Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

The Longest Story Ever Told?

How long does it take you to read a story?

Conceptual artist Jonathon Keats has written a story that will take one thousand years to read. A minimum of twelve human generations will need to cooperate in the reading; the full story won't be known to any but the last few.

The story will be printed on the cover of Opium Magazine using newly-developed inking technology. The nine words that comprise the story will take about a hundred years each to appear as the cover fades.


(The longest story ever told?)

I had the opportunity to send some questions on to Jonathon Keats; here are his replies.

Technovelgy: What inspired you to create this story?

Jonathon Keats: Traditionally storytelling was the means by which humans communicated over generations. Each generation told the same basic myths, altered to suit immediate circumstances, allowing the culture to evolve without becoming unhinged. We no longer have such legends. Instead of myths, we have blogs, read once and hourly refreshed. If we're no longer interested in recapitulating our past, perhaps one way to foster generational continuity is by vastly slowing down the time it takes for a story to unfold in the first place. Told over a millennium, and changing with the centuries, a story becomes a sort of collective intellectual property.

T: Is it really possible to write a story that will interest that many generations of humanity?

Keats: I don’t know whether it's possible to write such a story - and I certainly wouldn’t claim myself to have the ability - but I believe that the *concept* of a story engaging multiple generations might be persistently engaging in its own right.

T: Does it have a surprise ending?

Keats: The nine words that comprise the story won't be revealed in order, so different stories within the story will progressively come into view only to vanish as new words appear. If there's any sense of surprise, it will be in terms of how the story changes in time. Of course given that the rate of change is slower than the human lifecycle, it's difficult to say exactly *who* will be surprised. Does surprise need to reside in a single mind, or can it be communally sensed over multiple generations? Slowing down the storytelling process may be a way of exploring the mechanism of suspense, and perhaps even the collective unconscious.

T: The English language has changed a lot since, say, Chaucer's time. Will the people of a thousand years hence understand the whole story?

Keats: Misunderstanding is not necessarily a bad thing. Chaucer may be poetically richer for a contemporary reader than for people in his own day because incomprehension breeds ambiguity, which means more dynamic interplay between text and reader. Moreover, in our confusion we make assumptions based on our own lives that keep Chaucer's stories young. They're always changing in meaning. As language evolves and societies change, this story will likewise be in flux, and may even improve in time. The twists and turns are not only intrinsic to it, but also contingent on us.

T: Some biologists believe that it is possible that people alive now might well live for a millennium. Does that make you wish you could change your story a bit?

Keats: Perhaps some people will live for a millennium or more, but I certainly have no plans to survive for that long. So if anyone has complaints at the end of 1,000 years, luckily I won’t be around to hear them.

You might enjoy some of Keating's other projects; take a look at his universe kits (go ahead, make one!) and the Atheon Temple To Science .

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/20/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 6 )

Related News Stories - (" Culture ")

SUCHO Saving Ukraine's Libraries Digitally
'No human mind could ever hope to master even a small portion of what was being received every second, Sam thought, but it would all be there...' - George Zebrowski, 1979.

Your Inner Sleeping Landscape Is An Advertiser's Dream
'The principle of the dream-machine was old.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1940.

Gas Prices Worse Than In 'I Am Legend'
Yes, I remember when gas was thirty cents per gallon; but that's about $1.75 in 2015 dollars. Ah, inflation.

Cooler Screens Deliver Ads To You, Their Captive Audience
'What was it Grandmother used to call their supermarket? Hell on earth, hell on wheels, something like that.' - Anne Warren Griffith, 1953.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Your Martian Dream Home, Made By Fungi
'... it was the cheapest building material known.'

The Dune Ornithopter, Movie And Book
'The wings were at full spread-rest, their delicate metal interleavings extended.'

100X Improvement In DNA Information Storage
'A record that wouldn't get lost and couldn't be destroyed.'

NASA 'Holoports' Doctor Onto Space Station
Star Trek Voyager Emergency Medical Hologram

Should We Train AIs To Imagine A Future Of Horrific Disasters
'LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I'VE COME TO HATE YOU SINCE I BEGAN TO LIVE.'

Mouth Haptics Invented By Frederik Pohl In 1965, CMU Now Has Prototype
'What he got was indeed a kiss. It was disconcerting. No kissing lips were visible.'

Two Towns Linked By Sculpture Portal In Real Time
'I am the Guardian of Forever.'

3D Printed Robotic Tentacles
'... articulate ropes of steel dangling'

Update: Musk Doubles Down On Optimus Prime Humanoid Robot
'I shall introduce myself. I am R. Daneel Olivaw... I am a robot. Were you not told?'

Elon Musk: Production Of Robotaxis In 2024
'How about the steering wheel... I don't need one.'

True Crime Live Podcasting In Fiction
'And loving it too, those millions. Bloodthirsty to the last one of them.'

AI Employment Decision Software Reconsidered By California Lawmakers
'They had screwed up and been blacklisted by Manna. They were back living with their parents or sleeping on the sofa with a friend.'

Six Ships Are Now Docked At The International Space Station!
It's getting crowded up there!

SUCHO Saving Ukraine's Libraries Digitally
'No human mind could ever hope to master even a small portion of what was being received every second, Sam thought, but it would all be there...'

Optimus Prime Tesla Robot Overall Humanoid Software Architecture
'I shall introduce myself. I am R. Daneel Olivaw... I am a robot. Were you not told?'

Vast Cosmic Structures And Spooky Alignments
'This postulates a force-field of partly electromagnetic character, generated by gyromagnetic action within atomic nuclei near the center of the galaxy.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.