How to put this... The Future, but not so far into it that you'd notice except for the abundance of Applied Phlebotinum. This is often a linear extrapolation of national malaise or existing crises, so American works of the 1970s have endlessly skyrocketing crime and inner urban decay while the 1980s brought the notion that Mega Corps and Japan would rule the world. When the 1990s came around, the US economy recovered while the Japanese economy tanked; The Great Politics Mess-Up and subsequent collapse of many authoritarian communist regimes drastically changed the political picture of both the present and the future. Instead of criminal anarchy or corporate governance, there's a lot more focus on how technology has come to permeate everyday life and challenge long-held conceptions of the individual and society as a whole.
Obviously, the setting of most Flash Forward stories, though they usually don't make a big deal of it except as a minor joke (in the case of a show like The Simpsons, a major joke). Of course, Science Marches On, so it's fun to watch 10 years later to see how wrong they got it. Television series are especially prone to this, as they tend to make use of various props, costumes, and effects that reflect the sensibilities of their time but become increasingly dated over a long run.
Both Max Headroom, and Brazil, lampshade the Zeerust problem by setting themselves explicitly "20 Minutes into the Future" and "Somewhere in the Twentieth Century," respectively (rather than identifying specific dates) and by mixing up production designs and costumes that would have been considered "futuristic"in the '80s with random elements from previous decades.
See also Next Sunday A.D., which is completely indistinguishable from the present, but claims to be happening in the future anyway. How much Applied Phlebotinum it takes to flip Next Sunday A.D. into full-scale Twenty Minutes Into The Future is an interesting question, since many stories employing fictional technology are actually set in the present. Can result in I Want My Jetpack if the writers set the work not sufficiently far into the future, and the year the work was set in comes in real life without any of the new technology it featured. Compare to Urban Fantasy as the magical version. Inverted by Twenty Minutes into the Past.
A good way to gauge whether or not a show takes place Twenty Minutes Into The Future: would much of the world's population at the time of filming still be alive by then?
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A new Volkswagen commercial has someone debating about buying a car, only to have his future self (wearing nifty "futuristic clothes") from "13 days in the future" pop into the showroom and tell him to buy the car.
Kevin Butler of Sony greets the people of March 2010 from the "crazy" future of November 2010. Aside from declaring the success of the Playstation Move, he says that people drink their food through straws, and Kansas City won the World Series.note Non-Americans and Americans who don't care about baseball - the Kansas City Royals are a notoriously terrible baseball team. Sony was being facetious, they didn't have a chance.
The now famous "1984" ad from Apple to promote their new Macintosh during the Super Bowl of, you guessed it, 1984. The ad depicts what would happen to the world had the Macintosh not be made in time and then IBM being displayed as a Big Brother expy on a giant television screen.
A Nike Jordans commercial aired during the 2012 Olympics showed two preteens, one in China and the other in the U.S., watching the 2012 Olympics and being inspired to pursue careers in basketball because of it. It shows them training throughout grade school, playing each other in college sports, then being recruited for the 2029 NBA draft, then playing in the 2032 Olympics, which are apparently in Cairo. The technology gets increasingly high tech, showing whole building ads and futuristic TVs the take up whole walls.
The original series, first aired on Japanese television in 1995-96, is explicitly set in the year 2015, with a Back Story involving an apocalyptic cataclysm in the year 2000. Despite having artificially intelligent computers, giant biomechs, and the ability to sequence a genome stored in particle wave matter in seconds, the Japanese governments' nuclear-powered giant robot runs MS-DOS, and the wifi-enabled laptops in schools (despite doing wireframe 3D modeling) can only draw dialogue boxes using ASCII art. Shinji uses an "SDAT" personal stereo, a fictional product in similar vein to the Digital Compact Cassette (a format that launched straight into obscurity in 1992) — in other words, a cassette player. Could be explained as the result of Second Impact stalling technological advance in all fields except those relating to the threat at hand.
Rebuild of Evangelion justifies the tape player by establishing that it was his father's, and therefore has sentimental value.
In the ending of the manga adaptation (which finished in 2013), a Cosmic Retcon resets the timeline so that said apocalyptic event never occurred. The brief glimpses we see of the new 2015 are much more in line with present day fashion and technology.
The Astro Boy manga, original publication 1951, had the titular robot boy being created on April 7, 2003, a time in which robots and flying cars were routine. When that date rolled around, the flying cars and robots were absent, but we did get a new television series, first broadcast on that exact date in Japan. At the very least, the Japanese government granted full citizenship to Astro Boy.
The future of Macross features not only the Macross crashing to Earth in 1999, but a global unification war where the forces that overthrow the world's governments are the good guys. And this is Back Story for the actual alien invasion in 2009.
Deadman Wonderland is set sometime in the 2020s. Considering that most of the series is set in a prison, we don't get to see too much of the outside world. They do seem to have holographic projectors and some advanced robotics, but that is about it in terms of new technology. Tokyo is seemingly recovering from a massive earthquake that occurred ten years previous, so it is a little crappy but from what little we see of the world, it is not too much different from to today.
Attack of the Super-Monsters, a memorably bad live action/anime combination, had sentient dinosaurs (played by hand puppets) returning to take over the Earth in 2000.
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds takes place in the recent future, proven by the fact that Tetsu Ushio was confirmed to be the same character as the one who appeared in the original series, only a few decades older.
Code E is set in 2017, although the only immediately recognizable difference from the actual modern day are computerized blackboards in the classrooms and computerized billboards and ads on buses. These both exist, but aren't as widespread as in the series.
And these big-ass 20 TB memory card they're sellin in the school mensa.
AKIRA begins with a nuclear explosion in 1988 that sets off World War III. (In fact, the date of the explosion given in the movie — 1988.07.16 — was the date the movie premičred.)
Digimon Adventure 02 is set in 2003 (2002 in the original). Since the show was first premiered in 2000, the anime was set 3 (4) years into the future. Digimon Tamers also plays with the trope, but is set in 200X.
Alien Nine takes place in 2014, but the setting isn't that different from the present, except for alien invasions being a daily part of life.
Real Account would be an example of Next Sunday A.D., being almost identical to the early 2010s era it is based off of, if not for the titular social network, which purports to unify the diversified functions of such services onto one convenient platform. Which also traps some of its users into a Deadly Game.
Wangan Midnight is set in the year 20XX. The manga was first published in 1992, and is still being published to this day. The year allows for cars that were previously nonexistent to be introduced in later chapters of the manga without forcing the story to advance years at a time. After all, how else can you make a Skyline GT-R R34, which started production in 1999, appear in the manga without making everyone age seven years?
Considering the nature of the heroines of Mnemosyne, it's a rather interesting case in that we get to see 2011, 2025, and 2055 in the span of four episodes.
X/1999 is set in, you guessed it, 1999. When it began publication in the early 1990s, it was Twenty Minutes into the Future. The series is still unfinished as of early 2009. CLAMP now admit that they guessed wrong on some noticeable details, such as the rise of cellphones.
Android Announcer Maico 2010 (made in 1998) provides another example of how hard prediction is. In 2010, the android Maico's first OS (operating system) is on a 3 1/2 inch floppy, and her full OS is on 50 CDs. It's now 2010, and Windows 7 is a 20 gigabyte OS supplied on DVDs or downloaded from the Net... and most people can't even remember the last time they used a floppy disk.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica averts this by using contemporary technology (such as interactive whiteboards and digital picture frames), although fans who aren't familiar with the technology have mistaken it for this trope (Word of God is that it takes place in 2011, the same year it was released).
The hardly known 1982 anime film Future War 198X; The title says it all. At the time this film was made, it was assumed that whatever might happen to ignite a third world war would happen sometime in that decade. Given the political climate at the time, there was excellent reason to believe that the 1980s would be the "make it or break it" decade as far as U.S./Soviet relations were concerned.
Subverted in Code Geass, which appears to be this trope with a dose of Alternate History, and reveals the date to be in the late 2010s. The catch is, it also has an alternate calendar; it actually takes place Twenty Minutes into the Past. How they managed to jump ahead of our level of technology by about half a century is not clear.
Accel World is set in 2046 but it doesn't seem that different from modern day Japan, aside from a few technological differences.
UQ Holder is set in roughly the 2080's, and boasts such futuristic technologies as a space elevator. Although the Magitek of the setting blurs exactly how advanced the technology is.
