I have decided that Saturday is the day I chose a poem purely for pleasure (no academic perusal). The poem might come from a textbook, but it unlike the rest of the blog, I’m pursuing it not to learn from it just to share something nice that I love with the rest of the world.
I came across this poem years ago when I was working in a small bookstore. I was working with a round Native American girl who had just recently had an anthology of her poetry published. She was much ballyhooed for her accomplishment (it was a bookstore, after all), but other than that she put in a less than desirable performance as a retail clerk. She didn’t last very long. She was cheerfully surly, haughty and contrarian, so why she didn’t last I’ll never know, her personality fit the place perfectly. She had a way of devaluing anything that you dared to like in front of her. When I said that I liked Buddhist philosophy, she went on and on about how very lazy they all are (despite “work” being one of the main tenants of its Eight Fold Path). And when I spoke on how much I liked Science Fiction, she pulled out this poem to contrast me.
Despite her effort not only did I love the poem, I felt that it very succinctly made the point that I think much good Science Fiction makes: it’s wonderful to have all these incredible advancements, but let’s not lose ourselves – that soft, messy, frail and sometimes horrible beings that we are connect us to being alive and real.
There are many who would throw themselves hurtling into the future without so much at a glance back at the consequences (better medicine has provided us with an over-population problem, the industrial revolution has given us global warming, we have yet to see what the Information Age will do), it is best to have a counter-balance, those old fashioned Luddites that dig their heels in and complain that things were better when they were simpler, without them the human race would go extinct in a generation or two. That is to say that they serve a purpose, not that they or the other faction are right.
I obviously side with the Luddite, but it isn’t because I hate science. Quite the opposite, I love it and think that it’s a wonderful tool of inquiry and discovery and certainly preferable to what came before it; it is better to light the candle of knowledge than wallow in the dark misery of ignorance. None the less, I do not want my body to glitter or to stop the messy process of bleeding (see the poem), both Mary Shelley and I will give our collective raspberry and dig in our heels, because while science is a wonderful discipline, it is not the end all be all of human existence.
The End of Science Fiction
by Lisel Mueller
This is not fantasy, this is our life.
We are the characters
who have invaded the moon,
who cannot stop their computers.
We are the gods who can unmake
the world in seven days.
Both hands are stopped at noon.
We are beginning to live forever,
in lightweight, aluminum bodies
with numbers stamped on our backs.
We dail our words like Muzak.
We hear each other through water.
The genre is dead. Invent something new.
Invent a man and a woman
naked in a garden,
invent a child that will save the world,
a man who carries his father
out of a burning city.
Invent a spool of thread
that leads a hero to safety,
invent an island on which he abandons
the woman who saved his life
with no loss of sleep over his betrayal.
Invent us as we were
before our bodies glittered
and we stopped bleeding:
invent a shepherd who kills a giant,
a girl who grows into a tree,
a woman who refuses to turn
her back on the past and is changed to salt,
a boy who steals his brother’s birthright
and becomes the head of a nation.
Invent real tears, hard love,
slow-spoken, ancient words,
difficult as a child’s
first steps across a room.