We read books to find out who we are. -Ursula K. Le Guin, author (21 Oct 1929-2018)
It’s not just the self-help books that work that way, either. It can be cookbooks. ( Will I enjoy preparing Korean food?) It can be science fiction, for a kid who feels like an alien wherever they’re growing up and going to school. It can be nonfiction about science, history, race relations, archaeology or anything else, when we want to understand who we are as a species or race or nation – or civilization.
In researching Four Lost Cities, science journalist and SF writer Annalee Newitz visited the archaeological sites of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, Pompeii in modern Italy, Angkor in Cambodia, and Cahokia near the Mississippi River to find out who what happens when a city ends. Pompeii is the one that was obliterated by nature. Rome promptly resettled many evacuees elsewhere. In the case of the other cities, people seem to have dispersed but continued to use the place as a graveyard for a long time (Çatalhöyük); lost interest in city life as climate changed and rulers made bad decisions, leaving contingents of monks to stick around tending the temples (Angkor) ; or upped and moved on (Cahokia.) This is a fascinating exploration of the life and death of cities – and the tenacity of human cultures – with more than a little relevance for our own day.
We’ve heard Einstein’s famous quote about imagination being more important than knowledge. But there’s more:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein
Much, much less known is something else he said:
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
He was a wise man.
“I have to report that M. Blériot, with his monoplane, crossed the Channel from Calais this morning. I issued to him a Quarantine Certificate, thereby treating it as a yacht and the aviator as Master and owner.
—The Collector of Customs, Dover
July 25, 1909
1909. Less than 100 years ago, an airplane crossing the English Channel was unprecedented. What will the future hold?
For my latest of my backlist story collections (until a large and rather complete collection of my backlist of SF stories next year), while making review copies available on BookFunnel, I came up with this tagline:
An imaginary journey from ancient Archaeopteryx to aircraft under distant stars.
Knowing I’d be on a panel about Libraries of the Future at the Texas Library Association Conference in Dallas this Spring, I read up on libraries of the PAST, and found this book. Yes, it tells about the evolution of the Card Catalog through history. The book is richly illustrated with reproductions of cards from the Library of Congress catalog, which they have NOT done away with. Hand-written on the old cards are scraps of bibliographic information that never made it into on-line cataloging. Recommended!
“A scholar is just a library’s way of making another library. ” – Daniel Dennett, philosopher, writer, and professor (b. 28 Mar 1942), quoted in A Word A Day.
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.
“The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?”
Ursula K. LeGuin
The past is another country – and it doesn’t issue passports.
“I would go on writing even if I know I would not be published.”
—John Le Carré
“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams
This quote from the wonderful A Word A Day:
“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into. ”
-Jonathan Swift, satirist (1667-1745)