A work is a sequel or prequel to a work that is outdated in one way
but subsequent works have to keep the setting. Why? Because it's canon.
One way of working around this is to set the story in an Alternate History
See also: Zeerust
, The Great Politics Mess-Up
, Cosmetically Advanced Prequel
, Two Decades Behind
, The Aesthetics of Technology
. And Retcon
, for when this trope is averted.
Anime and Manga
- In Fist of the North Star, which was originally published in Weekly Shonen Jump during the 1980s, the war which destroyed the world took place in 199X and the term Seikimatsu ("End of the Century") is used to refer to the era the story takes place. Many spin-offs, remakes and video game adaptations have been produced in the years since the original manga ended way into the 21st century. The nuclear holocaust still took place in 199X in all of these spin-offs and Kenshiro and Raoh still retain their titles as the "Savior/Conqueror of Century's End", respectively.
- Macross Zero. Macross, released in the early 1980s, had a unification war at the start of the 21st century. Comes the 21st century and Macross is still a franchise... let's use the war during the show anyway. On an even more fundamental level, The Macross landed on Earth in the far off, distant year of 1999. The Earth was scoured with Zentradi fire in even further-off year of 2010.
- The landing of the Macross is the prime divergence point because it's arrival (and the realisation that there were potentially hostile aliens out there) is what started the Unification Wars, a point which can catch new viewers out because in Robotech it was what ended the Unification Wars.
- Frank Miller's famous Batman work Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was written in 1986. The book deals with World War III, between the Americans and the Soviets. But according to the book's chronology, it couldn't possibly take place less than 10 years after it was published (Comic-Book Time notwithstanding) meaning 1996 at the very earliest. The sequel was released in 2001-2002 and features early 2000s technology and social commentary in the same way as the original had 1980s technology and social commentary. The kicker? It takes place only two years after the original! So not only did the Soviet Union live on into the 1990s and fight in World War III, but the world experienced 15 years' worth of technological advancement and political change in just two years! Not to mention that the events of the original series take place in 2009.
- In an early Judge Dredd strip, the Twin Towers are destroyed by a perp. Of course, this can no longer happen.
- Savage was originally published in 1977, taking place in 1999. When the events of Invasion obviously didn't come to pass, it was Ret Conned as taking place in an Alternate History.
- The Star Wars prequels are supposed to take place before the original films, which feature varying levels of Seventies and Eighties Zeerust. Lucas rather cleverly got around this by incorporating some elements of even older Raygun Gothic styles into the technology of the prequels; the uber-shiny ships on Naboo come to mind. This was to reflect the better overall quality of life in the Republic era; by Revenge of the Sith, much of the Used Future look from the original trilogy was back in place, representing the transition to Empire.
- Star Trek uses Broad Strokes and an Alternate Timeline to try to walk the line between maintaining the look of the original series, including some very '60s elements like the female uniform of a miniskirt with go-go-boots, and making it look futuristic to a 2009 audience. Interestingly, this is completely averted by the original film series, which made no attempt whatsoever to retain design elements from previous films or the TV series, if they thought they had a better visualization. Explained in-universe by the Enterprise, at that point one of the oldest active ships in the fleet, having undergone a refit to stay up to date.
- Jurassic World is about to do this. In the Jurassic Park Movies, Velociraptors were shown as featherless and as big as Utahraptors, but Science Marches On and now we know that they were fully feathered (and smaller, but they knew this when they made Jurassic Park). Some fans now want feathered raptors, but to keep it with the earlier movies, there won't be any feathered dinosaurs in Jurassic World. However, Jurassic World is at least acknowledging the feathered dinosaurs on their website (read the second phony review).
- Robert A. Heinlein wrote stories in a "Future History"; the first one came out in 1939. He ended up including typical sci-fi speculations such as moving pedestrian walkways by the 1960s and moon bases by 1999. Eventually this was shown in The Number Of The Beast to be an alternate time line, where the list of presidents was "Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy". The novel also introduced a more elegant way to track parallel universes: apparently the person who first lands on the moon is always different. We live in the Armstrong universe; most of Heinlein's Future History takes place in the LeCroix universe, after Leslie LeCroix's landing there in the novella The Man Who Sold the Moon.
- Perry Rhodan, having started in the sixties, is a natural offender. When the material was cleaned up for re-publishing in book form, many elements were toned down (e.g. the Black and White Morality). However, on one book, the editor noted that he "just had to keep the pneumatic tube post, since it's a too silly idea to remove".
- Doctor Who and its Expanded Universe, which began way back in 1963, has a fair bit of Zeerust in its past but skirts round mention of failed predictions through its use of Broad Strokes continuity. Aside from the odd Mythology Gag.
