2001 so i cant explain the joke. im pretty sure its just a joke about how it sounds similar, but i dont want to add that explanation if its wrong.TheJonyMyster (talk) 22:55, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Does Randall exclude the 1984 film The Terminator because the main portion occurs in 1984, or do you suppose it's because the film is not technically obsolete, given the wandering date of the predicted Judgement Day (as well as actual existence of killbots, advanced tactical simulation systems & a large broadband computer network named SkyNet)? It has often occurred to me that the only thing fictional about The Terminator is the existence of a device enabling time travel. ("The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that time travel is impossible." T'Pol, Enterprise ;) He seems to have left out many notable predictive works which in fact came true, rather than becoming "obsolete". 173.245.55.29 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

even correct predictions are obsolete. Because they change into facts. Let's say on Thursday I predict it will be sunny on Friday. It is sunny on Friday. Now it's Saturday. Is my prediction from Thursday obsolete, or current? --108.162.249.166 05:46, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
This comic's theme is stories who don't take place on their publication's date. Also, some of the listed stories have a (more or less) historically accurate setting.--108.162.229.165 12:25, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

Whoever wrote the date explanation for "The Time Machine" seems to have used a ridiculous number of significant figures justified by neither the book nor comic (or, for that matter, films). Even more important, the dates aren't even the right order of magnitude. I'm going to fix it, but I just thought I'd leave a comment in case the numbers actually came from somewhere. If they did, please enlighten me. 108.162.216.79 22:23, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

At least according to the main Wikipedia, the year in which the traveler first meets the Eloi is known precisely. I'm going to leave it rounded, though, so as not to cause confusion, as the the time of the furthest he gets in the future is definitely not known to more than one sigfig.108.162.216.79 22:40, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
'Twas I, in my initial (now excised) part-compilation, using the accuracy I could extract from sources like Wiki. And when I tried to add back in the 'range' element (mysteriously lost, and also wanted to add the last column for notes), I kept getting edit conflicts. Sorted now, though. I don't mind the rounding, except for it actually being a known value (a rare thing). (I had also intended to add in the notes that it actually started in/encompassed 'the present', or rather "three years ago", by the timeline of the primary narator, 'though not indicated as such on the chart.) 141.101.98.192 14:45, 27 February 2015 (UTC)

The Star Wars footnote is incorrect: our universe is 13.8B, less th 13B for SW uni = ~1B years. The formation of galaxies puts a *maximum* time difference of 13.4B years, not 0.4B. 199.27.133.136 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I found that confusing myself - it's correct, just badly written. Our universe is 13.8b years old; the Star Wars universe is 13b years old (800,000 years younger). - Andrew Williams, 10:57BST, 28 February 2015.

Now, where on the graph would "The Day After Tomorrow" be placed, I wonder..? ;) 141.101.98.181 21:57, 3 March 2015 (UTC)