The Cubs, the 108-Year-Long Streak, and Old Man’s War

Photo by Arturo Pardavila, used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo for original.

This year, as the Chicago Cubs came closer and closer to winning a World Series, people wondered what that might mean for the Old Man’s War series of books. After all, in several places I had people in the books discussing the Chicago Cubs and their inability to win a World Series, and in The Human Division, it’s actually a plot point. So what happens to those books, now that the Cubs, after 108 years, have won a World Series?

Well, you know. In one sense, nothing. The books are fiction, take place in the “future” and in a multiverse where space travel isn’t actually traveling in space, it’s traveling from one universe to another, where things are (usually) just one electron position different. So now either the events of the Old Man’s War series have been pushed further out in the timestream, for at least another 108 years (or so), or we’ve just become a universe so improbable that it’s unlikely the events of the Old Man’s War book will ever happen in it, but those events continue, about a billion universes to our left.

Which is it? You choose, either is valid.

As a practical matter, mind you, I think the plot points still work, they just got more meta. Now readers in North America, at least, are aware that the long suffering of Cubs fans has come to a close, and will enjoy the presence of the plot point on that grounds (or if they’re Cleveland fans, not). Readers will hit those points in the books, enjoy the slight bit of cognitive dissonance, and then move on.

But of course, with all those assertions above, it’s possible I might be rationalizing just a tiny bit. In which case, yup, it’s time to come right out and admit it: Now the Old Man’s War books suffer from the same problem as all the science fiction stories before 1969 that named a first man on the moon, or the ones that imagined canals on Mars. The real world caught up to them and passed them by, waving as it did so.

And that’s okay. This is the risk you take when you put a plot point in your books that’s contingent on the real world. It is the fate of science fiction books and other media to be continually invalidated by real-world events, or at least, to have the real world catch up to it and then have the work, by necessity, consigned to a nearby but undeniably alternate universe. This had already happened to the Old Man’s War series in a small ways (no one calls hand-held computers “PDAs” anymore, but the folks in the OMW series do, because that’s what they called them in 2001, when I wrote the first book), and in larger ways for other books of mine. Agent to the Stars, for example, has a plot point involving an elderly Holocaust survivor. In 1997, when I wrote that book, that was still a reasonable thing. Today in 2016, it’s a pretty long stretch. In another ten years, Agent to the Stars will undeniably take place in the past, in an alternate universe.

The real world catches up to science fiction. It always does.

But it doesn’t always kill the book (or film, or whatever), thankfully. 1984 is still read despite the titular year now being more than 30 years in the past; we watch 2001 despite us not having moon bases or monoliths at the moment; people still enjoy the various Star Trek television series despite the fact the communicators in each iteration are laughably less complex than a smart phone today. People seem to get that science fiction stories have plot points and details that expire, or, at the most charitable, “go meta.”

I suspect that will be the fate of the Old Man’s War books. The Chicago Cubs in that universe are a plot point, but a minor one overall. I don’t expect that many people will decide that the Cubs continuing to be lovable losers there will be the thing that throws them entirely out of suspension of disbelief. And if it does, I mean, okay? Their life. Everyone else will either push out the timeline, enjoy the meta moment, or, alternately (and especially if they’re not baseball fans), not care. I think the books will survive, is what I’m saying.

In the meantime, congratulations to the Cubs and all their fans. As someone who attended college in Chicago, this is lovely moment; as someone who now lives in Ohio, this is a disappointment; and as someone who grew up in Los Angeles, I stopped caring one series back. No matter what, however, having the Chicago-Cleveland series decided in the tenth inning of a game seven is just about perfect. It could not have been written better.

I’ve gone on the record in years past saying it’s more existentially satisfying for the Cubs to keep losing than to ever win the World Series — they crown a World Series winner every year, after all, but no one else has a 108-year-long streak of futility to their name, with the potential to add to it every season. Streaks like that don’t come around every year, or even every century. Seems a shame to throw something like that away on mere winning. But, you know what? Right now, there’s not a single Cubs fan in the world, living or dead, who agrees with me, if indeed there ever was. That’s fair enough. I hope they all enjoy their moment of winning, and the end of the long, long, long losing streak. The Cubs earned it.

