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Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Part of what good fiction does is to create a world and place the reader in it, allowing you to imagine yourself battling the Empire, slaying the dragon, or rescuing the fair prince in distress. But I get it, fiction is also a distancing mechanism.

Satisfying stories open with a problem and close when that problem is resolved, leaving the reader with the sense that they’ve helped and no more needs to be done. I think that can be particularly true when it comes to real challenges like climate change. 

Sometimes what’s needed is a picture.

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Meet ThisClimateDoesNotExist, a project by a group of scientists from the Quebec AI Institute in Montreal. They’ve put together a tool that lets you visualize the impact of climate change not on the world in general, or even a region, but on an address.

This Montreal-made website uses AI to show the potential impact of climate change on any address | CBC News

Take Killian Court at MIT, overlooking the Charles River. What would it look like flooded?* Or the US Capitol Building? Or the Sam’s Club parking lot in West Palm Beach, The Alamo in San Antonio (and I’m pretty sure we can kiss the River Walk goodbye), Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, or (now it’s getting real) the Guinness Brewery in Dublin?

* Not worried about flooding? Try the options for wildfire or smog. Also unpleasant!

Then picture yourself there too. Who better to be the hero of that story?

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Photo by Javier García on Unsplash

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Forty-two years ago this month, we learned the answer to life, the universe and everything. Even if humorous sci-fi isn’t your thing, Douglas Adams’ work has permeated pop culture.

42 years later, how ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ has endured

The influence of the Hitchhiker’s Guide “is everywhere,” says Marcus O’Dair, author of The Rough Guide to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“We can see it in culture, where Adams’ story is rumoured to have inspired everything from the band Level 42 to comedy show The Kumars at No. 42,” he says. “We can see it in tech: in the real-life ‘knife that toasts,’ for instance, or in-ear translation services reminiscent of the Babel fish. The most visible sign of its ubiquity, though, might be the fact that we can celebrate its anniversary not at 40 or 50 years but at 42 — and everyone knows why.”

This book let me know that there was a place for humorous absurdities in writing, and that it really doesn’t pay to take yourself too seriously.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and confusing Universe, for though it cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does at least make the reassuring claim, that where it is inaccurate it is at least definitively inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it’s always reality that’s got it wrong.

This was the gist of the notice. It said “The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Cake with bypass, made by me. To scale.

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The good news is that there is a lot of up and coming fiction addressing issues of climate, change, and the environment. (The bad news is that we need it.)

Grist/Fix: Solutions Lab has a new climate fiction issue out, with discussions about the role of fiction in fixing reality and a dozen new stories from their “Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors” short story contest to get us started.

The Climate Fiction Issue: How fiction can change our reality | Fix

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I vote for this as one of the feel-good stories of the year. Because what’s happier than real-life hobbits?

‘What is this if not magic?’ The Italian man living as a hobbit

“I decided that I wanted to live my hobbit life to the fullest… I wanted people to enter my mind, my fantasy. Many make fun of us. Some think I am trying to escape from reality. Far from it. I am living my dream, my adventure.”

— Nicolas Gentile, hobbit

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Good for you, Italian hobbit man, good for you.

Photo by Andres Iga on Unsplash

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I recently finished a book that should have checked all my boxes, but in the end… didn’t. The characters started off interesting but came down with a case of the stupids and never fully recovered.* The characters also spent most of their time floating around like bobbers on an unbaited line. When they eventually found their purpose it was too late, and the book finished before actually ending.

When a story is like that I find my mind stays twisted up in it, fidgeting with its edges, trying to work out how it should have fit together rather than how it did. Like a jumbled Rubik’s Cube made of words. A stream flowing in the wrong direction. Or an itch I can’t scratch.

Sometimes that itch gets to the point where I find I have to Do Something about it.

Once upon a time I read a British coming-of-age novel called I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I remember it as charming and it mostly worked for me, at least until the end. I finished the book and thought, “Nope, I’m afraid that won’t do.” And as an exercise for the annoyed problem-solver at the back of my mind, I rewrote the final chapters.

I moved a stack of Jim Butcher books yesterday and happened upon that new ending. It now sits on my bookshelf next to the original book. 

I bound everything in gold-stamped cover stock and ribbon that year.

Sometimes what you need is to step back and think, “This little piece of the world could be better.” And then work to make it so.

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Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

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* This is, of course, just my opinion. At some point you may read the same book and think, “That was the most brilliant and lyrical story ever.” That’s cool too.

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This is my (non-day job related) To Do List Action Matrix (sounds very official, amirite?)

Ooh, I feel the actiony energies bubbling up already. Wait, how is it lunchtime already?

Not the complete list, you understand, but a selection of the items I am most likely to tackle in the next few days.

He he. Let’s see how far I get, shall we?

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Photo by Omer Salom on Unsplash

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It seems we each have a fundamental core where we feel most comfortable, or most ourselves. It may come as no surprise to those who have spent any time on this site, but for me, it’s books and food. 

Those aren’t all I’m made of, of course, but those two elements were established early, before my memories became fixed. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love books and food. One of my first real recollections is sitting on the side steps of the porch eating an artichoke with my father, and it’s hard not to feel happy in a kitchen or library.

Now, if I’d had different experiences growing up I might have become an engineer or a tailor or a computer scientist. I make things and sew and code but not with the intuitive ease some have. Instead, it’s books. And food. I’m ok with that. 

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I’m in the middle of a writing class, designing story ideas and characters. It got me thinking about how experiences become preferences and worldviews underpinning our actions. 

My father and I visited the Grand Canyon once, road-tripping north to the South Rim to hike and camp. The trip was great, full of summer heat and happiness, astonishing vistas and challenging trails.

I may also have spent some of the visit sitting by the edge, reading a book. Because we had a few minutes and that’s how I roll.

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Like places, people have layers. Understanding how time and exposure, pressure and purpose combine makes it easier to build complex and interesting motivations, or to understand our own.

We just have to sit back and consider what we’re made of.

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Photo by Jenn Wood on Unsplash

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Not that I’ve let Alexa into my life or anything, but this might be the one ability that would convince me to do it!

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How about a bit of free fiction today? I’m still on day job vacation but had to take a meeting. Thankfully, my work day was nothing like this piece by David Shultz over at Diabolical Plots:

“Boom & Bust” by David F. Shultz

Kondo barked his orders. “Rocco, cover the east window. Valiant, you’re on ammo detail. Pepsi, keep an eye on market changes. Luna, get me a full asset list.”

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Photo by Jayden Staines on Unsplash

Bonus fiction:

Sounds like those workers could have used a union. Maybe Alexa can fix them up;)

Alexa, Play Solidarity Forever by Audrey R. Hollis

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Photo by Reet Talreja on Unsplash

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In my roles as a writer and as a person, I read a lot. Some books I purchase, but many I access through my local library. How great is that?*

So I just spent a non-zero amount of time writing a little AppleScript to automagically run a search in any of the four area library systems that share e-book resources. 

Was it necessary? No. I could click through my library portal and into each separate library system for every book I want to check, one stodgy button at a time. Ho hum.

Does this script save time and my wrists and open up new worlds of possibilities?

Yes.

Was it fun to make?

Also yes:)

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I know, it’s a store, not a library. But she’s having so much fun! Photo by Ying Ge on Unsplash

* I love books, and I’m lucky enough to live in a society that supports public libraries. In fact, I made a modest donation to my local library the other day, and hope it helps bring just a little more literacy and knowledge and enjoyment to my city.

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