Category Archives: Research and Reflection

Brain Pickings: Maria Popova on Brian Greene

Maria Popova produces Brain Pickings   a free Sunday digest of inspiring articles across art, science, philosophy, creativity, children’s books, and other strands of the search for truth, beauty, and meaning. There’s always something I find interesting and today’s newsletter was particularly so because it linked in with some of the other reading I’ve been doing.

One of the articles is about Brian Greene and his book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe (2020).  His view is that human’s creativity stems from the knowledge that we will die and the world will go on without us – a search for meaning. I immediately linked this fear of nothingness with my readings of Brian Dillon’s book In the Dark Room (2019) which I have recently written about.

‘As we hurtle toward a cold and barren cosmos, we must accept that there is no grand design.  Particles are not endowed with purpose. There is no final answer hovering in the depths of space awaiting discovery.  Instead, certain special collections of particles can think and feel and reflect, and within these subjective worlds they can create purpose.  And so , in our quest to fathom the human condition, the only direction to look is inward. That is the noble direction to look.  It is a direction that forgoes ready-made answers and turns to the highly personal journey of constructing our own meaning.’

I now have the book so there may be more to come on this.

 

 

Brian Dillon (2005) In the Dark Room (2019) London: Fitzcarraldo Editions.

 

My tutor recommended this book to me in her recent feedback on Assignment 6, with regard to ideas of home and memory and my Critical Review for Assignment 4.  In the Dark Room is a meditation upon mourning and an excavation of memory, how it works emotionally and culturally. “It is narrated through the prism of his experience of losing both his parents, his mother when he was sixteen, his father when he was on the cusp of adulthood and of trying, after a breakdown some years later, to piece things together”.   I recognised many of Brian Dillon’s way of coping having lost three of the most important people in my life suddenly.  I wouldn’t describe this as a sad book which I think is due to the strategies he uses to allow the memories to emerge and almost float around him. The book has many thoughts and quotations on theory and philosophy to explore so I’m taking it slowly – a book to read in quiet periods of reflection.  I’m about three-quarters through now but decided to jot down thoughts and relevant quotes particularly in relation to house/home and also photographs so far as this blog is concerned as I wouldn’t want to ‘spoil’ the reading of it for others.

The book

 

Fairly small in size (slightly less than A5) with 266 pages and a heavy, matte, white paper cover with fold-ins – the kind that you think you can use as a bookmark but only ever works for a few pages. has 266 pages, plus a list of readings, and so this makes it quite a thick book for its overall size. The front cover has a dark blue, all capitals title and author’s name which complements the white background.  The size, thickness and cover of the book give clarity adding to the overall impression of a contemplative and serious book.

Dillon begins his book in 1993 at a time when he is standing in the house which he will shortly leave for the last time, some years after the death of his father. The use of the word ‘excavation’ is a good one I think because he explores memory through objects which he places in five chapters; – ‘House’; ‘Things’; ‘Photographs’; ‘Bodies’ and ‘Places ‘.  He does so slowly and methodically,  describing every object in minute detail, allowing the memories to emerge at a pace which, I imagined, allowed him to cope with the pain of the remembering; the grief which he had been unable to allow to surface for so many years.

I’m noting below some themes that interested me (quoting Dillon in italics, amongst my own reflections). He writes in the present tense so that brings a sense of immediacy – the here and nowness of the emerging memories and reflections; the reader stands alongside him seeing what Dillon sees, listening to his thoughts.

House pages 21-67

Upon leaving a house that has been a family home:

We start to see it as a sort of ruin, or rather as a pair of ruins, one of which exists only in our imagination.  The other is the real space in which we drift about, disconsolately or impatiently, depending on the circumstances of our leave-taking.  (p.26)

The notion of the house as a repository of memory is an ancient one. (p.28) Cicero said that architecture is the model for well-ordered recollection – if you want to remember something you put it into a particular room of the house … the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written on it.  This is an ‘ideal’ house though not ‘home’.  the mention of wax-table made me remember Freud and the palimpsest of memory. Dillon writes about remembering a sense of what it felt like to move around a house in which he’s lived again a phenomenological approach.