And, also, if they ever make a TV series or a movie series out of the Old Man’s War books, Chicago in the text will be replaced by Cleveland, and it will still work. Sorry, Cleveland. You know I love you.

83 Comments on “The Cubs, the 108-Year-Long Streak, and Old Man’s War”

  1. Note: While this thread will be an appropriate place for Chicago fans to celebrate and Cleveland fans to commiserate, let’s avoid any sour grapes against Chicago fans or taunting of Cleveland fans. Don’t be jerks, in other words. I thank you in advance for your cooperation.

  2. Well, given that Old Man’s War takes place well over a century in the future (long enough for the human race to establish offworld colonies that are many generations old), that’s plenty of time for a new century-long epic losing streak to be established, right?

  3. As a Cubs fan 40+ years I grew up 1.4 miles away from wrigley from 1968 to 1986 and to finally to see them win a World Series is really quite amazing. Ending the long suffering for the fans who been rooting and rooting and enduring disappointment after disappointment..but I’m not sure how to conduct myself as a baseball fan now, always think the other shoe was going to drop. It almost did again tonight..

    Thank you for your insights and wondefful post tonight and blogs over the years..

  4. Man, oh man.

    My parents — both from Chicago — were twenty; and my dad had just fought a Young Man’s War the last time the Cubs even made it to the World Series. Neither of them lived long enough to see the end of the curse.

    Down in Wrigleyville, people are writing the names of THEIR loved ones who didn’t live long enough either on the brick outer walls of Wrigley Field along Sheffield Avenue.

    Man, oh man.

  5. All your points are completely valid and one of them will certainly be correct for most of us. As you say, there will be some outliers; their life. As one of those people who still reads 1984 every few years (also read it in 8th Grade Lit class prior to 1984) and is also a die-hard, true blue Trekkie, I don’t even notice these things that have “gone meta”. It’s science-FICTION, and if the story is told well it’s generally enough for me to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the ride.

  6. About that “PDA” thing: in France, we still use the “PDAs” designation for current gen tablets in an industrial context. I was surprised about it since it does sound obsolete here too.
    Now, I know that Mr Scalzi is not to be trusted on trends of technical terms or any sport references for the next few centuries. Where will I find a better dose of trustworthy US culture ?

  7. It’s funny, when it came down to the end and looked like the cubs were going to win there were two thoughts, please oh please let people celibate without going nuts like years passed in places like L.A. Or… Brazil for instance. The other was I bet Scalzi will have something to say about this and sure enough searching for ‘Old Man’s War cubs losing streak’ put your blog post at the top of it all. Your books never disappoint till I run out of pages, and the fact you felt it you needed to say something about it didn’t disappoint either. To also know the fact that you follow to some degree the two teams in this year’s world series if only due to the geographic vicinity of you to the trans at different points in your life , both of which had a sizeable championship drought, somehow makes it all that much more interesting your words that much more apropos and your outlook of your chosen craft that much more grounded. Thank you for being an amazing writer of stories I love.

  8. As a Red Sox fan who watched them win the Series, something they did not do in my Father’s entire lifetime, I can appreciate the joy Chicago Cubs fans are feeling. And I’ll still enjoy ‘The Human Division’ when next I re-read it. Even with the asterix ;-)

    Steve Goodman is smiling up there.

  9. When I read old sci-fi (I’m 33, so anything older than me) some of my favorite moments are when outdated ideas are presented. It’s like a time capsule of ambition and imagination from another era.

  10. As someone who is a big Old Man’s War fan but lives many thousands of miles from Chicago (and wouldn’t know a baseball from a tennis ball) I confess that my first thought on hearing about this Cubs victory was ‘Huh. Wonder what Scalzi has to say about that?’

    And now I know – quick work, thank you!

  11. These streaks don’t come around every century? The 1980 Phillies, who won the first championship in the then 97-year history of the franchise, would like introduce themselves to you, John.

    (Stated with nothing but good humor.)

  12. I think you can look at it all of these ways and be reasonably correct. It’s cool that they finally won! Just think of all those losing streaks people have in life. Nice to see it not go on forever, but I’d imagine there are a few gambling types who are ecstatic and some who are fairly devastated thinking they had a sure thing. That they couldn’t loose (er rather win)? All good and bad things come to an end?

