Saturday, January 07, 2012

Interstellar Travel

We are dying, we are dying, so all we can do
is now to be willing to die, and to build the ship
of death to carry the soul on the longest journey.

A little ship, with oars and food
and little dishes, and all accoutrements
fitting and ready for the departing soul.

Now launch the small ship, now as the body dies
and life departs, launch out, the fragile soul
in the fragile ship of courage, the ark of faith
with its store of food and little cooking pans
and change of clothes,
upon the flood's black waste
upon the waters of the end
upon the sea of death, where still we sail
darkly, for we cannot steer, and have no port.

Discovering this fragment of D.H. Lawrence's poem 'The Ship of Death' in Grayson Perry's The Tomb Of The Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum reminded me of the importance of the metaphorical power of science fiction. Something so often forgotten, these days, when too often it's mistaken for a literal report on the future.

Friday, January 06, 2012

The Excitement Of The Found Image

Why even hard science fiction shouldn't be considered to be in any way a facsimile of the scientific method:
In just three sentences, M. John Harrison nails what science fiction is really all about.

Just Received

The author's copies of In the Mouth of The Whale. Always strange and exciting to hold in your hands proof that something that started out in your head has become a mass-produced object, out there in the world. I like the cover even more now I realise that there's an image on the back, too. Sidonie Beresford-Browne, who also did the covers for The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun, has done a great job.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Fragment From A Work In Progress

‘Let me tell you about a dream I had when I was about your age. I dreamed that I had entered a great white city, and I knew, in the dream, that I had also travelled into the future, although I cannot tell you how I knew. Perhaps because such cities were sometimes represented in popular fiction about the future, although the one into which I walked in my dream was much more detailed than any picture of imaginary cities. There were many tall buildings, all built of white stone and fretted with row upon row of windows. Some cylindrical and buttressed with fins, like the dreams of the first spaceships before the first spaceships were built. Some narrow rectangles. Some square in profile. Some tapering to points. Clad in differently textured and decorated stone, but all white in the bland sunlight. They stood in clusters and at their feet were smaller buildings. All again built of white stone.  Elevated roadways and monorail lines ran past the buildings or looped around them at different levels. There were open spaces, but they contained only white gravel and stone fountains, and statues of people in heroic and noble poses. No trees, no growing things of any kind, and no decoration or signs. In the time when I lived, cities were full of signs advertising all kinds of goods and services. Here, the buildings were blank canvases and the everyday life of the city was unreadable.

'In some dreams, you are a bodiless viewpoint able to transition from one place to another. People in the dream talk with you as if you were one of them, but you have no sense of your body. You are an observer. That was not the case in this dream. I was aware of every footstep, and the people who inhabited the city looked at me as I passed. Perhaps because I was dressed as I would be dressed in waking life, which to them must have seemed as strange and antique as a man in a suit of armour walking up Broadway. The citizens of the city were men and women who were each different and each similar, in the way of members of the same family look alike. They had brown skin and black hair cut short in various styles, and wore long shirts over loose trousers in combinations of pastel colours. There were no children. In my day birds nested on ledges of buildings as if on cliffs, and people kept certain kinds of animals as pets. There were no animals that I could see. Only adults of varying ages. There were many of them, but the walkways and monorail trains were not crowded because the city was so large.

‘I wandered a long time, but did not dare to enter any building. At last, with shadows engulfing the feet of the tall buildings and reddened sunlight burning on their western faces, at the foot of a huge statue of a bare-breasted woman holding up a strand of DNA to the blank dish of her face (none of the statues had features), one of the inhabitants came up to me, and asked me if I was a traveller. I told him that I was dreaming. Often we do not know in dreams that we are dreaming, but I knew. I also told him that I believed that I was dreaming about the future. He looked at me quizzically, and said that although this was his present, it was not necessarily my future. He said that I might reach it, but there were other paths I might take.’
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