Watchmen is set 20 minutes into the past. It was first published in 1986, but is set in an Alternate History 1985. This subtlety seemed lost on a reviewer for TIME magazine, who seemed to think that it took place in a dystopianfuture.
The DC Comics crossover Armageddon 2001, released in 1991. When 2001 rolled around, none of the future events happened (and because of the floating timeline, the crossover could no longer have really happened in 2001 anyway).
V for Vendetta is set in the grim future of 1997, in a post-apocalyptic Britain ruled by Nazis. Some of the original comics used the tagline "Pray the future never needs... V For Vendetta!". The film adaptation shifts this into the near future as seen from 2006 (2020? 2027?), thinly veiled references to the Bush administration and all.
DC's Tangent Comics imprint (1997), like Watchmen, ran with the idea that the presence of superhumans caused technology to advance more quickly than in our world. According to editor Eddie Berganza: "Leaps in technology, due in part to the superhumans, make the Tangent Universe about 10 years more advanced than where we are now. If you think you spend a lot of time in front of your computer now, just wait. It's not so hard to imagine print on paper going the way of the dodo." Considering how well newspapers are doing in 2009, Eddie's prophecy dart is at least hitting the board.
Deathlok, a Marvel Comics character, is a time-traveling cyborg from the 1990s, where civilization has been almost destroyed by nuclear war. In 1974 when the character was created, this seemed plausible, but by this point he's had more than one major retcon. Which is a weird one. Obviously, cyborgs were not running around in Real Life in the '90s but in the Marvel Universe, cyborgs were quite common, among other things.
Kingdom Come takes place an indeterminate amount of time in the future of the DC Universe. This is noticeable less through advanced technology (since there was already plenty of that) and more through older characters.
In one old comic book, aliens show up to a futuristic looking Earth and contact the planet. When nobody answers, they take it as an insult and attack. In the last panel, we learn that humans are now living on Mars, and Earth has been uninhabited since the Nuclear War of 2000.
The timeline of the Grendel series starts out in the present day, becomes this trope for the Christine Spar story arc and its immediate aftermath, and then leaps ahead several generations for the Grendel-spirit's later incarnations.
Transmetropolitan is implied to take place in extremely distant future; there are references to entire half-forgotten time periods between now and then.
The Highwaymen is about a pair of retired badasses from the late 20th century who have to get back together for one more job in 2022.
Commando had a series set in the near future where war was effectively outlawed. Instead, nations solved their issues using virtual reality.
American Flagg is set in a dystopian (and eerily prescient in some ways) 2031.
Judge Dredd is set 122 years in an alternate future, and the character ages in real time, meaning that number never changes. It also means that as of 2014, Dredd himself has aged 37 years since his inception in 1977.
The original Star-Lord stories took place in the early 90's (the comics themselves began publication in 1976), but this was retconned to the present when the character entered the mainstream Marvel Universe during Annihilation. Star-Lord was later given a revised origin in Guardians of the Galaxy that removed all of these aspects.
In the old Buck Rogers comics, at one point the hero-pirate Black Barney is trapped on the floor of a Martian ocean, and discovers the wreckage of the first manned Earth-to-Mars expedition, launched in 1949. This was still some years away at the time of the strip, and would also be after Buck Rogers started his long nap.
Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future. The original series (written in the 1950s and 1960s) took place in an "advanced" future starting in 1995 spanning which had Britain as the world leader of space flight; missions to Venus, Mars, Mercury and Saturn's moons (all of which had/have their own civilization) and beyond the solar system.
Flash Gordon started being published in the 1930s and took place in the future of 1970. Adaptations have variously taken place in the present, Twenty Minutes Into The Future, or in the far future.
Marks of Time is set in 2024, which was twenty years into the future at the time of publication. Technology has some improvements: cell phones have become small earpieces, televisions and laptops are thin, and some devices understand voice commands. Also, hair dye is convenient and popular.
Seminal movie example: 2001: A Space Odyssey, which in the titular year had commercial spaceflight and space stations, moon bases, cryogenics, and at least two sentient computers. Oh... and the Cold War, and Pan Am and the Bell System. However, it was critically praised for realism in other things such as not having sound in space, not running the engine unless accelerating, and having flat panel screens. And a 10-minute call from the Moon to the Earth cost less than $2.
Lampshaded in the quasi-futuristic dystopiaBrazil, which takes place "Somewhere in the 20th Century" at "8:45 p.m.". Though it could just as easily be a Zeerust-filledAlternate Universe set in the present; the setting is left deliberately vague. More precisely, it could be twenty minutes into the future of the recent past.
Demolition Man predicts Los Angeles descending into absolute anarchy and advanced cryogenic freezing technology in 1996, a mere three years after the movie's release date. It also predicted that Taco Bell would become the most powerful economic force on the planet. Make of that what you will. And President Schwarzenegger. It was wrong about San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara merging into one city following a huge earthquake in 2010...or maybe the date was just off. Someone can come back in 2032 and report on how accurate the rest of the film is.
The Japanese Godzilla movie Destroy All Monsters, made in 1968, was set in 1999, a year when humans would've supposedly set up a moon colony, built an island capable of holding Godzilla and his buddies, and contacted aliens in shiny silver suits. Similarly, Godzilla vs Monster Zero which took place in "198X" featured travel to other planets in the solar system.
According to Michael Bay's The Island, we will have flying motorcycles, hovering trains in the deep South, and really ugly hotrods. Oh, and a city of clones kept for their organs (which already seems archaic, as we can do the same thing with pigs).
Escape from New York occurs NOW (in 1997). By this time, crime is so rampant that the island of Manhattan is walled off and converted into a penal colony, and the US is an authoritarian state.
The part about New York was becoming a genuine fear at the time since the film was made only a few years after the 1977 blackout and riot.
The Los Angeles sequel likewise played off L.A.'s growing image as a perpetual disaster area (fires, riots, gangbangers) and did so in a more tongue-in-cheek manner.
Also a corrupt Bible-thumping President Evil making prophecies getting the Constitution amended to make himself President-for-Life.
Also life-like holographic projection technology, universal mini-disc playback devices capable of transmitting into space, and a network of EMP Kill Sats.
Gattaca is frighteningly plausible. Beyond the culture shift brought about by genetic engineering, we see little that would be out of place in our own society, except perhaps the neo-noir fashions and pianists with twelve fingers. However, the fact that we people can map and interpret the entire genetic makeup of a human being, based on a raw cell sample, in a matter of seconds using only a handheld device is far beyond what we're likely to have in the near future. The only area it makes you scratch your head in is the odd mostly-at-a-desk astronaut training program, business suits for spacecraft uniforms, and where/why all these flights are happening.
Minority Report famously had a group of futurologists working on the staff of the movie to make the shown future as plausible as possible. Discounting the precognitives and the somewhat improbable traffic system, the future they came up with, with its omnipresent retinal scans and subsequent total loss of privacy (as well as businesses using said scans to bombard you with advertising) and gesture-based computing controls, certainly could happen.
There is frequent use of cheap, thin, and flexible OLED displays, most prominently for advertisement and commercial purposes, such as showing animated cartoons on a cereal box.
One element, the Jet Packs, was not in the scientists' prediction; Spielberg only added them as an homage to Commando Cody.
Gackt's vampire-yakuza movie Moon Child starts at the Millennium celebrations in Tokyo, then jumps forward to various points in the main characters' lives, passing 2014, and "A few years later". The setting has Japan devastated by an economic crisis leading to massive emigration to a fictional city on what appears to be Taiwan, where Japanese are low-class.
Predator 2 predicts the grim voodoo gangs of 1997 Los Angeles.
For the most part, the movie's future setting ages well, with the exception of the voodoo gangs and the heavily modified guns the police carry. No flying cars or bizarre mainstream fashions, though fedoras seem to have come back.
RoboCop predicted rampant crime, rampant AIs, and working cybernetics. Admittedly, crime is rampant in Detroit, where it took place. There were also first-generation Ford Tauruses (1986-1990) still in front-line service as police cruisers.
The very first scene of the film version of A Scanner Darkly states that the story takes place "seven years from now," which turns out to look kind of like the '70s (when the book was written), the early '90s (when the story was set), and the early 21st century when it was made ... all scrambled together.