We’re always present in the house of our memory but to see it empty, walk around it for the last time, …. Is to catch sight of a less tangible image: the ghost of ourselves, wandering from room to room like a bad student of classical rhetoric failing to find the proper places to deposit his lesson. I identified with that – time contracts somehow, the spaces between past and present join together. I feel suddenly very small, as if I’ve been dropped into a sort of ravine which recalls me instantly to my childhood perception of this spot.

Dillon refers to Tacita Dean’s film “Boots” about an elderly man who walks around the house creating a narrative for each empty space, apparently recalling some of the former inhabitants. (p. 36).  Boots invents his own memories. I watched Dean’s film with a growing sense that I was seeing something very familiar: the moment when one moves through a space both intimately known and at the same time utterly alien  … the space itself seems to have dropped out of history, drifted off (like the massive ocean liner it resembles) into unchartable seas of memory. The film reminds Dillon of Rachel Whiteread’s work “House”  – the solid cast of the interior of a Victorian house, ‘exhibited’ in situ – not actually seen by him but photographs of it. Once demolished it showed itself not as a solid mass […] but a collection of vacant concrete boxes held together by an invisible interior armature.  He reflects that the true house is the space within which we move. It is the empty volume that we get used to, that makes our bodies move in particular ways, that forms habits and physical attitudes which persist, awkwardly, after we have left.   […] Nostalgia is no longer the word to describe the moment when we see the space around us for the complicated void it really is.  At that instant – the instant, for me, of seeing the house empty for the first and last time – it becomes properly uncanny (which is to say: ‘unhomely’). (p. 39)  Having a sense of each room being a separate passage into the past (referring to Virginia Woolf’s diary) a Chinese box in which each new discovery jostles for place to claim priority in his memory (p.41) and so the memories come to him – at the age of 5 his father distressed after the death of his own father; later years remembering how his mother’s illness gradually tooke over her; changed her.

(p. 47) De Quincey on “The Pains of Opium” and its effects on his dreams, imagination and memory – concluding that there is ‘no such thing as forgetting possible to the human mind’, and also using the term palimpsest to refer to the human brain.  De Quincy recounting seeing the corpse of his younger sister when he was only six years old and remembering the sensation of a specific space. The image develops like a photograph: the author illuminated between the light from the window and the dark mass of the bed where his sister’s body lies.

 (p. 60) Gaston Bachelard, “The Poetics of Space” and how the childhood house marks us physically. It is not only the place itself that stays with us, but a capacity for reflection which is forever bound up with the way we moved within it

Photographs pages 117-167

(p.118) Acknowledging he needed help for the depression that was clouding his life; realising that medication and therapy were helping him and feeling well enough to look at the roots of the depression. Dillon had earlier begun to look through the thirty-six photographs he took from the family home. He now began to write about them; to describe what he saw in them, […] rather than to indulge in any excessive reminiscence or conjecture about their significance. Wanting to record what he saw and test them against his misery – with Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida in mind. Bare essentials clear to him but details foreign (similar to experience described by Barthes).

(p. 125) I had never seen most of these photographs of my parents until they were dead – that sentence so reminded me of sitting on my parents’ bed; going through the envelopes of photographs and recognising some but not others; ones of my grandparents too. In the past years during my studying I have often brought out these photographs, written about them and thought about their young lives. Like Dillon I too wonder why they never brought them out and talked about them, even though they talked about their parents. In fact, now, particularly regarding my father I’m realising that some of these photographs were actually sent to me by my cousin. Could it be that her mother, the oldest of my father’s six siblings was the one who held the family archive?

