Monthly Archives: June 2015

Tom Swift and the Obsolete Future

In a much earlier entry I think I mentioned the Tom Swift series of adventure novels, which I discovered in a box under the stairs. They had belonged to my dad when he was a kid and although he didn’t have the complete series, he had a lot of them. Well, I’ll read anything that isn’t actually on fire and these were even science fiction, so I read the crap out of them.

They provided a good amount of entertainment for 9-or-10-year-old me, which was good, but I also (I guess obviously) continue to think about them from time to time. If you’re not familiar with the series (which isn’t unlikely; I think the books are out of print and at least one attempt at a reboot/revival did not seem to succeed) they are about a young genius American (this is important) inventor named Tom Swift, his friend Bud, and various other people who hang around his dad’s (of course fabulously wealthy/successful) corporation of Swift Enterprises. Tom creates all kinds of amazing technology that never fails to lead to exciting adventures.

He builds space ships and submarines and huge aircraft and levitating roadways and, well, anything you might expect to see in circa-1950s science fiction. It is a vision of the future where scientific discovery is good for its own sake (as I recall them, Tom builds a lot of this stuff kind of just because) and ultimately always leads to good results. Tom’s technologies usually end up promising some kind of fantastic reward that will be free of negative consequences, which is a particularly optimistic progress narrative that I imagine would sit a bit uneasily for contemporary audiences.

If I remember it right, when Tom builds his Atomic Earth Blaster (because, again, why not) the thing can burrow down through the Earth’s crust and the idea is to siphon off incredible mineral wealth from the mantle, for example. Now, perhaps a geologist would tell me that, were such a thing possible, it would actually be fine to do, but I do remember thinking at the time that basically sticking a straw into the planet and sucking out the gooey centre was a sort of alarming idea. No-one in the books ever thinks about these kind of issues. Most of the inventions are atomic. This is always fantastic.

Of course you can’t have a story without conflict of some sort and the books don’t just present Tom with technological or scientific challenges. (In fact, most of his ideas work pretty flawlessly – when not sabotaged, see below – and the science is sufficiently lunatic that trying to apply real physics/chemistry/whatever problems to them would probably not work) The writers (the series had a few) instead give Tom human rivals, who are usually thinly-disguised Soviets. They’re never described as actually being from the USSR (and I’m not sure why not, to be honest) but they are from pretend Eastern-European-y nations with names like ‘Brungaria’. They are usually attempting to steal some Swift technology, or outdo Tom in the race for some Science Achievement. Their technology is always either inferior to the American model, dangerous, or both. They are of course dastardly villains who resort to all sorts of underhanded tactics that usually includes messing with Tom’s invention somehow. Perhaps needless to say they also always lose and end up needing to be rescued by the good-hearted American crew.

Again, very 1950s. This is the Cold War and maybe especially the Space Race acted out over and over, along with installing some ideas about what the other side is/was like in the reader. It’s interesting that they don’t (I think) ever actually mention Communism. It is a very binary view of things; the Brungarians are never given any sort of justification for their actions – they’re just rotten people – and I don’t recall the books ever giving us an Opposition character who was even slightly sympathetic or in any way praiseworthy. They are all fools, thieves and cowards; again a portrayal that perhaps wouldn’t please many modern readers, and also perhaps a slightly alarming world view to be presented in books intended for adolescent readers.

Then you get into the portrayal of race. There are a few (very few) occasions when Tom, his white family, and his white friends, encounter some non-white people. There is no way to describe these as anything other than breathtakingly racist. In the book with the levitating roadway, Tom’s plan is to build the thing across a vaguely-defined African jungle because it will be so much easier than building a regular road. (Science!) This leads to encounters with Africans who refer to anything vaguely technological as ‘juju’ and at one point are terrified into submission by Tom playing some recorded music. Even 9-or-10-year-old me kind of winced at that one. I don’t know what to say about the politics of these portrayals beyond the obvious white man vs. savage imagery that seems more suited for the 1800s than the mid 20th century. Africa itself is described as being sort of uniformly covered with jungle and populated by people just waiting for Americans to show up and solve their problems. Heck, it’s not even clear whether the Africans want the bloody levitating roadway – Tom’s just decided it’s a fantastic idea.

Again, this is a vision of the future that I don’t imagine a contemporary audience would feel very comfortable with, or at least I hope not. You’ll notice I haven’t really mentioned women yet, which is because they’re hardly in the books. Tom has a mother (of course) who is a sort of standard 1950s mom, a girlfriend who primarily functions as someone needing to be rescued, and a little sister who of course idolizes her brother and is not as good at science. A little surprisingly (maybe) she is a good pilot, which mostly makes her a plot device for when someone needs to fly one of Tom’s inventions but he also needs to be doing Another Thing. She’s constantly described as ‘pert’, and I don’t think I knew what that meant.

The books were, I guess obviously, intended for (white American) boys and so perhaps this is no great surprise, although even the idea of ‘books for boys’ and ‘books for girls’ seems to be an idea that we are (fortunately) moving away from. Certainly, the portrayal of women and their role in Tom’s world would be yet another thing unlikely to satisfy a modern reader.

This is turning into a bit of a long entry, but the point is that the Tom Swift books are, theoretically, presenting a vision of the future, but it isn’t a future that has much resonance for readers today or, I guess, that we would think is very likely. I doubt anyone is out there working on an Atomic Earth Blaster, although if you are I kind of want to know. Along with having ditched (largely) the Cold War mentality and the colonialism and the sexism, I don’t think we have the same optimism about science and technological progress that previous generations did. We don’t expect that all our problems are just a magic invention away from being solved. Very often now, technology is the problem.

So the future presented in Tom Swift is, in a way, obsolete. I think there are lots of SF books out there that present these obsolete futures, which are left as fascinating cultural or social artifacts of the imaginations of the past. I heard William Gibson talk about his writing last year and he mentioned that Neuromancer is not really about the future at all, it was a book about the 1980s. I still feel that Neuromancer has aged reasonably well, and I’m not sure I would call its future ‘obsolete’. Yet. Maybe. Anyway I’m biased, I love that book.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this beyond finding these discarded or invalidated futures to be a striking legacy of years of speculative fiction writing. In recent entries I wrote about how some of the strengths of speculative fiction is that it gives us the ability to imagine how things will work out and find answers to our questions; I find it intriguing that we have this fossil record of previous sets of answers and questions there to examine and enjoy (because even obsolete futures can still be fun to explore, although maybe not Tom Swift) and to see how we once thought things might end up, or should end up. Maybe they’re more like paths we never went down (and, perhaps, never could have gone down) rather than fossils.

Anyway, that turned into a longer one than I anticipated. Thanks for hanging in through it all.

*** – from doing a pathetic amount of research for this entry, I discovered that the Tom Swift books I read were themselves a revival of an earlier series set in the 1910s. Thus the character I read being Tom Swift, Jr. Apparently there have also been two revival series. I think I need to try to read the 1910s ones, some day.


It is Canada Day tomorrow. Canada is an interesting place because I think most Canadians would agree that there are significant problems with our country and the society we have built, but then likely disagree over what those problems are, or what the solutions should be. Thus does the endless political wrangle churn relentlessly onwards.

I think, though, that most Canadians would also agree that, by and large, we live in a wonderful country whose heart is usually in the right place and that we are very fortunate to do so. As a writer and a scholar I know I am afforded freedoms I would not get elsewhere. Plus, it’s really quite beautiful here.

All of which to say that even though our nation has problems before it – reaching some kind of just and fair relationship with First Nations people seems prominent among these – I genuinely enjoy and celebrate on Canada Day. We do all right. We live in a good place.

Happy Canada Day.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Therapeutic Purposes

If you’ve spoken to me much over the past while, or indeed read very many entries on the blog, you will know that the past few months have not been that easy for me. I say this being very well aware that, comparatively speaking, I live my life in paradise and that there are plenty of people who would be absurdly grateful to switch places with me for a while. I really do try to keep that in mind.

Even so, the winter/spring have been a bit of a rough ride and I am content to admit to Struggling With Things. I’m not sure what that says about me, but there it is.

The point is though that I have been profoundly grateful to have my writing during all of it. Writing is one of the only things that completely takes me away from whatever ridiculous bullshit the world is currently trying to subject me to and really gives me a break from the endless grinding of my mind’s gears on the problem(s) du jour. Reading kind of does it, but not as completely and not for as long – a good book provides some shelter for a while, but eventually I can feel reality bleeding back in around the edges and the time has passed.

