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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 6 )
Related News Stories -
Save Your Brain's Connectome, Upload Yourself Elsewhere
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?' - Richard Morgan, 2003.
TMS Decreases Belief In God, Increases Belief In Immigrants
'... Setting up the same currents, the same basic ideas, in them all.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1938.
Blockchain Used To Verify Election Results
'Any adult could punch into the phone his or her code, followed by a yes or no.' - John Brunner, 1975.
We Could Downgrade Puerto Rico - And Thereby Save It
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.' - John Brunner, 1976.
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.
Las Vegas Humans Ready To Strike Over Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot... had to be compensated.'
You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.'
Elon Musk Seeks To Create 1941 Heinlein Speedster
'The car surged and lifted, clearing its top by a negligible margin.'
Somnox Sleep Robot - Your Sleepytime Cuddlebot
Science fiction authors are serious about sleep, too.
Real-Life Macau or Ghost In The Shell
Art imitates life imitates art.
Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.'
First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.
VirtualHome: Teaching Robots To Do Chores Around The House
'Just what did I want Flexible Frank to do? - any work a human being does around a house.'
Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Workshop
SF writers have thought about this since the 19th century.
Nanorobots Roam Your Bloodstream, Cleaning It
Too bad they won't have lasers, though...
Galini 3D Printed Sleeping Pod Tiny Houses
'The houses are prefabricated units...'
MIT Boffins Create Psychopath AI On Purpose
There's a lesson in this for neural net AI engineers everywhere.
Skin Electronics 3D Printed
'June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry...'
Artificial Sensory Neurons For Prosthetics, Robots
Great for humans and robots!
China Uses Artificial Intelligence To Grade Student Papers
Looks like the City Fathers are starting to take over China's education system.
Electronic Tongues Will Rule The Kitchen
'Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories