Where IS my flying car?

James Lileks reports today (10/26/2006 A.D.–note that this is the real date. There is no such thing as ‘C.E.”) his daughter pretending to read a book in the future from the far past, our present, has this to say:

Back in ancient times they put their books on something called paper. They had to use machines to make their books, and they had to hold them in their hands. Today we have robots. They didn’t have robots then. They didn’t even have hovercars. But they had geniuses who could invent hovercars so people could have them in the future. And that’s why we have hovercars today.

Because of the geniuses of the past?

Yes. (Stage whisper: but they’re still in the future.) Yes, that is correct.

The hovercar mystique: it reaches across generations. Everyone wants their hovercars!

As with all things, Mr. Lileks is truer than true about the hovercars. No science fiction movie (with the possible exception of El Cheap-O post-atom-war films made by a raid on the dirty clothes bin of the costume department)  is complete without a hover car sliding past the window to show that this is the FUTURE (again, possible exception of MINORITY REPORT, which had car sliding sideways up skyscrapers, which was Way Cool, so that gets included on a technicality).

How far back does the love of the flying car go? The Cavorite Sphere of H.G. Well? The Hippogriff of Ariosto? All the way back to prehistorical Middle East, where Seraphim and Winged Bulls, crowned and bearded, loomed monstrous over the Ishtar gate? Whoever first gave angels wings knew well the human love of flight predates our own flying machine by countless years.

How odd it is to have a flightless race so much in love with flying. Could it be some buried memory of leaping from branch to branch as prehuman monkey-things? Or, if the theosophists have their way, a memory of spirit-life wafting like ectoplasmic silks from star to star?

I would like to see the science fiction story of a race whose dreams are opposite of ours. The gossimer gas-balloon people of Jupiter, let us say, living eternally in cloud, bourne here and there by wind and whirlwind, dreaming of what it must be like, the joy of standing on solid legs like pillers, atop a cloud that is a motionless as they appear in the distance, able to stand still with the wind streaming past, and only your hair is blown. Ah! What steadfastness a race of solids would exhibit! With what joy they would perambulate across the motionless substance of the hypothetical ‘firm cloud’ knowing no breeze could whirl them from their destination! How firm in their affections, how steady in their words, would this godlike race of not-moving-much creatures be!  Surely they would rejoice every day, and adorn their feet with paint and silk and leather housings.