Early on in the introduction, she describes her day job at a manuscript dealer prior to her artist’s residency in Greenland – a formative experience for the book. A photographer bearing a box of transparencies of an abandoned and ruined family house invited Nancy to write for the exhibition. “How do you write about that kind of loss?” Nancy wondered and found herself researching the science of photography as a way in.Continue reading “msb ~069 Loss, light and ice”
“They say that travelling opens doors, gives people new perspectives. This is only partially true. People carry their doors with them: perspectives seldom truly change.” I’m setting one foot into Terra, The Dark Mountain Project’s new book, and this image is from one of its earlier essays, by Nick Hunt. Every journey, the next village, the next continent: a portal into that new perspective, new dimensions. Nick is recounting his travels in Ethiopia: the cultural and natural experiences that bring new things into visibility, push others into invisibility; and the “preconceptions [that] can be destroyed” with each one although, as he suggests, we carry so many with us without noticing the load on us or on the land.Continue reading “msb ~068 One foot through the door”
I may need to spend time tracking down TV classics from the 1960s to 80s. Adam Scovell’s excellent survey of British TV fictional alarm calls reminds us how Anthropocene warnings have been with us for almost as long as the Great Acceleration itself. “It’s not that these programmes were ahead of their time: it is more frustratingly, that we have moved on so little in how we deal with the monumentality of ecological issues and their increasing scarring of the strata of our planet; the danger has been growing but with far more fervour than our willingness to address it.”Continue reading “msb ~061 Anthropocene foreshadowings”
Louisa Thomsen Brits’ Path narrates place and personhood through poems that make ‘a short story about reciprocity’. This small book treads lightly through wide scapes of spirit and land; beginning with a quote from Robert Macfarlane: “paths connect. This is their first duty and their chief reason for being.” Perhaps all beings (human/non-human) are also paths: expressions of particularity and process; routes and roots to our essential connections.
I am footfall and track, trail and trace, thread of passage and possibility.
Trodden-through with a region-specific ‘word hoard’, Path is both intensely local to those paths Brit walks and universally translatable to our own natural geographies, histories, biographies.
A few years back, I helped novelist Clare George with some of her public writing workshops, Imagine There’s a Future. Speakers shared their climate change work, writers discussed scenarios and wrote new stories. For me, this was a powerful introduction to the value of creative work on our climate predicament, for writers and readers. Clare describes how the stories came from very diverse authors working together. “Climate change campaigners sat next to climate change sceptics and openly discussed their most heartfelt fears and dreams in ways that would not have been possible without the help of fiction.”Continue reading “msb ~050 Truth and story”
Following Philip Dick, here’s another favourite speculative writer: Christopher Priest. I just finished the Ordnance Survey ‘Britain’s islands’ quiz after rereading Anticipatory History‘s Dream-map entry, so it’s no surprise that Priest’s Dream Archipelago came to mind. There’s a slipperiness to his decades-long project of stories set on these fictional-but-familiar islands on a world (un)like ours. In a2011 interview ahead of The Islandershe’s asked, “Creating the climate, topography and various customs of the islands must have been quite challenging … Did you use a map or some other technique?” Priest: “No map is allowed. Not even to me … Living in the islands, or trying to travel through them, you almost always get lost. No one knows the way, everyone is a bit muddled.”Continue reading “msb ~039 The truth? Dream on”
I consumed Philip Dick’s novels by the handful as a teenager: just part of my science fiction diet. Many of his stories sit well with that other fare, but the shock of A Scanner Darkly, VALIS and The Divine Invasion comes into sharper relief away from the glare of rayguns, hyperdrives and aliens. Dick wrote his experience, not ‘fiction’. In BBC Radio’s Great Lives, actor Michael Sheen discusses Dick’s influence on him: “the moment where the central character begins to discover that maybe the reality he’s taking for granted is not what’s going on, maybe there’s something else going on behind it. That is a very frightening moment.”Continue reading “msb ~038 “Let’s hear it for the vague blur!””
No one does interesting, thoughtful science films quite like David Malone. So it’s great to see again 2013’s Metamorphosis: the science of change. There’s the familiar but fascinating science of insects shape-shifting from one form to another — caterpillar to butterfly — or taking on completely new behaviours — locusts switching from loners to swarms. Explanations of tadpoles interpreting environmental cues to trigger their transformation into frogs. And there’s the disturbing, radical story of creatures that are two life forms simultaneously: genetically identical but morphologically distinct, radically different.Continue reading “msb ~028 Metamorphosis”