A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
James Murray-White is a Jerusalem-based writer, documentary filmmaker, and contributing editor to www.greenprophet.com. His review of EarthFuture was originally published in The Short Review, but is so relevant to this week’s over-arching theme that we felt it deserved to be covered here as well. (The scheduled review by Leena will appear later on today.)
This is a collection of very worthy short stories. It is immediately clear that Dauncey is not writing from a literary and imaginative viewpoint: he is really telling us stories about how the world could be, using some real social tools and shifts, and in one or two stories, how bad the world (meaning both the natural world and the cohesion of the human community) currently is and will continue to become if we don’t act upon the pollution, greed, and other corrupting factors now.
He is talented at conveying the themes, actions and indeed foibles of the human spirit. To a lesser extent he has an ability to describe human relations through the tensions, actions and situations that we find ourselves in – for example, a father and son who find themselves at opposite ends of a protest against a tidal wave energy plant is well described in Tides of Bold Bluff.
What does start to grate however is how each of the 18 stories has a specific environmental theme, which the author then ties in to a human trait, or issue. 18 stories: 18 themes, with a bit of padding thrown in for good measure (including a poem, a soliloquy, and a pledge, no less). Those of us involved in environmental activism and protection know that initially issues appear black and white, yet often have myriads of layers and inter-connectivity underneath the surface. In the story Dreaming of a Green Christmas, Dauncey explores anti-materialism; in Cobble Hills, he examines eco-villages and co-operation. In Future in the Forests he weaves his words around sustainable forests, and so on.
Three stories in the centre of the book are marked with black borders. This seems to imply that these are the bleakest, and they are the sparks of despair that could really bring change in the world. They deal with a bacteria outbreak in the UK (that kills 4,500 people), the DNA in both humans and monkeys being altered by pollutants (with the resulting outbreak of deformed children and baby monkeys), and it should be pretty clear from the title what Antarctica’s Farewell focuses upon. These three grim stories serve to focus the reader upon the potential of the optimistic and sustainable outcomes that Dauncey provides in the stories that sandwich these three. He uses these scenarios like sledgehammers upon our heads, but in this he is faultless: humanity is indeed acting upon the earth like a bull in a china shop, and we know the consequences.
The cumulative effect of this collection is worthiness with a slightly dull edge. A different review might examine how much of the stories predictions for the future (it was published 9 years ago) have come true, or not, but that’s for others to write. I’m minded of the quote: “There are ways of telling, and then there are ways of telling”. As the author’s blurb on the cover tells us, Dauncey is a futurist, not necessarily a teller of tales. He has yet to perfect this art, or artfully combine the two.
New Society Publishers 2000 176 pp. paperback ISBN: 086571407X
(Some of these stories are available at www.EarthFuture.com.)