Strange Days was released in the mid-1990s, but takes place in a Crapsack World version of 1999 in which recorded memories transferred through VR headsets have become the new drug of choice. A radio caller sums up how the world has taken a turn for the worse in the scant few years between the film's release and its current setting. Aside from the aforementioned technology, a few other technology and fashion pointers and the fact that it clearly takes Los Angeles immediately post-Rodney King and turns it Up to Eleven), it's not incredibly anachronistic viewing when looking back.
The Terminator takes place Next Sunday A.D. in The Eighties, but features in its backstory a nuclear war that kills three billion people in 1997 (man, what's up with that year?), started by a self-aware computer program that controls all military software, and a global war between humans and machines that starts and ends before 2030.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles , pulls a double-whammy: it RetCons that the events of T2 happened in 1997, when John was 13, implicitly moving the original projected holocaust, and then asserts that the various changes to the timeline have relocated the pending holocaust into 2011. The characters themselves, time-hopped from 1999 to fall 2007, are themselves experiencing some Twenty Minutes Into The Future.
Time Cop, the 1994 movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, takes place in several time periods, including 2004, when the typical family car resembles a tank and can drive itself. And flashlights are duct taped onto assault rifles...
In The Time Machine 1960 by H. G. Wells, the time-traveling hero sets off to the future from the start of the 20th century, stopping off at the time of both World Wars. Then he stops again in the year 1966, when World War III is starting. When he eventually gets to the far future, he finds, via an ancient computer archive, that the world of the Eloi and Morlocks emerged in the aftermath of "a great war between the East and West." The 2002 version had him visit 2035 and 2037 instead.
X-Men is set in "the near future", with its twosequels following after that. Its prequel, Wolverine, is set about 20 years earlier (since Scott Summers is a teenager), setting it sometime between The Sixties and The Eighties. The climactic scene, set at Three Mile Island, would seem to imply it's set in 1979, if Deadpool slicing one of the cooling towers to pieces with his eye-beams is assumed to be analogous to the real-world event that occurred in that year.
The World Trade Center is still standing in the first film, which seems to make the 'future' early 2001. However, "the not too distant future" subtitle gets a bit confusing by the time the third movie happens. Simply because two scenes occur before the opening credits, and they are stated to be "10 years ago" and "20 years ago." It is never specified when exactly those two scenes were supposed to be 10 and 20 years ago from, now or from the not too distant future. (Confused yet?)
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is set roughly ten years in the future, and while styles in clothing and automobiles seem more or less unchanged from the present, exotic (but semi-plausible) technologies like powered armour, energy weapons, active camouflage and metal-eating nanites are out in full force. Since the film is believed to be in a Shared Universe with the Transformers series, one can assume that this futuristic technology was reverse engineered from Cybertronian technology. The fact that G.I. Joe is in the "near future" could be taken to mean that the Autobot-Decepticon conflict is already over, or at least no longer set on Earth. It could also be taken to mean that the Autobots have either taken it upon themselves or at least helped to repair the damage done to the pyramids in Giza by Devastator Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, during the ten years between both movies, as "Revenge of the Fallen" is set in 2009.
Implicit in the 2010 The A-Team, where the "crime they didn't commit" takes place during the supposed final US withdrawal from Iraq and the UCAVs that attack the team's plane are namechecked as Reapers, which don't as of Real Life mid-2010 have support for air-to-air missiles or cannon yet.
In Inception, the only futuristic technology seems to be the technology to enter another person's dreamscape, but that is only used by a small number of people. Used constructively by a very small number of people. We get a brief glimpse of an "opium cave" where people go to have shared dreams in Mombasa - That pretty strongly implies that unless it's illegal, and if it is, it probably has a fair deal of recreational use in the Western world, as well.
The 2006 Adam Sandler film Click takes place in 2006, 2007, 2017, 2023, and finally an unspecified date most likely in the 2030s before going back to the present day. The world doesn't begin to look too different until the latest two.
The 6th Day (2000) takes place in "The Near Future: Sooner Than You Think." While a lot of stuff looks much as it does now, there's quite a bit of Applied Phlebotinum floating around, mostly seeming to operate under Rule of Cool. One thing it predicted almost accurately was the creation of businesses that create clones of house pets. Such businesses were attempted only a few years after the movie came out, but they folded quickly because a) it was prohibitively expensive, and b) environmental factors and other unpredictable effects on the genetic level (X inactivation, incomplete dominance, and so forth) mean that a cloned animal could easily end up looking very different from the original. One thing it got hilariously wrong was the idea that the XFL would still be around at whenever the movie is set. And the "Foosh Gun".
The experimental film Sweet Movie is set in 1984 (ten years after the film's release) and much of the plot is driven by a show where the most pure woman in the world is found. It gets weirder from there.
Real Steel is set in the year 2020. According to the film's timeline, human boxing died out around 2014, being replaced with the more violent World Robot Boxing league. Aside from that, everything looks like present day, save for a few changes (iPhones and computers look more futuristic, referees at boxing matches wear denser armor, etc.).
The Singapore film Avatar (not that one), released in the US as Cyber Wars, takes place in 2024 in a fictional Asian-themed city of Sintawan, which appears to be completely separate from any nation. Cyberspace is ubiquitous. Everyone has an implanted chip that connects them to Cyberlink. Mega Corps rule everything. To top it off, the heads of the corporations run everything in the city using a high-stakes game.
Looper takes place in the year 2044, in an unnamed city in Kansas that looks very futuristic, but also suffers from massive poverty, rampant drug use, and the entire city is being run by criminals. Incidentally, the film is also being influenced from 2074, twenty minutes into their future because the crime syndicates of that era use time travel to send people they need killed back into the past where the eponymous Loopers kill them there, thus sidestepping the issue of 2074 nanite technology that makes killing people and disposing of bodies VERY difficult.
Also, by 2044, one in ten people have the TK gene, allowing them to levitate coins for a few seconds.
Oh, and weapons seem to have gone backwards, as loopers are only issued blunderbusses instead of something more practical.
For what they're doing the blunderbuss is extremely practical. It practically guarantees a kill per trigger pull at the range they're using it at while being almost useless for any other situation. That way the criminals running the scheme aren't arming a bunch of people with weapons that can be used against them.
Interstellar: far enough in the future to launch an interstellar mission, close enough to the present for farms and pick-up trucks to look twentieth-century.
Pacific Rim begins with a prologue starting in 2013 and Flash Forwarding over the next ten years or so. The majority of the film's action takes place in 2025; the world doesn't look too different from the present save for some technology advances—some sort of 3D holographic device to display computer blueprints and the apparent ability to communicate via satellite across a different dimension.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson was published in 1992, and for the timeline to work (Hiro and and Raven's fathers were WWII vets) the story would have to have occurred by sometime in the early 2000s. "The Diamond Age" seems to be set in the same universe, just a few decades after "Snow Crash".
There are two words in Diamond Age that suggest a character in common. The words? "Chiseled Spam". Based on this, the events take place 50-70 years after Snow Crash.
Charles Stross' Halting State is set in 2018. Apparently Scotland's independence vote went forward in 2012.
House of the Scorpion is set sometime at a indeterminate date, where a country run by drug lords exists between Mexico (known as Aztlan in the book's universe) and the United States, cars can fly, human cloning is common place, computer chips are put into horses and people's brains to control them, and illegal immigration on the U.S.-Mexican border flows not just towards the north, but towards the south too.
Tom Clancy's first Jack Ryan novels, written throughout the 1980s, were set at an indeterminate point in the near future; the Cold War is still in full bloom and there's a vaguely Reaganesque Republican in the White House. The Sum of All Fears, however, tied the series to a specific point in history (the end of the first Gulf War), and from that point on the Lead Time inherent in the writing and publication of Clancy's novels meant that the series turned into an Alternate History of sorts; The Bear and the Dragon, published in 2001, must occur no later than June 1997 for the internal chronology to hold up. With The Teeth of the Tiger, Clancy moved the series back into an indeterminate near-future setting.
Joe Haldeman admits that setting his novel The Forever War, about a deep space war to start in the far-off future of 1996, was silly in retrospect, and was done mainly so that the non-coms could be Vietnam veterans. He told any objectors to just "think of it as a parallel universe."
The Dirk Pitt series of novels by Clive Cussler are usually set a year or two into the future, with the United States switching to metric and super A.I. computers with hot chick holograms.