  13. Speaking of things “going meta,” I’m reminded of the NASA scientist who requisitioned for a new dictionary. Gov’t agencies are notoriously cheap about such things, so they asked him why he thought he needed one. He said, “My dictionary defines a spaceship as ‘an imaginary object.’ ”

    He got his new dictionary.

    In other news, I spent the first 12 yrs of my life in Chicago. The last time they won the Series, my mother wasn’t even a gleam in my grandmother’s eye, and my father was two years old. GO CUBS! :-)

  14. Yeah, but how about Back to the Future predicting the Cubs winning the World Series and only missing by a year? (It has the team winning in 2015)

  15. Last month Connie Willis’s Crosstalk was released. It is a contemporary SF comic romance, and mentions at the start that Brad and Angelina had the SF medical procedure done to them…

  16. Yeah, but forget Old Man’s War. Isn’t the Cubs winning the Final Sign of the Apocalypse?

    Seriously, congratulations Cubs fans. The Red Sox fans waited 86 years, the White Sox fans 88.

  17. I ALWAYS consider Sci Fi to be written “one or two universes over” really, so I’m good. I’m also not a person who follows the SportsBall stuff, so it would take quite a lot for me to even KNOW that these particular facts on the ground have changed…. I think you’re safe, dear Scalzi. ;)

  18. Joke I saw last night from a fellow Red Sox fan: “Now the Indians need to hire Theo Epstein.”

  19. the same problem as all the science fiction stories before 1969 that named a first man on the moon

    Wasn’t there one story that correctly named him as “Armstrong” completely by coincidence? I only vaguely remember this…

  20. Game 7 of 112th World Series: David Ross hanging on a cross
    by Jonathan Vos Post…

    Crooked numbers, beer in a cup
    in middle inning
    Kluber”s change-up
    Cubs are winning
    Chicago fans at the gates of Heaven: Game 7!
    Kyle Hendricks trying to get over for the out
    and he does, Chisenhall
    might hit one over the wall
    in comes Zobrist, a simple twist
    of fate — no change of expression, or heartrate
    Rocket to Right Center by Baez: home run!
    Mr. Lights out, Andrew Miller, out of the bull pen
    Dexter Fowler leadoff homered off him, and at Wrigley, Bryant safe, 5-1
    and today we’ll see the double play.
    6:35 p.m.
    Wed 2 Nov 2016

  21. “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” That’s the opening line of Neuromancer, of course, and I don’t think Gibson meant that the sky was a bright, flat blue. In its time, it was a terrific description, and the fact that the future has passed it and waved (I love that way of putting it) doesn’t make the book any less good and doesn’t even do much harm to that as an opening sentence, or at least as long as we remember what a dead channel used to look like. Maybe Gibson’s ur-description of cyberspace doesn’t hold up either, but once the reader has plunged into the world of the book, none of that matters if the book is good to begin with.

    Oh, and joy to all the Cubs fans and all the baseball fans who enjoyed the cliffhanger ending of the Series. I don’t follow baseball myself, but I couldn’t help thinking of Steve Goodman, like many folks here, I’m sure, and giving him an inner thumbs-up.

  22. BW:

    Oddly enough, when I very recently turned on my brand new 4K TV for the first time, it started looking for terrestrial stations, and the classic static pattern (and sound) was back on my screen. So ironically what’s old is new again.

  23. The Indians now have the longest run without a World Series title, 68 years. Next in line is the Texas Rangers who are at 50+ years and counting (and have never won a World Series).

  24. I was living in Boston when the Sox won the first time. I remember the joy and elation, followed by an entire metropolitan area in deep depression soon after with the words Curt Schilling is a Nazi spray painted prominently in Harvard Square. From hero to goat with one presidential endorsement/election.

    So even though I ought to be elated for the Cubs, I’ve been feeling quite a bit of trepidation about the series. Hopefully next Wednesday that worry will be gone!

  25. John Scalzi, this is just the natural progression of science fiction, which inevitably transforms into alternate history. Star Trek was future oriented science fiction, but we’ve shot past some specific dates already, such as the Eugenics Wars that ended in 1996. You get to add a new genre tag now. Think of the marketing possibilities!