Dillon writes movingly of the early daguerreotypes and the fragility of the images in their wooden cases, including images where the surviving relatives are shown gathered around a daguerreotype of their deceased parent, which is often invisible, reaching to touch it. Remembrance included ancillary objects such as hair strands in a locket or dried flowers. Also, the photograph could be sewn into a cushion or inserted in a shrine. (NB as an aside  photographs could often be taken with the dead https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36389581 On the one hand this seems macabre and yet…)

(p. 128) Looking at the photographs, in a disorganised state, realising that not all were kept by him whilst some were – artistic merit, in line with a ‘family photographs, allegorical images of his own state of mind – whilst still without meaning for him On the one hand Dillon will soon have had these photographs for longer than his parents were married, whilst, on the other hand, photographs of them might have been hidden away in the albums of other family relatives. Realising that he knew very little of his parents lives before he (the oldest) was born.

(p.135) Beginning to remember now some details of family history and taking note of how his parents looked.

(p. 142)  Photography, and the proximity of death, tear the face from its home and memory and set it adrift in time, where we find that we have failed to recognize the faces we know best finding a photograph of his mother as a child with her parents and her face being, […] quite unlike that of the being I knew… I could find nothing of her there, and therefore nothing of myself. And this absence, this feeling that she was manifestly present but just out of reach, was distinctly painful.

 (p.146)ical fact which puts his father in a distant past. And yet this is also the photographic instant at which I have imagined that my father comes alive in my memory. Recognising a facial expression he knew and thus turning to look at a photograph of his mother, seeing an aura about her which is different from that of her companions which then leads him on to looking at his parents as a young couple, imagining the moment – could it be their first photograph together? Struck by the thought that this was a past before him.

(p. 155) St Augustine was the first writer to look back on his childhood and experience this sense of vertigo while trying to reconstitute a lost self. Relating to Augustine as an inaugural autobiographer in his “Confessions” who imagines a time before himself, with birth and death, both are entirely mysterious, twin voids at either end of existence, supporting between them a time which seems to have meaning if we concede their meaninglessness. Their mirrored terror resides in the fact that there has existed (and will exist again) a time in which “I” do not exist. Reading those words of Dillon’s reminded me of the times I have also approached that thought and shut down on it as quickly as I can on that terror , existential anxiety of the void.

(p. 157) Reference to Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiography “Speak Memory”, quoting an extract where Nabokov has a similar experience. Dillon writes of beginning to recognize other snapshot where he appears as a baby and this actually reminded me that I do have three photographs showing me pregnant with each of my three children.

Dillon acknowledges to himself that there are no photographs between one of his mother not long before she dies and his father’s death nearly ten years later so that his adolescence was entirely undocumented – a void – something he joked about in his early adulthood. What would photographs then have looked like; describing a 1914 photograph of August Sander entitled, ‘Widower with Sons’. Had we been photographed, I thought, we might have looked like Sander’s dismal grouping: the iconic presentment of bereavement, but also of the failure of the bereft to find a way of addressing their loss.

(pp.164 ) This section ends with Dillon’s description of a photograph which he used to let slip to the bottom of the pile – the final photograph of his parents some weeks before his mother died in 1985, also the last image of his father. As before he describes the photograph in detail and the change in his mother made by illness and writes that he can’t help relating it to the one taken 25 years before of his parents – both are the only ones in which they appear alone together. The photographs (all photographs) say to us that their subjects are alive and dead at the same time

 

Personal Reflection on Assignment 5 (Draft)

 

My draft Assignment includes an evaluation but I thought it would be useful for my personal development to reflect in more depth.

I have mixed feelings about this Assignment.  Time pressures/deadlines meant that I had to take a fairly narrow focus and be disciplined about not getting involved or side-tracked into wider avenues.  There was little time either for experimenting with different approaches.  On the other hand I surprised myself by how disciplined I could be, developing an inner voice that kept me in check, especially as I’d always been interested in Horsell Common as the site of the ‘Martian’ landing – living across the road from it from 2006 to 2014.  I think that newly developed inner voice is going to be good for me in the future – new learning even at my relatively advanced age.