Any time Robert A. Heinlein's predictions didn't happen, it was an alternate timeline. He was fair in this, too, in that there were also timelines for the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, E. E. “Doc” Smith, and others. Interestingly, he did predict a few things accurately, like waterbeds and the rise of the Christian Right. Though perhaps the best one was Stranger in a Strange Land, which predicted the 1960s counterculture.
Heinlein invented the waterbed as a concept. That prevented it from being patented. He makes an amusing comment about it in his brick-sized diatribe Expanding Universe from 1980.
The themes in the book extrapolated heavily from the 1950s "Beat Generation" subculture, which was the precursor to the counterculture movements of the '60s and early '70s. Its "Church of All Worlds" was based on elements of the neo-pagan/"New Age" mystery religions which were gaining popularity among disaffected youth of the time. Heinlein himself wrote that the book "could not be published commercially until the public mores changed. I could see them changing and it turned out that I had timed it right." Many prominent figures of the counterculture would refer to Stranger in a Strange Land as a major influence on their thinking and philosophy, particularly the aspects of free love, communalism, and social liberation. Beyond merely predicting the counterculture, the book helped to create it.
Spider Robinson has a habit of setting stories five to ten years in the future and including elements such as zero-gravity vehicles, over-population to the extent that murder is no longer a crime even in Canada, futuristic swear words ("You taken slot!") that have completely replaced our current Saxon words, dilating doors, and a character glancing at his "watch finger". Robinson has in fact had to redate some of his own stories in reprint: the original (1982) edition of Mindkiller was set in 1995 and 1999, the reprint in 2005 and 2009.
His Callahan series is set in pretty much here and now. Including the characters attending the launch of STS-28 and 29 when it actually happened (mostly)
David Brin's Earth is set in 2040, and one of the primary notes in his foreword is how difficult it is to create a believable world set 50 years in the future.
Earth in Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom books seems to be situated here, especially in terms of medical technology — understandable, as part of the backstory involves a deadly flu epidemic.
The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, the book that was the basis for the musical Damn Yankees, was published in 1954, but set in 1958. The musical, which came out in 1955, "takes place some time in the future" according to the first edition, though the setting is now acknowledged to be The Fifties in all non-supernatural aspects.
Matt Ruff's Sewer, Gas & Electric is set in 2023 and features a world almost devoid of black people, due to a genetically targeted plague, robots and mutant sewer sharks.
The epilogue of the last Harry Potter book (published in 2007) would, according to the official timeline, take place in 2017. We don't really get to see what the Muggle world is like by that time, but at the very least they still have cars and driving tests.
P. G. Wodehouse's Ring For Jeeves is an interesting twist on this. Even though the Jeeves stories were written between the 1910s and the 1970s, they all take place in a Genteel Interbellum Setting...except for this one. Ring For Jeeves is the only novel that is actually set when it was written (the 1950s): World War II has happened, atomic technology is referenced, televisions exist and, most significantly, Britain is experiencing its post-war social upheaval that's dissolving the aristocracy and has resulted in Jeeves' and Bertie's temporary separation. It's the closest thing to Darker and Edgier that Wodehouse ever wrote.
In Cocktail Time (if I'm remembering the correct title), a gentleman disgruntled by an encounter with Drones writes a novel also called Cocktail Time, exposing the depravity of today's youth. The cover of this 'inner' novel is described as featuring a young man in spats dancing the rock-and-roll.
Shepherd Mead's The Big Ball Of Wax (published in 1954) predicted that in 1999, Video Phones would be common (though he failed to predict personal computers or the Internet, the things which made this very nearly right), TV sets would be wall-size and stereoscopic (we're still waiting...), videotapes would be widespread (he got that right too, though he thought they would be open-reel and didn't foresee DVDs), power transmission would be a reality and cars would thus be electric, contraceptive pills would be easily available (yes) and nearly all diseases eradicated (sadly, no), the Soviet Union would have fallen and Leningrad reverted to its old name of St. Petersburg (both yes)... and that XP would take over (he got that right -- sort of, anyway, though his XP was EXPeriential Broadcasting, a way of recording and transmitting full-sensory material). Let's hope that the last one never comes true, or at least not the way Mead depicted it...
John Birmingham's Axis of Time trilogy is an interesting case as it's very difficult to tell if it is meant seriously or is a very deadpan parody of techno thrillers. The first volume was published in 2004 and it's (initially) set in a 2021 where everything that can go wrong with the "war on terror" has gone wrong, turning it into a full scale war of the west against Islam, and the allies act with as much brutality as the enemy (a sanctioned form of field punishment for the US forces is to put a Muslim enemy into a pig carcass and bury him or her alive). Probably the most ridiculous element is the predictions about technology, which include fusion reactors, artificial intelligence, military medical implants (which, amongst other things, reduce the soldiers' sex drive and dispense pain killers) and the routine use of vat grown replacement organs. This is all at least 20 years early.
Niven & Barnes wrote Dream Park in 1981, set it in 2051, and doomed it to datedness by making reference to an earthquake that'd leveled Los Angeles in 1985. In the first sequel, they retconned the quake to 1995, and in the second to 2005. They also retconned the first two novels' use of holographic displays to incorporate virtual reality elements in book three; ironically, this makes the tech in The California Voodoo Game seem less advanced than what's in Dream Park or (especially) The Barsoom Project, as mechanisms which were kept discretely off-stage in the earlier books are much more intrusive in the last.
The main plot of the 2009 novel Limit takes place in 2025. Author Frank Schätzing explained in an interview that although 2050 would be more realistic for the technologies portrayed, he considered it more important to immerse the reader in a time in which he or she might still be alive.
The 2008 novel Neuropath is set at an unmentioned year in the future. 2010 is mentioned as a year gone by, government buildings have fMRI scanners at the entrances, Europe is freezing to death because the Gulf Stream has changed course and Moscow has been reduced to a crumbling wasteland. What the book focuses on is the hunt on a serial killer who mind controls his victims.
The start of the Empire from the Ashes series. The huge influx of advanced technology after the first book renders the date moot, though.
David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest was written in 1996, and although the time frame of the events taking place in the novel is never clearly established, it is heavily implied to be set sometime around 2010 (estimates range from 2008 to 2011, with 2015 as an outlier).
William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy and Bridge Trilogy (written in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively) are both set in versions of the early twenty-first century. The Sprawl Trilogy (date unspecified) setting still has lingering Cold War after-effects and a massive Japanese economic presence; in the Bridge Trilogy (2006), a massive earthquake has resulted in the abandonment of the Oakland Bay Bridge, which has since been resettled as a sort of squatters' shantytown.
The time-travelling South African white supremacists of Harry Turtledove's The Guns of the South come from the year 2015, though besides their being at the bitter end of a struggle to keep control in their country, the few hints of 2015 sound like 1985 in all but name.
The War In The Air by H. G. Wells is a mixed bag. The details of the technology are largely wide of the mark, but he nails the strategic importance of air superiority and the political factors that would lead to a World War with uncanny accuracy (though the Chinese-Japanese alliance is something of a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment), and the final chapters are set in an After the End scenario that would not look at all out of place in a post-nuclear scenario. Wells himself acknowledged this in his preface to the 1917 edition, with some bitterness over the Cassandra Truth nature of his work. His amendment to said preface for the 1939 edition read, simply: "I warned you. You damned fools."
The Shape of Things to Come is a similar mix of prophetic and outlandish-in-hindsight, with a submarine launched ballistic missiles, and Poland being a military match for Germany. In fact, depending on how you look at it, this could probably be applied to most of his works.
According toAyn Rand, "the action of Atlas Shrugged takes place in the near future, about ten years from the time when one reads the book." In other words, Rand was using this trope quite intentionally. That's why the dialogue seems to go slightly out of its way to avoid referencing any specific year or century (with the possible exception of the Twentieth Century Motor Company), and why the setting's technology and sociology tend to be mildly anachronistic in a Steampunk kind of way.
James P Hogan's Giants novel series is based in 2030s (it has a character born in 1984 who is 40 something at the time of the events of the novel). The series has mankind going from weaponized to no weapons somewhere around 2020 and having manned missions as far out as Jupiter. The remains of aliens (or our ancestors anyway) are discovered on the Moon, real aliens are found on one of the moons of Jupiter, and more aliens show up and later suffer from Fish Out of Temporal Water with their own race due to their mode of transportation.