  26. This series really couldn’t have been better written from a dramatic standpoint. Down 1-3, the Cubs fight back to get the two wins to keep it alive. Final game, Cubs are doing great but Oh No! The Indians tie it! We’re going to extra innings – but rain delay. Montage of players and fans, concern about what will happen as the rain falls. Cubs get two runs, looking good – but then the Indians get one! Threatening more – and he’s OUT!

  27. Charlie Stross has this problem in spades, which is why he had to abandon several nearly complete near-future novels and to do a major last-minute rewrite on the most recently published Laundry installment. Also, a sudden universe-branching in his Merchant Princes series; writing delays made what would have been future events into past ones, but ones that were baked into the plot structure.

    To avoid this, one pretty much has to write far-future stuff where Earth’s history is lost, to write contemporary SF (William Gibson’s Blue Ant trilogy), to write alternate-history, or to use some clever fourth dodge I can’t think of at the moment. Better, though, is to say “Whatever”. I think you’ve already got this.

  28. Hi,

    I’m life long Cubs fan. I also have a background in philosophy (MA from UChicago). I actually have been grappling with the existential problem you mentioned about the Cubs actually winning it all. What does one do now? What does it even mean to be a Cubs fan now?

    While I’m extremely happy at the moment I’m a little bit sad too. The Cubs are different now. Well maybe a lot sad actually. I can’t of a better way to reject Trumpianism than to embrace a losing team because they lost.

    So I’m overjoyed that they won, but I might actually agree with the point that for this to not happen is more existentially pleasing.

  29. President Obama, though a White Sox fan, tweeted his congratulations and invited the Cubs to the White House before he leaves office.

    I need a picture of our black President welcoming the World Series Champions Chicago Cubs, alongside our female President-Elect to prove we really are living in a sci-fi universe.Vote.

    (Also- Cleveland can you please change your mascot? It was great that the two teams this year were both trying to end massive droughts- but it would have been particularly icky to watch a bunch of white people painted up in “red face” celebrating a victory while Native Americans are being arrested in Standing Rock for trying to protect their own water supply. That image would have taken us away from “amazing sci-fi future” and closer to “regressive dystopia”.)

  30. One minor quibble (and this isn’t just you, let’s be honest). You wrote: “people still enjoy the various Star Trek television series despite the fact the communicators in each iteration are laughably less complex than a smart phone today.”

    The TOS communicators could establish communications with a ship in orbit at any time, even on the other side of the planet. Cell phones are happy to talk to a cell site up to two kilometers away. They might get three or so in a low-interference environment. We still have a long way to go.

    And that’s not getting into the TNG and later communicators which pack everything into a badge (one button, and the whole thing is that button: that just screams Steve Jobs) and have speech processing that’s hell a better than anything we’ve got today. (That’s another rant; being hard of hearing, I absolutely hate Google’s auto-captions on YouTube because they’re worse than useless: they convince producers they don’t need proper captions.)

  31. Given the problems that arise in modern smart phones exactly because they are so complex, the simplicity of Trek communicators could still be seen as futuristic. They seem to have immense range, power, and clarity in such a small device. A tool designed exactly for its purpose, no more and no less.

    But more to the point of the post, I think there will always be that camp of people who desire to reconcile reasons why the fiction isn’t conforming to the real world, and your existing use the multiverse theory in the series gives them a handy out.

  32. John,

    Yesterday the header photo on the blog was a wonderful shot of the two Scamperbeasts in full leaping flight. I wanted to show it to Mrs J, but now it’s gone. Could you post a link to that marvelous cat-leap photo, please?

    I watched most of the BB game off-and-on, it was really a good game, much more suspense than the usual game. But I’m not a huge fan, and not really educated about many details that serious fans take for granted. Wife is more so about some details, knows which teams are AL and which are NL – I don’t know and don’t care. She had to crash at the end of the 9th inning.

    So she got to discover this universe-shattering even this morning when I told her coffee was ready.

    Big fun!