It was only during Assignment 3 and the Basingstoke Canal that I realised how ‘new’ the modern town of Woking is (as distinct from the earlier Settlement now known as Old Woking). It isn’t so obvious because Woking Borough as an urban district took in the older villages Byfleet, Horsell and Pyrford – all of which are mentioned in H.G.Wells book “The War of the Worlds”. I also hadn’t taken in the import of Woking being a ‘Cemetery’ Town either and the influence of the London Necropolis Railway Company. The historical reading was important in giving me a sense of the Woking of the 1890s and why H.G. Wells thought this was a good place to live with its Railway line to and from London and with surrounding  areas to explore.

During my own walks and photography sessions I came to understand the fascination of Horsell Common and its Sandpit for H.G. Wells. This transferred to me and I think it improved the way I was using my camera to focus on areas of the Common that I thought could have been of interest to him. I gained a new sense of looking at an area I had known well which was also helped, I think, by the fact that I hadn’t been back there very often since 2014.  Come to think of it I was also looking with new eyes because of two lots of cataract surgery during the past couple of years!

I took some test shots with my iPhone to begin with, to accompany my Project Proposal and also showed them to member of “Bridge” Group – a group set up by Anna Goodchild which is an extension of South-West OCA Group.  Members of “Bridge” were very supportive, see here   under the entry for November 2019. The photography sessions proper started in the New Year.  I took quite a large number of photographs, so the editing process took some time; a good exercise though because I think I’m becoming more able to let go of images that don’t fit with others even though they appeal to me.  I made strong efforts to concentrate my choices on images that would fit together as colours and shapes as well as provide an underlying narrative ‘uncanny’ effect without being too obvious; which is why I left out the gloomier images.  I’ll be pleased though if I can make use of their darker mood in my future experiments.

The time factor meant that I played it safe, didn’t experiment with different approaches or technique .  I had thought of using a Holga lens and maybe polaroid photography but decided against this in the end.  A holga pinhole lens could fit with early photography certainly though which is something to remember for the future.  One aspect I haven’t explored up to now is whether H.G. Wells was interested in photography; I’ve got an idea he probably wasn’t, but I could be wrong.  I kept a note of interesting artists which I summarised separately here and, with more time and space available for experimentation, I have made a plan of action for further work.

There were several themes that occurred to me during my walks and the major one for H.G. Wells at that particular point was his disquiet at the behaviour of the English in Tasmania.  Another current theme closer to home but connected is in the wider area where I live so much has happened due to land speculation intended for the profit of the developer rather than the inhabitants.  This type of speculation, whilst not always apparently making a profit, has shaped the land. Even now, as I’ve written before, there are further large developments proposed without an existing infrastructure to support them and which will take away land such as Horsell Common.  I feel thankful that so many years ago, the Earl of Onslow was philanthropic enough to ensure that Horsell Common, at least is safe – so far as we know. It could be said that I am looking backwards as opposed to what might happen in the future but I don’t think that’s the case because what I’ve been doing is looking at the choices that have been made about land ownership and management over time and the results of this for our present generation alongside the stories that we build around our environment.

Assignment 5 – Photographer and artist influences

 My original proposal for the project included a beginning list of artists I wanted to investigate further. The timescale for completion of Assignment 5 didn’t leave much spare time for experimenting but I have continued to add to the list as interesting photographers and other artists have come to my attention. I am attaching as PDF an updated list.

Update and review of artist-research-suggestions-for-assignment-5

With completion of the draft Assignment itself I will have much more time for experiments but need to retain focus.  I have, therefore, divided some of the ideas into possibilities now and possibilities for the future.

Possibilities now

Aletheia Casey 

 The use of overlays paint or digital as in her works No Blood Stained the Wattle and The Dark Forgetting.  These are emotive works exposing as they do the treatment of the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by the early colonialists in Australia. There is a link though here with the impetus which led to the novel The War of the Worldsand I think that Aletheia Casey’s techniques could be transferred to the photographs I have already taken on Horsell Common.