Writing, though. Some days it takes a minute (or a lot of minutes) to get the ol’ writing cortex into gear (and there is very nearly an audible thunk when it finally drops in) but once it does, man, I am gone for a while. There’s a Sherlock Holmes story (I think it’s Hound) where he spends the day working on a problem, entirely mentally (well, he’s studying a map) and “comes back” to be dismayed at the amount of coffee and tobacco his body has consumed in his absence. (He’s kicked that cocaine habit by then) Subtract the tobacco, and I know that feeling, except that instead of solving a crime I’ve been writing about people who aren’t real doing things that didn’t happen.

Sometimes they turn into stories that I want to do something with. Sometimes the results are a pile of utter crap that I try to forget ever existed. In either case, though, I get that break from whatever problem I was gnawing on. I sort of expect that other kinds of artistic endeavour might provide a similar time-out effect, but I can’t do more than conjecture, there. I know it works with writing.

Maybe it’s as simple as the amount of concentration it takes to do it well. Maybe I could learn to do it with any kind of task that was sufficiently difficult to require that level of focus and that I liked doing enough to keep at it for a long time, at that level of concentration. Maybe there is something kind of special about the process of Making Stuff Up that is particularly helpful. I kind of prefer one of those explanations and I’ll let you guess which one.

The idea of writing as therapy is far from a novel concept (ho ho ho) so there may be no particular insight here. Heck, I don’t even know why it works aside from a vague idea that writing must engage some of the same grindy mind-gears that I would otherwise be using to fret about things. Probably someone with one of those brain scan things could point to “well, this is the exact moment where your ‘tearing yourself to pieces’ lobe stopped lighting up.”

I guess a) I’m just very glad that it does work in this way, and I have a vague idea that maybe it’s worth suggesting to anyone who may happen to read this and might like to give it a try. I don’t have a psychological or biological scientific explanation as to why, but I know that taking some time to create different people, to follow them around for a while and see what they get up to in the strange worlds they inhabit, helps me settle things down.¬† I know I’ve been very glad to have the work on The King in Darkness (which progresses very well, thank you very much indeed) and the New Project (and also the, ah, Distracting Project) to keep me from grinding the gears too excessively much.

So thank you to everyone in my life, parents, teachers, and friends, who have ever encouraged me to write and keep writing. It’s a gift to have in my life.

Possibly you’ll find it the same.


Over the past few days I have sometimes felt like I should write something about the massacre in Charleston. To say it was absolutely horrifying, although the words are correct, doesn’t quite cover it. More people were killed there than at the Boston Marathon bombing that caused international grief and an immense public reaction. I do have strong feelings about it.

However, I am also acutely aware (despite my bellyaching above) of my privileged position in society and I realize that approximately the last thing that is needed at such a moment is the perspective of another white dude. It is much more important, right now, for people like me to be listening rather than speaking, and so that’s what I’m trying to do. (Well, also with the reading. Always with the reading.)

Beyond that I have only the same reaction I have after the shooting attack in Ottawa last fall – to suggest that we go out and be wonderful to each other. Obviously that doesn’t magically fix all the problems in the world, but in the end I think it’s how we win against the people out there who have nothing to offer but hate and division.

Love is stronger than hate. Go be wonderful.

I’ll try to do better the next time.

Tagged , , , ,

Unanswered Questions

Last week I wrote about how I think one of the appeals of SFF is that both writers and readers get to experience answers to questions that we otherwise would not, which satisfies our desire to know how things work out. I still think that’s true. However, one of the comments on the entry and some more time to chew things over about it got me to thinking that there’s another aspect that is just as important.

I really do think we like having answers to our questions. At the same time though, I think that there is a reasonable number of people who also do like the idea of unanswered questions out there as well. I’ve certainly clung to it for many years.

I wrote a while ago about how one of my memories of Leonard Nimoy was a TV show he did called In Search of that was about all sorts of mysterious and strange things like Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle and swamp monsters. That may be what got me started on loving the idea of unsolved mysteries and strange phenomena in the world. I don’t remember where I got it but I had huge tome from National Geographic called Unsolved Mysteries that was a compendium of (allegedly) unexplained things through history. I read it cover to cover many times. I somehow convinced my parents to subscribe to one of those Time-Life book series on the same subject area. I got about 15 of those before stopping. I still have a book by Jerome Clark that examines a lot of the classic ‘unexplained’ stories and puts some of them to bed, leaving others (from his point of view) up in the air. I read that thing into a ragged state as well.