    JR in WV

  33. I love this. I’m always so disappointed when people can’t enjoy Golden Age science fiction like Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” because the science doesn’t hold up. Really, who cares? It’s FICTION. One of my favorites is Asimov’s “The Naked Sun” with a major plot point that didn’t hold up even in his own time. Authors worrying too much about how technological advancements might date their work would deprive us of some great stories.

  34. My grandfather was born on Sheffield Ave and I’m born into the Cubs religion, so to speak. It was a wonderful day. My grandfather was 4 the last year the Cubs won — and has passed on to watch the great game in the sky a good twenty years ago. I can say I watched the Cubs win in my lifetime. And it’s a disconcerting feeling at 56. The Cubs have pulled it out of the hat in the most exciting World Series ever.

  35. A minor plot point in the OMW multiverse diverges from reality because the Cubs win the World Series after 108 years. As plot imperfections go, that’s actually very cool.

  36. Never predict the future. If you’re right, no on will remember. If you’re wrong, no one will let you forget.

    Also, at least you had a couple years before it happened.

    I believe the movie “Fever Pitch” a movie about the Red Sox and their 86 year curse was just wrapping up when the Red Sox friggen won the World Series and broke the curse. So they had to quickly rewrite the ending, shoot some new scenes, and try to make it not be completely irrelevant from day 1.

  37. My first moment of dissonance with your work was when you referred to the Washington team as the Senators in Android’s Dream. And I was like “Damnit we’re the Nationals because we don’t have any senators,” but then I decided that my head-canon was that DC had achieved statehood in the Android’s Dream-verse and renamed the team in celebration.

    So for the Cubs, maybe the definition of ‘longest losing streak’ has changed in the future. Maybe MLB has changed the draft rules to rely on statistical modeling software that more evenly balances teams. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    As for bigger changes: there’s an interesting thing there about alternate futures–or, the futures of alternate pasts. We’ve got some works that pull that trick on purpose, and many more that pull it because the future passed them by. But at least for me, those stories don’t have a separate section under the genre tent the way that alternate histories do. Wikipedia describes the Yiddish Policemen’s Union as “an alternative history version of the present day.” We don’t have a separate term for that. Seems like it could make good panel-fodder.

  38. “Now the Old Man’s War books suffer from the same problem as all the science fiction stories before 1969 that named a first man on the moon…

    I’ll be happy, John, as long as you don’t do at the end of your (hopefully) long career what Robert Heinlein did at the end of his: attempt to have it both ways, bringing characters from his “Leslie LeCroix timeline” (i.e., the timeline of his 1950 novella “The Man Who Sold the Moon,” wherein LeCroix was the first man on the moon) together with characters in the “Neil Armstrong timeline,” among others.

    As for last night’s game: I turned to my wife when it was over and said “Well, I guess we never have to watch a baseball game again.” What could top this one?

  39. Congratulations to the Cubs and their fans!!

    Here in the CLE, the rainy sky seems to be commiserating with us, but we are so proud of our Tribe. Truly it was the best 2 teams in baseball who fought nobly until the end. We’re hoping the TV networks notice that they can get high ratings even when neither team is based in LA or NYC – go figure.

    Can’t tell you the number of folks here who were rooting for the Cubs to win the NL pennant, because we’re in the best position to understand what a World Series win would mean to them. When I read about people chalking their departed loved one’s names on the brick walls of Wrigley Field, it brings a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. They deserve to savor this moment!

    Our silver lining to these clouds: When (not if!) the Tribe and Cubs face off in the World Series next year, Chicago fans won’t have as much reason to bloat up the ticket prices beyond what Clevelanders can afford with our lower-but-growing economy. $10K for a seat! Unreal! But worth it for their fans, with this outcome.

    Also must say: so proud of my Cleveland Orchestra playing the National Anthem before the game! They are the Cleveland team that wins *every* time they play! :-)

    I’m encouraged that more and more people here are saying that the old “Chief” emblem needs to go – even the man who designed it long ago when he was just 17 years old! I’m hoping that, by next year, we’ll have something new that depicts the nobility, courage, and strength of what the team was named for, like what we see right now at Standing Rock. (BTW, the team name actually relates to a Native American who was on the original club roster, so it was a tribute, not a negative, at the beginning.) How great it would be for Tribe fans to support the Standing Rock movement – a more important place to direct our energy than sports/entertainment, in the big scheme of things.

