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1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:06 am UTC
by Dr What
Image
title="Little-known fact: The 'Dawn of Man' opening sequence in 2001 cuts away seconds before the Flinstones theme becomes recognizable."

Large picture: http://xkcd.com/1491/large/

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:17 am UTC
by sportsracer48
Seen hovering somewhere above the graph: Anathem.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:19 am UTC
by pelrigg
This really needs to have the blow-up chart treatment like Up-goer Five, Gravity Wells and the Movie narrative. Perhaps latter today. Randall will post one.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:23 am UTC
by rhomboidal
I'm wondering when on the graph the world loses the ability to read anything longer than an Amazon customer review.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:48 am UTC
by Chuq
pelrigg wrote:This really needs to have the blow-up chart treatment like Up-goer Five, Gravity Wells and the Movie narrative. Perhaps latter today. Randall will post one.


http://xkcd.com/1491/large/

But I think it needs to be even larger than that!

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 6:13 am UTC
by Envelope Generator
Nice that Water Margin got in.

It took me about five minutes of gawking to start understanding what exactly I'm looking at...

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 6:25 am UTC
by Pfhorrest
The concept of "former period pieces" applied to Back To The Future makes me feel really weird. Like, from my perspective it's obvious how totally different the 50s and the 80s are... though I have remarked recently that the present of 2015 seems more like 1985 than it does what they thought 2015 would look like back in 1985. (And oddly enough, that projected 2015 also seems more like 1985 than it does the real present 2015). But what really makes me feel weird is that, if there were a time-travel story set in 1885 wherein they go back in time to 1855... I don't think I'd be able to tell the difference in the eras at all, and probably wouldn't really care. And it's really disconcerting to realize that some day people looking back on Back To The Future will feel that way about its story. "Oh wow, they travel from the late-mid 20th century to the mid-mid 20th century! And oh my, how different everything was then </sarcasm>".

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 6:29 am UTC
by shortpride33
I think the Illiad and the Epic of Gilgamesh have their publication dates and dates in the past swapped.
The Illiad was first recorded around 550BC and takes place around 1250BC
I'm less certain about the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Regardless I love the graph.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 6:45 am UTC
by Steve the Pocket
You know, I never really thought about it before, but yeah, the differences that they showed between 1955 and 1985 were pretty superficial, other than a brief nod toward the disenfranchisement of non-whites. Like, Part II deliberately made the wildest predictions they could think of, like stuff set in "the future" practically always does, which is why so much of it still feels futuristic. But if we were to make a movie today that plays up the actual differences between 1985 and 2015, and didn't revolve around characters who spend all day on the Internet, how far could we really take it?

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 6:48 am UTC
by ilduri
Though it's not as well known, it'd have been cool to see The Mummy! on this chart, which was published in 1827 and set in 2126; (so 299 years in its future). The story itself is mostly a knock-off of Frankenstien, but it's noteworthy as perhaps the first work of science fiction to be set in the future specifically so that the setting could include advanced technology. Among other things, people can communicate nearly instantaneously with each other from anywhere around the globe, and the ladies all wear trousers (gasp!).

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 6:53 am UTC
by Whatev
Oh, man, Looking Backward. Though it's by far the older, the easiest way to describe it is as a leftist analogue to Atlas Shrugged. I remember when I got assigned that book for an American literature class--so many students were pissed about having to read that tripe that the professor and TAs actually had to get up and defend the choice of the book during lecture.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 7:18 am UTC
by rhaebus
DUNE > 21000 years future

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 7:45 am UTC
by easchner
No 'A Christmas Story'? It would go right under the description of the past line.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 8:51 am UTC
by Cubus
I can't belive "Interstellar" and Battlestar Galactica are missing. There's so few SciFi stories listed...

Also, "Total Recall" would have been nice to see.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 9:09 am UTC
by drunken
Is it just me or is the History of the Peloponnesian War in the wrong place on the chart? It seems to be implying it is set in 2005.

Edit: Oh I just realised it is a relative scale, I thought the past/present line was now. Ignore me.

Edit 2: Putting a specific event (big bang) on a relative timescale is kind of unprofessional, even if in this case it is accurate.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 9:21 am UTC
by dodgy geezer
"Dr Who" would occupy a large shaded rectangle stretching from top to bottom of the picture, and from 1963 to the present day.

That's around half of the whole figure...

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 9:25 am UTC
by boltzmann
No Blade Runner?