So, for a long time I have loved stories about Bigfoot and UFOs and people displaced in time or disappeared from history. Probably not a huge surprise there, given what I write I guess, and there’s likely some cause and effect with the literature I became a fan of as well. All these things at least purport to be great Unanswered Questions, riddles that we don’t have the solution to and parts of the universe that we can’t yet understand.

I will say that as time has gone by it has gotten harder to keep a lot of these unanswered questions alive. A lot of them just don’t stand up to scrutiny. The Bermuda Triangle is my favourite of those, because its ‘mystery’ was easily disposed of by a tool I am quite familiar with: archival research. It turned out, once someone bothered to put in the spade work, that a lot of the reports of ships or planes vanishing in perfect weather had in fact involved huge storms and rough seas, that many vessels ‘lost forever’ had been found years ago, and that the number of craft lost in the region was no greater than any other similarly-large region of well-travelled ocean. The Triangle stories (of course) ignore all the many, many people who travel through the area perfectly safely, and weave together a bunch of quite mundane maritime tragedies into something more than they are. Not so much an unanswered question there, in the end, as the lack of a question at all.

Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, suffers in a slightly different way Рthere are, among the clearly ridiculous and obviously fraudulent tales, a few reports of something in the wild that genuine anthropologists and biologists have found puzzling. Perhaps an unanswered question? Of course the trouble is that it gets increasingly hard to believe, in this ultra-monitored, urban-encroaching, satellite-imaged and wilderness-adventured age, that there can be anything as stupendous as an anthropoid ape (or whatever explanation you prefer) out there, mostly undetected by modern society. You either have to adopt one of the rather more outré versions of the stories with psychic ape creatures from another dimension or, reluctantly, start to think that the answer to the question may really be earnest misidentification and misinterpretation after all.

I don’t like it, no sir. I would have been much happier if the forests and mountains of northwestern North America had really turned out to have some kind of fantastic creature in them. I would like it if there were giant serpentine creatures making their slithery way through the ocean depths, and I think it would be wonderful if there were dinosaurs in the depths of the Congo. I don’t really want anyone or anything to disappear without a trace (in fact this was one of the Horrible Fates that used to fill Young Me with dread, back in the day. Well, it still kind of does.) but the idea of there being parts of the planet that we don’t quite have nailed down yet still appeals.

I don’t think I’m alone in this, judging from the popularity of ghost hunting and ancient alien and alien visitor type programming on television. Perhaps this is a reaction, to some extent, against the supremely rational and sceptical society we have constructed for ourselves in the Western world. We’ve deified reason to a level that would have pleased the Jacobins and most people, I think, ultimately believe in a universe that is amenable to our analysis and understanding and, finally, thoroughly explicable. Not to say that this is wrong, but perhaps some part of our imaginations, or some ancestral part of our spirit, rebels against it, just a little.

This is where speculative fiction steps in again. You can experience (again, through creation or consumption) worlds in which all sorts of wonderful and amazing things are possible, after all. There are amazing and (of course) perilous creatures out there. There are wonderful realms yet to be explored, arcane secrets waiting to be revealed, and Questions awaiting Answers, if they can be answered at all.

We can experience, for a little while at least, a universe in which it is possible to travel faster than light and discover that the galaxy is awash in intelligent life, both wonderful and perilous. We can have magic and lost cities (well, until we discover them and get to walk down their streets) and dragons on the map again.

I guess this is far from a subtle point – fantasy and science fiction allows us to experience the fantastic. I think it is interesting, though, that speculative fiction really lets us do both things that I’ve talked about on the blog recently. We can answer the unanswerable, and reintroduce the unanswerable to our ever more answer-filled world. I don’t know whether it’s a contradiction that both things seem to be going on in the genre, or if perhaps that explains its special appeal to those of us who get hooked on it.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts for the week. Now I should get back to seeing if I can create a little more of my own personal fantastic world. I hope you’ll be doing the same.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Longue Duree

Last week’s thoughts about the Future Library ended with me touching on the idea that I (and most of the people involved in the project, I guess) will never know how it works out, and never get to find out what exactly Margaret Atwood’s book is all about.

It’s a unique kind of frustration, because while we like puzzles and questions, we generally also like answers to those questions, and in some cases we also know we’ll never get them. In this case, it’s because we (or, at least, I) just won’t be around long enough to see. I thought I’d write about that a little bit today.

