I know, right? I’ve read the first part — it’s being serialized until Sept. 15, when it then goes into e-book and print — and let me tell you. This is ballsy. This is beautiful. And it’s written by a gentleman who was first nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature when I wall still writing stock market briefs for The Associated Press.
Dr. Frederick Turner is the Founders Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Dallas. He was raised by his parents in Zambia, where they were doing anthropological research. Educated at Oxford. Multiple awards and honors for his poetry and other works. Nominated for the Nobel in 2004, and again in 2006, and again every year since.
We are totally classing up this blog, y’all.
Now, normally the guest post topic is along the lines of: “What makes your work so gosh darn special?” But I think an internationally renowned poet writing an epic climate-change apocalyptic book in blank-verse iambic pentameter answers that nicely. So I’m just going to let Dr. Turner have at it:
Apocalypse and Hope
After all the horrors of human life were loosed (in the old Greek story) from Pandora’s box when she unwisely opened it, one more gift of the gods was found at the bottom: Hope. This myth, like the story of Adam, Eve, and the apple, is about the way we became human: curiosity overcame prudence and obedience, and we got into all sorts of trouble.
The anthropologists tell us how we lost or abandoned our Edenic home in Africa, and walked all over the world: no doubt because we could not leave well enough alone, the grass was greener on the other side of the fence, and the allure of possible strange mates was too much. We had developed a gene for hope, a belief in the future, a habit of tinkering, and an often fatal propensity for dangerous experiments, including eating strange mushrooms, taking the most dangerous of all forces, fire, into our homes, and making pets out of predators.
And eventually we invented herding and agriculture, the first great terraforming venture of the human species, altering whole landscapes, desertifying huge stretches of the Earth, burning forests and prairies, and causing massive climate changes. In culture after culture we invented and told the myth of the great flood, when the gods of the Earth and Sky that we had annoyed for so long took their revenge.
Here we are again, and maybe this time we have gone too far. The apocalyptic flood, say the scientists, is already on its way. The Antarctic ice sheets are melting, and the weather is going to get seriously weird.
But there’s hope at the bottom of the box, the gods are divided among themselves, one of them warns us, the ark gets built, and there’s a second chance for the pesky species that always hopes for more. Maybe the whole Earth will become our ark; the box of all our troubles will become our home and the place where the seeds of all our fellow-species will survive.
And we come of a long line of hopers. Certainly our remotest ancestors played it safe, kept their precious genes to themselves, and continued their existence by cloning themselves; but then sex, with all its unrealistic hopes, reared its ugly head. We started taking the big risk of combining our genes with those of strangers, opening the box and letting out all the monstrosities of individuality, hybridity and recombinant DNA. We even began to nurture our young strangers, our little monsters, our chimeras, providing their eggs with fat and protein, feeding them in the womb or nest or pouch, and eventually supporting them into their twenties and paying $250,000 for their college educations. All under the unreasonable metaphysical hope that there will be a future at all.
And as we went on inventing the future, that future became more and more subject to the apocalypses that our imaginations so readily supplied, and to the real disasters inflicted on us by nature, including our own nature. It is only hopers that have any sense of tragedy; and maybe it is only those who anticipate the apocalypse that have the fire and imagination to tackle it and build the ark or terraform the planet once again. And that’s what my new book is about.
I’ll be reading this serialization religiously every week — again, the first part is right here and you should really drop what you’re doing and click on the link. But don’t take my word for it.
“Fred Turner and his brilliant future-epic poem…” — David Brin, bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Campbell awards
“I loved the blank verse, so supple and expressive; and the command of a fictional history, the epic sweep of a macro-plot along with the many interesting characters and situations at the personal level. Also, the poetry of philosophy of history and science, always fitted to the action, and really forming the core of the action. I don’t think anyone else does what you do, not in our time, and with so much being written and published, who else can say that? It’s wonderful.” — Kim Stanley Robinson, bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards
Go read it. And thank you, Dr. Turner, for stopping by the blog.