Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Walking in a crooked line*

I woke up this morning, thinking about William Gibson. I remember reading his novels as a kid, fascinated by the concept of a future time, never bothered by Gibson’s non-linear story telling. Much as a kid falling down, you don’t understand what’s at stake and it’s easier to get up. It’s easier to suspend your disbelief – you take things on faith – you trust in the idea that it will all make sense in the end, regardless of confusion. You’re a kid. Confusion surrounds you.

In this networked world we live in, things travel in a non-linear fashion.

There’s another reason why I love the futurists – Gibson, Asimov, Heinlein, Stephenson, even Murakami – the gang. Being non-linear frees them from conformity. There is always a theme of whimsical possibility in their stories – a less rational person would call it magic. It hangs in the air, at every corner of the story, dangling at each sentence. In the future, everything is rewritten. And sometimes it’s rewritten in a jagged way that makes no sense.

There is power in rewriting things. There are parts of my history and my heritage that aren’t linear, that don’t follow a clear line. I was complaining about it to a cousin, and she turned to me and said: well dammit, write you own story, then! So I did. In my rewritten story, I am the love-child of a cosmic spore and a wood nymph. The spore got bored, floating around the solar system, and decided to check out a rainforest. The spore and the nymph fall in love, and there I was – a twinkle of desire that took human form. I got too big for the rainforest nest, so they kicked me out and I was supposed to be delivered to a nice couple working for the Carter Administration. The stork had a bit of a drinking problem, and I ended up on the wrong doorstep. But eventually, I found my way home, and am on a quest for my cosmic spore.

Gibson once said
: The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed. This could be his clever way of commenting on the Digital Divide, but I’d like to think it was him pointing to the fact that some of us don’t even KNOW we can rewrite our stories. Sometimes technology helps us see than, sometimes not. It is the act of rewriting our stories takes us wherever we want to go.

*Is also the definition of the Department of Silly Walks, which sadly is not listed in the Plum Book.

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