Lewis Bush  

Apart from the complexity of his approaches to contemporary issues in photography, I am also interested in his use of altered books, an approach I had in mind from the beginning of Assignment 5. I already have several editions of War of the Worlds.  Again, this would, in essence, be a handmade book.

John Angerson

His projects English Journey and On This Day involve the use of ephemera, period artefacts etc alongside contemporary photographs of locations to connect present with past.  So far, I have vintage postcards so would need to collect more material.  I’m thinking here of a handmade book.

Possibilities for the future

Joan Fontcuberta

His fertile imagination has produced such fascinating work, much of which has involved not only the creation of elaborate ‘archival’ documents but organisms and animals too. I found an interesting article here which describes him not only as a conceptualist but as a “contextualist” whose projects adopt/appropriate authoritative resources used to legitimize photographic materials, and vice versa, in order to subvert them.

Fontcuberta’s later project Trauma (2016) builds on the hypothesis that images undergo an organic metabolism from a variety of processes which results in photographic wounds and scars. The latter veil the original subjects of the photographer’s lens.

Joan Fontcuberta: Trauma, 2016 from àngels barcelona on Vimeo.

This would take me into a more conceptual approach, using old photographs which I have already collected. But I would like to experiment with a completely different approach

 

Next Steps

  1. I will begin by printing some of my photographs onto Watercolour inkjet paper – probably at 5×7” size as experiments for overlays with watercolour paint.
  2. Experiment with digital overlays
  3. Decide which of my editions of War of the Worlds I will use as an altered book and then make a plan for how I will alter it.
  4. I also need to think about text
  5. Last year I gathered some striated red pebbles from a beach in Devon and I recently asked Anna Goodchild, OCA graduate if she could gather some of the red sand from Paignton beach and post it to me. I’ve also gathered sand from Horsell Common.  The impetus for this was a sand print that used to hang on the wall when I was a child – from a time when my mother went to the Isle of Wight with her parents. This layered sand print was something I’ve always remembered – in fact I purchased one such from eBay a couple of years ago whilst I was studying the Digital Image & Culture module and working on some letter from Egypt from my father. When the framed print arrived I was sure that this was the same one even though I knew it probably wasn’t. It’s squirreled away in a cupboard somewhere – must find it for inspiration.

 

 

 

Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946)

 

H.G. Wells was the fourth and last child of Joseph Wells (a shopkeeper and professional cricketer) and Sarah Neal.   His early education was patchy as was his early working life but, at the age of 18 he won a scholarship to study biology at the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science) in South Kensington. He left before graduating to return to teaching, beginning also to focus intensively on writing.  He was a prolific writer in many genres but is probably best known for his science fiction novels; seriously establishing himself as a writer with the publication of The Time Machinein 1895, completed during the short period when he lived in Woking. I will reference the following books where relevant:-

Several biographies have been written of H. G. Wells, but the one I obtained is by Michael Sherborne (2010) H. G. Wells: Another Kind of Life. London & Chicago. Peter Owen.  Sherborne did comprehensive research and the book is full of detailed accounts of Wells’s activities, writings and thoughts. In fact, there was so much detail that I found it hard to distinguish between what was of most and least importance. Michael Sherborne obviously found his subject to be highly fascinating whatever he was engaged in.

 

H. G. Wells wrote several autobiographies. The one I obtained as a Kindle version is Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866) (1934) which takes him to 1900.

I also have a Critical Edition of “War of the Worlds” with Introduction and Notes by David Y. Hughes and Harry M. Geduld (1993) USA. Indiana University Press.