Carl Sagan's Contact was written in 1983 and set in the late 1990s. Sagan did not foresee the fall of the Soviet Union at the time of writing and the Soviets had a large role to play in the events. He also did not foresee the cell phone, as characters used pagers still. He did ambitiously have a character who solved the grand superunification theory (something that eludes us even today and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future)... And other human technologies that turned out to be beyond what eventuated in the late '90s, such as orbital space stations serving as retirement homes for those who wished to extend their lifespans and could afford it, and shuttle services to go between earth and station.
Justin Cronin's The Passage starts in a 2018 where a terrorist massacre in the Mall of America has resulted in an America where state borders have checkpoints, a second Class 5 hurricane has resulted in New Orleans becoming directly controlled by the Federal government and Jenna Bush is Governor of Texas. Also India and Pakistan nuked each other.
Taken by Edward Bloor takes place sometime in the 2050s. The date is never specified, but it is hinted at by characters mentioning the recent 100 year anniversary of I Love Lucy. The major differences are that indentured servitude is legal, the ultrarich live in extremely gated communities, and it is common for the children of the ultra rich to be kidnapped for ransoms.
Not an alternate; the Warsaw Pact references in Ender's Game were corrected to "New Warsaw Pact" in the Shadow series, with the explanation that the Warsaw Pact re-formed but bigger during the Formic Wars. The Earth/space tech differences seem to be explained by military secrecy; the huge sci-fi advances described in Ender's Game and Ender in Exile (the ansible, M.D.D., and molecular disruption propulsion) are all kept so secret that only interstellar captains know about the ansible and propulsion, and only the fleet admirals know about the M.D.D. Also explained by having all the fanciest new tech described in the series directly taken from the Formics.
Numbers 2: the Chaos was published in 2011 and takes place in 2026.
Vernor Vinge's cult-classic novella, "True Names", published in 1981, involved some very educated guesses about the short-term potentials of the personal computer. If this had been written fifteen years later, it would have been Next Sunday A.D..
Sergey Lukyanenko's The Stars Are Cold Toys takes place sometime in the very near future. Somehow, though, the invention of the jumper device means that most developed nations of the world now have their own manned space programs. Earth is also surrounded by a ring of laser-armed space stations meant to protect us from aliens (who blow up worlds before breakfast). Everything else is almost exactly the same. Yes, there is a secret government agency in Russia that develops advanced technology after watching sci-fi films, such as the Explosive Leash and Stun Guns. And Ukraine can apparently fight Russia to a standstill and afford aircraft carriers. But daily life is still exactly the same. Russian roads are still shitty (it's a main plot point in the first part of the book). People still drive regular cars. It is, however, mentioned that highly-advanced technology does exist. The aliens just won't let us have it.
In Dragon's Egg, The first human section is the year 2020 in a book written in 1980. There's not a lot of tech development though, there are no personal computers and no internet. The idea of any computer time being such a valuable resource that you have to pay for in the year 2020 is kind of funny in retrospect.
Perfectly reasonable for a timesharing system, even today. However, what the grad student is doing with the computer doesn't seem like something that would have required more than a quite modest personal computer in 2020.
The later sections of the book are set in the year 2050.
Keith Nartman's Drew Parke books, both written in 2009 are set in the mid 2030s.
The "psychedelic" trilogy of SF novels (The Butterfly Kid, The Unicorn Girl and The Probability Pad), written and first published in or around 1967, were collectively described by one later reviewer as being like "a Flower Summer with videophones".
"The Devil's Footprints" from 13 More Tales of Horror takes place in 2004 (the short story collection was published in 1994). Apparently, by that point, everyone should have had house-controlling supercomputers.
Nigel Kneale's 1979 novelisation of the final Quatermass story is set in a future UK plagued by social breakdown, fuel and food shortages and heavily-armed street gangs. The Soviet Union still exists and it vies with the US to spend billions on useless space projects. No date is given but clues in the text indicate that it is happening in 1990.
The MTV sketch comedy show The State lampooned this idea with a sketch where a man wakes up in a hospital after only a short time knocked out in an accident only to find that he missed the "most exciting 15 minutes in the history of the world", and now aliens have landed and all sorts of things have changed.
Max Headroom is the trope namer. The original TV movie was entitled Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future and the phrase was reused in the openings of the resultant TV series (which takes place in a different universe and begins with a shortened remake of the movie). The date the series takes place is never explicitly pinned down, but the teenage character Bryce Lynch's birthdate was given in the movie and series pilot as October 7, 1988.
You can still smoke in public buildings. It's a federal offense to turn your TV off. This being cyberpunk, there is an Internet, though it gets called "The System", and the way it's shown to work is pretty thoroughly gonzo. There's no reality shows. Japan rules the business world. Network news is filmed on camcorders. There is still a Soviet Union, which has colonized part of the Third World.
Also transplantation "body banks" which will pay for fresh corpses, no questions asked.
The setting (and almost-subtitle; they went with "Almost Tomorrow") of the second season of War of the Worlds. Martial law. Bad air. Food shortages. Genetic engineering. "Totally real" VR simulations. Eight-bit computers.
The setting of the first half of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, until the writers outright forgot that they'd claimed the show was "In the not-too-distant future".
The heroes of Power Rangers Time Force hail from the year 3000. Most of the action takes place in 2001, though (the present day at the time of airing), so it's hard to say how advanced (or not) society is by then. At the very least, aliens are common, there are flying cars, and it's mentioned that junk food has been outlawed. Oh, and Designer Babies are normal, with mutant failures bearing the brunt of Fantastic Racism.
Power Rangers RPM. Exact date unknown, but it's at least 2013 (aired in 2009, plus about a year After the End and a three-year buildup beforehand). According to some sources, it takes place in 2085 - but according to others, it's an Alternate Continuity, and so could be an alternate '09.
The framing story to Quantum Leap, set in the far-off world of 1997.
Guess Beckett altered history more than Al or Ziggy expected him to...
This is most likely because Bellisario wanted to keep the time-travelling within Sam's lifetime, but also within the audience's past, so the show's "present" couldn't be too far in the future.
The Quantum Leap Project is a black project, so it could still take/have taken place.
SeaQuest DSV. Genetic engineering. Compulsory vegetarianism. Air-processing plants. First season: 2018. And the "Dagger" Super Soldiers created during the "Dark Age of Genetics" (2001-2003).
The setting of a bunch of episodes of Doctor Who. Note that many of the stories explicitly set in the 1990s and the 21st century aren't really Twenty Minutes Into The Future; they're really distant-future stories dated by a writer who didn't realize that the year 2000 really wasn't all that far off. However, The Invasion and subsequent UNIT stories were always intended to be set just a few years in the future. This was ignored in Mawdryn Undead, but by UNIT's final classic-series appearance in Battlefield, the setting was clearly re-established as the very-near future. The issue of "UNIT dating" (when exactly the UNIT stories take place, since there's a bucketload of contradictory evidence) is a major topic of debate among fans, has been parodied a number of times in the Expanded Universe and gets its own Wikipedia entry (it also got lampshaded in the books and the New Series episode "The Poison Sky" by having Sarah Jane and the Doctor respectively say they "used to work for UNIT in the Seventies, or was it the Eighties?").
In Mawdryn Undead, producer John Nathan-Turner demanded that one of the story's time periods be 1977. This caused Script Editor Eric Saward incredible trauma, because he knew about the UNIT dating situation and, more importantly, he knew the fans knew and would pillory the creative team for the 1977 decision. This is exactly what happened.
The Second Doctor's companion Zoe comes from the 21st century, but few dates are given for her era... until in The Mind Robber (aired in 1968), she is familiar with a cartoon character from the year 2000, implying that she's from a few years past that time at most. Or that she's a comics geek, which wouldn't be out of character for her.
The Tenth Planet (1966) was set in the futuristic age of 1986, and features the discovery of Earth's twin planet of Mondas, which begins to siphon off Earth's energy. Come 1985, and the show's still running — the story Attack of the Cybermen sees the Sixth Doctor heading off the titular attack before it affects the Mondas attack...
All episodes set in "present day London" since Aliens in London take place a year after the airing date.