The first time I can recall having thoughts along these lines, I must have been 7 or 8 I guess. My dad had been watching some science program or other (probably Nova, it usually was) and they were talking about the Sun, and stars, and how stars have a life cycle. At some point they mentioned that the Sun would (of course) not exist as it does forever, and at some point would blorp up into a red giant (I think that’s it – if there are any astronomers reading, please forgive a medieval historian), Earth would die, and the Solar System would be very different. Young me was intensely worried, and I didn’t understand why everyone else wasn’t really worried as well – the Sun was going to blow up, for f’s sake!

Of course this won’t happen for a really, really, really long time. It’s reasonable to wonder whether there will be anything resembling human society around long enough for the Sun blorping up to even become an issue. Somehow, though, even when that was explained to Young Me, it didn’t really provide much comfort. Partly because, I think, the Sun was still going to blow up, but also because it was maybe the first time I had been confronted with the idea that Things would go on after I was gone (and, probably, the idea that one day I would be gone) and that there was really nothing to be done about that.

I remember I fretted about the thing with the Sun for a very long time. I also remember that when I wrote stories, a lot of them had protagonists who would, explicitly, live forever. I suspect there’s some connection there.

This kind of happened again when Halley’s Comet last cruised by. I was a little older, perhaps not much wiser. Everyone got very excited about the comet. (Again, I’m sure an astronomer could explain that Halley’s Comet should not actually be that exciting to people, but popular culture is not my fault!) We did a bunch of comet-related stuff at school. Dirty snowballs came up a lot. Mostly, people kept saying how it was a once in a lifetime thing.* At first I thought, well, maybe if you’re already old, but I’m still a kid. Then I (unusually for me) did the math. It’s actually really unlikely that I will live to see Halley’s Comet again. Wow. Didn’t like that either.

Again, I guess mortality is part of why that was a hard thought to digest. Or a reminder of the scale of things in the universe at least; it goes on without us and disregarding us and we only get to see a tiny little bit of it. That’s part of where the perspective of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories come from; tiny fragile beings in a reality that is so much bigger than they are.

Also with tentacles.

But that realization of things being intensely, massively, Bigger Than Us (and, honestly, bigger than me was probably the most important part of that) was a tough nugget for Young Me to digest. I suspect it offends the self-centred consciousness most of us have, to varying degrees. It’s very hard not to think that the world is centred on us, at least a little, because that’s how we experience it, through our own consciousness and senses. Being reminded that it’s not actually that way can be a little uncomfortable.

Slipping into historian-mode for a moment, there’s a whole genre of history (and, therefore, historians) that took this idea of the size of Things and the basic irrelevance of individual people to it all and applied it to human history: the longue duree or the Annales school. (Ferdinand Braudel and Jacques Le Goff are the ones I came at the perspective through, but there are lots and this is not, I swear, a history blog) Basically the Annales historians would say that change in human society is driven by social and economic forces that develop over a very long time, ultimately involving mass groups of people. Studying individuals is, therefore, ultimately not very important because individuals don’t really do anything, they just act as their broader context allows them to, or compels them to.

Kind of Lovecraftian, in a way. Certainly a perspective that clashes with a lot of Western society’s beloved Rugged Individual narrative.

I feel like I should say that I am not a longue duree historian, for reasons that I will not inflict upon you today. It’s an interesting perspective, I think there are answers there, but not all the answers. I really like individuals. Somewhere the shade of Marc Bloch shakes his head, sadly.

Ok, so hauling this back to writing I guess, since that’s mostly(?) why anyone reading this is here – one of the things that is so very cool about writing speculative fiction is that both writers and readers get to ignore this whole question of scale, to some extent. You can create (and experience) the futures you’ll never see. You can find a whole series of answers to those questions that we will never get answers for, in mundane life. If you wanted to, you could answer the Future Library question. I think that’s part of the appeal of the whole genre.

We’re full of questions. What’s out There? (For all sorts of values of ‘there’) What will happen 50, 100, 10,000 years down the road? Where is human society going, what is it becoming? How will the decisions we’re making today work out? How much of the universe do we really perceive?

I could go on, but you get the point. We have these questions. Most of them, we also, on some level, know we won’t get answers to, or at least not directly. Some kinds of art let us find these answers ourselves, either through the process of creation, or through consumption (and for lots of people, both), and that is probably, in part, why we love it. It lets us ignore that difference in scale that upset 8 year old me and feel like we know what’s going on again. Maybe it makes us feel like giants, instead of very tiny, again, for a little while.