____________________________________________

I am concentrating here on the events leading up to his arrival and during his stay in Woking to gain a picture of his perceptions of the Town. At that point he was separated from his first wife, with a divorce pending, and living in lodgings in London with his lover, Amy Catherine Robbins (who he called Jane) [1] Michael Sherborne comments on this, “It is tempting to interpret her subsequent life as the suppression of an independent woman by a domineering man, particularly since Wells deprived her even of her preferred name, replacing ‘Catherine” with the plain monosyllable ‘Jane’.  However, Sherborne suggests that Jane concluded that being the mainstay of a successful man was her best chance to get what she wanted from life as well as having a genuine belief that Wells was remarkably gifted and she could achieve more by assisting him than she could on her own. He doesn’t provide a reference for that though, although he does later speculate that there might have been an element of collaboration in view of Wells’s prolific literary output. (M. Sherborne 2010:116)

Whilst finances had improved, the London air was affecting his generally poor health even more and Wells decided he wanted to find “a little house in the country where I could follow up with another book the success that I felt was coming to the Time Machine. (Page 502 of 769. Location 6701 of 10292).  Therefore, they borrowed a hundred pounds through a mortgage on Jane’s mother’s house and “… we furnished a small resolute semi-detached villa with a minute greenhouse in the Maybury Road facing the railway line, where all night long the goods trains shunted and bumped and clattered – without serious effect upon our healthy slumbers”.

Wells viewed the move to Woking in May 1895 as a cheerful adventure, commenting that “Woking was the site of the first crematorium but few of our friends made more than five or six jokes about it”.   One thing that Wells doesn’t mention is that some of the trains on the railway line opposite might have been carrying the deceased and the bereaved in their first, second or third carriages on the way to Brookwood Cemetery!

He seemed to like it in Woking – “Close at hand in those days was a pretty and rarely used canal amidst pine-woods, a weedy canal, beset with loose-strife, spiraea, forget-me-nots and yellow water lilies, upon which one could be happy for hours in a hired canoe, and in all directions stretched open and undeveloped heathland, so that we could walk and presently learn to ride bicycles and restore our broken contact with the open air”.  Wells wrote about the dangers of the primitive bicycle (an experience he used in one of his later books).  Also, “Later on I wheeled about the district marking down suitable places and people for destruction by my Martians”(See below) .  As they became more proficient the couple cycled further , wandering about the south of England.  Wells also enjoyed drawing and he includes here what he termed a ‘Picshua’ of “Cycling and also of Jane “Engaging A Servant”.

He and Jane were married (27th October 1895) during their stay in Woking, despite the fact that they both believed in ‘free love’ . They had found that servants became impertinent and neighbours curt or insulting when learning of their unmarried state and didn’t want this friction to continue. (M. Sherborne 2010:110).  They lived happily, increasing their circle of acquaintances and friends, until Jane’s mother became ill and they decided that should move to a larger house at Worcester Park so that Mrs Robbins could live with them.

The War of the Worlds (1898)

The idea for the book emanated from a discussion Well’s had with his older brother, Frank, as they were out walking and, indeed, he dedicated the book to Frank.  They had been discussing the terrible effects on the indigenous Tasmanian population following the building of the first white settlement there in 1803. The Tasmanian Aboriginal people were treated as sub-humans and attempts to resist were met with the superior weaponry and force of the Europeans.  Between 1831 and 1835, ostensibly in a final effort at conciliation and to prevent the extermination of approximately 200 Tasmanian Aboriginal people, they were removed to Flinders Island where most of them soon died, due to destruction of their traditional way of life, attempts to ‘civilize’ them and effects of alien diseases. In the discussion Frank remarked, “Suppose some beings from another planet were to drop out of the sky suddenly, and begin laying about them here!”

Hughes and Geduld describe the plot of the book as “apocalyptic” in its unveiling of, “… a predestined future cataclysm of extra-human proportions which destroys the world as we know it but eventuates in the triumph of good over evil.  Wells invokes three responses to these events – the scriptural response of the curate; the narrator’s moral and intellectual experimentalism and the artilleryman’s survivalist-authoritarian response and, overall, the book is, (… an exploratory document whose readers must bridge into the world that is dawning after the invasion” (Hughes & Geduld 1993:09).  There is the ‘ranting curate’ (Wells was anti-religion; the narrator who bridges between the Scriptural and scientific world views and the artilleryman who believes that civilization and progress is over and “we’ve got to fix ourselves up according to the new state of affairs”.