Word of God, however, is that, since the 2008 Christmas Special was not contemporary (the Christmas stories otherwise being fixed points of reference for the date), the subsequent "present day" stories (Planet of the Dead and The End of Time) are set in the same year they originally aired — The End of Time Part 1 (Aired Christmas 2009) takes place one year to the day after Voyage of the Damned (Aired Christmas 2007)
The first decade of the 21st century in Ahistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe makes interesting reading. The writer takes a deep breath and presents the Cyber Punk near future of the 1990s New Adventures novels and the Present Day setting of the current series as happening at the same time, without further explanation.
Then there's the 2007 episode "Utopia" which takes place in the year 100000000000000 but depicts humans as using almost exclusively 21st century technology.
A lot can happen in 100 trillion years. We could have blown ourselves up, rebuilt, evolved, devolved, Ascended To A Higher Plane Of Existence, redone the history of humanity from scratch, etc., countless times.
Quite niftily, one episode of TOS that came out in 1967 ("Tomorrow Is Yesterday") had the crew going back in time to the late sixties—where they pick up a radio broadcast talking about a manned moon launch coming up on Wednesday. Guess what happened on a Wednesday in 1969 in real life.
Inverted in Stargate SG-1 in the episode "2010", where contact with an advanced civilization willing to share technology makes 2010 a much different world than it was at the time of filming. A very visible bit of Zeerust is the fashions of this 2010: taking a cue from Wild Palms, President Kinsey wears an outfit that would look more at home in 1910.
Space Island One was set on a space station just a hair more advanced than would be possible today.
An interestingly related setting is that of the new Battlestar Galactica. The viewer is initially given no reference frame for when it occurs relative to Earth history, but it fits the pattern of Twenty Minutes into the Future in that it combines highly advanced, futuristic technology with a culture that is almost indistinguishable from the USA of 2005, down to the clothing. As the series progresses, more specific elements of American culture start appearing, and the fleet discovers the post-apocalyptic remains of a planet they believe to be Earth, whose inhabitants also had a culture resembling 2000s America. Eventually, the series is revealed to be occurring somewhere around the year 148,000 B.C.. All this has happened before and will happen again.
The prequel series Caprica, set about 50-60 years prior to the main series, follows the pattern to a degree by dressing the characters in fashions reminiscent of the '40s and '50s.
In addition to similarities in clothing, the series features other modern-day elements, such as British rifles and American HMMW-Vs.
Head of the Class, where Howard Hessman's character comments at a reunion that his teacher's salary has finally reached six figures, and that even though teachers are now paid what they deserve, he's too old to enjoy it.
The first season of 24, aired in 2001, was set in March 2004 (as retroactively indicated by a shot of a character's driver license shown in season 4), and each following season has been set a few years after the previous one. (The most recent season, the show's sixth, aired in 2007 and was set in 2013; the seventh season, which began in January 2009 is set in November 2017.) Could be Twenty Seconds into the Future if not for the Applied Phlebotinum (real-time satellite surveillance, handheld remote heartbeat sensors, &c.) that pops up from time to time.
The 1992 series Wild Palms was set fifteen years in the future, with technology and fashion that look nothing like that of the real 2007, assuming a revival of Edwardian-inspired fashion. And a lounge-style revival of popular sixties tunes.
The TV series (and the film) Alien Nation was set in the near-future of the late eighties/early nineties. The TV movies took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s: Emily was 13 in "Dark Horizon" and presumably between 16 and 18 in "The Udara Legacy", as she was still attending high school. The transition from TV series to TV movies involved some unfortunate timeline-tweaking with rather inconsistent aging.
For the record, you could smoke in the police station, there were a few gags about non-existent sequels to famous movies (Back to the Future VI, etc.), and by the TV movies they had video-phones... but the cars still looked distinctively Eighties.
At the time, they were using the most aerodynamic and "futuristic" looking cars they could get.
Also, the computer user interfaces are also distinctively Eighties or "Graphic-DOS" styled, with no notion of CUA-like interfaces anywhere... but Internet has been replaced by something called "Optinet". One of the movies has a computer with a then-futuristic touch screen (running what looks basically like Windows 95).
The British 1970s series Time Slip showed several potential versions of the year 1990. Cloning. Melted polar icecaps. Longevity serums. Global computer control. Europe being geologically restructured to maximize efficiency. And computers were still room-size monstrosities with reel-to-reel tapes. And as to the sense of taste in decor, let us just say that it is truly fortunate for our corneas that only one episode has survived in its original color.
Space: 1999. Still waiting for the moon to be blasted out of orbit.
The Outer Limits TOS episode "The Duplicate Man", filmed in 1964, is set in 2025, when space travel is common, cloning has been outlawed and statues of alien lifeforms are exhibited in a museum. The smaller changes from the present are also interesting: future tech includes Video Phones (with rotary dials!) and light-activated drinking fountains, and the protagonist wears an early Beatles-style collarless suit and drives a Cool Car that's actually a customized Buick Riviera created for the film For Those Who Think Young.
Humorously invoked by Conan O'Brien in his recurring "In the Year 2000" sketches: All of the "future" predictions are based on current events and celebrities. He took the joke even further by continuing the theme well past the arrival of the actual year 2000, although when he moved to The Tonight Show it was finally updated to "In the Year 3000".
Several episodes of the original Twilight Zone were set in a future that has come and gone. Some episodes refer to the setting as "the day after tomorrow".
In the 1979 movie and subsequent TV series, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the titular character, Buck begins his journey in 1987 in a deep space probe that was supposed to last a few months. Something goes wrong and he's frozen for 500 years. When he's awakened from his frozen state, he learns that a nuclear war has made most of Earth uninhabitable. The war took place in the early 1990s.
The Tribe was a post-apocalyptic series set in a Type 2 Teenage Wasteland after a mysterious virus killed off all the adults. Based on the technology commonly used and traded by the various Tribes (CD players, egg-shaped original iMacs, no iPods), the Virus struck some time in the late '90s or early '00s.
The Honeymooners has this when Ralph and Alice have an argument about why Ralph won't buy a TV set for her:
Ralph: You wanna know the reason why I won't buy you a set? Well, I'll tell you the reason. I'm waiting for 3D television, that's the reason!
Alice: Are you waiting for 3D refrigerators, too?
School Shock is set in 2017. The science fiction focuses on nanomachines, single person aviation, cyborgs and a little bit of Brain in a Jar tech.
"Space Odyssey", the final song on The Byrds' 1968 Notorious Byrd Brothers album, opens with the lines, "In nineteen and ninety-six we ventured to the moon/Onto the the Sea Of Crisis like children from the womb/We journeyed cross the great wall plain beneath the mountain range/and there we saw the pyramid, it looked so very strange." Basically a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Canadian band Tokyo Police Club have a song called 'Citizens of Tomorrow,' which predicts humanity's enslavement by robots, who implant microchips in our hearts and make us work to build their giant spaceships. "That's 2009" for you!
Flight of the Conchords parodied this with their song Robots which took place in "The Distant Future...the year 2000..."("Things have changed a lot since the robot revolutions of the late '90s.") - despite the fact that it was written much later.
The murder that starts the action in David Bowie's 1995 Concept Album1. Outside takes place on December 31, 1999. Technology hasn't advanced that much, but True Art has — into "art-crime", muggings and now a murder performed and presented as works of art. Let's all be happy this didn't come to pass. (The inspiration for this world came from the work of such Real Life artists as Damien Hirst and Chris Burden; the short story in the liner notes that provides the backbone for the songs mentions them and others by name as the precursors to the art-crime trend.)
Bosnian rapper Edo Maajka's new music video for song Panika (Panic) is set "23 minutes after this moment", according to the Youtube description. It starts realistically, with a poor man beaten and robbed by a group of men, but then he creates a futuristic weapon and attacks the said group.
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons is set in 2070-something, which might seem a way off, but don't worry. Aside from a floating fortress, some nifty lorry manoeuvring gear, cars that can (sort of) fly and hoverbikes, not much has changed.
Two other Gerry Anderson series, Thunderbirds and Stingray take place a decade or two earlier. The biggest oddities are relatively small nuclear reactors (which permit most of the rest of the vehicle technology) and whatever heavy duty equipment allows WASP to hide their city underground.
In The Stan Freberg Show (1957), "Incident at Los Voraces" begins with the narration: "It was 1960 when the incident occurred—that's almost ten years ago."