  40. No, the final sign of the apocalypse would be the Browns winning the Super Bowl. Hell, *going* to the Super Bowl would probably qualify. It’s tough being a Cleveland fan, unless you like basketball….

  41. This just fits in with the genera overall weirdness that has been 2016. The people we’ve lost, the worst election ever, and now, of COURSE, the Cubs win the World Series.

  42. As a Leicester City fan, I feel ya, my Chicago friends. Congratulations. There’s no curse that having the best organization, the best farm system, the best manager, and the best players can’t overcome. Condolences to the folks in Cleveland, but you’ll be back, and I hope you end your drought sooner rather than later.

    Regarding the future, Warren Ellis’ had a good bit on sci-fi writers in his 25 September newsletter which I think is appropriate to this discussion:

    “I’m not a big fan of prediction in fiction – or, at least, treating fiction as an engine for prediction. Our job was never to predict the single true future…

    …But let me circle back round to something I just said there. Science fiction as an early warning system. Trying to do exact predictions is stupid, and not something that most science fiction tries…

    What science fiction, as a field, is good for, is looking at ten thousand possibilities at once. Technological, social, political, whatever. And testing them all. Imagining them as real things and testing them in the laboratory of fiction to see what they do.”

    OMW fits that definition (as well as being a great yarn), so I doubt that getting a detail or two wrong is going to you any harm.

  43. I watched DS9 for the first time this year. In one episode, Sisko mentions some fictional baseball player who had beaten Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak. I was so confused at first. Everyone knows Cal Ripken, Jr is who broke that streak. It took me a little bit to realize that the episode was filmed in 1993 (maybe 94). Ripken got the record in 1995.

    To me, that’s an even weirder moment. It’s even further than the meta moment of “well, that’s not true anymore,” but is instead, “wait, how did the writer get that wrong?” And it takes a while to realize that they didn’t get it wrong. It wasn’t fact yet when they wrote it.

  44. I know that some people need some “logical” reason why X doesn’t match up with reality. Me? I don’t care. Gimme a good story and I’m happy, even if the Moon didn’t get blasted out of orbit in 1999, Skynet did blow us all up.

    I’m not gonna claim to be a lifelong Cubs fan. I’ve always been a Braves fan… with the Cubs as my backup team. Paradise for me would be seeing the two play at Wrigley. But I’ll say this, the Cubs did some serious hard work and along with the Indians provided one of the wildest World Series I can remember. Not only that, but even days before the series started I heard more talk about THIS Series than I have since… I dunno. At work, we were all glued to our smartphones in between bouts of sigh… WORK! Keeping a running commentary going on the CBs, and stopping to spread the news to people who asked. It really was community event.

  45. As a Canadian, I first learned about the cubs in that movie where that comedy star sneaks out of prison to see the game, but then he gets shown on television.

    As for progress, I still get homesick reading The Martian Chronicles—forget the science!

    As for Armstrong and 1969—I told Allan Steele I liked how his moonbase included a bar named after “the other guy”—don’t forget Michael Collins.

  46. Speaking purely in baseball terms, you could not have written a better World Series. That thing was an all time classic, particularly last night. The rain delay before going into extra innings was almost as if God herself was toying with us.

    It’s important to remember that while Cubs fans have been suffering for over a century, fans of the Cleveland Cuyahoga River Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons have been suffering for decades as well. Regardless of who won, it was going to be a good story.

  47. Ah, what wonderful surprises happen in our lives – just last weekend I read the book with the cubs playing a major part. Great stories, great universe – thanks for writing those, enjoyed them all a lot.

  48. John, if anyone gives you grief over the Cubs reference in OMW, there’s always Bradbury’s Defence. ;->

    Meanwhile, I remember the running gag in underappreciated SF television series Space: Above and Beyond about character First Lt. Paul Wang’s devotion to the Chicago Cubs, and their still not having broken the curse as of 2063. IMO, that’ll still be golden, on rewatches.

  49. Jesi Pershing – I remember that DS9 bit. There’s also Captain Picard in ST:TNG musing about Fermat’s Last Theorem still being unsolved; Andrew Wiles would publish his proof five years after that episode aired.

