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The expression “Fact is stranger than fiction” gets bandied about quite often. Hell, we’ve used it ourselves several times this week. And while certainly things happen in the real world that seem right out of the pages of a novel, even more amazing is that sometimes … they are. Today we will discuss five memorable events from the historical record that seem to mirror prophetic fiction written and published well before the events themselves.
5 The Land Ironclads
H.G. Wells is best known for his book “War of the Worlds,” but unlike the fictional events of the novel, which stayed on the page (and in that infamous radio broadcast), another of his works predicted the future quite well. In the short story “The Land Ironclads,” tank warfare is described a decade before anything like a tank had ever been used in combat. Tanks were a reaction to the stagnant, deadly trench warfare of World War I, “invented” due to necessity. But in Wells’ mind, when his story came out in 1903, they were pure science fiction.
4 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Mr. Verne hit the nail pretty close to the head again with his iconic book “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” which was originally published in 1870. Yes, there had been primitive submersible ships created and used before with limited success (check out The Turtle and The Hunley), but Verne was years ahead of his time in describing The Nautilus, the sub featured in the book – a ship much like the modern nuclear submarine.
3 From the Earth to the Moon
Jules Verne was like the hipster futurist: he was a futurist a good century before anyone else was even saying the word futurist. And that’s why his work is on this list not once, but twice. The first example of Verne writing about something that came to pass was also a hundred years ahead of its time: his book “From the Earth to the Moon” was published in 1865. One hundred and four years later? Bam: Armstrong and Aldrin.
2 The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym
This one is rather macabre, but purportedly true, so toughen up and read on. Egdar Allan Poe’s only completed full length novel was titled “The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym,” about four shipwreck survivors in a lifeboat who eventually kill and consume the youngest member of the surviving party, a lad named Parker. The book came out in 1838. In 1884, a real boat named “The Mignonette” sank leaving only four survivors in a lifeboat for many days. One of them was a youth named Parker … and the real life Parker also ended up being killed and eaten!
1 Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan
In 1898, author Morgan Robertson published a novel titled “Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan” about an ocean liner named “The Titan.” In his book, the ship is considered to be so modern and mighty it is unsinkable. Yet when the fictional ocean liner strikes a massive iceberg during a transatlantic crossing, it goes ahead and sinks anyway, with much loss of life and proof that hubris is a bitch. Flash forward 14 years (and into the real world) and add the letters “ic” to the end of the name “Titan” and you get one hell of an amazing coincidence …