Mars and the Martians also offer a preview of Earth’s fate with their dying world and violent aggression – a very contemporary issue in view of Climate change.  I know it’s an exciting prospect, but I do find it hard at present to avoid conflating the current drive to explore new planets with the destruction that was wreaked on the Tasmanian Aboriginal People and those in other Countries.

 

 

Mars

True color image of Mars taken by the OSIRIS instrument on the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft during its February 2007 flyby of the planet

 

Mars is the second-smallest plant in the Solar System, the fourth planet from the Sun and named after the Roman God of war. It can easily be seen from Earth with the naked eye as can its reddish appearance due to the iron oxide prevalent on its surface so is often referred to as the ‘Red Planet’. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere and surface features reminiscent of the impact craters of the Moon and the deserts, valleys and polar ice caps of Earth. Its rotational period and rotational axis and, therefore, days and seasons are comparable to those of Earth – this article here  contains images of a Martian winter  captured by the HiRise camera of NASA’s Mars Reconaissance orbiter such as a dusting of whitish-ice speckling basalt sand in the northern polar region  and frozen carbon dioxide on the  South polar ice caps which reveals darker material below the surface as it melts..

If there was such a being what would a Martian look like

The idea of intelligent life on Mars was supported by the astrophysicist Percival Lovell in the late 1800s with his concept on the Martian Canals and science fiction writers took this idea from there, the most famous being the Martians in H.G.Wells novel War of the Worlds (1898). This site provides information on ideas on Martians in the 20th Century.  .  One version of H.G. Well’s book contains illustrations by Henrique Alvim Corrêa (1876 – 1910), a Brazilian artist who specialised in military and science fiction illustration.

The video below contains footage of every time the Martians appear in a 2005 movie version of H.G. Well’s book . (one of several movie versions, not to mention TV series and a radio play by Orson Welles too).

Human Exploration of Mars

 There are ongoing investigations assessing the past habitability potential of Mars, as well as the possibly of existing life, with future astrobiology mission being planned, including Mars 2020.

 

Mars differs from Earth in having weaker gravity, intense radiation and a total lack of micobial life (so far as we know).  Because of this any colonist would go through some dramatic evolutionary changes. The initial number is likely to be small and not representative of the larger population on Earth, in which case their traits would be passed on to their children making them become distinct from people on Earth. More pronounced effects would occur along the generations. Scott Solomon suggests people could end up with naturally thicker bones to compensate for the low gravity; there would be genetic variations to protect from radiation damage.  On Earth this is connected with production of eumelanin so those with more of this in their skin could better tolerate the radiation on Marsh, leading to Martians with darker skin than anyone on Earth. There could be new skin pigments though produced from Carotenoids. Natural selection would favour those less affected by impairments to the brain from radiation and so on.  (S. Solomon, 2016).

References

Amos, M  HG Wells War of the Worlds Martian Walker (2015) [user-generated content online] Creat. Amos, M. 13 September 2015 At:  https://youtu.be/BpdgIjTKTSk  [Accessed on 25 January 2020]

ESA – European Space Agency & Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research for OSIRIS Team ESA/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA [CC BY-SA 3.0-IGO

(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0-igo)]

http://www.physics-astronomy.com/2014/05/what-we-think-martians-look-like-photos.html

https://www.nasa.gov/mars2020

https://www.wired.com/story/space-photos-of-the-week-postcards-from-a-martian-winter/

Solomon, S (2016) the Martians Are Coming – and They’re Human, [online] http://nautil.us/issue/41/selection/the-martians-are-comingand-theyre-human [Accessed on 25 January 2020]

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future

Tom Lombard (2015) Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future. Journal of Futures Studies, December 2015, 20(2): 5-24

 

At the beginning of the above paper Tom Lombardo writes of the effect on him of being drawn into future worlds through the movies when he was growing up in the 1950s – ‘The War of the Worlds  engaged all the dimensions of my conscious mind exemplifying the “total person immersion” that science fiction can generate.’ He believes that science fiction speaks to the whole person, therefore ‘stimulating and enhancing holistic future consciousness.’ and that for many people science fiction has become a total way of life. Its narrative form is a large part of its psychological power together with the fact that its primary focus has been on the possibilities of tomorrow so that we are drawn into a “rich vicarious experience of the future through its vivid and memorable characters” living the story through them.

