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Seat 14C illustration
The short stories of “Seat 14C” imagine that an ANA Boeing 777 jet has passed through a wrinkle in spacetime. (Illustration for XPRIZE / Seat 14C)

Imagine you’re a passenger on a jet that mysteriously time warps to the year 2037: That’s what a team of world-class science-fiction writers did for “Seat 14C,” a project created by XPRIZE and Japan’s ANA airline.

Now you can imagine as well, and your tale may well earn you a trip to Tokyo for two.

But wait … there’s more: The winner of the “Seat 14C” contest also earns an honorary seat on the XPRIZE Science Fiction Advisory Council, alongside such greats as Margaret Atwood (“The Handmaid’s Tale), Paolo Bacigalupi (“The Windup Girl”) and Seattle author Nancy Kress (“Beggars in Spain”).

Those writers are among the more than two dozen contributors to the online “Seat 14C” short-story anthology, all focused on technological visions for 2037.

“These writers offer a fascinating glimpse into what the future may hold in a number of areas: transportation, energy + environment, education, identity and privacy, housing, currency, jobs, and even relationships,” said Eric Desatnik, who is the project’s creator and producer as well as senior director of public relations for the nonprofit XPRIZE organization.

The project is in line with XPRIZE’s focus on boosting technological innovation through incentives – including multimillion-dollar contests for private-sector spaceships, super-efficient automobiles and medical diagnostic devices inspired by the tricorders on “Star Trek.”

“Seat 14C” also provides some clever product placement for ANA, the project’s commercial sponsor.

Visitors to the website start their ride by watching a short video about the backstory: ANA Flight 008 is on its way from Tokyo to San Francisco when the Boeing 777 jet flies through a disturbance in spacetime.

It seems like just one moment for the passengers, but when the jet comes in for a landing, they discover that the date is actually June 28, 2037. They suddenly have to adjust to technologies that have advanced 20 years while they weren’t looking.

The screen turns into an interactive seating chart – and when you click on a seat, you call up a tale as told by that seat’s occupant, accompanied by an illustration.

San Francisco 2037
The San Francisco of 2037 looks quite different from today’s city in an illustration created by Stephan Martiniere for the “Seat 14C” project. (Courtesy of XPRIZE)

Bacigalupi, for example, writes about the guy in 25G who gets a brain implant. Madeline Ashby’s story about the woman in 19D who attends an AI contest features an original poem written by Atwood. From Seat 13F, Portland roboticist Daniel H. Wilson’s short story brings new meaning to the phrase “smart home.”

And then there’s 14C.

When visitors click on that open seat, they’re invited to submit their own story of a 2037 time warp, running 2,500 to 3,500 words in length. The user-submitted stories will be judged by members of the XPRIZE staff and the Science Fiction Advisory Council.

“The stories will be judged based on the following criteria: unique vision of the future, adherence to prompt, and alignment with our techno-optimistic view of the future,” XPRIZE says.

In the fictional world of 2037, the top choice gets to fill Seat 14C. In the real world of 2017, the winner gets an ANA flight for two to Tokyo, along with accommodations, spending money, a GoPro camera and a handheld speech translator.

What? No brain implant?

The Seat 14C story contest is open to anyone over the age of 18, from anywhere in the world. The deadline for story submissions is Aug. 25, and the winner will be announced in September. Check the website for complete rules and conditions, and stay tuned for future projects from XPRIZE and its Science Fiction Advisory Council.

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