Anyway, that’s it for today. I’ll try to do better the next time.

Oh, I did send another Chunk of the next project out to the Eager Volunteers late last week, at long last. When I manage to spend some substantial time on it, I get pretty excited about this story again. I hope to be able to share a little more about it with you before too too long.

*-Granted, this was A While ago, but it still strikes me as interesting that people still get as excited as they do about things like a comet making its trip by. It’s a bit contrary to expectations of the supremely rational society we have in the West. Maybe there’s another entry there, someplace.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Future Library

FUTURE LIBRARY. It sounds like something that should involve book trucks that hover and holographic librarians and, somehow, laser books. It is a pretty evocative phrase, or idea.

It also turns out to be a real thing that Margaret Atwood became the first author to contribute a book to, last week (after I had written something in lieu of a blog entry because I didn’t have an idea, sigh). I’m still not sure what I think about it. As far as I understand it, is that the books placed in the Future Library will remain unread and unpublished until 2114. Every year, another author will be invited to contribute something. They’ve already planted 1,000 trees in Norway that will, in 2114, be ready to be harvested and used to make the paper to print all the books.

The Future Library is the brainchild of a Scottish artist named Katie Paterson who I confess to knowing nothing at all about, beyond this project. It’s one of those things that I’m not entirely sure I understand.

My first reaction (because I am a terrible person) is that it seems a little naive, although that’s not quite the right word for it. My thinking is this – how many authors from 100 years ago are people today interested in reading? The number is relatively low. I think we’d all be excited by a previously unknown Jules Verne novel, or Virginia Woolf story, but would there be intense anticipation of a new Benjamin Disraeli novel? Outside of a relatively small group, I kind of doubt it. People would go bananas over a new play by William Shakespeare, of course, and to a lesser extent for one by Christopher Marlowe, but if a the discovery of a new Thomas Dekker play was announced? A particular group of academics would get Very Excited. Probably some people in the theatre end of things would as well. The bulk of the world would, at best, go ‘hmm, neat, I guess?’ and that would be it.

So, how many of the Future Library’s contributors will be Vernes and Woolfs? When the doors (so to speak) of the project open, will people be excited, or asking “who are these people?” There’s no way to know. Obviously the people running the project will do their best to pick artists whose appeal they expect to endure. It’s a heck of a gamble.

It’s not unreasonable to wonder about language as well, I suppose. Language does evolve over the years and so the readers of the future may struggle a bit with the earlier entries, although honestly if you look at English from the 1900s and English today it hasn’t changed much. Margaret Atwood’s book will not be Chaucer to them, at least not linguistically. Barring, of course, some kind of dramatic shift in things.

There is, I suppose, an element of hubris. The assumption that, over the years, the forest will get preserved the way it is supposed to, that there will be people who take over for Ms. Paterson and continue to recruit new contributors and everything gets taken care of between now and then. And that then people are excited by the contents when the whole thing opens. That, I guess, was my initial, pessimistic, reaction.

On the other hand, or maybe because of the above, there is something basically hopeful and generous about the whole thing. That in 100 years, people will care about books and love them and read all the things stored up in the Future Library and love those too. In a sense, it’s an enormous gift to people several generations removed from us, and a selfless one for most of the artists because they will never see the reaction to the whole thing.

I said a few weeks ago that I like hopeful stories these days and I think this is ultimately one of those, even if I (I think) don’t entirely understand the concept behind the Future Library. I know I like the hope and generosity of spirit behind the idea. A lot of times our society is very focused on the immediate and the short term and what the cost and return on things will be right now. I think we might benefit from a little more of this kind of ambitious, hopeful, long-term thinking.

I remember being really struck when I learned that medieval cathedrals took long enough to build that the people who started them often knew perfectly well that they would not live to see the finished building. They started them anyway, all the people who designed them and worked on them and found the funding for them, because they believed it was important and that doing something for people in the future that they would never know was a worthwhile aim.

I guess in it’s way, the Future Library is like that, and so in the end I admire the spirit of it and hope the whole thing goes wonderfully.

I also can’t resist a certain level of frustration at knowing, with absolute certainty, that I won’t be here to see how it works out.

That’s a whole other issue, though. Maybe next week.

Still want those laser books, though.

Tagged , , ,