Lombardo believes that science fiction is not just about the future of technology and science but explores all dimensions of the future from numerous perspectives and so it is about “the future of everything”, even the future of the universe.  Amongst his examples he points towards “Surface Tension” (1952) by James Blish.  This story is about tiny humanoid creatures who live in a puddle which as far as they know is the entire universe.  Some want to blast through the surface of the puddle with a constructed rocket whereas others think it is far too dangerous. Those who leave look up and see ‘the brilliant panorama of the night sky’ (p.5).  The story is an allegory and the title also refers to the constraints within our minds.  Reading about it reminded me of “Plato’s Cave”.

Lombardo also looks at the connection between myth and science fiction, using Joseph Campbell’s writings on Myth as his reference point, e.g. “Mythology is ….. the song of the imagination …” and one of the functions of myth is to open the world to the dimension of mystery – so keeping our minds, ‘ … open, through awe and wonder, to the realms of the possible, the undiscovered, the amazing, and the transcendent” as well as offering life models –  which leads to the ‘archetype’.  Lombardo proposes a long set of characteristic features and values of myth which generate holistic consciousness, including holistic future consciousness if it contains pivotal futurist themes. He believes that much of science fiction also shares all or at least some of those features and provides examples such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind with beings from a higher realm and 2001: A Space Odysseywhich embodies the mythic theme of death and resurrection.  The major difference Lombardo perceives is that science fiction is informed by what is scientifically plausible (although often challenging the boundary), rather than being based on ancient and often supernatural theories of reality.

There is a continuum within science fiction though allowing for pure fantasy and high-tech or blends of both.  Science fiction also grapples with the fear and apprehension that futurist visions can evoke. Lombard looks at the relationship science fiction has with fdutures studies – seeing them as existing on an interactive continuum.  For example H.G. Wells embraced both and sometimes wove the two together. Wells studied human history as a prelude to writing the War of the Worlds (1898) for instance.

Lombardo defines science fiction as the “evolutionary mythology of the future” on the basis that it is a continually evolving genre built upon the heritage of works of the past; from early on it has grappled with understanding evolution and progress with its central contemporary scientific narrative being cosmic evolution. His conclusion is:-

“In summary, science fiction compels us to feel the future as well as to think about it.  Its archetypal mythic, and cosmic qualities, informed and inspired by modern science, technology, and philosophical thinking, provide a medium for the ongoing debate and creation of futurist myths to guide, inspire, and warn us about the multitudinous possibilities of the future – science fiction is about the future for the future” (p. 16)

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I accessed the paper on Academia.edu which led to an exchange of messages between myself and Tom. I told him about my project and that I was seeing how “War of the Worlds” can relate to the current day.  In his response he wrote “The War of the Worlds has been associated with international paranoia (fear of invasion from another country) and as a commentary on Western imperialism – countries with military superiority invading less developed countries to secure land/resources/etc.  It is also an “out of the blue” story – we should always keep in mind that no matter how secure and comfortable we are that something totally unexpected may emerge suddenly that will upset our lives” (T. Lombardo 2019).  Reflecting afterwards the words ‘paranoia’ and ‘fear of invasion’ reminded me that we often project the  urges and aggression we deny in ourselves.

 

Further information about Tom Lombard can be accessed here http://www.centerforfutureconsciousness.com/proresume.htm

 

 

 

References

Lombard, T.  (2015) Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future. Journal of Futures Studies, December 2015, 20(2): 5-24  [Online] at: https://www.academia.edu/26469772/Science_Fiction_The_Evolutionary_Mythology_of_the_Future_-_Final_Version.  (Accessed on 3 December 2019).

http://www.centerforfutureconsciousness.com/proresume.htm