Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Beyond Those Wild Dreams

I went to the Royal Society of New Zealand's Rutherford Memorial Lecture last night, delivered by Martin Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society of London and Astronomer Royal. The topic was 'The World in 2050', and it packed out the Wellington Town Hall but didn't quite bring the house down.

Lord Rees spent a lot of time on the risks: global warming, pandemics, overpopulation, diminished genetic diversity… presenting each topic clearly and concisely without saying anything new. There were brief moments when his topics ranged into murkier, more exciting waters, such as the suggestion that the world might be able to support 20 billion people (current population around 6.7 billion) if we all lived in tiny apartments, ate rice and only travelled in virtual reality (I think South Korea meets Demolition Man). Or when he suggested that perhaps we were reaching the analytical limits of the human brain to try and answer the remaining unaswerables about the universe - after all, our brains evolved to support omnivorous bipeds on the African savannah and it is incredible we've come this far. Lord Rees suggested that computers were likely to continue to push science forward, new discoveries would continue to be found, and that the prize would still go to the scientist in charge of the computer, in much the same way that Olympic medals in Equestrian go to the rider rather than the horse.

So there was definitely some food for thought (amidst all the ricey requisites). But I wonder what would happen if you gave that topic to a less eminent scientist (one for whom bold predictions are unlikely to sway government policies or be quoted back to lecture halls in future eras as proof of his eminent wrongness), and let them run with it.

(Perhaps what I really want is to go to a writers festival with science fiction writers on the bill…)

For those that are interested, and missed the lecture, I believe Radio NZ will replay it on Easter Sunday.


In January I blogged about heading into the bush on Tinakori Hill to look at Pohutukawa/Rata. Well, with a bit of tweaking I turned that experience into a travel story of sorts, and it managed to get me a Highly Commended in the AA Directions Magazine New Travel Writer of the Year category at the Cathay Pacific Travel Media Awards, announced last night.

You can read my story here.

I felt a pang of jealousy when I skimmed through the winning and runner-up stories (set in Bulgaria and Argentina x2); an I could have done that! moment, having done the European and South American backpacking thing. But the fact is I didn't write about that, and am still chuffed with my Highly Commended.

Wouldn't it be sweet to be paid to travel and write about it?   *quietly stuffs down this thought and replaces it with a calculation of how long it will take him to iron his shirts for the rest of the week*


While we're talking about wildest dreams… I twittered this the other day, but Owen Marshall (yes, the guy I devoted the month of October to here at This Fluid Thrill) will supply a blurb on the back cover of my debut short story collection, A Man Melting. At one stage I felt like the back cover was a bit empty, and the designer humoured my requests for puddles and pigeons, but a nice blurb beats them all.

(I've read many derogatory articles about blurbs -- like this one from the Guardian Online -- in my time, but blurbing isn't as prevalent within New Zealand fiction releases as it is overseas, so hopefully it won't seem tired and empty. Heck, I don’t even care if O.M.'s blurb is a value adding proposition or not: I feel like a kid who just got a certificate in front of the whole school, and I'm damned sure gonna put it up on the refrigerator when I get home.)

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