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 9:57 am UTC
by Caesar
I don't understand this chart. What are the diagonal lines?
The upper one could mean "these are stories that are set in 2015" and the lower one could mean "these are stories that are set in the time they were written", depending on whether the y axis mean "x years into the past from NOW or from the time it was written", but not both.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:01 am UTC
by Chuq
Has Randall updated this, or did I not notice Zero Wing or 300 the first time round?

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:13 am UTC
by Eogan
Which "Gospels" is he talking about? Because I'm pretty sure the Biblical ones were set a little more than 24-80 years ago. 0.0

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:17 am UTC
by orthogon
Caesar wrote:I don't understand this chart. What are the diagonal lines?
The upper one could mean "these are stories that are set in 2015" and the lower one could mean "these are stories that are set in the time they were written", depending on whether the y axis mean "x years into the past from NOW or from the time it was written", but not both.

The two lines are labelled, but in the same font/size as all the titles so it's easy to miss. You're correct about the upper one; the lower one is "Stories written X years ago and set 2X years ago" and the block of text "Former period pieces" explains the significance of this line. And yes, the y axis is years in the future/past relative to the time they were written.

I like this one very much; I think Randall's been "in the zone" of late.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:18 am UTC
by maho
I have trouble with interpreting this chart. What exactly is upper and bottom line? It's border between what and what?

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:55 am UTC
by da Doctah
I'm looking in vain for some of my favorite silent movies. The General (released 1925, set early 1860s) is buried somewhere under the verbiage about people not realizing things were supposed to be old-timey when new, and Zorro (published 1919, set roughly 1820) is nowhere to be seen. Also notable by their absence are the four separate dots representing Intolerance.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:23 am UTC
by nathanmacinnes
Constant time contour lines curving round the chart would have been helpful. They could be called isochrons.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:34 am UTC
by drachefly
Lest Darkness Fall was not set in 1435 (1936-500 as on the chart). It is set starting 535.

Anathem would be set outside the plane of the chart.

pfhorrest wrote:if there were a time-travel story set in 1885 wherein they go back in time to 1855... I don't think I'd be able to tell the difference in the eras at all, and probably wouldn't really care.


Maybe in some parts of the world, but in the USA, that difference is pretty drastic. Hoo-ee. It's maybe the same difference as from 1959 to 1989. Probably bigger.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:41 am UTC
by fhtagn
Would it be hard to parse wikipedia and fill the map/graph?

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:45 am UTC
by jgh
Ooo! Water Margin! :)

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 12:37 pm UTC
by kasmeneo
Star Wars is set a billion years in the past? I'm confused. Where does it say so? (Except from the vague "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away".)

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 12:55 pm UTC
by Neil_Boekend
kasmeneo wrote:Star Wars is set a billion years in the past? I'm confused. Where does it say so? (Except from the vague "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away".)
Well, if it happened in a galaxy far, far away then it must be a long time ago or the documentaries wouldn't be available to us, would they now? I mean NGC 4945 is considered close, at 11.7 million lightyears so a far, far away galaxy would be somewhere around a billion light years away and thus a billion years ago. Else we couldn't have the movies. DUH.

Spoiler:
I might have been in a slightly silly mood when I wrote this.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 12:58 pm UTC
by MrMonty
I'm disappointed there's no "Dazed & Confused." I remember watching that the first time, being too young to recognize the actors, and thinking the movie had actually been made in the 1970's.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:03 pm UTC
by suso
Cool chart! Doesn't Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit belong somewhere in there between 1 million and a billion years ago?

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:03 pm UTC
by SpitValve
I find The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo are interesting examples of this.

Both are were completed in the 1840s by Alexandre Dumas, but The Three Musketeers is in a historical setting (1620s), while The Count of Monte Cristo is basically in a contemporary setting (1815-1839). So in the original novel of The Count of Monte Cristo, there's basically no violence at all - there's almost a pistol duel but that's it. But in modern movie adaptations, they're both pushed back into the same vague period of swashbuckling adventurers with swords and muskets, and no one would dream of filming The Count of Monte Cristo without a couple of melodramatic sword fights.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:20 pm UTC
by Steroid
I want to see where "The Last Question" fits.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:21 pm UTC
by orthogon
Withnail & I became a "former period piece" ten years ago. I find this hard to get my head around. In one sense, I'm particularly sensitive to the difference between the two time periods, because it was made when I was a teenager and set before I was born. On the other hand, I didn't see it until my 20s, and the "period" detail is so well done that it's not obvious that it wasn't made in the time in which it was set.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:55 pm UTC
by cellocgw
I'm not quite sure what Ed Tufte would think of this chart. All the same, quite an interesting pile of observations.