The old Extraterrorestrial Alien Encounter attraction at Walt Disney World was set in a future where unscrupulous Mega Corp. organizations span across entire solar systems. It was slightly tongue in cheek, but a large departure from the tone of everything else in the park.
The original version of Disneyland's Tomorrowland from The Fifties depicted houses made entirely out of plastics and commercial space travel in the year "1986". Obviously, The Eighties didn't turn out that way.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is set in 2035, 36 years after Dracula was supposedly defeated for good and his castle banished into a solar eclipse. Ironically, the only modern or futuristic things and people in the game are a U.S. Army soldier, in-game items that are never shown graphically, a handgun, and a positron rifle.
The first four .hack games take place in 2010, with a virus having wiped out all computers except for the Altmit OS in 2005. The next three games take place in 2017.
Chrono Trigger. Though it obviously takes place on a non-Earth world, its dinosaurs did die in 65,000,000 B.C., making it clear that it was somewhat Earth-like. In its version of 1999, mankind lives in domes with air fortresses and sentient robots. This one is obviously on purpose, considering that A.D. 1000 corresponds roughly to modern times, and A.D. 600 to medieval times.
Nearly every Tom Clancy game. It pretty much comes to a head in End War, where the US is able to now deploy units anywhere in the world in an hour and thirty minutes, nuclear weapons are rendered useless by shields (but "rods from God" aren't, and neither are Kill Sat lasers), and many European nations have banded together. There are miniguns and better armor, and evil Russians, and technology that's conceptual or prototype here is deployed (there's even a bit of Back Story about H&K and FN suing the US Government for stealing the name and design for their own weapon).
The Sims is never said to take place at any specific time in the Simverse, although The Sims 2 is set around 25 years after the original while The Sims 3 is set 25 years before. The neighborhoods are very similar (well, with the limitations of the game) to our current society and levels of technology (with some differences between each game) - except for the robots (both AIs that begin functioning as household servants but can be freed and helpful household robots), aliens, werewolves, ninja teleportation, resurrection, the Grim Reaper, zombies, plantsims (Sims that function like plants, needing oxygen and water to survive), and more.
Crystalis: October 1, 1997. The END DAY. The Game Boy Color remake didn't specify the date of the end of the world (it was released after 1997, which should be obvious since the system it's on was also released after 1997). Seeing how the remake wasn't received as well as the original, most Crystalis fans probably don't care.
The original Command & Conquer game's non-secret history backstory begins in late 1995 (the year it was released), and subsequent games are generally set Twenty Minutes Into The Future. The canonical dates are 1999-2002 for Tiberian Dawn, late 2030 for Tiberian Sun, 2031-32 for Firestorm, 2047-49 for Tiberium Wars and 2077 for Tiberian Twilight.
The sequel Duke Nukem Forever looks like it could be more or less in the present day...but going by the fact that it's set during the run of the 67th President of the United States, that would set it at least in year 2104 up to year 2196. This is barring any previous Presidents leaving office early. Which Number 67 does in a very violent way...
Further muddled by the fact that, likely as yet another reference to the extreme time in development, everybody at the beginning of Forever refers to the events of 3D as having taken place "twelve years ago", which would place Forever in 2019 or 2020.
Deus Ex, released in 2000, is set in 2052 and features some impressive — but not too out-there — advances in computer science (AIs), genetics (engineered mutant species), robotics (commercially used security robots) and, most importantly, nanotechnology. One of the game's plot points is the nanotechnologically augmented, super-powered protagonist who replaces the old cyborg augments. There's also mention of mining operations on the moon.
Deus Ex: Invisible War moves the setting 20 years and into the actually future. Bio-modification (with super-advanced biological nanotech) is commonplace, the nation-state is gone and replaced with competing international interest groups, a Borg-like hivemind of cyborgs controls the black market, and nanotechnology can now build or dismantle large cities in a matter of minutes.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is set just seventeen years into the future. Nanotechnology is in its infancy and instead people use more mechanical cybernetics instead, however this technology still appears very impressive. The most implausible bit is Hengsha, a skyscraper-covered Chinese island expanding upward via a giant platform above its skyscrapers on which new buildings are built, taking "social stratification" to a whole new level. Better get on that ASAP, China.
Even the developers themselves said at one point that that last bit is "not going to happen".
Grand Theft Auto II took place 'in the near future'. 3 hints to it's time were given, yet they all contradict each other. The manual states "3 weeks into the future" while entries on the official website are dated 2013. As if that wasn't enough to throw you off, a DJ on the radio states "The millennium's a' commin'!". There wasn't much future technology to be seen, although a few examples exist - one of the weapons is an electric arc gun and one of the gangs is hinted to use Expendable Clones as mooks.
Averted in Grand Theft Auto III and the other games in its continuity - it took place in 2001, the same year it was released, and thenextfourgames were all prequels variously set between 1984 and 1998.
The original Half-Life took place sometime during the 2000s. The sequel takes place 20 years later. Fans have debated the exact date of the Black Mesa Incident quite heavily. According to the Half-Life wiki, the exact year is most likely 2003 though 2008 is also possible. 1998 was a third option until Word of God dismissed it as a mistake.
Inverted in Halo; though the game takes place in 2552 and the overall series takes place in the 26th century, most of the technology is remarkably close to present day, with a few exceptions, such as anti-gravity warships, holographic AIs, portable railguns and powered battle armor. This was lampshaded by the creators, who jokingly realize that for 500 plus years of innovation, combat will have advanced way beyond what Halo depicts. Something along the lines of "combat just 250 years from now will be, I drink something, and everyone else on the battlefield dies.
House of the Dead III, a 2002 game, is set in 2019, and by then the world is in a post-apocalyptic state. Inverted in The House of the Dead 4, which was released in 2005 in Japan. On top of being a prequel to the third game, it's set in the past (2003).
The original Mega Man games were set in the year 200X, later changed to 20XX. The continuation of the series, Mega Man X, was set in 21XX. Posterior series in the franchise, such as Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX would be set even further still.
Perfect Dark takes place in 2023, and it seems we're less than two decades away from flying cars, self-aware robots, extra-terrestrial contact, and a black president. That last one's already in place.
Trauma Center: It's 2018. AIDS has been eradicated, tumours can be removed by a simple process, and there's a wonderful antibiotic gel that disinfects, arrests bleeding and instantly heals small wounds. On the other hand, weird man-made parasites called GUILT are tearing up your organs from the inside, petrifying your liver and wrapping webs around your heart, draining it of its energy.
Uplink, written in 2001 and focusing on Hollywood Hacking in Far-Off Year of 2010 AD, has more than a few issues. For the more technically-oriented gamer, this can lead to either Narm or unintentional hilarity. A 60 GHz processor is quite slow (a tribute to the megahertz race of the moment), and gateway computers with multiple processors are common, while only specialized systems support daughterboards. BBS software still holds a major part in the world, and Inter NIC can be used as a proxy and hacked into with a basic dictionary attack.
Frontlines Fuel Of War takes place in the year 2024. The biggest differences are that military robotics are widespread(everything from hand-held flying recon drones to minigun and mortar equipped mini-tanks to hand-held miniature attack helicopters to automated sentry guns); the XM8, or at least a heavily modified version of it, is in widespread service; and that oil is about to run out(specifically, Peak Oil has been reached and passed, and now everyone's scrambling to get something out the door to help people).
The SNES cult classic EarthBound, released in North America in 1995, takes place in 199X, making it seem like a very different game once 2000 rolled around.
Killer7, with a good measure of alternate history.
Hydrophobia is based sometime in the mid 21st century. The global human population has reached crisis points and Thomas Malthus' theories on population seem to be right, all-be-it slightly delayed. The game takes place on a massive city-sized luxury ocean vessel that has already been in operation for 10 years prior the events of the game.
Remember 11 takes place in January 2011 and mentions the existence of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) VI, used in the field of psychology to classify and describe the symptoms of disorders; as of fall 2010, they're still saying the DSM-V won't be published until 2013.
The setting of Smash TV, released in 1990, is a violent game show in the now-not-so-futuristic year of 1999.
Total Carnage, which was released the following year, is also set in 1999.
Blood 2: The Chosen is set in 2028, exactly one century after the first. The only truly advanced things that appear in the game are a lightning gun, a napalm gun, and giant airships, and only one of the three is new to the series.