  50. No matter what, however, having the Chicago-Cleveland series decided in the tenth inning of a game seven is just about perfect.

    By one run, even. Both teams fought hard for it, as they should.

  51. Larry Niven’s debut story “The Coldest Place” is famous for being invalidated by a scientific discovery that occurred between submission and publication (the rotation of Mercury, which has a spin-orbit coupling but is not synchronous).

    Another one like that, if I recall correctly, is Isaac Asimov’s “Everest”, whose premise was that nobody would ever actually climb the mountain (the first explorers on the summit are dropped from an aircraft in pressure suits, and find aliens there).

  52. To those of you who find the Cubs winning existentially unsatisfying – I can assure you that Bostonians do not feel deprived for no longer having the curse.

    My first thought after the Cubs won last night was “OK, Theo Epstein has broken two curses – what does he do now?” This morning, I’m thinking this means that Cleveland will win next year so Terry Francona can follow suit.

  53. Re: Agent to the Stars. The thing that gave me that feeling of ‘past-ness’ wasn’t the holocaust survivor, but the aliens having an AOL account. :)

  54. I’m not a big baseball fan (where I live currently doesn’t have a major league team of any type in close proximity), but as an Ohio expat, I was vaguely rooting Go Tribe! OTOH, DH is sort of a Cubs fan. The ending was elegantly satisfying, no matter who won.

    It’s also somewhat sad that the pro baseball players were more cordial and sportsmanlike than our current political players.

  55. Chris (@10:10 am) – At least the Rangers have made it to two World Series (and certainly should have won the second one). What about the Seattle Mariners (started 1977)? They’ve never made it, not even the season they won 116 games (2001), when they lost to the Yankees for the second year in a row. The Montreal Expos (started 1969) never made the Series either, and so far their replacement Washington Nationals haven’t either. Every other team (yes, even the Houston Astros) has made at least one World Series.

  56. About that existential problem you mentioned about the Cubs actually winning it all. As a life long Cubs fan, I have no problem at all. None. I have hated the “lovable loser” “cursed” Cub mantras, for a very long time. Nice to see them gone, gone, gone. Last night (earlier this morning) one of the players was asked about how he felt now that the curse was broken. He said, approximately, what curse? A curse is just an excuse. True words

  57. Betty, the Browns are not the only “old” NFL franchise not to make the Super Bowl. Let us not forget the Detroit Lions. (The only two other teams never to make it: Jacksonville Jaguars (first season: 1995) and Houston Texans (first season: 2002).

    The Browns last won a Championship in 1964; the Lions in 1957.

  58. My dad didn’t see this.

    My grandma didn’t see this.

    Steve Goodman didn’t see this.

    But I did.

    Glorious day. Glorious.

    Fly the W.

    Don’t mind the crying.

  59. I’ve followed the Cubs for years but once the “local” team came into being, (Colorado Rockies only a 6 hour drive away!) I haven’t followed the Cubs as closely. How well I remember the 2007 World Series when the Red Sox beat the Rockies in a sweep. The Red Sox managed by Terry Francona. (a South Dakota boy) And yes that made last night just a little sweeter.

  60. The Cubs winning the world series was inevitable, it’s been that kind of year. I think when David Bowie died, it threw off the natural order of things, and the whole year since then has been a long spiral into chaos.

    Anyhew, since you mentioned the unusual way that star travel works in OMW, I just wanted to say that the concept of the skip drive has always freaked me out. First off, even if the parallel dimension is only off by one particle, who knows what dramatic effects that might lead to? (ala “A Sound of Thunder”) And even worse, how do you know that the person who comes out of the skip drive is the same as the one who went in? Ick. It’s like the ST Transporter. You couldn’t pay me enough to fly on one of those starships. Great twist on star travel, though!

