Into the Forest, Jean Hegland


My review of the apocalyptic novel Into the Forest by Jean Hegland, posted on SF Mistressworks.

Originally posted on SF Mistressworks:

intotheforest Into the Forest, Jean Hegland (1996)
Review by Shannon Turlington

“People have been around for at least 100,000 years. And how long have we had electricity?”
“Well, Edison invented the incandescent lamp in 1879.”
“See? All this,” and she swung her arm to encircle the rooms of the only house I’d ever know, “was only a fugue state.” She pointed to the blackness framed by the open door. “Our real lives are out there.”

Two teenage daughters become stranded in their rural California home at the edge of a large, wild forest after the unexplained collapse of society and the accidental death of their father; gradually, the girls accept the reality of their situation and learn how to survive off the forest, which is the only resource they have in abundance.

This book revealed itself slowly, and it took me quite a while to really understand what it was all…

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The shape of stories…

Click through to see The Shapes of Stories, a Kurt Vonnegut Infographic by Maya Eilam. Her infographic is based on Vonnegut’s master’s thesis, which posited that a story’s main character has ups and downs that can be graphed. This graph reveals the story’s shape, and there are types of stories that have the same shape.

I find it fascinating how obsessed our species is with story. I wonder if we ever meet any aliens, would they have the same obsession? Is storytelling the key to success as a species?

My tablet, not ready for prime time…

Don’t get me wrong. I really love my Nexus 10. It is great for web- or social network-surfing at the breakfast table, on the couch or wherever. I like the Kindle app for reading color comics and children’s books that aren’t compatible with my Kindle Touch. And it’s a nifty portable stereo, accessing my music from where Google magically placed it somewhere in the cloud. But can it replace the computer? Not even close.

It’s not the awkward keyboard, although that is part of it. I got a wireless keyboard to help with that, and it’s only a little cumbersome to set up. However, I don’t break it out much, because it’s not as convenient as going upstairs and using the desktop.

Here are the issues bugging me:

a) Apps don’t work well or consistently. The New York Times app is gloriously beautiful one day, gloriously broken the next. All apps seem to have these issues. But they are still better than…

b) Web site viewing, which ranges from fine to completely unintelligible. That’s just in the browser. When an app, like Feedly, tries to display websites, behavior gets even worse. And the apps won’t let me switch to the browser when they get overwhelmed. Web browsing is the primary function of the tablet, and it should work very well always.

c) Constant crashing. I can’t figure out what causes it. It’s inconsistent. But it happens all. the. time.

What does my tablet get right? Google Now is awesome. Right now, I use it to check the weather, my calendar, shipped packages, nearby events, driving times, winter olympics standings, college basketball scores, TV show recaps, book reviews. It knows what I like based on my Google searches and Gmail usage. Spooky, right? But here is an example of all that data mining being put to good use, i.e., to a use that directly and immediately benefits me.

I’m not ready to give up the desktop just yet. The tablet will have to get a lot more reliable before I am. But will I give up my tablet? Not likely.

Stop making plans…

Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities — for success, for happiness, for really living — are waiting.

So many inspirational quotes here, you have to check out the whole article: Stop Making Plans: How Goal-Setting Limits Rather Than Begets Our Happiness and Success | Brain Pickings.

On happiness, character and living a robust life…

I stumbled across this terrific essay that questions a lot of societal norms, including the pursuit of happiness, the idealized life, and the “dysfunction” of the creative mind. Here’s a tidbit:

Many of the people who have made the biggest contributions to our collective history—intellectuals, researchers, composers, writers, artists, and so on—have lived lives that, from the outside, seem fairly pathological. They have often been deeply solitary, have had trouble forming enduring relationships, have been consumed by their projects to the point of obsession, have plunged into the depths of despair, have doubted and disparaged themselves, and have had to endure the coldness and sharpness of the world\’s judgment. Yet who is to say that these lives are somehow less poignant than those that seem more wholesome?

The whole essay is worth a read and some thoughtful consideration:  Happiness and Its Discontents – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.