Australia – 4. Literature as an early warning system

DSC01724aIf anyone has any doubts weather literature can rescue us from the apocalypse, I’m not surprised. It doesn’t sound convincing to me either, but I do have some evidence confirming that it actually can. The widespread traditional stories or legends passed on from one generation to another which rescued the inhabitants of an Indonesian island Simeylule, located close to the epicenter of a tsunami that killed about 229 thousand people in 12 countries in 2004.

The legends appeared after 1904 when another tsunami took place. According to the tradition they passed on, the inhabitants should run away to the hills when they should see the ocean withdrawing. On December 26th the oceans withdrew. The same tsunami killed about 90 percent of the population in the nearby Indonesian region Aceh. They had no early warning system. They didn’t tell the right stories. As we can see literature (in this case oraly passed on legends), can work as an early warning system. I’m just afraid that first there has to be a catastrophe. But catastrophes happen all the time. The worlds history has seen a few civilizations fall. There a few books written about this. There are also warning signs that the same may happen to our civilization. The difference is that in the history of humanity there has never before been such a global civilization as ours. So if it collapses, it will be a spectacular collapse. And a fascinating history. If anyone will be left to tell it.

Mining for Ideas

Mining for IdeasThe one question that writers get asked all the time is: ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

The world is full of things that inspire us every day; what we see around us, the things we hear, the events we experience. No one should ever be short of ideas for stories, once they know how to look. This stuff gets into our heads, whether we want it or not. Even if you’re not writing stories, your thoughts are being influenced by these things. I write in a range of genres, though most of them will have a weird aspect that could categorize a story as science fiction, fantasy, mystery or horror. I am fascinated by the strange, the unexpected, the challenging and by how often ‘ordinary life’ thrusts these in front of me. Most writers of fiction make up stories to describe their experience of reality.

But our ideas influence our surroundings too. I am working with Weather Stations to explore this mutual influence. We decide to mine the earth, dredge the sea-bed, burn fuel that sends carbon and other pollutants into our air. We affect the environment that has such a profound effect upon us. And that’s where I’ll be getting my ideas.

(This piece was originally written for the Tallaght Community Arts newsletter)