Never before have we been so nostalgic for something that never happened.
For the better part of three decades, fans of the "Back to the Future" movie trilogy have eagerly waited for October 21, 2015 -- today! -- to celebrate a movie that wistfully imagined what California would look like in the future, err, present. Enthusiastic devotees have clogged the Internet with images inspired by the movie. There are hoverboards, self-lacing sneakers and flying cars, all products we wish would go on sale.
Not familiar with B2TF, as the series is abbreviated? It follows Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly and his friend Doc Brown as they time-travel in a, the sleek, high-end car that in the '80s had a fascinating story of its own. Oh yeah, there are also plenty of photos of DeLoreans floating around the Internet now.
"The Back to the Future trilogy is simply iconic," said Martin Archer, a physicist and popular radio personality in the UK, who will introduce a showing of "Back to the Future Part II" at a London cinema. "It continues to capture the imagination."
The Internet, which B2TF didn't prognosticate, is unsurprisingly the epicenter of fan activity.
Facebook said that roughly a million people have joined more than 4,500 B2TF-themed events on the social network. Similarly, more than half a million B2TF-related tweets have been posted to Twitter in the past month alone, according to Union Metrics, a San Francisco-based social media analytics company.
Many of those conversations on social media discuss what the B2TF series got right about the future. Wearable tech, drones and videoconferencing are among the technological feats the series is given credit for accurately predicting. There's also an explosion of chatter on the Internet about B2TF's prediction that the Chicago Cubs will finally get a World Series victory. They're only eight wins away.
Suzette Valle, the author of children's cinema guide titled "101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up," says part of B2TF's allure is that it gave moviegoers an innocent-yet-exciting glimpse of what the future might look like.
"The concept of time travel that didn't involve spacemen or living on an isolated planet, but instead simply staying in an updated version of our same neighborhoods, was a different concept for moviegoers in the 1980s," said Valle, who has B2TF on her movie watch list.
Of course, the arrival of B2TF day is also a marketing bonanza. Pepsi, whose cola drink was featured in the movie, is selling 6,500 limited-edition bottles of online for $20.15 apiece. (Get it?) Pepsi says the colas will provide a taste of "the future."
"I like to expect the unexpected," said Matt Halfhill, founder and publisher of Nicekicks.com.
Well, Nike just did it again by announcing it will make limited editions of the shoes that will be auctioned off. Proceeds will go toward Fox's foundation for Parkinson's research. Fox himself the first pair Wednesday.
For fans of old-school technology, Universal Pictures is releasing the trilogy on Blu-ray and DVD, with a bonus disc packing two hours of content.
Similarly, stars Fox and Christopher Lloyd, who played Brown, have joined together in a new Toyota commercial to discuss what visions of the future the films got right. The pair cite 3D movies, fingerprint technology and fax machines. The video has racked up 2.5 million views on YouTube.
Social commentators, however, say B2TF's enduring popularity is rooted in its fundamental humanity. Rather than a future where society has destroyed itself, an all-too common trope of Hollywood these days, B2TF presents a world where people have the same priorities as they do today.
"It was made to be feel-good," said Charles Hirschkind, an anthropology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "That's countered for its great popularity."
Updated at 4 p.m. PT with information on Nike's "Mag" shoe auction.
Back to the Future Day
reading•This is heavy: The Internet is ready to party with Marty
Oct 22•Marty McFly and Doc Brown time-travel to 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'
Oct 21•'OMG @docbrown': What Marty McFly and Doc would tweet today
Oct 21•Nike self-lacing sneakers are real on Back to the Future Day
Oct 21•We're living in the future with shiny tech -- and plenty of duds