- As an example, the 1966 story "The Tenth Planet" was set in 1986, by which time the UN has an International Space Command with a base at the South Pole and Cybermen invade the Earth in a big way. (No prior story had taken place in the future so close in time to the present day.) The 1985 story "Attack of the Cybermen" managed to function as a sequel to this story without really delving into the way that Who history and real history diverged. The Backstory of the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Iceberg, set in 2006 (though published in the 1990s), though, had the advanced tech and proactive UN as the logical follow-on from the "UNIT era" (whenever that was...)
- The Doctor's now-former Robot Buddy K-9, first appeared in "The Invisible Enemy" , which aired in 1977. Since then, at least in the parent show and The Sarah Jane Adventures, he has not undergone a redesign, so that his design aesthetic (at least in the parent show) remains unchanged. When K-9 re-appeared in "School Reunion" (2006), Present Day characters made note of his dated appearance.
- The Star Trek prequel Enterprise took place before the original Star Trek. In the mirror universe episode, the Campy Zeerusty TOS era ship Defiant is sent "back" and everyone still marvels at how futuristic it is.
- Star Trek also goes back and forth on this in regards to the Eugenics Wars. In the original series it was said to be a massive worldwide conflict that took place in the 1990s. One episode of Voyager has them time travel back to 1990s California with no apparent war. However, canon nevertheless goes with the 1990s, with at least one semi-canon novel claiming the Wars were clandestine happenings underlying the publicly known events of the 1990s. And then Enterprise had one of the characters mention that his great-grandfather participated in a battle against Augment forces in North Africa, while another episode reinforced the 'entire populations were bombed out of existence' story TOS had gone with.
- The Michael Radford film adaptation of 1984 retains the late 1940's tech such as pneumatic tubes, in order to show how the totalitarian dictatorship of Ingsoc has stifled development and creativity.
- The Metal Gear series is probably the kings of this trope, given its constant focus on the world of "tactical espionage".
- The first Metal Gear came out in 1987 and takes place Twenty Minutes into the Future in the year 1995 (or 1996, depending on the source), while Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake came out in 1990 and takes place in 1999. Both reference the Soviet Union and the StB (Czechoslovakian Secret Police) still being around, and one character in Metal Gear 2 (a Czechoslovakian woman named Natasha) compares her doomed romance with an American (Frank) with the Berlin Wall (which was destroyed the same year the game came out). The plot summary of Metal Gear 2 that was included in Metal Gear Solid attempted to reconcile some of these outdated inconsistencies by claiming that the army Zanzibarland fought for their independence was not the USSR, but from the CIS, and by making Natasha (who herself was later renamed "Gustava" in re-releases of the game) into a former StB agent.
- Metal Gear Solid came out in 1998, but the game itself takes place in 2005 (six years after Metal Gear 2), and has such glaringly outdated things such as the use of the term "Japanimation" instead of anime.
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty came out in 2001 and took place in 2007 and 2009. The demo version that came with the original Zone of the Enders even had the Twin Towers in the background, which was almost kept in the final game until the unfortunate timing of the 9/11 attacks. Said unfortunate event happened two days before the game was scheduled to go gold. Needless to say, the development team went into panicked work mode to avoid falling into this trope before their game was released.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots came out in 2008 after the events of Metal Gear Solid, and the first half of Metal Gear Solid 2 had already passed. This also overlaps significantly with the Ruritanian Setting of the first two games, with fictional countries like Outer Heaven, and Zanzibarland. And, since the game takes place in 2014, in real life, business for PMCs is actually on the decline.
- Back to the Future runs into this with the 2011 Point-and-Click video game. The final episode includes both Xbox 360 headsets (from the Real Life 2000s) and the Mattel Hoverboard (from the second film's 2015).
- When creating Alien: Isolation, Creative Assembly deliberately filled the setting with the same sort of '70s and '80s computer technology that had been seen in the films for this reason. It extends to every facet of the game's style, including the in-universe advertising, magazines, signs, and fashion, creating a sci-fi world where the '70s never truly ended.
- Wasteland 2 deliberately keeps the first game's vision of the future from 1988, despite coming out in 2014: computers are huge white blocks with comparatively small green and black monitors. The icon for the computer skill is a 3.5mm floppy. You even find random 80s crap likes Rubik's cubes as Vendor Trash.
- Jetsons: The Movie takes place in the same canon as the 1960s series, but being released in 1990 has references to 1980s music and fashion.
- The 1980's Revival does this at times too. Teenagers Judy's age look like punk rockers with mohawks, they make references to celebrities of the time, but some subtle retcons are present like computer designs. Instead of being UNIVACs they resemble 1980s PCs except bigger.