Future fashion

I’ve written here before about the frequent neglect of textiles in fantasy and science fiction, and the use of clothing as a way to understand the ecology and economy of a world a bit better.

Something in the news this week has prompted me to revisit it, from a more science-fictional angle: Japanese researchers have genetically modified silkworms to produce red and green fluorescent silk. It looks white under ordinary light, and colored under UV light.

Wired has pictures and details, and there are more photographs of fancier garments here. (The embroidery! I need some of this to weave with so badly.) Anyway, go look. I’ll be here when you get back to talk about science fiction.

The potential applications of this fascinate me: it’s a combination of advanced science (genetic modification, UV light availability) and very old technology (raising silkworms for textile production and processing their output, even though processing methods had to be modified for the less robust fluorescent silk).

Melding technologies like this is nothing new, but something we take utterly for granted. Most of what we eat is raised in ways not that different from the past centuries or millenia, but the way we process it is the product of advanced technology. (Your great-grandmother and mine would have been shocked and ecstatic with a modern stove and refrigerator, even if the meat and vegetables would have been largely familiar).

What parts of modern/medieval/earlier life and technology are we likely to keep in the future, and what parts would be utterly unrecognizable to someone from our time and place? Mixing together the familiar and the foreign in science fiction both grounds the reader (the familiar) and forces them to recognize that this isn’t quite like what they know (the foreign). That juxtaposition can lead to some of the best and most realistic worldbuilding.

Like a perfectly normal wedding dress that fluoresces in multiple colors during the reception.

What other juxtapositions can you think of? What about examples of SF that do a good job with this technique?

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