Sunday, May 22, 2005


Ray co-produced a literary inquiry this weekend about speculative fiction. I'm not much into science fiction, but this day-long event was very engaging and educational. I wish I could've fully appreciated some of the writers and others who presented during the inquiry. (I ate lunch with a group of them, and I felt like they needed to move me to the kids' table. I didn't dare say anything so as not to out myself as a complete speculative fiction nimwit...which I don't generally mind being, but in this context, get the idea.)

Anyway, much of the inquiry focused on the current and future (duh) state of our real world and its impact on literature and society in general. There were many scary and depressing ideas exchanged and agreed upon, some of which included information presented by a notable biologist and environmental scientist (James Karr). No real surprises here, but some of the most memorable moments (unsophistically paraphrased here):

- We, the global community, "jumped the shark" in 1977, when our consumption of natural resources began to outweigh the natural resources available. And we're (most especially us Americans) racking up resource debt big time.
- Ugly examples of how public education is in the toilet, and going no where fast.
- Our leaders emphasize the growth of the GNP as a positive indicator of our national health, when it's really an indicator of money changing hands and not much more...certainly not the welfare of society. Related to that...
- Many countries have adopted comprehensive indicators of their own social, moral and ecological health (or "ill-th"). Guess who hasn't. And if we did, guess what we would find. It ain't pretty.
- Nobody reads anymore, but we've become much more sophisticated about how we watch TV. (Okay, the latter part wasn't from the inquiry, but I was reminded of an article in the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago... "Watching TV Makes You Smarter" by Steven Johnson, 4/24/05).

There were a lot of other depressing ideas about poor people getting poorer and more exploited, running out of oil, running out of usable water, the erotion of privacy, and our country's inattention to the impact of the growing global strength of China (well, this didn't really come up specifically yesterday at the inquiry, but is something Ray and I talk about with some frequency.) Anyway, you get the idea.

There were a few glimmers of hope offered during the day. One person fueled discussion of how the power of storytelling (in all its forms) can change people's minds about their place in the world and how to behave in it. Also, we learned that you can do some really cool things with PowerPoint and a rinky-dink electronic piano keyboard.

I need some tequila and a good night's rest.

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