BattleTanx and its sequel, released in 1999, set in 2001 and 2006 respectively. Tanks in-game are certainly more advanced than in real life; the real-world M1 Abrams is the Jack-of-All-Stats to things such as hovering tanks or tanks with laser cannons.
Aerobiz: The Supersonic Era of gameplay from the 1994-released Aerobiz Supersonic has the player starting in 2000. It painted a bright future of supersonic airliners and 1000+ passenger super-jumbo jets covering the globe.
X-Com: UFO Defense, takes place in the year 1999, and was released in '93. Terror From the Deep is set in the year 2040, and from the look of things, the world didn't change one bit over the years. The reboot XCOM: Enemy Unknown is set in 2015 and came out in 2012.
The Trail Of Anguish is set in 2073, but its set at a campus that would seem perfectly at home in the early 21st century. The game's a prequel to The Perils Of Akumos, which is instead full-on sci-fi.
Played with in the final content of Cataclysm. The Hour of Twilight instance and the Dragon Soul raid both take place in modern Azeroth's Dragonblight, with Deathwing and the Old Gods laying siege to Wyrmrest Temple, but are both accessed through the Caverns of Time. Also, for obvious reasons regarding Wrath's content, non-instanced Dragonblight looks exactly the same. To any character it can seem like these two instances are set 20 minutes into Azeroth's future.
Pokémon games have all been 20 minutes into the future, although its not clear if this was intentional. The pokemon-related technologies (TMs, HMs, Pokémon Centers, Poké Balls) all seem to work consistently within the universe, and seem to be extensions of normal technology. Robotics and genetic engineering are well advanced beyond the real world, but within the realm of reason...Until you get to the apricorns, which just confuses everything. And never ask Bill about that time he turned himself into a Pokémon.
This trope seems to be played fully straight as of Gen VI though. Previously Pokedexes were based off the current Nintendo handheld (or the iPod in Gen V) and the communication device was some sort of portable cellphone-esque watch. In Gen VI both your Pokedex and your Holoclip are completely hologram based.
The Persona games are often set 20 minutes into the future.
A somewhat obscure arcade/SNES shmup called Strike Gunner S.T.G. took place in A.D. 2008.
Obsidian states that pollution has grown way out of control in 2066, and this prompts the creation of the CERES orbiting nanobot satellite to fix the atmosphere.
Homestuck uses this with "Years in the future, but not many".
The original Umlaut House takes place in 2020 (the strip having begun in 2000); the sequel takes place about twenty years later. The original sees only a few Unobtanium gadgets, which the sequel takes a lot farther.
In The Last Days of Foxhound, the rather messy dating of the Metal Gear series is avoided by the use of 200X, typically on the cover of "The American Journal of Inaccurate Genetics", or just plain covered up, like this.
Ron Planet, by the creators of Homestar Runner, puts a unique twist on the concept by taking place in a near-future like our own time, except that humanity has completely given up on space exploration. Rather than being a high-tech future or a Crapsack World, it is disappointingly realistic. The plot revolves around the world's last astronaut, Ron Planet, who does freelance work (hey, somebody's got to maintain all those satellites).
Venus Ascending is set early in the life of an interstellar space program, which is apparently near enough to star the high school cast of the rolling-presentVenus Envy in their twenties.
The exact timeline of Zombie Ranch been kept deliberately vague (although references are made to the present day as a not-too-distant past), but a lot of the technology shown already exists in some form or is in development. There's definitely some Phlebotinum at work, though, not only in the form of zombie-based miracle drugs but devices like the free floating camera drones.
Pacificators is a weird sort. We don't know how far in the future it takes place (it's very viable that it takes place centuries in the future), but they suffered a Second Dark Age in which all of their technology knowledge has been lost; ever since, they've been searching for the "advanced" artifacts of the past (our time) and attempting to learn from those. At the moment, their top-line technology is the steam engine and the phone. They've yet to re-discover the light bulb.
The Global Guardians PBEM Universe, while officially set in whatever the current year happened to be, was actually this. The technology, social mores, and general feel of the setting were never really matched with Real Life.
Oh and Bruce Wayne had retired 20 years before the events of the show, as shown in a prologue scene during the first episode. Aside from Bruce being older and wearing a new batsuit, hardly anything else looks any different from the 'modern' Gotham City during this sequence.
Meanwhile, Justice League has huge space stations with artificial gravity, a Kill Sat, sentient robots and lasers. Having people like Lex Luthor and other mad scientists around probably helps, as well as reverse-engineered alien technology.
Granted, Timm and Dini said that the show takes place 50 years from now, whenever now is.
Widespread AI, which is the premise behind The Zeta Project spin-off, which shows more of the Batman Beyond world outside of Gotham.
Parodied in The Ripping Friends, in the two-part episode entitled "A Man From Next Thursday." The Ripping Friends' city, Ripcot, is said to be so advanced that it exists in "next Tuesday." The villain, Thursday Man, comes from the highly futuristic world of "next Thursday."
Made fun of in South Park, episode 31 "Prehistoric Ice Man". The episode was about a man who had been frozen 32 months earlier who was thawed and had trouble adjusting to the 'future'.
The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Wedding" features a look at the year 2010, which was at the time of the episode's airing 15 years into the future. The changes are a bit hard to detail, but perhaps the funniest change is that Moe now has an eyepatch, and when he says to Hugh (Lisa's fiancée) that the Americans saved the British's "arse" back in WWII, Hugh retorts, "we saved your arse in World War III." And Big Ben is a digital clock that nobody has figured out how to set (i.e. it still blinks 12:00).
Lampshaded in Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, where present-Stewie and future-Stewie travel 30 years to the future and present-Stewie remarks that nothing seems different. Future-Stewie replies "Well, it's been only thirty years". They do have time-tourism, and present-Stewie expected to be emperor of the world by that time. Presumably he'd have made some changes.
The Jetsons. It takes place in 2062 (100 years from the day of the show's launch). This was parodied in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, where the Jetsons came from the year 2002 to the distant past of 2004. In the Jetsons' time, they use punch cards, got meals from instant devices, and have huge personal communicators.
Transformers: The Movie and the third season of the 1986 cartoon are set in the early 21st century (in the far-off year 2005). It is roughly 20 years after the original series just far enough forward for Spike to have grown up and had a son. Likewise, Transformers Energon is set just long enough after Transformers Armada for the human characters to have grown up. Does anyone remember having cars like those, wearing pimped-out space suits (whilst still on Earth), the government setting up a publicly known organization to counter alien threats, building space-craft capable of traveling entire galaxies away or riding around on their hoverboards? To be fair though, much of the technological achievements present in that universe could be chalked up to having the Autobots sharing Cybertronian technology with us if you wanna provide an excuse.
The Invader Zim universe contains hovercars, teleporters, and all sorts of futuristic technologies... all while NASA is still relying on Martian rovers, humanity is still completely unaware of any life in the universe, and only about 5% of the vehicles on Earth can fly. The rest are basically stylized cars.
Jonny Quest. It's still set in the present day, but there is futuristic tech, like robots and personal hovercraft, and prototypes like the Parapower Ray Gun. Overlaps with Zee Rust since you can tell by the dated aesthetic, but a lot of the tech featured is still in use or hasn't been made yet, such as the walkie-talkie that basically allows two-way video conferencing.
Futurama pokes fun at this on occasion, in the fact that it takes place 1000 years later, thus the Couch Gag in the opening title claimed "YOU CAN'T PROVE IT WON'T HAPPEN!". In the first episode, Suicide Booths also had printed on them "since 2008".
Cultural trends seem to repeat themselves exactly 1000 years later, mostly so the writers can make fun of current events and fads. This extends beyond the timeframe the show is set in, as silent holograms are a thing of the past and the Professor is shown to have gone through a disco phase and, earlier, a hippy phase. In the pilot, it is also shown that a medieval society arose at some point while Fry was frozen and given URL's line "I'm going to get 24th-century on his ass," this probably was also offset by 1000 years.
In the new episodes of Generator Rex, Rex is sent six months into the future. The show itself probably starts in a Twenty Minutes Into The Future setting, what with the nanites and all. One episode featured a working space elevator and the flying transports used by Providence use anti-gravity to stay in the air.
According to the "Making Of" documentary on the DVD, the main part of The Incredibles is set in "the 1960s of an alternate universe".
The setting of Sealab 2021. The show it parodies, Sealab 2020, arguably suffered worse from the trope because it took itself seriously.