Reminds me of serious short-sightedness in lots of scifi books. For example, in Starman Jones, they're doing interstellar hops, but they have to read the coordinates out of a printed refererence and hand-key them into the nav system. oops.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 2:10 pm UTC
by rmsgrey
suso wrote:Cool chart! Doesn't Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit belong somewhere in there between 1 million and a billion years ago?


No.

By Tolkien's reckoning, mid-20th Century was Seventh Age, with Ages trending shorter over time, so LotR/Hobbit would be around 10 000 years ago at most.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 2:40 pm UTC
by Sleet
That's an awesome chart. I was a bit surprised to see Raptor Red (a great read, but it never seemed all that well known over here) on there among all the other great stories, especially with so many others left to be added.

Though I guess there aren't that many stories set in the 'tens of millions of years ago' bracket.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 2:43 pm UTC
by mathmannix
I always remember being told that the Jetsons took place 30 years in the future (i.e. circa 1992). However, all the sources I can find say something along the lines of "it was originally planned on being 100 years in the future [i.e. 2062] but this was never actually said on the show." Oh well.

Eogan wrote:Which "Gospels" is he talking about? Because I'm pretty sure the Biblical ones were set a little more than 24-80 years ago. 0.0

The Gospels were written at some point in the second half of the first century (Mark was almost certainly written between AD 50 and AD 70, with the others possibly a decade or two later), and covered a period from [several] BC to AD 30ish, so roughly somewhere from 20 to 80 years into the past. (Like many contemporary biographies and histories.)

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:18 pm UTC
by sevenperforce
Eogan wrote:Which "Gospels" is he talking about? Because I'm pretty sure the Biblical ones were set a little more than 24-80 years ago. 0.0

The gospels were written in the late first century CE (horizontal axis), but were set 24-75 years before they were written (vertical axis).

The vertical axis is how many years separated the setting and the writing. That's why things like the Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis are very low on the chart, because they were set hundreds-thousands of years before they were written. The Gospels, the Pillow Book, and the History of the Peloponnesian War are the only things written particularly long ago which were set less than a century before they were written.

Randall should have put about a 1-pixel slant in the line representing the Gospels to show that they were written over a period of time.

The reason the vertical axis is relative is to allow it to show which things were originally history/period fiction and which things were originally science fiction. As drunken points out, it's kind of misleading to have the Big Bang at the bottom of the scale because it's relative, not absolute.

dodgy geezer wrote:"Dr Who" would occupy a large shaded rectangle stretching from top to bottom of the picture, and from 1963 to the present day.

That's around half of the whole figure...

Fixed it!
Spoiler:
DWbase.png

The Toclafane's "Year 100 Trillion" are, I think, the latest date depicted in Doctor Who, and I know that the Doctor has gone back to before the Big Bang a few times, so I think I got the scale right. It's actually pretty neat that a substantial portion of Doctor Who counts as a "former period piece"...things set in the past, but closer to the time they were written than to the present. If I had forty hours to burn I could go through and make an individual entry for each of the 813 Doctor Who episodes; it would be neat to see where different things clustered (particularly if we had a separate marker for each of the 12+ doctors).

I'm guessing it would probably look something like this...
Spoiler:
DWbase.png


The yellow is the first series; the brown is the second series. I didn't delineate between each of the various doctors, as this would have taken entirely too long.

Surely someone has made an exhaustive timeline of the Doctor's travels relative to broadcast, right?

Oh, of course they have.

Really neat, though I guess it doesn't actually show two separate axes.

Re: 1491: "Stories of the Past and Future"

Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:33 pm UTC
by Valarya
Envelope Generator wrote:It took me about five minutes of gawking to start understanding what exactly I'm looking at...


I'm still looking at an embiggened version and still have no idea what I'm looking at. I thought it made sense for a moment, but now I see that the book 1984 is on the line for 30 years in the future, which is just confusing the shit out of me.

boltzmann wrote:No Blade Runner?

My first thought as well.

EDIT:
sevenperforce wrote:The vertical axis is how many years separated the setting and the writing.
...
...
The reason the vertical axis is relative is to allow it to show which things were originally history/period fiction and which things were originally science fiction.

Ohhhhhh. Thank you! That's the tip I needed to make it all click. :?