I am back to work on my science fiction book, The Ark, at the beginning again.
I edged out further, holding hard to the balcony rail, and looked down to the street, 28 floors below, at the neat rows of sandbags banked up around the Custom House grates.A howling gust snapped sharply over the trees as a line of Japanese tourists, ensconced in cheap clear ponchos, suddenly appeared out of the park, some stopping to take pictures, followed by a police car, its blue lights mute and slow. They had stopped broadcasting the evacuation order hours ago. Zone A was closed. The surge was almost here.
I slid the balcony door closed, and the curtains lulled back. Apollo circled away, eyeing the black sky and buffeting glass.
“This morning’s high tide was at 8:30 am. Eleven hours ago.” The weather guy was earnest, his sleeves rolled up, his square jaw pushed out for this soap-opera apocalypse. “That tide surged over the walls into the city this morning. It has already been here. This tide is a full moon high tide; it’s much worse. This is the one we have to watch. This one could be anywhere from 8 feet up to 11, 12, 13 feet. 13 feet! Think about that.” He had his hand stretched up like he might sing. “In just 15 minutes. 13 feet in 15 minutes. This is as serious as it gets. This is it.”
From the opening chapter of The Ark, Dee takes Apollo out for a walk after Hurricane Sandy:
I took Apollo out toward Broadway. A threatening row of generators, inert grey metal boxes the size of trucks, lined the streets, steel bars and locks, red electric bolts along the rusted edges, thick cables and tubes clumped out across the sidewalk, into doorways, droning fierce metal on metal. A misery came into me, a weighty nothing, the tininess in my head gone. I was worthless. I knew that. It wasn’t just death, the meaningless of that, my stupid realization of my impending deterioration, but the clear pathetic thud of utter meaninglessness. It was this street, this fleeting attempt against the waters taking everything back, the cables and machines, the buildings and walls, huddled in the sharp early light, waiting for the inevitable next. Apollo pulled hard to the garbage truck and pissed.
“Face it. We’re all selfish bastards.” I punched my straw through the ice. “We donate and volunteer, but in the end it’s just to get what we want.”
Val flipped her phone upside down on the bar. “The last thing this world needs is more people.”
“The problem with people–”
“Yes.” She smiled at that. “The problem with people.”
“They lack self-awareness.”
“The weird thing is that we want these versions of ourselves, people who we think will understand us.”
“Maybe even care.”
“Which means nothing.”
“The problem with people.” Val repeated it like a song lyric. “They say stupid things.”
I liked this topic too much. “And they actually believe they will be something good.”
“Good.” She checked for messages. “Whatever that means.”*
(*excerpt from The Ark)
I remember my second year at university. All of my friends wanted to go down to the field and initiate the freshmen, cover them with whipped cream and blue dye, make them do stupid things, just humiliate them and get them horribly drunk. I looked at these people – my friends, good friends – and they were practically foaming at the mouth, intimidating these kids.I don’t know. It was like rape.
Dazed and Confused (Linklater, 1993)
These kids were only a year younger than us, just a year, but we had had it done to us, and so it was our turn. It was our turn to be bullies. That’s what we were trained to do. We called it a rite of passage or some bullshit about growing up, but it was just rape. And it doesn’t stop there. It’s in everything we do, in school, at work, buying groceries, getting on a plane, walking in the street.
Occupy Wall Street
We learn to accept it. We learn to give it back. Worse than that, we learn to derive pleasure from giving it back. We feel justified in giving it back.That’s why I don’t have faith in us. We’re more infantile than when we were kids.
Continuing in my science fiction research, I have begun Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris. Made into a film by both Andrei Tarkovsky and Steven Soderbergh, it is the story of a planet with a living consciousness, Gaia in the extreme. Although the writing is dense at times, the narrative is artfully dream-like, almost in a trance. Most impressively, the notion of a living mass conscious comes across as an effective precursor for what we are heading for here, our collective and unspoken mission to be eternally plugged in.