  61. An interesting point that I thought of after the Cubs won: Cleveland is now the only one of the “original 16” MLB franchises that hasn’t won a World Series since the first expansion in 1961-62. As recently as 2004 there were four, but the Red Sox, White Sox, and now the Cubs have won more recently. Of the four teams involved in the first expansion, the Mets and Angels have won World Series, but the Senators/Rangers and the Colt .45s/Astros have yet to break through, so they now follow the Indians with the second and third longest droughts. (I haven’t checked to see if the Rangers have ever even made it to the Series; as best I recall they haven’t. I know the Astros did because they lost to the White Sox, which is the team I primarily root for, though this year I also rooted for the Cubs.)

    Someone commented on a local sports talk station to day that Theo Epstein has now been the general manager for ending an 80-odd year WS drought for the Red Sox and a 108-year drought for the Cubs, and he’s younger than Bartolo Colon, who was still a rotation pitcher in MLB this past season.

  62. Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs. We had a similar breaking of a losing streak this year in the AFL grand final – the Western Bulldogs (formerly Fitzroy Bulldogs) hadn’t won a Premiership in 62 years – since 1954, in fact. Not quite a century, but certainly longer than most. (My preferred team, the Fremantle Dockers, are still Premiership virgins, having not succeeded in winning a premiership since their inauguration in 1995. Only 21 years, but still…)

    (Oh, and my long-standing explanation for 2016 is that whoever is writing us has given up in disgust and is just phoning in the plot points. I’m not looking forward to “rocks fall, everybody dies”.)

  63. Not to get to off-topic about the World Series, but…

    “[S]pace travel isn’t actually traveling in space, it’s traveling from one universe to another, where things are (usually) just one electron position different.”

    Love the series, but I had forgotten that! They are physically changing universes? So what happens in the original universe? They’re just gone? “This universe is sunk, boys and girls! Let’s go save another universe!”

  64. Most (if not all) cultural innovations reflect at best the circumstances, ethos, and available technologies of the era in which they were created. Thus, a garment is designed to maximize yield from fabric woven on a loom of particular width. Music is composed to suit the instruments of the period. And so on with building construction or any other creative endeavor. An artist, inventor, etc. might occasionally employ deliberate anachronism by reiterating a motif or idea from an earlier time. Literature – by which I mean anything readable; I’m omnivorous that way – is in no way different. Science fiction functions under a peculiar restraint. Inevitably, the future or alternate reality being depicted is going to get blown away by events, tech change, or a new discovery in very short order. If the story being told is clever, funny, and consistently plausible, I’m not going to give a damn; I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it.

  65. On the football side, the Arizona Cardinals and their prior incarnations haven’t won the football championship since 1947,

    That was definitely an exciting series and one of the best game 7’s . I was in the ballpark for the Royals game 7 in 1985, which was pretty much over in the second inning.

  66. megpie71, upon hearing your observations about the AFL premiership, my DH reminded me that the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks were Grand Final virgins themselves until this year. And they’ve been in the rugby league comp for 50 years! Oh, the joy in Sutherland Shire when they won. ^_^

  67. offthekuff – I remember that bit on Fermat’s Last Theorem as well. Wasn’t Wiles’ proof basically accomplished through a sort of brute-force method?

  68. I understand that Jim Butcher has some work on his hands, since the Curse is a plot point in his Harry Dresden books. I think he has said that the subject will be raised in the book he is currently writing ;-)

  69. @Bruce K: Not exactly brute-force, but it was a complex proof using a lot of high-horsepower mathematics that you wouldn’t necessarily implicate in a simple statement about integer arithmetic.

    Brute-force is more how I’d describe the proof of the four-color map theorem: one of the first mathematical proofs to make heavy use of a computer to exhaustively check a large number of cases. At the time, it caused a bit of a philosophical crisis in mathematics.

  70. This can actually be fun for authors and readers. If you are writing science fiction, why not set your story in a universe where the Yankees own the bottom of the baseball barrel? Why not have Frank Sinatra (thinly disguised) performing at Shea Stadium while the Beatles become a cult band, then open a plumbing supply business in Liverpool?

  71. @mngwa

    I’m a cubs fan from a Boston family. Red Sox fandom did in fact change after 2004. The edge was gone.

    There’s actually a lot of liberation in loving a team despite of or even because of being losers. It’s akin to a stoic acceptance of the shortness of life.

    I wouldn’t mind a repeat one time next ,year but beyond that I do hope the teams tanks hard soon. Winning isn’t always fun.

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