Cities in the Sky seeks to credit lost sci-fi visionaries

Posted by CB Droege

It’s no secret of history that many scientific and social advances were seen first in the pages of science fiction, and this project seeks to show you the ones most of us don’t know about.

From Philip K. Dick’s translation computer to Isaac Asimov’s Robotics, technology and sociology are full of examples of moments when a speculative writer saw clearly into the future, sometime by luck or chance, and sometimes by a genuine understanding of the paths of progress. Most science-fiction fans can rattle off a dozen examples of this, but there are some such predictions that have been lost to history, only to be found by a researcher willing to dig deep into the way-back annals of speculative fiction.

That’s what Cities in the Sky is about. This documentary project seeks to reveal the ‘forgotten’ innovators who foresaw some of the great advances of society over the last thousand years; some before ‘science fiction’ was even a genre. The documentary will feature interviews with technological and literary experts combined with CGI animations and green-screened reenactments of scenes from the books discussed.

The project is attempting to run on crowd-sourced funds, however, with a Kickstarter campaign at the center. Here’s their introduction video from the Kickstarter site:

The video doesn’t mention any of the names of any of the actual innovators that the documentary - and accompanying graphic novel - will cover, but the Kickstarter page details three of them:

Space travel, aliens and more staple science fiction concepts were all contemplated and detailed by Lucian in his work True History in the 2nd century AD.  This is a controversial selection for this documentary, but the date of authorship and the sheer number of science fiction themes explored in his writing makes it an easy pick.

Edward Page Mitchell's work The Clock That Went Backward predated H.G. Wells’s much better known work about time travel The Time Machine.  Additionally, Mitchell penned several other gems involving invisibility and other topics often seen in modern science fiction.

The work of Russian Vladimir Odoevsky is also explored in Cities in the Sky.  Odoevsky’s The Year 4338: Petersburg Letters was written in 1835 and yet prognosticates an impressive array of technological breakthroughs and concepts including communications breakthroughs like blogging.

The filmmakers running the project, Issac and Marisa, are film festival directors, who claim to have seen thousands of documentaries, and feel that this gives them the expertise required to pull off the project successfully.  

As of this writing, Cities in the Sky has collected about $10k of its $43k goal from over a hundred backers. The funding period ends on February 5, 2013, at which point the project’s funding success will be determined. If you wish to contribute, visit the Kickstarter page.