PAPER AIRPLANES -- How SciFi Becomes Reality

Peter Ostebo is filmmaker and screenwriter from Austin, TX and a friend about half the people who run this festival.  In fact, it's pretty amazing we didn't rope him into more work this last year.  We did however, trick him into writing this blog.


“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur C. Clarke

Once upon a time, a Geek told a Jock about his cool achievements in programming. He was quickly punched in his puny arms and tears trickled down from his four eyes. Meanwhile, a Nerd was playing with his eight-point articulating action figure but was quickly defeated by the size 9 shoe of a gigantic middle-schooler.

Nerds and Geeks were mortal enemies to Jocks and ‘Cool’ kids when I was growing up, but the nerds eventually got their revenge. No, not like the movie. They got their revenge by staying true to what they loved and growing up with the same desire to see their imaginations turned into realities.

“What if you had a real Lightsaber?” “When are they going to invent hover boards?” “What would you make if you had a replicator?”

These questions were the dragon fire of many debates and occasional arm punching, even between brothers in Chess club.

“What would you do if you had a real Iron Man suit?”

Seems like a childish question, doesn’t it? Not any more.

Right now scientists, real scientists in real labs with funding and more degrees than a hot day in Austin, are working on making what used to be science fiction into practical reality. Strength enhancing exoskeletons are being tested at MIT. 3D printers are widely available. Self-driving cars are right around the corner. And water-based hover boards look awesome.

Maybe all these things would’ve happened with or without SciFi movies and the nerds who watched them, but that thought is quickly dispelled when we remember that all innovative technology first has to start in the imagination, and what better place to stir imagination than with light, sound, and magic?

Kids grow up and become engineers and programmers and CAD designers and are the future of advanced technology. These are new frontiers that we only thought possible on film until they asked, “what if?”

Four hundred years before it was possible, Leonardo Da Vinci looked up at the sky and asked ‘what if?’ Then without permission, without funding, and without regard to what other people thought of him, Da Vinci sketched plans for a flying machine. Do you think people made fun of him? Do you think people told him that his ideas were childish? In his time, he wasn’t seen as a very accomplished artist, so it’s not like he could defend himself. Nonetheless, he sketched out his dreams onto paper because he wanted to believe that such things were possible. Today, we don’t think of flying machines as science fiction, but it took 400 years before anyone could prove that wrong. Everything is science fiction before it’s accomplished.

I hope to see this year, and future years at Other Worlds Austin, interesting ideas that can only be called science fiction but leaves the audience asking ‘what if?’ What if this was actually possible? Maybe it would inspire the future Nerds and Geeks of the world to turn what could only be called magic, into reality.